The Hebrew Schools in Korets
by Meir Panas
Translated by Sara Mages
A. The school founded by the student Greenfeld
|The teacher Greenfeld|
I came to you, Korets, a ten year old boy, to study the Torah at the Hebrew School which was founded by the student Greenfeld. It was in 1911. The student Greenfeld was a character from the world of legends. As a Yeshiva student he came from Vinnytsya, and started to learn the tailoring profession from one of the city's tailors. He won the heart of his boss's daughter, and she married him.
After his marriage, he separated from his young wife for a number of years, wandered afar to a place of Torah, returned to Korets with his education, and in 1911 opened the first Hebrew School in our city.
It was a modest school, which was composed of a preparatory and three classes. Besides Greenfeld there were three other teachers with superior teaching ability.
This school was designated for the sons of the city's notables and the sons of the wealthy proprietors, who were imbued with the vision of Hebrew and national revival. The children of the poor studied in 'Talmud Torah and expert teachers also taught there.
During the Gentiles' holidays, when the school was closed, the teacher gathered his students, taught Hebrew songs about the love of nature and work, and also songs with social content. I'll not be far from the truth if I say, that the first seeds of the Hebrew pioneer labor movement in Korets were sown in this school. It was a modest nursery, from which the national youth movements of our city grew and branched out. In addition, Greenfeld read us chapters from Tel-Aviv by Herzl, and also from his letters.
The school's economic situation was always tight. The principle lived in poverty and often suffered from hunger. Because of this, conflicts broke out between him and the teachers, because he couldn't pay their salaries. Indeed, the school ceased to exist three to four years later. But Greenfeld, whose love for the Hebrew language knew no bounds, maintained one class
in horrible conditions, so the children of Korets won't forget the Hebrew language. I stood by his side and helped him to teach the Bible and the summary of the Hebrew literature to his few students.
This school had a great part in the founding of the labor movement in Korets, because most of his students were, in a much later period, among the founders of Tzeirei Zion party in our city. All the students, who remained alive, remember the principle Greenfeld, who sanctified his best years on the altar of the Hebrew language, with love and respect.
At the end of World War I, when Korets was still under the rule of the Bolsheviks, the party Tzeirei Zion founded Tarbut School.
Our city was fortunate that one of the graduates of Gymnasia Herzliya [Hebrew High School in Tel-Aviv], who served as an officer in the Turkish army and wandered to Russia, came to Korets. It was the teacher Yakov Levi, who later became famous as Dr. Yakov Levi, one of the most important teachers in Israel, and one of the editors of Hed HaChinuch [Educational Echoes, an educational journal].
Yakov Levi was like a chill of snow on harvest day. He brought with him a fresh breeze from the fields of the valley and the Galilee. He planted at school the living Hebrew, which was spoken in Israel, and brought with him the Hebrew terminology for natural subjects and general studies.
In order to assess accurately the work of Yakov Levi, we must remember, that at that time there were almost no Hebrew text books for these subjects in Russia.
The principle's room was kind of a club for the youth who intended to immigrate to Israel. We gathered there to practice the spoken living Hebrew. It was like a corridor leading to the Land of Israel. Yakov Levi, who was a talented scholar, illustrated before our eyes the way of life in the new Land of Israel. He took us to the core of the modern Hebrew literature.
The school was located at the home of my father, Emanuel Zitrin, (who died in Israel). The house was surrounded by a large handsome garden, and the students spent their time in the beautiful countryside.
We can't forget the important contribution that Yakov Levi's helpers contributed to the school's success. I must mention, with great respect, the Hebrew teachers Zetser and Rimerman, who gave their lives and their spirits to their students. Thanks to them, many immigrated to Israel, and were saved from the field of slaughter.
|Dr. Yakov-Meir Levi|
Yakov Levi, who was imbued with the ideals of Kinneret and Degania, was excited from the Bolshevik Revolution, because he truly believed that this revolution was the realization of the ideals of Degania, in global and human scale.
Therefore, when the Communist Party established its power in Korets, Yakov Levi was appointed as the deputy of the revolutionary regime in the city. The Bolsheviks valued Levi as a talented scholar, and handed the power to his hands.
Despite his rise to power, Yakov Levi continued to serve as the principle of Tarbut School. The Bolsheviks didn't close the school because of the great honor that they gave to its principal. It was a lonely Hebrew island, in a Bolshevik environment, which alienated the Jewish spirit and its culture.
Thanks to Yakov Levi, the Zionist clubs acted openly, and even the activities of the Halutz were done, more of less, normally.
However, this period didn't know stability and the regimes changed frequently. Few were the days of the Bolshevik rule in our city, and they were replaced by the Whites. Their first action was to execute the revolutionary regime. Yakov Levi was in great danger.
We hid him in Finkelstein's home, behind a pile of wood, and every day brought food and water to his hiding place. In 1918-19, he left Korets, at great risk, and the school children were left like sheep without a shepherd. This situation continued until the Poles' entrance to the city. Then, the Hebrew cultural institutions were resurrected, and with them, Tarbut School. However, at that time I was already in Israel, and surely, others will tell about it.
by Sara Rosenfeld (Bronstein)
Translated by Sara Mages
A. The school founded by the student Greenfeld
Korets! Your image surfaces from the depths of oblivion. I live your life again - life that was sgood, vibrant and full of activities. I saw you for the first time when I was nineteen years old. Since then, a lot of water flowed from the Jordan River to Lake Kinneret and your memory is still engraved in my memory and my heart. I envision you with all your glory, dream and reality mingle with each other and it's difficult to distinguish between truth and vision. But, I'll feel myself in you, I'll live my life in you again, time is forgotten, and age is forgotten. I'm walking in your streets again and see every street and every house, as if the many years of suffering and hardship didn't separate us.
The year is 1933. The car wanders on the road, quickly passes through Ukrainian villages, naked fields after the harvest, a flat, calm and quiet road. I traveled a lot on the roads of Poland, so why things are different this time? Why do I see and don't see the beautiful road in front of me? Why am I glancing quickly at everything? - I'm traveling
Sitting right to left: 1.Michael Pirkes 2.David Solomienik 3. Dr. Hanoch Barles 4. Meir Gilman
for the first time to my new workplace, to the city of Korets which lies on the border. I've heard a lot about you, Korets, but I don't know how you'll receive me, the inexperienced teacher, since you're known throughout the country as attributed, knowledgeable and demanding.
Korets is winking from afar. Here, the steeples are visible - I arrived to you.
A wide river divides the city into two parts. The road is high and the river is low. A wide bridge connects the two banks of the river. By the river, in the valley, is the building of the school. A narrow bridge connects the road to the building. It's a two-story building and on it is the sign - The Hebrew School Tarbut. The top floor is occupied by the school and the landlady, who was called Tutraka, lives downstairs.
I cross the narrow bridge, enter the hallway and from there to the hall, meaning, to a specious room which was used as a playroom for the children on rainy days. From the hall doors open to the classrooms, one door for two classrooms. The children of one class need to pass, when they enter or leave, through the room of the second class. We have five classes in this building and two in a private home across the street.
We didn't have a playground. Next the building, on a slope, was a vacant lot, but it was difficult to reach it. It was necessary to go into the road and from there go down a narrow path. The children didn't like, and the teachers didn't allow them to walk on the road. For that reason they crowded in the hall which was too small to accommodate them. However, in the winter the children came equipped with sleds and slid downhill.
|Tarbut School class of 1929|
It was good and pleasant to slide. Many times I arrived early to slide with the students. Laughter and shouts of joy filled the air. Clear the way! We're sliding! Then, we climbed back, got on the bridge and from there to the building.
Small and meager was the building, but for some reason the crowdedness wasn't felt in our home. I don't remember shouts, reprimands or arguments. The door to the staff room was wide open and the students didn't push or burst into it. The students treated the teachers with respect and expressed their affection.
The school contained seven classrooms. A lot of light didn't penetrate through the windows but the light radiated from the faces of the students. I don't remember if a teacher ever raised his voice, shouted or punished. Everyone, teachers and students, invested a lot of energy and good will, and the work paid off. The Hebrew language was spoken by all the students. The students of the first grade entered school without knowing the language, without attending kindergarten, and wonder of wonders, they spoke fluent Hebrew after spending a few months at school. Our slogan was: Speak Hebrew! The students made efforts to speak Hebrew in the streets and at home, not only among themselves, but also with their parents who didn't understand them.
I remember an interesting case: one of the students fell and broke her leg and when she rolled in pain she screamed in Hebrew. She only spoke in Hebrew with the doctor who was summoned to see her.
Did the teachers have fixed working hours? We, of course, worked a fixed number of hours per week, but we didn't settle for that. We always returned to school after the noon break - one for a course, second for a conversation and a third for a rehearsal before the premiere.
The preparations for a party! How much energy, good will and understanding was invested by everyone. The teachers served as directors, choreographers and in time of need, also as choir conductors. A play, which created an atmosphere of elation, was presented in every national holiday. Our aspiration for our homeland was included in each performance. Each topic connected us to our homeland because we educated the students in this manner.
The school parties constituted a holiday for the whole city. All the residents, including those who spoke and studied in Polish, gathered at the municipality's big hall. The students climb on the stage, without any fear, and sang, in pure and polished Hebrew, about the heroism of the Maccabim, the achievements of Kern Kayemet Leisrael and the way of life in which they lived.
We didn't only settle with these activities, we knew that our educational activity is an introduction to something bigger and more serious. We wanted to bring the students closer to nature and accustom them to live together. On Lag BaOmer we left for the forest where we met the students of the Hebrew schools in Mezhirichi and Hoshcha. We set up a camp in the forest, started with scouts' games and ended with various sports games.
|The students and teachers of Tarbut School in Korets, 1933|
The Hebrew language echoes in the Polish forest. We sing Hebrew songs, the hearts get closer and close ties, between teachers and students, are formed. These ties lasted for many years, even after you left your workplace and also after the student left for far-off places.
Who created the cultural-social atmosphere within the walls of the school? Was it created by the students or by the faculty that was so cohesive and friendly? Here, before me, stands the unforgettable image of the principal. Beloved Solomienik, what were you for us - a friend, an excellent educator, or everything together? From the fog of the past I envision your kind eyes which expressed wisdom when they peered through the lenses of your glasses. We haven't heard a reprimand from your mouth. I spent three years in your company. I came to work sore and bitter, and you came to me like a compassionate father, smoothed my hair - and lo and behold: the sadness and anger passed as if they had never existed. We walked together a lot, we talked a lot, and my knowledge deepened after each walk. I grew stronger after each conversation because they were like hymns for me.
My life in Korets was not always happy. I also knew days of sadness, days without any interest in them, and you, my principal, knew how to console me. I found comfort in your calm house, in your company and the company of your wonderful wife.
You felt the pain of the institution and lived its life. Teachers came and teachers left, years have passed and gone. You sent your daughters to Israel and you stood on your guard to the last moments.
And the rest of the teachers? - The director, who represented the government, was Shari Shmuel Bronstein, a quiet and modest man, a good and dedicated friend; the teacher Roitblit who was quiet and humble; I especially remember the lovely teacher, Taza Bitenska, who walked like a broody hen among the students of the first grade as if she wanted to put them all under her wings and protect them from harm. You, who were all heart and good soul - what injustice did you do that you were sentenced to die so tragically. Villains hung you in public in front of a large crowd because you fought savages.
The school was awarded with an active committee that was composed of eminent personalities. The meetings were held at the home of Mr. Melamed. This house was the home for a committee of wise people. The home of the son-in-law of the local rabbi, may the memory of the righteous be of a blessing. I remember the first meeting in this house. They were all strangers to me, but the homeowners showered their guests with relaxing warmth. Each participant was probably far from pedagogical values, but greatly cared for the school's development and its needs. Melamed, who was a merchant, devoted his evenings for the search of funds.
|The Hebrew speaking club named Bnei Yehudah next to Tarbut school.
It was founded by the school principal Mr. David Solomienik
And here's Dr. Finkelstein, the strange dentist. He liked to walk at night, to knock on the shutters of friends and wake them up so they can hear the singing of the nightingale
And the last one - Mr. Yochet, who was a traveling salesman and reached far and remote places to find the parents of the teachers and give them live greetings from their children.
I left you, Korets, and didn't see you for many years. I saw you again at the outbreak of the war. I passed many kilometers when I fled east on foot. Broken and tired I walked through the main street without stopping, but, here and there, I heard voices behind me: Here's the teacher, here's Sara! Also your streets, Korets, have been emptied because of the great fear that also attacked you.
Years have passed, I worked in many towns but I don't know why I still have a corner in my heart for you, Korets, with all the good that you've granted to me.
by Noach Barber
Translated by Sara Mages
The childhood days of a human being are excellent and unique. It's an unrestrained world of impressions and fantasies. All the boundaries and areas quickly disappear before the constructive force of the creative child. This is the period when the child's mind doesn't cease to act. It creates and destroys, builds worlds and destroys them. The driving force of his creation is his impression from everything around him.
There are objects and exhibits that are temporary and their impression isn't strong enough to activate the child's soul. In contrast, there are things and scenes that leave deep experiences in the child's soul. The strong impressions are buried and hidden at the bottom of his soul and in time of need, at the first contact, they float and weave the desired image from days gone by.
The community of Korets, the city that the cruel hand of fate landed on it, is standing before my eyes with its buildings, streets and synagogues. My cradle stood in it and my childhood days passed in it. Here is the first page of my life the period of the Heder. The city was blessed with many melamdim [teachers] who taught their students. The teaching method was to instill the knowledge by the arm. Each melamed terrified his students with his strap. A long table stood in the middle of the room, the students sat around it and the melamed ruled from the head of the table.
I especially liked the evening classes at the Heder. The boys studied in the dark and looked forward to the desired hour, the time when everyone walked home with a lantern in his hand.
And here's an image from the Trisker Kloiz synagogue. Saturday afternoon, there's a lot of commotion there, hundreds of people are standing crowded around a long table to enjoy the radiance splendor of the Rebbe who sits at the head of the table. Each one is trying to nourish his eyes with this remarkable personality and listen to his teachings. We, the children, found another interest in the Rebbe, and it is: each time he reached the utmost ecstasy he closed and opened his eyes alternately.
The period of my study at Yeshivat Korets is very close to my heart. There was a street called Synagogue Street (Shul Guss) in our city, and indeed, its name suited it: a large number of synagogues concentrated around the prominent in the group the Great Synagogue, the splendor of the city. Each sector of the society had its own synagogue
and each Jew was able to find the members of his social class and the version of the prayer that was the closest to his heart.
Yeshivat Korets was located at the end of this street, Synagogue Street. It moved to our city from NovohradVolynskyi when the border between Russia and Poland was posted near Korets. Everyone, who has been in Yeshivat Zvhil at that time, crossed the border and arrived to Korets, and so it was also written on the seal: Yeshivat Kehilat OrTorah from Zvhil, now in Korets.
When the yeshiva arrived to our city it was temporarily housed at the building of Talmud Torah. Over time, the school, which was founded by the community rabbi, R' Hershenhorn, was annexed to the yeshiva as preparatory departments and the yeshiva students served as teachers and educators. The yeshiva only used teachers from the outside for the study of several secular subjects such as the Polish language. In this manner the yeshiva and Talmud Torah united into a perfect division under the name: Beit Ulpana Rabati and Talmud Torah in Korets. previously in Zvhil, founded by the head of the yeshiva, Yoel Shurin, may he live for many good days.
The yeshiva students, who came from various locations, were called by their first name and with the addition of their place of origin, such as: Nisel Stoliner, Shlomo Horosheker etc. The method of study of the young men wasn't uniform and each of them had a different approach: one through wind and storm and the second, in the opposite direction, through careful consideration and his voice was barely audible. And there, in the corner, two wise scholars with sharp mined argue with each other about a Halacha [Jewish law] but, all of them the supreme atmosphere of the yeshiva. The harmony of lyrical outpouring and sacred silence shaped the character of the yeshiva.
I remember one of the rainy autumn days. I'm sitting at the yeshiva before an open Gemara trying to dig deeper into the Halacha and decipher the vague words of the Tanna [teacher]. For a moment, things seem strange and incomprehensible, and behold, various sounds and beautiful music reach my ears. Outside, a strong thunderstorm and heavy rain falls, and here, inside, the voices of the students fill the air. Outside forces and inside forces clash with each other, once these become stronger, and once these. The rumble of the sounds sweeps me to the group of musicians and, lo and behold: the vague words of the Tanna became clear to me. Indeed, secret powers are hidden in this wonderful melody, the escort of study.
I'll devote my words to the most outstanding yeshiva student Hamatmid Nisel Stoliner. I knew him well because he was the first teacher at the yeshiva who opened before me the hidden treasure of the sayings of our Sages. This nickname Hamatmid [the diligent]
was given to him because of his great diligence in the study of the Torah. He never stopped learning. He also read a sacred book when he waited in line to wash his hands before a meal. He succeeded and progressed like an overflowing spring. The conversations of the young men didn't interest him. All his thoughts were in the Torah. He was kind of a living Talmudic encyclopedia and nothing disappeared from his reading. He solved every difficult question that was brought before him calmly and without reading the Halachic negotiation that preceded the question. He quickly jumped from the issue that he was dealing with to a new issue. However, his humility was as great as his greatness in the Torah. He occupied himself with his studies and wasn't arrogant. He never got angry, he stood all day, quietly and at rest, next to his lectern and studied incessantly…until, one day, he was given the honor to serve as the rabbi of the community of Korets in place of HaRav Lidski ztl. Our city has won this magnificent vessel, a man of noble qualities, the fruit of Yeshivat Korets.
And here's Rabbi Motil. He was, in terms of All my bones shall say. He poured tears like water and soared high with his terrifying lamentation. But, at a joyful occasion he danced and sang to the depth of his soul. He gave lessons on innovations in the Talmud and was the soninlaw of the Illui, Rabbi BaruchMordechai. He was a fine preacher and had the gift of the gab. He fascinated his listeners who sat with their mouth open and their ears attuned to absorb every word that came out of his mouth. The wise yeshiva students surrounded him with their questions, and he kindly solved them with a convincing answer and superior jokes. He lit up the eyes of his students with his imposing and meaningful knowledge.
A radiant figure, which greatly influenced the yeshiva, was discovered in the personality of the head of the yeshiva, the Illui. He was short and pulled a leg when he walked. When he appeared at the yeshiva, the Holy Divine Presence descended and shielded the hall. The yeshiva students clung to the book before them with awe and divine inspiration and were swallowed by the sayings of Our Sages, may their memory be blessed. The Illui strolled between the rows of students, paused for a moment next to a certain young man, read his book and resumed his walk.
A special character was imprinted on Thursday, the day of Illui's visit to test the students. On this day he used to appear at the yeshiva to examine each one of its students. The young man stood in awe before him, lectured his lesson, and departed with a caress and words of affection. I remember, that when I was called to him on that day, I lectured before him the content of a Gemara page. The Illui pressed me between his legs,
caressed my face with great affection, and said: Say that child, say. However, there was no shortage of words of sever reprimand when he was told about the inappropriate behavior of a certain young man. Then, the sinner stood before him trembling, bowed his head and received his punishment. The image of the Illui transcended especially on the Sabbath and on holidays. All the yeshiva students sat next a long table, the Illui sat at the head of the table and his soninlaw, R' Baruch Mordechai ztl, sat next to him. Then, his face radiated like the face of a holy angel. Benevolence lights caressed the faces of the guests. The same spiritual food, the addition on the Sabbath and holidays, with the noble quality of the supreme spirit of the Illui, served as a foundation and support for the students on weekdays. The yeshiva grew and prospered and was the glory of the community of Korets.
by Eliezer Shostak (member of the Keneset)
Translated by Sara Mages
There was a significant symbol in the fact that the yeshiva and the Hebrew library Tarbut lived together in Korets. The library was located on the lower floor of the building and the yeshiva on the top floor, and one kingdom didn't interfere with the other.
From this accidental fact we can see the special nature of Yeshivat Korets. What was inappropriate, strange and strictly forbidden in a large and important city in the Jewish Diaspora was kosher, appropriate and even natural in Korets. Of course, a yeshiva student in Korets wasn't able to ignore the culture and the literature in the underworld before he climbed to study the Torah at the Heavenly Yeshiva…
This method of understanding, tolerance and moderation set the character and nature of the yeshiva because its founder, Rabbi Yoel Shurin ztl, the Poltava Illui [prodigy] who moved the yeshiva from Zvhil to Korets, and his distinguished and noble successor, his soninlaw Rabbi Baruch Mordechai who was the head of the yeshiva in my time symbolized in their life and the method of their teaching the special foundation of Yeshivat Korets, and it is: Torah and good manners together.
Yeshivat Korets didn't use the method of extreme moral, the isolated and ascetic, of the yeshivot of the opponents in Lita, and not the method of the Holy Flame,
which burns birds that fly over the head of the student, of the yeshivot of the Hassidim in Poland. It also didn't use Rabbi Eliezer's version Al Tikri Halichos, Ela Halachos. The yeshiva had its own methods and versions: it taught Halichos and Halachos together. Good appearance and attractive behavior in the society on one hand: great diligence and intensive study of the laws of eternity on the other hand.
You were able to argue with Yosale' Shurin, the son of the Illui, within the walls of the yeshiva and publicly about a decided ruling from Yad HaChazakah of the Rambam, and also about a philosophical assumption from his book Moreh Nevuchim. With Rabbi BaruchMordechai, the head of the yeshiva, you were able to discuss at the common meal on the Sabbath the current article of Matityahu Acher (the literary pseudonym of Professor Nathan Birnbaum who became an orthodox Jew at the end of his life) in Tageblatt the daily orthodox newspaper of Agudat Yisrael in Warsaw, and also the weekly article of Dr. Yehusua Thon in the Zionist Haynt [Today]. You weren't in trouble. God forbid, after such a debate or after you've read these articles if, of course, you didn't fail the weekly oral exam, which was held every Thursday, on one of the issues in Seder Nezikin or on one of the Tosafot [commentaries] in Masechet Gitin (orally, of course, because this was the teaching method in Korets. It was necessary to know by heart not only the Gemara, but also the negotiations of the Tosafot). At the yeshiva building, alongside Moshe Ratshever, the broadshouldered Hassid who was dressed in a black kapota and a widebrimmed rabbinic hat, you were able to find Biril Bernstein who was a member of the left wing of Poalei Zion. Both discuss thoroughly before the head of the yeshiva, or before Rabbi BenZion Schiff, the Torah scholar, the beloved humble person an important Talmudic subject or a current secular political issue.
For that reason the status of the yeshiva, as an educational institute, was different in the city. The status of the yeshiva students in the Jewish society in Korets was also special. All eyes turned to the tall building which stood at the end of Synagogue Street (Skolna) like a lighthouse. The residents of this building, the yeshiva students, didn't shut themselves within their own world and were involved in all the circles in the city. I doubt, if elsewhere in the world except maybe in the yeshivot of Sura, Nehardea and Pumbedita was a strong emotional relationship between the yeshiva students and the local population as it existed in Korets.
The teaching method at the yeshiva was the comprehensive and profound Lithuanian method, but it didn't lack the tendentiouspurposeful foundation.Yeshivat Korets taught what wasn't taught in any other yeshiva in the world: Yoreh De'ah together with Choshen Mishpat. These lessons were given in an orderly fashion by the head of the yeshiva. This matter of organized training for the use in the rabbinate was not customary at the yeshivot in Lita. It is necessary learn for the sake of learning but not for the sake of the Rabbinate was the customary slogan of the yeshivot throughout the world. Training for the sake of obtaining ordination was a permission that was given only to the individual who wanted it. It wasn't so in Korets. The leaders of Yeshivat Korets felt the special responsibility that had been imposed on them in their education. They didn't rely on selftraining, but instituted it as a method and a course of study, not only to produce scholars, but also spiritual and religious leaders for all the Jewish people. The student, who completed his studies at Yeshivat Korets, wasn't confused in his way of life and didn't expect the grace of his parents or rich inlaws. However, as a graduate of a religious university he was equipped with all the official documents that were necessary to fulfill; the role of a religious and spiritual leader in his community. Of course, the yeshiva student was also allowed to receive his ordination from famous rabbis outside the yeshiva, but he received his first diploma as a certified rabbi with the words: Yore yore Yadin yadin from the yeshiva. Korets didn't hesitate to put on its Rabbinate chair, which, as is well known, was respected and lofty for many generations, one of the yeshiva's students, the superlative Torah scholar, the well known Rabbi Nissl.
Furthermore, almost all the educators and head teachers were graduates of Yeshivat Korets. All of them were great Torah scholars, and all of them were qualified teachers. In the last years before the conflagration of the last World War, when the management of the yeshiva decided to expand to the capital city, to nearby Rovna, and establish a yeshiva there, Korets didn't have to search for the leader and the teachers of the yeshiva in a foreign land. It allocated all the qualified staff from its ranks, in terms of: Your teachers and builders shall go forth from you …
The students of Yeshivat Korets didn't taste the flavor of Achilat Yamim, they ate at the yeshiva communal restaurant. However, also here was a major innovation compared to what was customary in other yeshivot. Here, in Korets, the leaders of the yeshiva and the teachers ate together with the students. On the Sabbath meals the leader of the yeshiva sat at the head of the table.
This practice was instituted by the Poltava Illui, and this practice remained forever. These meals turned into a great experience for all the students, especially, on the Sabbath and on holidays. In this celebrations Torah and greatness gathered at one table. Not once, you also found next to the table many of the city's dignitaries who left their homes and came to this kings' table.
The tribulations of Yeshivat Korets were the tribulations of all the residents of the city. The butchers supplied the meat, the bakers the bread, and the water carriers the water. The butchers, the bakers and the water carriers never received their payment on time. They received their wages in payments of nine months, if not more, and even that in small crumbs and not in substantial payments. Only once, the butchers, the bakers and the water carriers threatened to go on strike and cease the supply of their products. They threatened but they didn't carry out their threat. I remember how the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi BaruchMordechai who was pleasant and always full of sense of humor, convinced the Kafatan family, the famous water carriers of Korets, not to join the strike: Oh well, said Rabbi BaruchMordechai, I can understand that when the butchers and the bakers go on strike and don't supply the commodities to the yeshiva the meat and the flour remain in their warehouses. But you, the water carriers, what are you going to gain from this strike? What can you earn when the water that the yeshiva students don't drink remains in the river…? and the reasoning convinced, the water was supplied and with it, also the bread and the meat.
However, the residents of Korets weren't only loyal partners to the troubles and tribulations of the yeshiva. Its celebrations were the celebrations of all. A special atmosphere was felt at the yeshiva before each general celebration. The yeshiva students knew well that all eyes turned to them at that time, because, not only the fathers and the sons in Korets, but also the mothers and their beautiful daughters filled the halls of the yeshiva during a general celebration. They came to see and enjoy, see and be seen, to rejoice and also to delight.
When joy erupted at the yeshiva's dormitories, the partitions between the religious students and the city's secular students almost fell. Everyone joined together. Everything fit together. It wouldn't be an exaggeration if I paraphrase the famous Talmudic saying and say: He who has not seen the rejoicing of Chanukah or Purim, or SimchatTorah in ‘Yeshivat Korets’ has never seen rejoicing in his life.
by Michael Glass
Translated by Sara Mages
When the First World War ended, in September 1920, Poland regained its independence.
In a swift step, the resurrected country began to organize its state and cultural life.
During the vacation months of the 1921 school year, the cultural and education authorities began to establish elementary schools in Korets. Three Podstawowa schools were founded: a seven-grade elementary school that was designed for students of the Catholic and Pravoslavie religions. It was housed on the eastern side of the city, in the place where the Ukrainian School was located before the war. This school was marked number 1. On the western side of the city, in the private home of the Hendrokitis family, elementary school number 2 was opened. It was only intended for Catholic and Pravoslavie girls.
The authorities also took care of the education of Jewish children and founded an elementary school especially for them, but did not close the doors of other schools for them.
In 1930, there was a change in the Jewish School. The change was technical - it was marked number 3 - and also essential: it ceased to be an exclusive Jewish school and fifty percent of Pravoslavie boys and girls, who came from the city and nearby neighborhoods, were brought in. Until the outbreak of the Second World War the number of students in the Jewish School was close to six hundred.
Studies did not take place on Saturday and Sunday, to the dismay of the municipality which put pressure on the inspector to conduct studies also on Saturday as in other schools.
The mayor of Korets invited me to visit the inspector whose place of residence was in Rovno. He was a liberal man, a democrat in heart and soul, and after hearing the mayor's explanatory speech he replied: dear sir, this matter is at the sole discretion and decision of the school principal, to whom we have full confidence, and as he decides - so be it. This ended the argument and it was no longer on the agenda. Jewish children did not study on the Shabbat all the years until the outbreak of the Second World War.
The education in the schools for Christian children
I would like to emphasize an important detail: when the school authorities began to organize the studies in Korets and Wolyn, they did not dismiss the Russian and the Ukrainian teachers who taught during the Russian rule. Each was given an extension of time to complete his knowledge of the Polish language, Polish history, geography and the structure of the Polish kingdom. At the end of three years each teacher had to take the exams. However, the Ministry of Education did not exert any special pressure, and the exams were postponed for December 1929.
The authorities did not investigate the teacher's political views. However, there was one Ukrainian teacher who was closely watched by the police. This teacher taught, to my great regret, in school number 3, the Jewish School. The name of this hooligan was Rusticus Basili. He was a secret Nazi agent and dreamed for independent Ukraine under Hitler's rule.
And indeed, when the Germans entered Korets there was a radical improvement in his situation... He headed the killings and the massacre. He signed all the aktziot.
My student, Chaika Schneider, told me one detail that teaches about the satanic, dark, nature of this murderer. When it was clear that the order to annihilate the Jews of Korets was given, Chaika came to Rusticus Basili and pleaded before him: they want to kill me. I was once your student, why don't you save me? But the murderer hardened his heart and asked: and who are you anyway?...
His end was bitter. In 1944, with the liberation of Korets, he was apprehended by the N.K.V.D. who wiped out his memory, and his family's memory, from the earth.
The curriculum in the two schools for Christian children was uniform and its fulfillment was contingent on the approach of the principal and the teachers. The studies took place in an uninteresting way, I would say, mechanically. In these schools the joy of life and creativity was not felt and the teachers did not care to make the studies pleasant to their students.
One picture from the end of the school year ceremony will explain what I mean: the hall is overflowing. The temperature reaches 40 degrees. Like under a push of a button, the students appear in line and recite poems in a faulty accent. And all this is done in a monotonous and boring way.
At the end, the principal read the names of the students who advanced from grade to grade, as well as the names of the school graduates. In a gray and depressing atmosphere the Polish anthem was sung and the audience dispersed.
First row. Right to left: 1) The teacher Yeshayahu Solomianik. 2) Moshe Brendis, 3) The teacher Yagilowa (Polish). 4) The principal Michael Glass. 5) The teacher Leah Margaliot. 6) The teacher Frenkel. 7) The teacher Ingrova (German). 8) Shmuel Gorenstein. 9) Mordechai Shnaiderman.
The education and the curriculum in school number 3
The first principal of this school was Mr. Madei Antony, a man with democratic views who was far from any chauvinism.
The principal treated the Jewish children with tenderness and gentleness. He knew well that the parents of these children suffered from pogroms and persecutions, and therefore they should not be treated with strictness. The ethnic origin of the teachers was different. Two Jewish teachers, Valler and Schislovana, taught Jewish studies and the Hebrew language. The other teachers were Poles and Ukrainians.
The Hebrew language was recognized as the school's official language and four hours a week were devoted to its study. The German language had the same legal standing as the Hebrew language.
The school was located in a rented building that during the Tsarist period housed a school of natural sciences. The house was once the property of a Korets' princess whose name was Bojneska.
The school was allocated the first floor only and since the space was too small the studies took place on two shifts - before and after noon. As I have already emphasized, the students did not study on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
I started to work at school number 3 in 1922. From faraway Lvov I came to Korets as a Polish officer and upon my release from the army I turned to teaching. I taught arithmetic, geometry, physics, nature, hygiene, gymnastics and handicraft in the upper grades.
In 1927, I was appointed school principal and served in that position until the outbreak of the Second World War.
With the entrance of the Soviets to Korets there was a radical reform in the organizational structure and the spiritual character of this school. The Soviets turned it into a ten-grade school. The number of pupils has risen to over eight hundred because children from other schools were added to it. The school walls were given a new face, a human material that was far from secular studies and secular culture. I mean, the boys of the great yeshiva, the distinguished religious university that its rector was the Iluy of Poltava [Rabbi Yoel Shurin].
As is well known, the Soviets closed the yeshiva when they completely eliminated Jewish education. The yeshiva boys, who were faithful to the dispute between Abbaye and Raba and the teachings of the nation's greatest, were introduced to a secular atmosphere that was very different from the way of life in the yeshiva.
This is not the place to tell in detail about the mental anguish of these boys who have experienced such a sharp turn in their lifestyle. But the necessity of reality and life did their job: the Soviet education
deepened its roots and the yeshiva boys began to recite Soviet poems about the Sun of the Nations [Joseph Stalin] and the illustrious Red Army. And the most impressive: they accepted the studies on the Shabbat and Yom Kippur as a matter of course, if they were used to it from the very beginning.
The studies took place on two shifts - from seven in the morning to eight in the evening. Twenty-two teachers, men and women, who gathered and came to Korets from various corners of Poland, taught there.
The Soviets left me on my guard as the school principal and did not harm me. However, in April 1940, emissaries of the N.K.V.D. appeared in my home and arrested me. In this way my ties with this school were severed and I do not know how things went after my arrest.
The education in school number 3
The education in this Jewish school was based on the self-government of the children's community. The school, named after Dr. Janusz Korczak in Warsaw, served as a prototype for us. For this purpose we prepared a constitution for self-rule, and each class behaved in accordance with the general status. Obviously, things were done under the supervision of the class instructor.
The principles of the constitution were as follows: grades 1-3 did not yet constitute an independent unit of government
|The graduating class of Podstawowa School, 1935|
but, in a way, they were ready for this rule. They elected a joint committee, which was responsible for the cleanliness and the order in the classroom. The committee also engaged in helping students who lagged in their studies.
From grades 4 to 7, each class constituted an independent self-governing unit. Each class chose its own government which consisted of seven students and was headed by a soltis [leader]. Elections were held twice a year - at the end of the school year and at the beginning of the new school year. The elections were held in secret using a ballot box.
At the conclusion of the departmental elections, elections were held for the central government. This government was elected at the executive meeting of the classes and was also composed of seven elected members. It was headed by the Wojt [leader], his deputy, secretary, treasurer, and three deputies without portfolio. All were selected by the student body and were not honorary members.
The central government was responsible for the school building, cleaning of rooms, order, students' behavior in the classes and during breaks, the distribution of breakfasts and the money in the parents' committee fund. It should be noted that the central management controlled a total of 2000 zloty a year. The accounts were always in order and not a single penny was missing.
I must emphasize, with satisfaction, that one of the exemplary leaders was my former student, Mrs. Sonia Weiner, who today lives in Ramat-Gan.
When I started to work as the school's principal, I organized a mandolin orchestra under the guidance of the teacher Shotzman. Forty students participated in the orchestra, starting from the fourth grade. It always performed in collaboration with the school choir and greatly contributed to the development of the music education of Korets' youth.
The school did not deal with political education. This was taken care of by the youth organizations and various circles that were in abundance in Korets. Almost every child was organized in one of the many youth organizations.
The students showed affection for the school and kept in touch with it even after their graduation. They attended various games, festivities and the end of the school year celebrations.
This was the portrait of the school until the outbreak of the Second World War which annihilated and destroyed everything.
This is a fraction, just a section, of a beautiful and interesting life story, that none of us predicted that it would end in such a way.
May these words be a memorial to the young and vibrant lives, which were destroyed by the hands of tyrants, beastly people, the scum of the human race.
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