by Tzvi (Hershel) Pichenik
Translated by Aaron Housman
I don't know if in the early years there was a Talmud Torah in Stolin, such as they had in other Jewish villages where they provided Jewish studies for children of the poor and teachings of Torah for the youth. I mean the type cheyder that was established and maintained in the villages and in the larger towns for the poorer folk, who could not afford tuition for the teachers. In most places these Talmud Torahs would be held in the women's gallery or in a side room of the Bais Medrash, or in some cases in a public building, and there they would teach the children. These institutions, known as Talmud Torahs would offer the children an education in the Hebrew language, Chumash etc. The smarter children, those who thirsted for more Torah, later moved on to study in the big Yeshivas in Lithuania. But most students of the Talmud Torah eventually learned a trade and entered the workforce at an early age.
In the year 1902, some baalei battim (lit. home owners, men of the town) got together with the Shochtim (slaughterers) and the Rav (Rabbi Asher Fialkov) at the forefront, and they established this kind of Talmud Torah. They hired a Melamed (teacher), set a salary and set up the Talmud Torah in the women's section of the Bais Medresh. Around 20 boys assembled and studied there, at times more. Those who were orphaned, lost a father or a mother, were sent to eat teg (lit. days, they had a rotation to eat at a different house every day of the week), as was the style in those days.
How long this institution existed is hard to determine, because it was disbanded periodically, either due to the lack of students or of funds. But it is known that there were quite a few adjournments, and eventually we stopped hearing about it at all. We also didn't hear much about the success of it's students, and not many turned out to be very learned.
After that the gabbo'im (caretakers of the synagogue) provided tuition for some poor children to learn but this was done on a small scale and cannot be considered a continuation of the Talmud Torah.
With the end of the First World War, when the first Hebrew Tarbut school opened in town, some teachers, of the more religious camp, arose, along with the Rav, and renewed the idea of the Talmud Torah. Their reasoning was that the Tarbut school was not religious enough for them and tuition was expensive, what is the poor man to do? Are his children to cease studying Torah? So they went and opened the Plibna(?), the small side room in the main Bais Medrash and established a Talmud Torah that included the learning of the Hebrew language.
The head of this Talmud Torah was Rabbi Asher Fialkov, even though his own daughters learned in the Tarbut School from its inception. The new institution was well established and had good students and teachers. From the melamdim we remember Shalom Noach Shuchman and Naftoly Wisotzky. From the secular studies teachers: Ahronsohn, who was hired from outside Stolin.
In 5685 (1925) there were close to 100 students in the 4 grades. When the Rebbe Reb Moshe'le Perlov opened his Yeshiva in Stolin, some of the best and brightest students of the Talmud Torah were chosen to join the Yeshiva. Note, that many of the students studied in the Talmud Torah only 23 semesters and then left, because their parents needed them to supplement the income, so their studies were terminated early in their time.
Over the tears they built a separate building to house the Talmud Torah and it served as a religious school in the town until the Nazi occupation.
by Rabbi Moshe Kopolowitz
Translated by Aaron Housman
The youths in Stolin who were thirsty for Torah study usually traveled to the Yeshivot of far and near. Although their numbers were not large, you can find them among the students of Barnovicz, Slonim, Mir and others. Because in Stolin itself there was no Yeshiva, until 5682 (1922) when the Rebbe Reb Moshe'le established a Yeshiva in the town. The intent was to attract students who strived to immerse themselves in Torah study to come to the benches of the Yeshiva and to strengthen them also in the teachings of Chassidut. In a sense of Torah study, fear of Gd and Chassidut wrapped and molded into one, and specifically in Stolin the hometown of the Rebbe. This was in the days of Polish rule in Stolin.
And the students came, some whose fathers were delighted to send them to Yeshiva and some who sent their children at the advice of the Rebbe. In the passage of time it attracted students even from far out towns to the Hassidic Yeshiva in Stolin. The Rebbe himself devoted considerable amounts of time and attention to the yeshiva. He designated a place for it, funded it and provided room and board for those who lived out of town. And so, from a small yeshiva it grew and prospered into a large Yeshiva, with close to 100 students who sat and studied Torah and basked in the light of the Stoliner Chassidut.
At first the Yeshiva was called Ohel Moshe (the Tent of Moshe), after the founder (Reb Moshe'le), but eventually it was renamed Bais Yisroel after the previous Rebbe (Reb Yisroel), a name which was favored by all. All the previous Rebbe's children had a special relationship with the Yeshiva.
The author of these lines was hired to serve as Rosh Yeshiva (dean) in 5686 (1926) in in the two years that he served he was devoted with all his heart and soul to the education of the students, to hasten and to deepen their understanding of Torah. Later in his place they hired Rabbi Yaakov Greenbaum of Slonim, a sharp scholar. At that time they also called Rabbi Shimon, one of the greatest prodigies of Yeshivat Chachmei Liblin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chachmei_Lublin_Yeshiva) and the Yeshiva flourished. Apparently they found the right mixture of the Lithuanian way of intense Torah study with the ways of Chassidut and they reached their goal.
Upon the arrival of Reb Shimon the masmid (studious, or scholarly) the Yeshiva gained recognition and it's name became famous in the entire region.
Alongside the Yeshiva was established Tifereth Bachurim (lit. Glory of the Young), a group of boys and young men who strove to devote their lives to religious study and the fear of Gd.
The young Stoliner Yeshiva held out for 15 years, until the hand of the oppressor arose, the Amalek of our generation, and brought destruction upon the holy community.
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