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[Page 51]

The “KadimaVolksschule

In 1931, a Volksschule called “Kadima” also opened. The language of instruction of “Kadima” was Polish. All studies were conducted in accordance with the curriculum of the Polish government schools. However, in a substantial measure, Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographica, Hebrew and Jewish History, were also taught. The Headmaster of the school was Yaakov Neiman (Hanokh Neiman's son), and one of the well-known teachers of “Kadima” was A. Rabinovich. The “Kadima” school, which had six grades, was located at No. 18

[Page 52]

Rynkowa [Gasse][1]. The children who completed the course of study at the school, were eligible to enter either the Hebrew Gymnasium or the Polish Gymnasium.


The “Yavneh” Hebrew School


Sixth Grade Class of the Yavneh School in the Year 1935
(Taken at the time of Tzipa Katzin's son's aliyah to the Land of Israel)


A “Yavneh” School also existed in Volkovysk. This school, which had seven grades, was located on the New Street. The director of the school was H. Grossbart.

The “Yavneh” school stood out because of its well-known teachers. For a certain period, the Acting Headmaster of the “Yavneh” school was Rabbiner Dr. Scheib, who also conducted the higher classes in Jewish studies – in place of Prof. Zilberman, who had occupied this position previously in the “Yavneh” school. Dr. Scheib had been recommended for this position in the “Yavneh” school – in which studies were conducted in a religious-national spirit – through the Chairman of the Torah VaAvodah Movement in Eastern Galicia.[2]


The “Herzteliya” Hebrew Gymnasium


Sixth Grade Class of the Volkovysk “Herzteliya” Gymnasium in the Year 1935

Right to Left, First Row, Bottom: Nakhum Lev, Moshe Kasovsky, Boyer (Educator), Chana Nemlikh (A Teacher), Fanya Mazover, a student from the province, Daniel Lemkin
Second Row: Joseph Kaplan, A student from Svislucz, Epstein, Henya Moorstein, Yitzhak Shalkovich, Ulla Yaffa, Miriam Okulnitsky, Shipiatsky, Liova Meshengisser, Kaplan
Third Row: David Rossiansky, Misha Shkolnikovich, Noah Lidsky, Zvi Kavushatsky, Aharon Shaliota, Aharon Shereshevsky, A student from the province


A Group of Students from the Eighth Grade of the “Hertzeliya” Gymnasium
in Volkovysk, in the Year 1937

Right to Left, First Row, Bottom: Ulla Yaffa, A student from the province, Fanya Mazover, Liova Meshengisser, Joseph Kaplan
Second Row: Nakhum Lev, Zvi Kavushatsky, Meir Marotchnik, Misha Shkolnikovich, Serlin
Third Row: Two students from the province

[Page 53]

The Government Gymnasium on the Lazar Hill
Right: – The path to the Lazar Street; Left: The Smithy


A Group of Gymnasium Students in the Year 1928

Right to Left, First Row, Bottom: Shimon Yudzhik, Rachel Khananovich, Zlatkeh Schein, Rachel Zayantz, Hirsch Vlosky
Second Row: Millie Kaplan, Tzil'eh Shaliota, Daniel Kaganovich, Chaya Khatzkelevich, Ethel Kushnir, Hinde Lytus
Third Row: San'eh Lifschitz, Leizer Bliakher, Yaakov Botvinsky, Beryl Rivatsky
Fourth Row: Abraham Turiansky, Regina Grodzhensky, Herschel Schein, Monya Movshovsky, Yaakov Makov


As already said, the educational activists were not satisfied with a kindergarten and with the Hebrew Volksschule, and they did not rest until they founded the “Hertzeliya” Hebrew Gymnasium. In an article, which appeared about the Hebrew Gymnasium “Hertzeliya” in the Volkovysker Stimme (published by the Volkovysk Center in New York) of January 1929, the following is told:

“It is more than ten years that a Hebrew Volksschule exists among us, which has attracted popularity and great prestige among all classes of Jews in Volkovysk. Three years ago, the leaders of the school organized a Gymnasium in order to create the possibility for the students to receive a higher education. In the Gymnasium – apart from Tanakh, Mishna, Talmud, Literature and Jewish History – arithmetic, geography and all the other branches of general studies are taught, in Hebrew. The education develops a sense of national identity among the students, gives them a basic grasp of our literary treasures and gives them general knowledge as is provided in the higher government schools. – The income of the Gymnasium is rather small. Only twenty of the 85 students pay tuition, and the remainder are not always able to pay the full fee. The monthly outlay of the Gymnasium are on the order of 2,800 zlotys.”

The children that completed the course of study at the Hebrew Volksschule, were able to enter immediately into the “Hertzeliya” Hebrew Gymnasium.

Initially, the Gymnasium did not have any external governance, but later – in the 1928-1929 school year – the Gymnasium passed under the aegis of “Tarbut.” In this manner, it became integrated into the Hebrew school system network in Poland, which had a little at a time, acquired explicit authority.

Among the prominent teachers of the Hebrew Gymnasium were: Mr. Wald, teacher of general history, and Yaakov Itzkowitz.

A dispute erupted in 1937 among the leadership of the Gymnasium, about which it is written in Volkovysker Leben (No. 522) of September 19, 1937:

“Friction arose in the Gymnasium from the fact that two members of the “Hertzeliya” Board, which supervised the Gymnasium, together with a number of teachers of the Gymnasium,

[Page 54]

had secretly, during the vacation period, decided to close the Hebrew Gymnasium and in its place, found a new gymnasium in which subjects would be taught in the Polish language. In this move, all the assets of the Hebrew Gymnasium would be transferred to the new Gymnasium, which would be run by a completely different Board. In connection with this, the initiators had already taken control of the operation both from the local administration and the Vilna district.

However, the majority of the “Hertzeliya” Board together with the Director of the Gymnasium, Mr. Mordechai Halevy Sakhar, when they learned of the plan, they categorically opposed it, and in that connection, there were incidents that arose that assumed a sharp form.

The conflict caused the intervention of the Chairman of the local authority, and also the Chairman of the Vilna district office, who had only recently visited the Gymnasium, and had confidently declared that the Gymnasium had all the attributed required to assure its survival and development.

Thanks to the visit of the Chairman of the District, who by the way, undertook to negotiate with both sides, the situation in the Gymnasium finally stabilized, and it is to hope that the normal course of study will not be disrupted.”

As it appears from a variety of news bulletins and notices in Volkovysker Leben – and perhaps this was as a result of the controversy – the name of the Hebrew Gymnasium (“Hertzeliya”) was changed to “The Hebrew Gymnasium Named for Ch. N. Bialik” The new name did not intimidate the opponents of the Gymnasium, who spread rumors (in the year 1937) that the Gymnasium was planning to shorten its Hebrew curriculum and introduce more Polish, but the Director, Mordechai Halevy Sakhar openly confronted and dispelled these rumors, and called on the Volkovysk Jewish community to support the school.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. This is the Polish Name for the Wide Boulevard (Die Brayteh Gasse) Return
  2. In ‘Volkovysk,’ edited by Katriel Lashowitz, Nechama Schein-Weissman offers the following correction:
    And it is worth correcting yet another inaccuracy regarding the work of Dr. Scheib. On page 118, it says that Dr. Scheib was the principal who was responsible for the Yavneh School, but the truth is that Dr. Scheib began his pedagogical career in Volkovysk in 1935 as a teacher at the Hertzeliya gymnasium – in the same year that I began to work for that institution as a secretary. Return


Private Trade Schools, The Tarbut Gymnasium, The T.K.A. Gymnasium and the “Yavneh” Trade School[1]


Graduates of the Government Gymnasium in the Year 1937

Right to Left, First Row, Sitting: Herschel Davidovsky, Elijah Binkovich, Karpel Khananovich
Second Row, Standing: Chaim Kossowsky, Shepsel Epstein, Moshe'l Polonsky, Abraham Makov


The Gymnasium on the Lazar Hill


In 1937, there also was a private four-year trade school in Volkovysk. It was a purpose-oriented school of the Gymnasium type, which also gave its students a full humanities course, and also a Judaic course along the lines of the Hebrew Middle Schools.

[Page 55]

A short time before the outbreak of the Second World War, a Hebrew Tarbut school opened in Volkovysk. The Director of the Tarbut Gymnasium in 1939 was Mr. Wolfstahl, and the President of the Tarbut Branch in Volkovysk was Dr. Yitzhak Weinberg.

Volkovysk, which was not a particularly large city, nevertheless had quite a number of different middle schools, which followed a wide variety of directions in providing Hebrew education. For example, in the last years shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, there was in Volkovysk a Gymnasium with the name, “Hebrew Gymnasium T.K.A. of Volkovysk.” This school was part of the school network of Brody-type schools, and Jewish studies were conducted using the methods of the previously mentioned type of school There also was in Volkovysk a middle school called “Gymnasium Koaduk, for Commerce, sponsored by the ‘Yavneh’ Histadrut of Volkovysk.” This Gymnasium enjoyed all of the rights of government schools. English was taught as a foreign language. For Judaic studies – taught according to the Brody school methods – eight hours were allocated weekly for each class.

* * *

The proliferating Hebrew school system in Volkovysk enveloped the adult Jewish population of Volkovysk as well. Thus, for example, evening courses in Hebrew existed in Volkovysk (initiated by the Tarbut Organization). There was also a Hebrew library in Volkovysk – Under the leadership of Yaakov Ein – which in the year 1926 counted 1,700 books, and 160 readers. A Community Hall (Volkshaus) also functioned (on the Wide Boulevard), in which assemblies and lectures took place – on a variety of literary and community themes – which were put together based on local efforts, and also on specially invited guests, prominent Jewish writers and lecturers from Warsaw and other places.

Jewish cultural life in Volkovysk was rich and multi-colored. True, as you will understand, there were also Polish schools in Volkovysk, and even a Polish government Gymnasium in which a small number of Jewish students went to school. But in general, the Jewish community concentrated itself around the modern national Yiddish-Hebrew educational system, and all groups and persuasions in the Volkovysk Jewish population had their own cultural and educational institutions, around which they developed a tremendous activity based on Jewish spirit, based on the political and party foundations that they chose to follow.

A vibrant and healthy Jewish cultural life pulsed in Volkovysk, literally up to the outbreak of the last {sic: Second] World War – a life that in its very prime, was cut off together with the entire Jewish population through the cruel hands of the murderous Nazis.

Translator's footnote:

  1. Readers interested in historical accuracy regarding the evolution of the Volkovysk school system should also consult the memoir of Nechama Schein-Weissman, in ‘Volkovysk’ edited by Katriel Lashowitz (the third part of this Trilogy) on p.64 of that book. As a participant in the events of the day, she identifies that a number of the facts presented here are somewhat inaccurate. Return


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