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[Page 160]


by Yaakov Teitleker

Translated by Ala Gamulka

On a winter evening in 1899, in the dark alleys of the “town”, passers-by are wading through deep snow puddles using their flares. They are hurrying home to escape the terrible cold that is getting worse as the night descends. The windows of the low, shaky houses are reflected into the dark of night. They look like frozen eyes covered in frost. The thickets are extended. Here and there is heard the squeaking of the store doors being shut by their owners. They feel no more customers will come and they want to escape the cold and the inactivity. They seek the warmth of their families.

At the same time, the students of Talmud Torah on the market street of the “town” are sitting at a long table studying their Gmara. Near them sits Rabbi Reuven, the teacher. They repeat vigorously the sentence “An ox gored the cow”. The Rabbi's white beard is spread on the table and tempts the students to perform tricks… Today is Thursday and they go over the weekly Mishna. They sit in groups of three close to the Rabbi. They vigorously move back and forth and recite together. They are louder than the Rabbi and their classmates. The latter, in the meantime, are playing with their buttons, shoving and pushing as is their custom.

Suddenly… what happened? Immediately, the oil lamps are extinguished. The students jump as if electrified and quickly run to the hallway. Their winter coats, hanging on hooks are grabbed and some fall and are trampled upon. Confusion, flight…” The Inspector!” “The Inspector”- is whispered about. The students and their teachers run to the door…

Truthfully, at the time, there was no permit for the Talmud Torah. It called itself “Jewish National School” and the inspector supervising the schools in the area forbade teaching in it. The leaders of the Talmud Torah had not exerted special efforts to make the proper repairs for an elementary school and among the few teachers there was no one capable of administering the secular studies. The Judaica teachers represented the backbone of the Talmud Torah. The leaders preferred to remain in the “underground” and to rely on God's will. As a result, there were many such alarms.

These alarms tired out the students as well as the teachers. Several years elapsed and progressive thinking did its deed. There was a a proper elementary school in the “sands” and this affected the thinking in the “town”. The leaders finally invited a licenced teacher who could also administer the Talmud Torah in the open.

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Soon a teacher was brought form Rozhishets- Zusia Kanter. He was a qualified teacher and was recognized by the inspector. Thus, the Talmud Torah surfaced from the underground. Zusia Kanter was about forty years old then and he was energetic and exciting. It was not enough for him to be a symbolic seal of approval. He saw the low level of the Talmud Torah and he began to make improvements. The first “terrible” deed was to install a bell…It would ring on time and would teach the students what “early” and “late” meant. (This does not exist in the Torah, but was needed in the Talmud Torah). The leaders were totally against this innovation. The “Grabivitzer”- a famous rabbi who lived across the street from the Talmud Torah, saw it as a depravity. He was in a rage and he attacked the “non-Jew”. He threatened to expel him for the town. The elderly chief leader, Meir the Gabbai, was prepared for a battle against this foreign reform. Meir would come twice a day to the Talmud Torah to prepare the students for communal prayers. He used to stress the “z” of “yizakhru” (no “s” sound!). The leader who was also the treasurer, Simcha Henich- one of the strongest personalities in town- threatened with a lawsuit. There were groups on both sides and they argued forcibly in the small synagogues. Finally, a truce was established. A parallel existence was instituted- secular studies in the morning and Judaic classes in the afternoon.

At that time there were six Judaic tutors. Sender Rosenzweig from Brisk was the head teacher of Gmara and its annotations. He was a large man with a prominent stomach (duly noticed by the students). He scared his pupils. When he resigned his replacement was Itzel Lioshtchik- a famous scholar and a well-known sermonizer in the synagogue in the “town”. Another tutor was for beginners' Gmara was Reuven. He had a long white beard and was nervous and hot-tempered. The tutor of Torah and Rashi was Yitzhak-Leyzer- a gentle and even- tempered man. The Prophets teacher was Moshe-Yitzhak, a Lithuanian Jew, was welcoming and involved with his students. Mendel Dardaky- Hebrew language teacher- was a tall, skinny guy. He never changed his appearance. His other job was with the Hevra Kadisha where he taught and helped with burials. Both jobs did not provide him with enough income… There were three secular teachers. One was the principal, Zusia Kanter, who taught Russian language and arithmetic. Another was Henich Geller for Hebrew language and grammar. The third was Hershel Lekach for beginners reading and writing. Kanter and Geller were the first educated teachers for the Talmud Torah students. Geller's attitude to the students was a little too formal and “grammatical”, but Kanter was beloved by them. He had a good psychological and educational approach and he knew how to endear himself to them with his friendly discussions, games, singing, playing the violin.

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He used to do art activities with the students during classes in spite of the attitude of the leaders who were opposed to it. There were about 200 children in the Talmud Torah. Tuition was free, except for one Rubel which the parents had to pay twice a year.

During World War I, the Germans entered Kovel in 1915 and they used the Talmud Torah building as a barn for their horses. Talmud Torah was then closed. When the Germans left at the end of the war, in 1919, it was not possible to used the ruined and burned out building as a school. Talmud Torah school began to wander among various rented buildings and synagogues in town. Finally, the town leaders, headed by Haim Gershonovitz, built a new building for the Talmud Torah on Listopdova Street (at the end of Karliova Buna in the section between the “town” and the “sands”). It was an appropriate building made of wood. Hershel Lekach, a former teacher at Talmud Torah, organized a new managing board headed by the teacher of Polish, Mrs. Brik (daughter of the government-sanctioned rabbi, the late Rabbi Brik). Teachers were hired (the majority had been on staff before) with the exception of Zusia Kanter himself. He had removed himself from Talmud Torah before the war. All necessary repairs and other arrangements were made as required at a religious elementary school. Still, permits were not given even to this renewed Talmud Torah. The Polish system of schools confiscated the building and the Talmud Torah returned to its former location. It was again necessary to use various synagogues in town. Finally, a group of merchants, headed by the generous Yudel Sofer (he was a leader at Talmud Torah), with the financial assistance of the Joint managed to erect a new building on the same lot where the original one had stood. Money from the Joint had begun to be used for different educational institutions in the Diaspora after the war.

The present Polish authorities left the religious Jewish school alone (they were not even interested in inspecting the teaching of the Polish language). In essence, the educational level of the school was not high and did not fit the progress of Hebrew teaching in town. The fresh progressive forces of the general Jewish education concentrated on secular subjects. They left the national-religious side to the weak hands of the elderly leaders. The latter produced a non-education, antiquated and inappropriate. Poor children were their students. The Judaic tutors took over most of the school day and very little time was devoted to secular subjects such as: Hebrew language and literature, foreign language, mathematics… They were taught by non-professional teachers who did not follow the required curriculum. The head of these leaders was the same Simcha Henich- by now very old.

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He was happy with his honorary position- distributing pay to the tutors and teachers every Thursday in his home. The money came from the collector Pinhas who had done this since the founding of the Talmud Torah. The funds came from minimal membership fees and donations given by those praying in the synagogue. The tutors and teachers at the Talmud Torah never really earned a full salary.

The secular teachers in those days were: Yaakov Trager (also secretary of the board and executive director of the Talmud Torah), Lussya Hazan, Adolph Rosenzweig and I, the author of this article. The tutors were: Pinhas Weingarten- an ultra Orthodox Rabbi and hot-tempered, Sender Veiger, Yitzhak Reif (he was also the prayer leader at Prozhansky synagogue), Nissan Farber and Hershel Lekach (he became a tutor). Pinhas Weinfeld imbued his students with his deep knowledge and extensive learning, but Pinhas Weingarten- the chief tutor and acting principal of the Talmud Torah- taught unrelenting religion and he conducted common prayers among the student body. He influenced them to follow a true religious life with all the rules. The fortress of Judaism established the power and the “little Jews” stood guard…

In 1939, after the quick war between the Germans and the Poles which ended in the total defeat of the latter, the Bolsheviks entered Kovel. All Hebrew schools, including Talmud Torah, were closed. Teachers were fired. Instead, the Bolsheviks established, in the same buildings, Yiddish schools. Polish inspection no longer existed. The administration of these schools was assigned to Kh. Tabachnik (Mirsky)- a veteran Communist and a former Yiddish teacher. He had a strong ambition to elevate School No.5 (i.e. former Talmud Torah) above the others since the students were poor-proletariats. He quickly assigned the school's principalship to the Yiddish teacher Aaron Shinitzky. This was a talented, certified pedagogue. He had been principal of the Yiddish school on Kremlitzka street in Warsaw and had escaped to Kovel when the Nazis came. He was accompanied by the teacher Leah Dimant- a well-known Communist and a good teacher. To assist them, Tabachnik hired some former teachers that he could trust that they were not bourgeois. These were Naymark from the Puvshekhni school, Liova Gelman and myself.

It was as if a magic wand had been used to change dark grey school to one decorated with pictures and art.

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The art was done by the students who were quickly trained to do it by the artist and teacher Shinitzky. New furniture, equipment and learning materials were brought. They were removed, by order of the assistant to Inspector Tabachnik, from wealthier schools. School No. 5 now had a rich library, artistic studio, exhibitions of art work done by the students. This was the first time in their lives that they were doing art. The singsong of repletion of the Gmara and the inspirational lectures by Rabbi Pinhas, delivered every hour, were now replaced with happy modern songs. In place of the angry faces of the tutors with their ready straps there were now warm smiles and gentle touches of well- dressed teachers. They had never seen this before- not even in their dreams. On the days when the students paraded throughout the town, School No.5 was the leader. The students waved red revolutionary flags. The assemblies, conversations, games social contests in the school and against others, the presentations and the frequent celebrations- all left their mark…

In addition to the experienced teaching methods in the school there were also contributions by other educators- some as part of their job and others as volunteers. One of the frequent visitors was the Communist educator Dimant. He saw it as his duty to give the “Proletariat” of the school the right approach and to teach them the newest songs. This was to deepen, grow and aggrandize the “free” appreciation of the students. He wanted to eradicate the old, dark tenets of their faith still in their hearts. His favorite song that he strove to inculcate in the hearts of the students-which he sang every Shabbat at recess- was the song about the bravery of the Jews of Birobidzhan. These Jews tilled the land with their horses- even on Shabbat! He repeated the refrain with great enthusiasm and special dedication…

It is amazing that the veteran students of Rabbi Pinhas who had been educated in the Torah way and followed religious rules vigorously, now appeared as actors in anti-religious plays prepared by their new teachers. They were still in the same building of the Talmud Torah and now they showed talent as mockers of rabbis, Judaism Torah and Talmud.

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It is true that the influence of practical education, where teachers know how to conduct it properly can be great. However, success did not remain long even with this progressive education. On June 22, 1941 the Germans attacked their pact partners. The new teachers escaped to save themselves. The Nazis did not know the difference between religious, national and secular education. Everyone was exterminated…

Jewish Educational Institutions

by Dr. Mordechai Leiberson

Translated by Ala Gamulka

In our town there were two elementary schools: a. Herzliah School on Pomnikova Street and b. School named after Dr. Klomel, z”l, on Briska street. I was a student in Herzliah. At one time, the school was located on Mitzkivitcha street, across from the main post office. Later it was moved to the building of the Hebrew high school Tarbut. It stood on the banks of the river Turia on Warshavska street. Eventually, the school was given a new beautiful building on Pomnikova street– the house belonging to Mr. Fried, of sainted memory.

One of the first principals was Mr. Fishman (now in Israel). Later it was the teacher Yaakov Kobrinsky who administered the school until 1935. When he became principal of the Klomel School, Kobrinsky was replaced by the teacher Gottfried, z”l, – until the school was closed in 1939, when the war broke out.

Principal Kobrinsky managed to elevate the school to a high level, thanks to his organizational skills and limitless devotion. He was certified as a mathematics and physics teacher from a Russian university and he taught mathematics, science and geography.

There were sixteen graduation cycles from Herzliah. It was an institution that educated and directed Jewish youth. It inculcated Zionist ideals and carried, with pride, the national emblem. Many of us who are in Israel are graduates of this school that was once called Herzliah.


In memory of the teacher Haim Hochberg

Haim Hochberg, z”l, taught Hebrew, Tanach and History. He died young, after a serious illness, at the age of 35. He was a fine man. I see him in my memory– tall as a tree, dark complexion, a scholar and a prince of a man. He was bright and knowledgeable with a good sense of humor– an excellent psychologist.

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1931/32 graduates of Herzliah School

Standing right to left: Avraham Waks(in Israel), Avraham Gutman (exterminated in the Holocaust in Kovel 1934), Hana Zeidel (in United States),Teleroit (in Israel), Shoshana Khininzon (killed in Holocaust in Kovel), Yehoshua Toler (in United States), unknown, teacher Hinda Segal (in Israel)– homeroom teacher of Level One, Hak Isaac (died in Holocaust)
Seated from tight to left: Hayot, z”l, (died in Israel), Rosenstein, z”l, Hebrew and Tanach teacher (killed in Holocaust), Blanca Kasher – teacher of German (killed in Holocaust), Principal Yaakov Kobrinsky– teacher of mathematics, science and geography, Bina Friedman–Levin– teacher of Polish and general history (killed in Holocaust), Shimon Feinstein, z”l, – teacher of music and art, a talented organizer of choirs in Hebrew schools and Tarbut (killed in Holocaust)
Seated in first row from right to left: Avraham Kreiss (in United States), Sarah Rotenberg, z”l, (killed in Holocaust), Mania Bork, z”l, daughter of the editor of “The Voice of Kovel”, Yaakov Bork, z”l, (killed in Holocaust), Bat Sheva Gendler, z”l, (killed in Holocaust), Zehava Steinberg, z”l, (killed in Holocaust, Hannah Perl–daughter of community leader Moshe Perl, z”l, (in Israel), Ben Zion Schechter (in United States)
Seated in Row B, from right to left: Meir Nimirovsky, z”l, and Avraham Pilkreitz, z”l, (both killed in the Holocaust)


Haim Hochberg rescued many a student from being labelled “unsuccessful”. He was able to show him the road to success. His classes in Hebrew, Hebrew grammar, Tanach and Jewish History were exemplary of high pedagogical ability. It was a great privilege for all of us to be among his students. He was the homeroom teacher of our class in levels C and D. He then became ill and did not recover.

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Teacher Hochberg died in Nissan 1930. On the day of his funeral he was accompanied by the students from all levels and their parents to his resting place. This is how, in a sudden and dramatic fashion, was cut down a magnificent and rich personality in the Jewish education field.

Twenty–six years have passed since then, but his aristocratic image still stands in front of us, his students and admirers. We were enthralled by our teacher and educator. He was a magnificent personality, tireless and always encouraging us to work and succeed.

I recall that when he returned to school, after he seemed to have recuperated, he said: “My dear students, believe me that my doctor forbade me from getting out of bed, but I cannot live without you. I find encouragement in you and I trust that I can overcome my illness”. He often emphasized that when he rose in the morning, he was racked with pain in his joints. Eventually, the terrible disease took him away when he was still young.


The Hebrew High School Tarbut

The jewel in the crown of Jewish Hebrew schools in Kovel was the Tarbut Hebrew High School– founded in 1921. From its beginning, its principal was Asher Frankfurt, z”l, a respected pedagogue and an excellent administrator. In addition to his role as principal he also taught Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. He visited classrooms regularly and was interested in all subjects. He always cared to maintain the high level of education of his students.

The High School became known as an institution of high level and great standing– not only in town, but also throughout Poland. Frankfurt was behind the push to erect a new building for the school. It was done in 1937. The building had two storeys and was broad and beautifully planned. The classrooms were spacious, sunlit and airy. There were gyms, laboratories, a large library and study rooms. The furniture was modern and appropriate for required hygiene.

The principal worked hard to collect the large sums needed for the new building. He wandered far and wide in other parts of Europe and he even arrived in Eretz Israel. He returned encouraged and happy that his dream was realised. The official opening of the school became a great party and a tribute to the “father” of the High School.

The first day of September 1939 arrived and the WWII broke out.

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Class of 1936/37– Sixth level in 1935

Standing from right to left: Mordechai Leiberson (in Israel), Ita Reichstol, z”l, Hannah Zeidel (in United States), Tamar Finkelstein, z”l, Yehoshua Frankfurt, (nephew of Frankfurt z”l, (in Israel), Dr. Tsvigel, z”l, –teacher of Physics and chemistry, Hannah Perl (in Israel), Shoshana Khininzon, z”l, Esther Kuptchik, z”l, daughter of the school secretary Yaakov Kuptchik, z”l), Mania Perlmutter, z”l, Esther Bass, z”l
Seated in first row, right to left: Teacher Dr. Kutchinsky, z”l, (teacher of Polish), Mordechai Leyer, z”l, (teacher of Latin, Greek and Roman history), Blanca Kasher, z”l, principal Asher Frankfurt, z”l, Yosef Avrech, z”l, (teacher of Hebrew, Judaism and Jewish history), Hadassah Shprung (teacher of geography, science and biology ) (in Israel), Michael Gruber (teacher of Hebrew – in Israel), Gutman, z”l, (teacher of general history and Polish)
Seated in second row, from right to left: Liberman, z”l, Shoshana Shochet, z”l, Yenta Tessler, z”l, Leah Mammut, z”l, Niura Landau, z”l, Sarah Rotenberg, z”l


The school was closed from the beginning of the Soviet regime until the Russo–German war broke out on June 21, 1941. During the Soviet times the school moved to the building of the former Moshtchitsky school and became High School number 10. The languages of instruction were Yiddish, Russian and Ukrainian. Most of the previous teaching staff stayed. It was a difficult adjustment period. Principal Frankfurt and the other teacher suffered greatly until they could follow the new instructions. There were many times when I met them on the streets and I saw that their love of teaching was no longer visible. They seemed depressed and inhibited.

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Founding of the Primary Schools
and the Hebrew Gymnasia

by A.M. Weisbrot

Translated by Ala Gamulka

The Zionist organizations in town did not only work directly for the different funds and propaganda. They understood that Zionism and the Hebrew language were essential to the Jewish world and they concerned themselves with establishing the Hebrew language, in the people, as an expression of existence and revival.

It is for this purpose that the boards of the General Zionists and the Zeirei Zion convened and decided to elect a joint committee. Its task would be to establish a Hebrew School where the town children would be educated in the spirit of Hebrew culture.

Representing the General Zionists were: Gitlis, teacher Avrech, Bork, Finkelstein, Goldstein, Yustman and Zukerman.



Tarbut Committee in Kovel

Seated right to left: Yosef Milstein, A.M. Weisbrot, Yitzhak Gitlis, Tsippa Roiter, Moshe Fishman, Moshe Dodiuk
Standing right to left: Asher Frankfurt, Yaakov Klonitsky, Bernstein, Korman, Goldstein, Shalom Rabiner, Haim Ber

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Zeirei Zion members were: A.M. Weisbrot, Schwartzblat, Lublinsky, Saltzman, Polishuk, Shapiro, etc.

We rented the top floor of Werba's house, on Lutske Street (Warshavska). It stood on the banks of the Turia river. In 1919 we established there the primary school called Herzliah. The first principal was Mr. Manievits. The second principal was Mr. Ariel (Leibovitz). He was succeeded, for several years, by Mr. M. Fishman. Among the teachers I remember these names: Durtchin, Feinstein, the sisters Pipovna, Shpruch. Berkovska. Bley, Avrech, etc.

The main aim of the school was to establish the education of Jewish children on the Hebrew language and so to bring them closer to the redemption of our people. The school was maintained by a low tuition. Poor people were exempt from paying. The budget was balanced with the help of the Joint. Our representatives had great influence there.

The school was also the location for most meetings of the Zionist groups. There were also some evening parties held there and they brought in an income used solely for the school. It is important to emphasize that the ladies of these groups were most helpful.

Once the school was established it was essential to also found a Hebrew library. We collected many books from our members and we had several activities to enrich the library. Mr. Erlich donated all his Hebrew books to the school library.

When the Bolsheviks entered town in 1920, an order was given to close the Hebrew school and the library books were confiscated.

Dr. Israelit, head of the General Zionists in town and A.M. Weisbrot, representing Zeirei Zion complained to the local authorities. They also communicated with the secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine asking: “If the Hebrew language is not alive and there should not be a school dedicated to teaching it, why is the library to be blamed?”. The secretary accepted this reasoning and she ordered the books be returned. When the Bolsheviks left town, the school was reopened. It began to flourish again and its activities were broadened.

The establishing of Herzliah school proved that the idea of teaching the Hebrew language had merit. The school was too small to accommodate the hordes of students who wished to be admitted. The Jewish population in town grew and the demand for Hebrew education broadened.

We realised that another Hebrew school was needed. It became the school named after the late Dr. Klomel.

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Dr. Klomel, z”l, had served as the chairman of the Zionist organization of Poland and head of Tarbut. The naming of the school after him was an expression of the value of the personality Dr. Klomel. He had been instrumental in helping to establish the school. The principal was Yaakov Kobrinsky (in Israel).

Towards the end of 1924 a third Hebrew school was established. It was named after Prof. Friedlander, z”l. The Zeirei Zion committee founded it and it was located on Mitzkivitcha street, across from the post office.


The establishment of the Tarbut School

The primary schools were the source of Jewish education, but after graduation, the students were stranded in mid–stream. The thought occurred about what to do next and how to ensure the continuity of Jewish education. It was decided to open a Hebrew high school. The permit to open would only be given to an academic with an advanced university degree.

At that time, Asher Frankfurt had just completed his studies and had returned to Kovel. He became the first principal of the Hebrew Gymnasia. It was opened in 1921. The school became a centre of culture in town. This was due, mainly, to the addition of outstanding teachers with a high academic background. Among them stood out: Avrech, Dr. Khayal, Dr. Tsvigel, Figelman, and, still with us in Israel, Leibovitz, Khazan and Rotman–Netaneli.

This high school had a considerable influence on the Jewish youth in town. Many of them were educated in the school. Even those who had studied in Polish schools abandoned them and came to learn the Hebrew language and its culture. There were even students from nearby villages and even from further away.

The students of the school also belonged to various youth movements and they brought new blood to the established Zionist movements. These students were the leaders of the Scouts, Hechalutz, Hashomer Hatzair, Hechalutz Hatzair and Gordonia.

The influence of the school was so great that other educational institutions– Polish ones– e.g. Academy of Klara Erlich, were forced to include Hebrew language and Jewish studies in their curriculum.

The school grew from year to year until the building became too small. Mr. Frankfurt, the moving spirit of the school, had a new idea– to relocate the school in its own building.

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He wanted to erect a new building which would become the palace for Hebrew culture. For that purpose, Mr. Frankfurt came to Eretz Israel and was fortunate to obtain large donations from his students and friends. Indeed, a magnificent building was built, the Hebrew Gymnasia named after our poet, H.N. Bialik, z”l. Until the Nazis entered town, the gymnasia became the outstanding educational institution in town.

These four schools (the three primary schools and the Hebrew gymnasia) had, as students, the majority of the Jewish youth in town. I addition to the teachers listed earlier there were several young teachers who performed their tasks with reverence and enthusiasm. They were worshipped by their students. The following should be mentioned: Zev Tchernitsky, Malka Alpert, Devorah Bley, Meriminsky, Hochberg, z”l. These educational institutions were the cultural center in town. The best leaders of the Zionist parties were there. The best plans for enlarging the Zionist influence in town came from there.

It is well–known that there were other towns where Hebrew schools and Zionism existed. There was, however, nothing like Kovel. In Kovel, Jewish education reached heights that were unheard of in the Jewish population of Poland.

Kovel was considered in Poland as one of the most Zionist towns. It perhaps can be said that Kovel was a relatively small city, but it was in second place, after Lodz, when it came to collecting for Keren Hayesod.

Hundreds, or even thousands, of the best Jewish youth of Kovel made Aliyah. They were instrumental in building the state. This was due to the Hebrew education they had received. These educational institutions were the nursery in which the Zionist dream grew and succeeded.

Herzliah School and Tarbut Gymnasia

by Tzvi Tannenbaum

Translated by Ala Gamulka

The year was 1919– a year of upheaval in Poland. The country had not yet recovered from the thundering canons of the Germans, Russians and Poles. Governments changed and there was a feeling of instability. In this stormy time was born the idea of founding a school dedicated to the Hebrew language. The initiative came from the General Zionists in town and those who brought it to fruition were the teachers Manievits, Lipsker, Avrech, Feinstein, Durtchin and Poritsker, may they rest in peace.

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Students of Level 5 of Tarbut Gymnasia and their teachers in the year 1925


The establishment of Herzliah School brightened all corners of town. The Jews of Kovel were proud of this educational institution. The foundation of Hebrew education and culture were based there and it was certain that only good will come of it.

The school was merely the first step. Two years later, in 1921, all hopes were achieved with the founding of the beautiful Hebrew Gymnasia. Its principal was the sainted Asher Frankfurt. The Gymnasia was famous throughout surrounding towns and villages. Many students streamed towards it in order to acquire a Hebrew education. I recall that at a meeting in the village of Kamin, I was surprised by the beautiful Hebrew language used by the youth walking on its streets. I immediately understood that I should not be surprised since I had met such youth in the building of the Hebrew Gymnasia in Kovel.

In this wonderful laboratory the Hebrew movement grew. Many important Zionist activities took place there. The graduates came out wishing for Aliyah, life on a kibbutz or on a cooperative moshav.

Almost all those who made Aliyah were educated in this school. Many youth organizations originated there as well. These were the Scouts headed by A. Hodorov, Hashomer Hatzair, Hechalutz and Hechalutz Hatzair. They were all founded by students who had received a Hebrew education.

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May the founders be remembered with pride. Their hard work was quite successful. They managed to educate a generation of Jewish youth that was knowledgeable and was full of love for its homeland. These young people publicized the value of Jewish education everywhere. One cannot forget the Lag Baomer parade, Hanukah, Tu B'shvat and Purim parties. Beautiful Hebrew singing was heard from this building the house of Werba near the bridge. It was an island of the spirit of Eretz Israel in the foreign and strange sea. How excited we were to accompany our comrades who made Aliyah. It was a celebration for all of us. We reaped what we had sowed in years of hard labor. Our constant prayer was: “We will meet again in our Holy Land”. Indeed, many of us were so fortunate. However, many others, sadly, did not so merit. These lines are a testimony and a headstone to the hundreds and thousands of young people who were killed before their time and who did not fulfill their life's dream.

About the Kindergartens of Kovel

by Chaya Hotman (Becker)

Translated by Ala Gamulka

Let my lot be with you

          (H.N. Bialik)

As the Tarbut school grew and developed the need was felt to open a Kindergarten. There were two reasons for it: first, to instill spoken Hebrew in children at a young age and, secondly, to sow a field to feed the Hebrew schools.

Kindergarten teachers were invited from the capital of Poland- Warsaw. However, they could only arrive at the end of June, when they finished their studies at their Kindergarten teachers institute- Tarbut- in Warsaw.

When spring came, children were registered and it was necessary to look after them immediately past Passover. It was in the hands of the principal, Manievitch. I was invited to look after these children until their teachers arrived.

Teacher Feinstein, z” l, taught singing. He taught me various songs and games. The next day I would teach these songs and games to the children.

Finally, kindergarten teacher Sheft came and helped me out. In those days it was not a real kindergarten. It was simply a preparatory class and it was nicknamed “House of Shelter”.

A true kindergarten, organized and well-appointed, was established with the arrival of the kindergarten teacher Hava Sehr-Werba. It was she who founded a serious kindergarten. It was outstanding in its inner organization and esthetic appearance. It stood on a high pedagogical level.

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The kindergarten founded by Tarbut
Standing on the left is teacher Haya Becker-Hotman


In 1934 I returned to Kovel from my work in small towns and until my Aliyah, in 1936, I worked as a teacher in the Tarbut kindergarten. I knew to value and recognize the hard work of the Tarbut leadership. It was headed by I. Gitlis and M. Perl. They were imbued with understanding a child's spirit and soul. It is thanks to them that the kindergarten was established

In addition to the Tarbut kindergarten there was, in town, a private one under the principalship of Esther Gutenboim. It, too, provided a Hebrew education to children. There was also the kindergarten of the Taz group, led by Sonia Margalit.

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The Hebrew Kindergarten of Kovel

by Hava Sehr-Werba

Translated by Ala Gamulka

The Hebrew education movement in Poland was established as a result of the work of educators, Zionist leaders and other important figures. These could be found in every town and village. They were the ones who were first to establish Hebrew educational institutions in Jewish communities. It was only after their number had grown that the Tarbut movement took over their running.

The Hebrew kindergarten was founded many years before the elementary school. In some towns it was the opposite- elementary and high schools before kindergarten. It usually was realised that it was necessary to establish a Hebrew kindergarten as the first phase in Hebrew education.

When the new Poland was established, the authorities were intent on instilling the knowledge of Polish language and culture. The network of government Polish schools was broadened. Jewish parents believed their children's future lay in graduation from such schools and they registered them in Polish kindergartens. They wanted their children to have the proper accent. Hebrew educational institutions had to overcome great struggles in order to compete with the Polish schools.

In this reality, a Hebrew kindergarten was opened within the elementary school. It was after Passover, before the summer. It was thought that young children would have difficulty getting out of the house during the harsh winter months. It was important to have these children with their age group in good weather.

The kindergarten was established in a room close to the school's entrance. The sight of the young children, well-dressed and sporting ribbons in their hair, the low furniture and many colorful objects- made the school students curious. They continuously opened the front door in order to have a glimpse at the kindergarten room. This is how hundreds of eyes looked every morning and their smiles were wide and welcoming.

The kindergarten children belonged to teachers, Zionist leaders and their relatives and other families that were influenced by the Hebrew movement in Kovel. Among them were those who spoke Russian or had been influenced by Polish culture, but they followed their national instincts and made sure to give their children a Hebrew education.

Some parents brought their children from a great distance, from the old town and from the sands. Distance did not frighten them because they were enthusiastic about Hebrew education.

[Page 177]

Even the parents would greet the teacher by saying Shalom. There was so much hope and dreams in this greeting!

The central office of Tarbut considered Kovel as a Hebrew town. This becomes obvious in the letter I received from them. The Union of teachers in Warsaw praised Kovel: “Take the position in this town. It is a lively place. There is a Hebrew school, as Hebrew high school, a Zionist atmosphere. You can contribute by opening an organized Hebrew kindergarten”.


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