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[Page 179]

Education and Culture

Teachers & Educators

by Yaakov Tzuk (Kotelczuk)

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

 

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Kindergarten Students (1928)

 

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Kindergarten Students (1928)

 

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Five friends and here are their names
From right to left: Israel'keh son of Abraham and Paya Gildenhorn, Zaltzman, separated for long life, David'l the son of Shlomo and Manya Zandweiss, Kuzenty and Grushka. They were of the same age (1926), and were students together at the ‘Tarbut’ (secular, Hebrew–language schools) School, and after they completed their studies there – they were accepted to the gymnasium. But only one of them, Zaltzman, managed to escape the talons of the murderers, and reached the United States after the War. The other four young boys were plucked before their time.

 

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The ‘Tarbut’ School graduates of 1924 with a group of the teachers
Right to left in the second row: Benjamin Edelstein, (unknown), Abraham Tendler, the Principal Schauer, Mrs. Schauer, Chaim Golovuszka, Shlomo Gurfinkel, Zilberstein

 

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The ‘Tarbut’ School building. The students are tending the garden under the supervision of the Principal Goldberg

 

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A group of students at the Hebrew–Russian Gymnasium in Sarny (1917–1919)

 

Of All My Teachers… My First Rebbe

Of all the teacher in whose Heder (school for study of Jewish subjects) I studied and was educated, it is the image of my very first teacher that is foremost in my mind: Shlomo–Mendl Roseman.

R' Shlomo–Mendl Roseman was a diminutive Jewish man, but of pleasant stature and appearance. His manner of speech and bearing were pleasant, his voice was genial, despite a cough that constantly irritated him.

The ambience of the Heder was quiet and tranquil. He did not assault his pupils with bitterness, and made almost no use of a scourge or a belt.

He had a rather small number of diverse pupils. To begin with, he was given the more tender children of age four to six, that were just taking their first steps in the study of the Hebrew language, as well as those ten to twelve–year–olds who were slow in their progress – who did not succeed in the course of two or three years to master reading skills.

By and large, the older ones reverted to the behavior of the younger ones, even if the younger ones were misbehaving, much to the consternation of their parents.

The results were slow in coming. At the end of the school year, their accomplishments were weak, and a portion of them left to attend the Heder of other teachers.

During the summer, the hours of the Heder ran from morning to evening, with a break for lunch and the afternoon prayers. In the winter – until eight in the evening.

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R' Joseph Njavozhny (or as he was nicknamed, ‘Yoss'l Moshiach’)

This teacher succeeded, at the end of my second term of study with him, to ‘get me up on my feet.’ On one day, when my father v”g came to the Heder, I stood up, and read a fluent reading from the Siddur (prayerbook) and the Pentateuch, to the elation of both the teacher and my father.

One very laudable element of the demeanor of R' Joseph the Melamed (teacher) is worthy of note. Despite his difficulty in making a living, setbacks in health, and sorrow in the raising of children – he alertly followed the fortunes of his past pupils, and guarded his connection to them, and drew them near even once they had grown up. Even after those whom he educated had completed advanced education and were on their own, he would always greet them with grace, take an interest in their lives, their work, and took joy in their successes, as if it were only a day or two that they had left his Heder. At those times when I returned to the city from faraway places, and in thinking through the upcoming meetings with my parents, friends and colleague, I did not eliminate the need to meet with the Melamed of my childhood years to enable him to shine his countenance on me, embrace me, take an interest in what I was doing, and to be happy at my successes.

The meetings with my Rebbe were always a heart–warming addition to the experience of the visit to the city. Even today, he stands before me as if he were alive; shaking my hand, giving me a pat on the shoulder and saying: ‘I always knew you would be a mensch.’

 

Heder During the War Years

The Pentateuch with Rashi commentaries, and a page of the Gemara, I began to learn with Rabbi R' Alter Peretz. The Rabbi was an accomplished Jewish scholar: ‘A chasm of esoterica that doesn't miss a drop’ and thoroughly fluent in the Gemara and Tosafot commentaries, but as to the students of R' Yochanan ben Zakai, he had no sympathy for their views, because he had no use for even one of the recommendations that they had about conduct of one's way of life. The Rebbe (Rabbi) loved the rabbinate, but despised the work of teaching. But in light of the fact that no rabbinical seat was locally available, without any alternative, he was a teacher of the young boys from the city and its vicinity.

The Rebbe – was a Jewish man of medium height, but broadly built. His beard and the hair on his head were bright and curly, his eyes small, and tucked deeply into the recesses of his face, glasses, were tied by strung to his ears, and he wore them on the tip of his nose. He was known for being fastidious, and woe betide a student on whom he cast an unfavorable gaze. The Rebbe explained material well, but his sloppiness in dress, and his lack of attention to pedagogy, and his ongoing squabbles in his family (to which his pupils were witness both early in the morning, and evening), led to a situation where he did not get a good evaluation from either the students or their parents.

The period of my study in the Heder of R' Alter Peretz was during the years of The First World War, when the front drew close to our city, and in the evening, the reports of exploding bombs and cannon shells would reach us, along with other such forms of armament. A portion of the residents left the city, and fled to the center of Russia. The city served as a transit point for draftees, and a set of military hospitals were set up in its vicinity. The units of soldiers that were billeted in the city, made use of the floor boards and fence posts to fuel the ovens in the field kitchens, and for campfires, and all the vegetable gardens and fruit trees were abandoned and despoiled, and the city, in its entirety, became a place of public utility. The wood and lumber business, whose products were destined for export, and provided a living to a part of the residents – fell silent. Stores were emptied of all of their merchandise. The basic necessities – oil, linen, plaster, grains – vanished. The populace hungered, and without any alternative, came into trading with the military, who, utilizing the means at their disposal, managed to stream part of the inventory from its warehouses to the residents of the town and its vicinity. Because of the light haggling in the surrounding villages, in order to procure a small sack of potatoes, a bit of grits, and some vegetables to save one's self from starving, a significant trade blossomed in insignias and merchandise that were destined for the military at the front, but didn't reach them for a variety of reasons, especially because of the reversals of the Russian Army, that had retreated from all fronts. The will to survive and the lack of permanent security led to a situation where everyone took advantage of merchandise they could lay their hands on, from the young to the old. One would travel to Rivne in order to bring back a sack of wheat or flour. One would endanger his life, and abscond with the linen used for military tents, with the material wrapped around his body, and yet another scrounged about and within the encampments obtaining parts of military uniforms, wrappings, preserves, cameras, and the like. Those on top, went down: rich people lost their assets, or fled with their families from the city, out of fear of the front that was drawing near. And those at the bottom of the heap were transformed overnight into the rich. It should not come as any surprise that our Rebbe was not able to overcome the temptation to engage in such commerce. He would vanish for hours at a time as he went after things to be found at the railroad station, where trains were constantly going by at all hours taking cohorts of soldiers to the front and back. He would leave us in the care and oversight of one of the older students ‘to keep an eye on us’, and to worry about us preparing the ‘layenen,’ – self–study of the Gemara.' As you can imagine, the minute the Rebbe disappeared down the street, the Heder emptied out, and all of us burst outdoors onto the playing field.

Whoever has not seen the joy of the Heder boys when they shed the yoke of the Torah and removed the severe hand of the Rebbe, and began to play the game ‘Halepto’ (a type of an attack game of the children in Israel) or the game ‘Huga’ (a type of game in The Land) – never saw the joy of childhood.

The ‘seniors’ were not missing from these games, and there were always young men.To this day, I can still recall one of the sons of Bancy Drakh who was able to throw a ball an enormously long distance. After a number of years, these ‘seniors,’ were the ones that produced the athletes when soccer reached the city and who provided the city with its reputation.

 

Ivrit b'Ivrit

From faraway Odessa, on the edge of the Black Sea, a scrawny, short dark–haired young man, wearing glasses, and the jacket of a Russian student, returned to his home city. He came from a worker family, a family of builders, and in addition to that – a teacher who taught Ivrit b'Ivrit (Hebrew in Hebrew). His was not an [ordinary] Heder, but a ‘modernized’ Heder; not a ragged assembly of plain students, but rather a minyan or a dozen of students from the élite, the children of balebatim (owners of houses), the ‘face’ of the city.

My father, despite his strict faith and adherence to Hasidism, brought me to to be tested by him. We entered a sheltered courtyard through a high wooden gate. The teacher, Tendler, turned to face us and spoke to us only in Hebrew. I read to him out loud the story of two brethren who met on Mount Moriah and in whose merit the Holy Temple was built there. I understood the contents and I answered the questions [posed to me]. I passed the test.

 

A Modernized Heder with Dikduk

I did not study at the Heder of the teacher Tendler, but I no longer returned to the Melamdim [in any case]. For a period of a month, I was sent to the modern Heder of the teacher Chaim Golobuszka.

The new teacher wore glasses, and he shortened his overcoat by a third, and his beard – by more than a third. In this new Heder, secular subjects were added on top of those having religious content: arithmetic, Hebrew and Dikduk (Hebrew grammar). In this new Heder there was no whip–scourge, but rather a cane, and rather purposefully, made of iron, which served the teacher in two ways: to aid his walking, and also as a prod to facilitate the learning process.

‘The Modern Heder’ was located in the home of the smith, Zinger at the end of the Broad Boulevard. It was a school of 3–4 classes, ungraded, in which more than 30 students were educated. Two memories remain with me from this Modern Heder: ‘The Outside’ and Dikduk.

This Heder was, just as described in the folk song, a small, crowded, and sometimes overly warm room. The stuffiness and boredom sometimes exceeded one's capacity to bear it. A miracle word in the mouths of the children was: ‘outside.’ In the Heder, it was said to the Rebbe: ‘the little ones want’ or ‘the older ones.’ And those, in the modern Heder, as befits a modern school, were communicating – ‘outside!’ The teacher would take care that the children not remain ‘outside’ any longer than the prescribed time. Every minute ‘outside’ was considered more precious than gold, and many of the children got more out of being ‘outside’ than they did from their formal studies.

Dikduk was studied at the modern Heder practically every day. Rules were reviewed and memorized by heart, and we copied over tens of pages a day. We were astonished by the teacher's command of the Dikduk, and if a student, g–d forbid, erred in conjugation, the rod was there to assist the teacher. Both managed to engender an antipathy to Dikduk for a lifetime.

On one of the days of summer, I was tested on [?]. Apparently, I slightly mixed up the portions. When the teacher began to use the rod, I burst out into sustained crying that I could not control. After this, I fell sick for two weeks.

From that time on, I was released from the study of Dikduk.

 

The Gates of Literature Are Opened

The First World War was over when tens of bereaved families mourned the loss of their [breadwinner] family heads, and sons, who did not return from the killing fields. In the wake of the war, a terrifying typhus epidemic swept through. That made hundreds bedridden, and only very few managed to be saved from its talons. The period of anarchy also came to an end during which no small amount of Jewish blood was also spilled. On the wreckage of all this, a national movement arose in the Jewish community. On the remains of the Jewish gymnasium, (the Tarbut School that educated for Zionism, being a Halutz, and Hebrew culture) – Russian school in which the language of instruction was Russian. After that, German, and in the end, Ukrainian. I studied at this school for only one year, but it was an important year in my life. Among the teachers in 1922, I remember the Principal, Davis Shoyar, and the teacher of Polish language, Yaakov Picker, but an indelible impression was made by a marvelous teacher who was thrust into the school for a short time. He was on his way from Russia to America in order to serve as the Rabbi of one of the communities there. This teacher, whose name has fallen away from my memory, was the one who opened our eyes to Hebrew poetry in general, and to the poems of Bialik in particular. The poverty, the state of being orphaned, and the life portrayed in Bialik's poetry mirrored the circumstances of our own existence, and aroused our youthful hearts. We drank in the words of the poet like one who is thirsty. We studied them and we joined groups for fostering the reading and taking an interest in Hebrew literature, even though it had not been unfamiliar to us beforehand, because we were members in the groups, ‘Yaldei Tzion’ [children of Zion], and ‘Hovevei Sfat Eyver’ [Hebrew speaking society].

On one of those days, immediately after our lesson in literature, I ran – enchanted by Bialik's poetry, and the explanation of the teacher – to the home of a class friend in order to convey the strong impression made by this new poem that had been taught in the class. I found this girl classmate of mine sick in bed. With great emotion, I began to recite the poem. But how great was my sense of disappointment, when in attempting a conversation at the end of my reading that my friend had fallen into a final, eternal sleep. From that time, this sense of satisfaction was lost for many days.


My Father, Joseph Nyavozhny

by Tzvetel Nyavozhny

My father, the Melamed Yosef Nyavozhny, was infused with faith and with hope. He grew along with the Heder in Sarny, and was its faithful guardian. My mother was always ready to help him in his difficult work. A busy and often worried person, during the evening hours after Maariv services, or in the early morning hours after the first minyan, he would run to visit sick children in their homes, to help and to teach them.

My father's face shone with joy when one of his students showed proficiency with the portion of the week, or recited well from the Rayshis Daas. This loyal and committed educator was at the same time a quiet ombudsman for the poor, for Hakhnosas Kallah, Maot Khittin, etc. He always stood away from the limelight, never argued with anyone, not even with the other Melamdim. On Hol HaMoed Sukkot or Passover, when they would compete with one another to tear away the meager sustenance they earned from their work, he did not involve himself.

On Simchat Torah, my father was full of joy. The silent dream of his life was the Land of Israel, to which his parents had made aliyah even before The First World War. However, because of difficult material circumstances, his dream to join them there never came true.

My father was a combination of gentleness, piety, being hard-working, and at one with his fellow man.


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My Rabbi

by Mordechai Peczenik (Mordechai Edelstein)

My Rabbi came to us from the nearby town of Stepan during the First World War; he founded the Boys' Heder for those who were studying Gemara.

The Enlightenment began to spread through the towns, including Sarny. My Rabbi's 'modernized Heder,' followed the requirements imposed by parents who wanted to give their children – alongside their traditional education – also an exposure to secular enlightenment. R' Mordechai's daughter taught Russian language, and he taught Tanakh and history. He became loved by all the residents, and all wanted to have their children taught by him. I, too, had the privilege of being among his students.

As was the usual at the same time, the Rebbe lived in poverty and in a state of want. He taught his students in his one-room house. Despite these difficult circumstances we were motivated, because of his unique method of teaching. We were especially fond of his lessons in Tanakh with the commentaries of 'The Malbi”m,' and the tractate of 'Nedarim' with the commentaries of the Ra”N. When R' Mordechai would embark into the sea of the Talmud, he would forget the time, and teach until a later hour.

His wife, Leah, directed the administration of her household, and provisioning it with great wisdom, considering the meager income of her spouse. Their son, Benjamin, excelled in musical talent and conducted the musical section of the drama club in the city. Their daughter, Chaya, the genteel one, was also musically gifted, and played the violin. She taught Russian, and in this, helped with the family income.

The years went by and a Tarbut School was founded in Sarny, and the Heder facilities emptied out. R' Mordechai k”z was taken on in the school to teach Jewish studies, which he did until 1939. With the Russian occupation of the town and the school, there was no longer a place for him, and he suffered.

The Rebbe was suffused with the wisdom of life. His conversation was redolent with the sayings of The Sages, and stories of Hasidim.

We met for the last time after the outbreak of The Second World War. Broken and harried, and weighed down with a mass of worries, he complained of these new conditions, and the efforts to uproot everything he had attempted to plant and infuse.

The Grim Hitlerian Reaper did not skip over him and his family.


Education in Polish Wolhyn

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

With the end of The First World War, the territory of Wolhyn was divided between Russia and Poland. This partition enabled the establishment and opening of Zionist and Hebrew institutions to take place in Western Wolhyn, which belonged to Poland.

At the time that the Poles captured the western part of Wolhyn, they found the educational institutions of the Tarbut (Tarbut was a Zionist network of Hebrew–language educational institutions) that had been founded under Ukrainian rule. They did not impair the existence of these, because they saw, in these Jewish institutions, whether they were Hebrew or Yiddish–oriented, a force for diversification until Polonization would happen.

Also, the D.D. K. (The Joint – The Aid Committee on the part of American Jewry) supported the educational institutions, both directly and indirectly, during the periods of deprivation that existed among the Jews of Wolhyn in the days after the pogroms of the Petlura forces and other bands. And so, with the resumption of the normal life of the Jews of Wolhyn, a different kind of Hebrew educational institutions arose in every location where Jews lived.

There were two core movements that served as the living spirit in the educational institutions in Wolhyn – Zionism and Socialism, in all of their forms and manifestations, and the conflict between them manifested itself externally through the issue of the language of instruction, Hebrew or Yiddish. The Jewish institutions, which in pre–war times taught their subjects in Russian, continued to exist for a time, until the Polish régime discontinued them. In their place, came intermediate (high) schools in which instruction was in the Polish language. Their teachers were brought mostly from Galicia and central Poland.

With the end of The First World War, many teachers reached Wolhyn, who fled Bolshevist Russia because of the political pressure from the side of the Yavsektsia (Jewish sections of the Soviet Communist Party). They were the ones to first plant the stakes of the Hebrew school, bringing with them their minimal experiences in Hebrew and Yiddish schools that had arisen in Ukraine and Russia for the children of refugees. During a short interval of time, many Hebrew schools and kindergartens were erected and drew Jewish children to them. The Teachers' Seminaries in Kiev and Kharkov, founded by Kahanstam and Charna (Shalom Yonah Charna), indirectly influenced the realization of the educational goals and their implementation as well as instances of the publication of educational newspapers there.

Despite the fact that there was yet no formal connection to the Land of Israel, the image of the schools in The Land floated before the eyes of all of the teachers and founders. The curriculum of the gymnasium in Haifa was copied, improved and aligned with the needs of the schools in Wolhyn. In a like manner, the teachers who came from Russia, brought textbooks published by Amanut, founded by the Persitz family in Kiev.

The use of the Hebrew language as the language of instruction was already widespread even before this by the ‘modernized’ Cheders (traditional elementary school teaching Judaism and Hebrew). At this time, some of the teachers moved over to the new schools, in which they revealed their efforts to make good and to realize their yearnings that had filled their hearts going back yet to the time of the hegemony of the Czar, and became manifest during the time of the German conquest, especially after the Kerensky Revolution.

With the founding of the intermediate–level Hebrew schools, superior pedagogic resources were added, who had gained their enlightenment on Western Europe (mostly – in Austria). Their influence over the educational institutions were recognized, in general, to be both for the good and bad. Over the course of the years, the approaches from the east and the west became integrated, and the schools acquired the desired and wanted cast. In the run of these styles, attention was given to the endeavors of the central office of the Tarbut in Warsaw, which was set up in 1922, with the advice and consent of the resources supplied by the various sectors of Poland.

It is worthy to underscore the temerity and dedication of the Zionist activists in the cities and towns of Wolhyn, who joined together to establish the Tarbut schools and kindergartens, despite all the difficulties raised in their way by the representatives of the Polish régime.

In 1920, the Hebrew Tarbut gymnasium was founded in Rivne. It served as a center for the entire movement in Western Wolhyn, and became a mainstay and source of support to all the schools that had been founded before and after it in the area.

The Sarny Tarbut school was founded in 1921 by the Tarbut Histadrut, and with the help of the committed activists, at the head of whom stood Mr. Sh. Zingerman, appointed by the Polish Hebrew Teachers Association in Poland, a group of outstanding teachers, and during the years of the existence of this school, a generation was educated within it, committed to the Zionist agenda. Thanks to the education provided by the Tarbut school, Sarny earned the position of being at the forefront of the aliyah of Halutzim (agricultural immigration) to the Land of Israel.

A few years before the outbreak of The Second World War, the Tarbut activists approached the task of erecting a large building for a Hebrew gymnasium in Sarny. By dint of a great deal of effort on their part, they were able to receive the required permits to begin construction. The cornerstone was laid with great ceremony, and the foundations were laid from the stones that were hauled in from the quarry near Sarny – Klesów. The stones were donated by a Jewish quarry owner, and even the brick walls were erected, but because of considerable difficulty engendered on the part of the Polish régime, the construction was halted and not completed. With the assumption of the Polish régime of a position in matters of education, the difficulties and barriers multiplied for all public schools in general, and particularly for the Jewish ones.

Most, if not all, of the Yiddish schools in Wolhyn ceased to operate. Many of the Tarbut schools failed to receive their government accreditation. Even if all intents and appearances the requirements for an education were liberal, it was nevertheless difficult for the Jews to withstand the demands, which were: a building that conformed to hygienic standards, teachers with general education, and pedagogic credentials, and Polish citizenship with political clearance. In those buildings that remained from the days of the Czar, Polish schools were organized by the government, and other buildings in the modern style, having large rooms – were not to be found at all in the cities, and certainly not in the towns. And even if a large building happened to be located there that could be modified to accommodate the requirements for a school, they were not quick to get the permits from the doctor and architect of the government agency, and these issues would ricochet from one office to the next. Despite all this, learning did not cease; in general, because the activists and the teachers knew how to settle things with the local authorities. With the help of parents and American support, over the years, many buildings were erected, that were dedicated to being Tarbut schools.

More difficult than even the rules concerning the buildings, were the questions of the political qualifications of the teachers' credentials in the public schools. Most of the local teachers were registered as citizens of the broad expanse of Russia, and it was sufficient for a teacher to be listed in one of the regions outside of Polish jurisdiction to be refused the proper political license from the provincial authorities. A large part of the teachers in the public schools did not possess diplomas that were recognized by the educational establishment in Poland and it was necessary to engage in indirect subterfuge to get them certified as teachers of religion only, for whom the authorities relaxed their restrictions for a variety of reasons. In practice, these teachers also taught secular subjects. However, when the government inspector arrived, all of them switched over to be religious teachers which encompassed all manner of Jewish teaching such as: Tanakh (Hebrew bible), Israeli history, the geography of Israel, etc. In the fullness of time, teachers were added who had completed the course of study in the Tarbut seminaries of Czarna, Vilna and Grodno, and even teachers from Galicia – who had national–level diplomas – and knew Hebrew. In the intermediate level schools, the issue of credentials was resolved with ease, because most of the teachers came from Galicia, already practically schooled in Enlightenment, and within a year or two, mastered the teaching of a few subjects in Polish.

This entire episode demonstrated without doubt, the wondrous commitment of the parents of the school, who intentionally passed over the use of the nationally run schools, available to their children at no cost, in spacious buildings, well–equipped with all sorts of teaching material. All this as well as the obligation they were compelled to assume to support the teachers and all the expenses associated with institutions, all for their own account. And not only this, but these very parents also erected, as already indicated, buildings of their own, over the years, such as the buildings in Rivne, Sarny, and even in much smaller towns.

The material circumstances of the teachers were meager. The support from Charna came to an end, and the tuition, even though it was greater than the capacity of small business owners and craftsmen, did not satisfy all of the needs. The Tarbut central office tried to help from a pedagogical standpoint, by way of inspections and publishing pedagogical newspapers, but even keeping this going demanded a levy from the participating schools. The régime provided no assistance at all to the schools, however, in the final years before The Second World War, a small amount of grudgingly given support was received from the municipal institutions. In a similar fashion, in those years, the central Tarbut office succeeded in obtaining a set sum for building purposes from the D.D.K. (The American Committee), from which the schools in Wolhyn benefitted. An agricultural school was erected in Ludomir from these funds, whose influence on the general schools left its mark in the direction taken in the education of future Halutzim.

The Tarbut institutions developed a network of Hebrew education institutions in Wolhyn, and most of the Jewish children, in the settlements enumerated above, and their vicinity, received their education there. The influence of these institutions on the Jewish populace was great. Most of the opponents to the new Hebrew education at its outset, in the end, accepted it and joined in, and there were among them who became its ardent supporters.

Ninety percent of the students in the general schools were from the lower social strata. Because of this, with the assistance of ‘TOZ,’ many of the institutions offered meals to the children. Similarly, the central ‘TOZ’ office and the Teachers' Association arranged for summer camps for the teachers and children, in the Tatra and Beskid Mountains. A large part of the students from the Tarbut schools in Wolhyn continued its path in the youth movements until it found its place in The Land of Israel, and as said – a large part of these young Halutzim came from Sarny, who made aliyah to The Land of Israel.


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The Educators of the Young Generation in Sarny

by Abraham-Isaac Murik

The first-order concern of a Sarny Jew was the education of his sons and daughters. Most of the Jews of the city were of modest means, however, these 'nabobs' (person of conspicuous wealth) did not stint on their money when it came to cover tuition expenses. Accordingly, there were many Heders (school for Jewish children in which Hebrew and religious knowledge are taught.) and other places of study.

The position of the old-fashioned Heder had deteriorated in the first years of Polish rule, and in its place, the modernized Heder sprung up. During those same years, the Tarbut school (secular school where Hebrew was taught) was founded.

The city was blessed with teachers who did a great deal to raise the stake of the Hebrew language. In the fullness of time, scions of the city, who had completed the course of study at the Vilna Seminary, could be counted among the ranks of the teachers.

The condition of the premises of the school were far from what was thought to be necessary, but the deficiencies in the building were compensated for by a pretty garden of fruit trees, that extended from its western side, and a large open space in the direction of south and east.

The school taught knowledge in all subjects, mostly in the national language – Polish. The teacher who taught Polish language as also the principal, according to the authority, and was responsible for the teaching of Polish language and history. The Hebrew language reigned in every corner of the building and also outside its walls, and accordingly, the school earned considerable praise from the emissaries that came from The Land, and visited it in the city. The school conducted a multi-branched initiative on behalf of the KK”L. The blue box, KK”L stamps, a newspaper for children from The Land, various games surrounding the proper use of Hebrew – all these became means to inculcate a Zionist education.

It is important to note that the youth movements that existed in the city were, 'HaShomer HaTza'ir,' Gordonia, and Betar, which rounded out the education of the students of the school after regular studies.

This school had the custom of organizing presentations by its students to the public, during the festivals of Hanukkah and Purim. The assembly halls were filled with festivity, until there was no more room, and afforded our parents a great deal of joy and parental satisfaction. We, the survivors that find ourselves in the Moledet, to this day, can beautifully feel that our love for The Land and our connection to everything that takes place there, has its roots in the education we received far away from it…there in our little town in the backwaters of the Ukraine.

At the end of Ulica Szeroka, in the east side of the city, on a hillock beside the road leading to the Sluch River, stood the new house of the teacher, Schneider k”z. In this house, the modern Heder of the teachers Schneider and Furman was opened. Rows of flowers were planted around the house, and benches and a gazebo were constructed between the trees. Magic and an aura of plenty suffused the house and its courtyard which was pervaded by cleanliness and order. Accordingly, the place was pleasing as a domicile for Torah [study].

And here, the teacher, Schneider, wearing glasses, his hair streaked with gray, tastefully dressed, was a severe disciplinarian and a formidable scholar. By contrast, you had the teacher Furman, a hearty fellow, quiet and well-mannered, with the hint of a smile perpetually hovering on his handsome visage. His black forelock and jacket lent an air of geniality to his appearance, which nature had marred by giving him a game leg.

It was in this courtyard that the studies of and education in the Hebrew subjects were integrated and aligned with the modern educational content of Hebrew education in the Diaspora. Both teachers concerned themselves with assuring an appropriate physical ambience, repairing the benches for sitting, and I recall there being a place for an inkwell, folio, and briefcase. In the classroom, a teacher's chair was placed for the teacher, and opposite the view of the students, hung portraits of the rulers of Poland, as well as of Herzl, Weizmann and Bialik.

In addition to teaching religious subjects, these teachers taught an awareness of the Land of Israel, writing themes, and literature – all according to 'Language and Literature' by Fichman (Jacob Fichman also transliterated as Yaakov Fichman 25 November 1881 - 18 May 1958, was an acclaimed Hebrew poet, essayist and literary critic.) During the sweltering summer days, we were permitted to study in the garden. Even though the 'rod' did not reign in this classroom, as was usual, there was a wondrous sense of order that pervaded it.

Fridays were filled with content about Israel. Every class conducted a Sabbath welcoming service, with contributions to the Blue Box, and by command, we ended the week with the singing of 'Hatikvah' (anthem of Israel).

In recollecting that period, no less than three decades ago, I truly wonder not only once, about the knowledge and understanding, and especially – the courage of these teachers, whose education ended with their graduation from the seminaries, or teacher training institutions. Despite this, they went off into areas of education and teaching that were new to them and undertook a great deal of work and achieved blessed results. Not only once, when I encountered a difficulty in my work as an educator, involving difficult questions concerning the education of the youth, who had come to us from different parts of the Diaspora, I attempt to draw sustenance from this source. And it is at such a time that the images of these venerable teachers appear before me - they who were the first to quarry the boulder and reach the source of the waters of life.

The teacher, Tuvia Levin, who came to Sarny from Pinsk is remembered by many of the scions of our city. Tuvia Levin came to Sarny in the year 1923-1924 as the son-in-law of Mrs. Fialkov, whose daughter, Sonia, found in him her life's partner. The young generation at that time, in the city, was immersed in activity on behalf of the Land of Israel. In anticipation of the opening of the [Hebrew] University in Jerusalem in 1925, a party was arranged, at which Tuvia Levin, a young and handsome man, was revealed to be a Hebrew poet.

The reputation of the young man rose from the time he became a teacher. I recall that he taught Hebrew and drawing. He plumbed the depths of Hebrew drawing, and drawing in Hebrew. He was a wondrous example of a Hebrew teacher in the Diaspora, who, in his persona, melded the skills of a pedagogue, poet and artisan.

As regarding his external appearance, he filled the yearning more beautifully than the drab environment, with the prominence of his handsome presence, his erect posture, and his face that emanated gentleness and dreaminess.

This was the way our teacher Levin k”z was. He enchanted us all with the way he expressed himself with his clear and pure Hebrew. The degree of how angry he grew when he heard an inappropriately intoned reading, could be gleaned from his outburst: 'Ignoramus, Barbarian!'

On a field of ignorance, this teacher plowed and sowed seeds of gold. He was in the habit of reading to us from his poetry. He would compose melodies for his verses. He would bring the weekly and monthly publications to his comrade teachers in which his work was published.

Tuvia Levin translated some of the works of the Polish poet Solowicki into Hebrew, and in a like manner, the 'Twelve' of the Russian [poet] Aleksander Bock.

He sowed a great deal, but he was not privileged to reap the product of his labor, and was not privileged to derive satisfaction from it.

We, those who were educated in this school from which we derived the cream of our education, will forever guard the memory and image of our teachers in our hearts. Those who instilled in us a love for our fellow man, for Our People, and for The Land of Israel.

 

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