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[Page 188]

Integration During the Development of Education

by Sarah Turkenitz–Katzman

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

 

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The Hebrew Corner at Tarbut in Sarny
1 Tammuz 5687 (July 1, 1927)
Standing in the First Row: Joseph Nagel, Unknown, Abraham Golomba, Eliezer Walkin, Unknown, Aryeh Cirulnik, Shapiro, Klyde, Reuben Kulakowsky, Unknown.
Second Row Seated: Zev, Avigdor Murik, Ber'l Frimer, Aryeh Murik, Ber'l Cirulnik, Meryl Counteracts, and Chaim Berlinsky
Standing – Glauberman.
In the Third Row Sitting: Graber, Pess'l Katz, Szifra Weinblatt, Roz'l Counteracts, Zindl, Unknown

 

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The 1926 Tarbut Literary Leadership
From Left to Right: Sitting – Moshe Yuz, Golda Turok, Ber'l Cirulnik, Moshe Zingerman, Penina Feller, Aharon Nissman

 

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The Drama Section Beside Tarbut (1926) after a performance of the play ‘Shulamis.’

 

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The Editorial Board of the ‘Lebedike Zeitung’ (The Living Newspaper – 1927)
From Left to Right (Standing) – Saul Bieber, Abraham Dikhtiar, Yudl Falakhowsky, Moshe Yuz.
Sitting – Shlomo Gurfinkel, Tuvia Levin (T”L), Esther Tram, Abraham Aharon Dworetzky.

 

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A Literary Evening Dedicated to the Works of Mendele Mokher Sforim (1923)
From Left to Right: (Standing): Herschel Plotnick, Nachman Wiszcina, Yoshe Millstein, Yekhiel Salutsky,
(Sitting): Moshe Borko, Jonah Glick, Shmuel Sadah, Abraham Furman, and Tulia Berzowicz.

 

In those days, it was before there were kindergarten classes in Sarny. However, because of this, children began attending Heder at a somewhat earlier age. Having no other option, they would create the conditions of a kindergarten by themselves. This, indeed, was the situation at the Heder of our first teacher, ‘Leib'l der Lehrer.’ During one semester, I attended his Heder from Passover to Rosh Hashanah.

The Heder was full of students of various ages, boys and girls. A few were studying Pentateuch with Rashi commentaries, and a few were even reading from a Russian book, and these were the ones who were required to master reading.

The teacher, who was busy with a wife and children, and very occupied in his house, after the Heder had begun in his house, and after the ‘wide boulevard and the plethora of trees behind the house did their work on us’, we were drawn outside for many hours, both with and without the knowledge of the teacher. At the end of that period, I had progressed rapidly in the plucking of tree leaves, and brewing of ‘coffee,’ but the teacher had concluded that the ‘head of the girl is plugged up,’ and she will not learn to read.

For all practical purposes, my first teacher was Mr. Furman. How great is the warmth that fills my heart as I raise the dear image of this educator in my memory. Was there a child in Sarny that did not study with him and get an education from him? Was there a youth in the city who could recall his name without being overcome by a wave of emotion? How great was his affection for each child in the city! He respected them all and all reciprocated with respect and affection.

Abraham Furman was a young man from Strilsk, a village near Sarny. Thirsty for knowledge, and without difficult circumstances, he acquired his knowledge through self–teaching. His Heder was thought to be the most progressive in the city. The children were practically of the same age. We studied from eight in the morning until nightfall, with a noon recess. The hours were divided into set periods for each subject, with a break between them. We would begin the day with the reading of the Siddur, for the purpose of sharpening our reading skills. We studied all the subjects that he knew. The children knew to tell that when Furman and his students reached the Book of Micah in the Twelve Minor Prophets – the semester was over because it was up to here that the teacher himself had studied. What did we learn from him? Everything. His great pride was the study of Hebrew in Hebrew. We would read, and relate the content in Hebrew from the book, ‘The Children's World,’ and ‘Roads.’ We learned Hebrew history from ‘History of Hebrew,’ a condensation of Dubnow, we studies grammar, but especially, we learned and studied Tanakh. It is understood that we integrated a great deal of Yiddish into our discourse, but we had no reaction to this, because our intent was to speak Hebrew.

The teacher was strict, and demanded precision in attendance and in homework preparation. Despite this, I cannot recall any time when a student was disciplined by him. The children loved him and tried to do what he wanted of them, out of a sense of understanding.

We would end the day's work in song. These moments are deeply etched into my heart.

Furman, who was lame in one leg, had a perpetual smile on his face. He would stand and play songs of longing and desire for The Homeland on his violin, and we, the children, would just melt away. He played by ear, his music teacher being the young Edelstein. We especially sang the songs of rebirth, but when we ran out of this sort of material, he brought us the songs from plays that were put on by the Drama Club, that is to say: ‘Lyubitelski Kruzhok.’ ‘Gott un zein mishpot is gerekht,’ ‘Es shynt di levoneh’ and ‘In Bais HaMikdosh,’ and others.

During those same years, a new initiative took form in Sarny in the area of education. With the effort of a number of the balebatim of the city, ardent Zionists, among them Mr. Shmuel Zingerman k”z, a unique gymnasium was erected in the city: ‘Yevreiskii Russkaya Gymnasia,’ that is to say, a gymnasium for Jewish children, in which all studies were conducted in Russian. Hebrew was studied solely as a language, along with a little bit of Tanakh. Who erected it? And who was appointed a member of the teaching staff? Even in this respect there was something unique to our city.

Sarny, which is located at the crossroads between east and west, during those days of violence, attracted young people who were compelled to leave Russia, especially from the Kiev area. Some of them treated Sarny as an interim stopover, and a part of them settled there. Most were members of the intelligentsia, graduates of gymnasiums, as well as students. Having no other means to make a living, they trained to become teachers in the recently established gymnasium. Mr. Gibberman, an interesting and very energetic man who was involved in its establishment, served as the principal of the gymnasium.

The school resided in a building that before the revolution served as the municipal court house. It was a lovely building surrounded by fruit trees with a wide yard and at a distance from the noise of the city.

On the top floor of the building housed the municipal orphanage. Its establishment was also a product of the effort of those very same activists, because most of these community initiatives were carried out by a small group of residents who dedicated themselves to dealing with the public interest of the city. Part of the children in the orphanage studied with us in the gymnasium while the younger ones attended an elementary school that had been opened by a number of the teachers, among them, the distinguished teacher and ardent Halutz, Mr. Sadah, k”z, and the teacher Zeldin.

The children of the gymnasium were ordered to wear uniforms and would periodically go out on parade in the city and outside of it – to the forest. If there was one thing we could not accomplish – the study of Hebrew got put off to a very small part of our agenda, even though our Hebrew teacher was one that was rare among those that I remember from among my teachers.

Shmuel Walkin, or ‘Shmulik,’ as we called him, was educated at a Hebrew seminary, accomplished in his sphere of knowledge. He was able to ignite his flame of love for Hebrew studies in the hearts of his students. He did not concur with the undertaking, that the children of Sarny should learn their subjects in a foreign tongue and study Hebrew only as an additional language. He attempted to inculcate in us a passion for our language and our culture, and succeeded. The gymnasium did not last for very long.

With the entry of the Poles into Sarny there was no taste for an institution of this kind, and there was high turn–over of teachers. Some of the students went over to the Polish schools. However, most of the children of the city were not left without Torah instruction. Cadres of children then turned to the patriarch of the city, Mr. Shmuel Zingerman with a demand that he look after them, emphasizing their desire for a Hebrew school. This eventuality came into being.

In place of the gymnasium, the Tarbut school was established. Mr. Shmuel Rosenhack worked a great deal to see it come into being. A principal was brought in, Mr. Szuer, an enlightened man from Galicia, who spoke Hebrew with a Sephardic accent and knew about the way of life in the Land of Israel. The teachers were largely graduates of Hebrew seminaries. The school made progress from year–to–year, and developed accordingly. A variety of clubs and groups sprang up. A splendid library was set up. Student newspapers, in Hebrew, appeared: ‘ Olami,’ and ‘Olmei HaKatan.’

One heard the sound of Hebrew in the streets of our city quite prominently. In the fullness of the years, from among the graduates as well as students of the school, two youth movements were established that were their pride, these being ‘HeHalutz HaTza'ir’, and ‘HaShomer HaTza';ir,’ most of whose members eventually made aliyah to The Land. And even from there, they continued to remain in contact with the school by the exchange of letters and provision of educational materiel.

Only one thing pained the hearts of those who stood at the head of education in our city, and that was the absence of an intermediate level school for a continuation of education. Most of the graduates were compelled to be satisfied with the [first] seven grades of the elementary school, and only a small portion of them were fortunate enough to obtain the opportunity to study in distant places outside of the city.

In 1938 when I visited Sarny before the outbreak of the war, I was overwhelmed because all of the effort to erect a Hebrew gymnasium in the city had been completed with a cornerstone having been laid. The satisfaction of those who did this work knew no bounds. From now on, they thought, it would be possible for any youth, who simply want to – to engage in study without any extraordinary difficulties. However, our dear ones were not privileged to realize their dreams. The Holocaust overtook them.

In what follows, are excerpts from the letters between myself and one of the teachers who taught at the school until the last day. These letters were written on the event of the entrance of the Russians into Sarny.

 

Two Letters

Sarny, 23.3.1939

Greetings to my friend, Sarah!

I have just now received the package of material that you sent me. I take this opportunity to thank you very, very much, from the bottom of my heart for this consideration. The content is both interesting and important. I will be able to make use of it in several ways for the Israel corner that we plan to create.

The pictures for the Keren HaKayemet L'Israel, published by the Teachers' Council, I saw enlarged by a magnifying lantern. That was just now, in the month of Tevet. In Rivne, a geography course for Palestine was created for all of the teachers in the province. The driving force behind this was a person named Bereslowsky from the Land of Israel. His lectures were interesting and he also showed these pictures. If we are able to procure a magnifying lantern, we, also, will be able to see them enlarged. In a like fashion, the pictures published by the group, ‘Halva'ah VeHaskhon’ were also very interesting. These pictures are new to us, because the KHK”L and the Keren HaYesod had not yet provided them to us. As to the rest of the pictures, we will use them for diagrams and wall hangings.

The folios containing the speeches of Dr. Weizmann before the government committee will also be of significant use to us. The committee will reconvene anew here in the month of May, and we still have quite some time in order to prepare the ‘details’ derived from this material.

I will ask that you additionally send me, if, understandably, it is not too much of a burden for you, several curricula of settlements, or sketches from the carton of the settlements. Also desired are several works of rules and regulations. But I really have no right to ask for too much from you, because I know that you are very busy, right now, in The Land, and, for a second time, I thank you for the material you have already sent to me.

What is the state of mind in The Land right now? It is now a week's worth of days that we don't know what is going on with you, because the news in the papers are very obscure, and it isn't possible to know what direction the Yishuv will choose after the London meeting. [The large numbers of Jews entering Palestine led to the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Britain responded to the Arab revolt by appointing a Royal Commission, known as the Peel Commission which traveled out to Palestine and undertook a thorough study of the issues. The Peel Commission recommended in 1937 that Palestine be partitioned into two states, one Arab the other Jewish. In January 1938, the Woodhead Commission explored the practicalities of partition, proposing that the Jewish state be substantially smaller and include only the coastal plain. In July 1938, an international conference convened by the USA, failed to find a solution to the rapidly growing Jewish refugee problem.

In February 1939, the British held a conference in London to negotiate an agreement between the Arabs and the Zionists. The Palestinian Arab delegates would only attend on condition that there were no direct meetings with Zionist representatives since this would be recognition of the legitimacy of Zionists claims over Palestine. So the British government held separate meetings with the two sides. The conference ended in failure on March 17. ]

Even with us, political matters are being arranged behind the scenes, which will soon take a place among the general events of the world. But, [having said this], who is so wise as to be able to say, off the top of their head, what the day will bring. I want very much to know what is going on in The Land and I ask that you write to me about this at length.

If it would be possible for you to send me yet another package of material, I will be much obliged to you.

With best wishes for peace, and all good things,
Eliezer Kozlowsky

Sarny, 18.4.1939

Greetings to my friend, Sarah!

Many thanks for your letter that is so rich in detail and content. I read it with great interest, and also read it in front of my friends. We came to the general conclusion that the use of language in The Land is more redolent and fresh. Each word is in its [proper] place, and every expression describes the issue in a clear way, and we struggle, despite this, to find the right way to express our thoughts. Our language still misses the softness of the spoken word, a ‘feel’ that this is not yet the ‘mother tongue’ of Diaspora Jewry.

Our committee will begin to function at the end of the month of May. Because time still permits it, I wish to ask of you to describe in detail in writing, the [unknown word] of the settlement of Hadera. [Please describe] its current appearance, the names of the streets, the most important buildings in the settlement, and on which street does one find all of the communal buildings, the businesses of the residents, the number of residents, and which educational institutions are to be found in the settlement and the various neighborhoods, etc. In the same vein, it is highly desirable if you could send me various pictures from this settlement, in order to arrange an album of the settlement, and also could you possibly send over to me a finished album, in which case I will be very obliged to you. I had heard that our comrade Binder also works at this settlement, and if it becomes difficult for you to comply with my request, please turn to this previously mentioned comrade, since he is already settled in this location for a number of years and probably knows it very well.

I hope to receive this material from you in the near future, because for us, it is very important.

I want to extend to you my best wishes for a complete success in all the work you have undertaken in this settlement. My sense is that this work is difficult, but most certainly is interesting.

Please forgive me for stealing your time, which is no doubt limited because of the extent of the work, in reading my letters and with regard to my other requests. I am always ready to fulfil any request that you should place before me, if you have any sort of need that has to be attended to. I send my effusive thanks, and I await an early reply from you.

With best wishes for peace, and all good things,
Eliezer Kozlowsky


[Page 191]

The First Hebrew School in Sarny

by Yitzhak Idan (Zeldin)

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

After Sukkot of the Year 5681 [1920]

It was Sarny's fortune that the brigades of the Balachowists took a path forward that trailed blood, but by it vicinity. They went through the Polesia forests, and manifested the quality of their force in plunder, and murder for the sake of murder, in order to instill terror and fright into the Jewish communities, and the squeeze out tribute from them. The most terrifying slaughter was perpetrated in Kamin–Kashyrs'kyi. In the city of Pinsk, they were intimidated by the large population, and did not have the temerity to act. In contrast to this, when they reached the town of Plotnica, they murdered and plundered without constraint. Stolin escaped unscathed, Horodok and its surroundings paid a great price in property and lives.

After Sukkot, when I came to Sarny, I was like a drowning man whose legs had stepped on an island. In that hour when we felt good, Simchat Torah was transformed into mourning, but the holiday passed in Sarny with great rejoicing, as was the custom from time immemorial. Laden on top of the holiday was the added labor involved with the withdrawal of the Bolsheviks, and the entrance of the Poles, and the economic circumstances were seen in a very clear light.

 

The Educational Institutions in Sarny

At that very time, there was a half–Russian gymnasium in Sarny, whose principal was a person not of the Jewish faith. However, the elementary school that we opened, was completely based on the tenets of Tarbut. It was a tall building that the Zionists, especially the well–known activist, Shmuel Zingerman, acquired on behalf of the school. The question was – how to attract the children to this new institution? This matter was not an easy one because in Sarny, there continued to be good quality traditional Heders. Everything was under the aegis of The “Joint.” Even a kindergarten was opened that winter, and I am of the view that this was the first of its kind in the area. The kindergarten governess was Yehudit Zeldin, who had come from the Prebel–based courses of Yekhiel Halperin in Odessa. In the middle of the winter an inspector came from Rivne to audit the work in the school and the kindergarten. All studies were conducted in Hebrew and even though there were no textbooks available to us in the secular subjects, we did what the teachers in The Land did during the first years that schools were established here.

There was great joy, when in the middle of the winter, D. B. Malkin came for a visit on behalf of the central Zionist office in Warsaw. All the youth gathered in the school building for a celebration in honor of the guest. The gentile principal did not view this favorably and communicated to whomever he did about it that it was the Jews who organized this in the school.

 

Kh. Y. Katznelson

The winter passed, and before the Passover recess we did a great thing. We knew, that in order to raise the reputation of the school in the eyes of the parents (in competition with the Heder system), it was required to get pedagogically–trained people at the head of the school. The well–known pedagogue, and scribe, Kh. Y. Katznelson resided in nearby Dabrowica. Before the revolution, he was a Rabbi in one of the communities, but because he had gotten entangled with the authorities, he had moved to a somewhat out–of–the–way place, like Dabrowica.

We decided – I and my fellow teachers, Walkin, and Glekl s”hv – to bring Katznelson to Sarny. He accepted our offer willingly. As an aside, Katznelson, during his tenure as a sitting Rabbi, helped me and Kh. Brenner, who served in the Russian army in that very same city, to flee the army and leave the country. With the arrival of Kh. Y. Katznelson to Sarny, the reputation of the school measurably improved, and he gained a position of honor among all of the Tarbut institutions in Volhynia.

Of the villages close to Sarny, they would come to us for advice and guidance. All the surrounding institutions were under the aegis of The ‘Joint’ in Sarny. I responded positively to all the teachers in the area, to visit them, and to help with the organization of the schools. On one occasion, I went out to the town of Kostopil and a second time to Wlodzimierz. The schools at that time were in their infancy and even the meager help I was able to offer – was important.

 

From the Bottom to the Top

In the middle of the year, we received a notice from Warsaw, signed by Moshe Gordon, to the effect that they are readying themselves to create a Tarbut center, to direct all of the schools in the country. The Hebrew movement in Poland grew from the bottom to the top. After the creation of the educational institutions in the towns here and there, with the effort on the part of those local educational resources and with the help of Zionist activists in those locations – the need arose to organize and integrate them in a national framework named Tarbut, in order to improve upon the educational endeavor, and to raise it to a superior pedagogical plateau so that it could compete against the left wing of the Yiddishists.

My tenure in Sarny did not last long. In the middle of the summer, pedagogical courses were opened in Kharkov. I went to matriculate in Kharkov and from there, to the Torah center – Vilna. I was happy to hear from faraway places, because the institution embraces all of the children from the city of Sarny because there were superior pedagogical resources available there. The graduates of the school are to be found here in Israel, and are fully knowledgeable in describing the great worth that the institution provided in their early years as well as later on in their lives.


[Page 192]

In the Tarbut School

by Issachar Bestus

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

If one speaks of the Tarbut school in Sarny, it is not possible to do so without first prefacing such a discussion by recalling the elementary educational institution of the teacher Furman. It was unquestionably a modernized Heder, as well as a Talmud Torah, in which students received their first three years of education. Parents would turn their children over willingly, to the trustworthy hands of the teacher Furman, and we the uneducated young would wait with bated breath for the first day after Passover, in which studies commenced in the preparatory class.

On Lag B'Omer, we would march en masse, with the teacher Furman marching beside us, urging us on with the cadence: left, right, left, right. We would go to the forest on the other side of town, in the section called Poleska. There, we celebrated the festival in accordance with the prescribed rules.

Most of all, we loved the teacher Furman's lessons in Tanakh. In his sweet and pleasant voice, he would explain to us the chapters of the Tanakh, and enrich the tales in lively tones. Here is the strongman Samson beside the gates of Gaza. The teacher then demonstrates how Samson loaded the gates on his shoulders, bent under the heavy weight. It seemed to us as if we were seeing the real Samson, with long hair, standing before us. And it is permitted to add that all of us dreamt of being such heroes like Samson in the future.

The teacher Furman was held in high esteem by the students, parents and teachers alike.

From this basis, let us move on to the Tarbut school.

The teacher, Shlomo Gurfinkel – may he be separated for long life, who today is found in Rehovot and occupies his position in pedagogy – was the teacher of the third grade (in the Tarbut school there were grades, and not classes). He taught natural science and geography. In general, the teacher Gurfinkel loved to teach in the thick of nature itself, and point out, in support of his explanations, birds, or flowers, and thereby offer examples. When the snow melted, and the sun returned strongly enough to warm the world of The Holy One, Blessed Be He, and the trees would become covered in leaves, and all of creation returned to life – we would go out, with the teacher Gurfinkel, for our first sortie, far away, out of the city, to the Sluch River. There, the teacher would teach his lesson, tossing a shoot into the water, to show us the direction of the river's flow. Here it tended to the right, and another to the left, and yet another seems to be an island surrounded by water on all sides, and another surrounded only on three sides.

This was a pleasant beginning to the study of nature and geography.

I met up with the teacher Gurfinkel also in The Land, where he continues to walk about with his students, except this time, his students are Sabras, and the stroll is through the outskirts of Ramleh.

The teacher Grosskopf, taught the language, grammar, geography and history of Poland, and in general, all things that had to do with Poland and its origins. At the beginning of a class period, he would always discipline one student or another on matters of comportment and manners. Anyone who encountered him in the street, and didn't doff his hat, and nod his head, and didn't say ‘Dzien dobry, Panu’ (Good day, sir), [would elicit a response]. He was very particular about good behavior.

The teacher Tuvia Levin taught art and the geography of the Land of Israel. Our custom was not to be assisted by books. Why no books? Who knew The Land like he did, having traversed its length and breadth, when he was a soldier in the Jewish Brigade? He would hand the map of The Land on the wall, and begin to lecture in front of us, and we would take notes: ‘At a distance of a half–hour's walk from Tel–Aviv, in a southeasterly direction, one finds the agricultural school, Mikve Israel, founded by Charles Netter.’ When I reached Israel, I rode from Tel–Aviv to the immigrants' home in Be'er Yaakov, and the bus stopped beside Mikve Israel, and I called to the driver – practically shouting out of so much wonder: here is the Mikve Israel of Levin the teacher!

During the teacher Levin's classes, there was always noise and chaos in the classroom, akin to the buzzing of bees. There was a sense that, during this hour, it was possible to get a little silly. It was enough that the teacher Levin would withdraw the stout stick from his hand, and a silence would immediately fall. He would promise that if the class would behave itself and remain still, he would tell us about his carrying on in the Jewish Brigade, his participation in the Haganah in 1921, and in the Jerusalem riots. We awaited these stories with bated breath, but for whatever reason, we didn't get to hear many of them.

If, during recess, one of the classes was not cavorting outside, and the students remained in their classroom, learning and reviewing the lesson an additional time, it was known throughout the school that this certainly was the class given by the principal of the school, personally, Mr. Dikhtiar.

The principal was a strict disciplinarian. In his class, we had to sit up straight, and directed to keep our hands folded behind our backs. And if one of the students failed to conform to this code, and in paying attention – he was punished. He would receive, as a gift, a rap with the ruler across the palm of the hand.

One individual attempted to complain at home, and nobody paid attention to him. The response of the parents always was: ‘The principal Dikhtiar opens up the mind and enters the Torah there.’

Because of this, the rules of computation and the chapters of the Tanakh that he inculcated into us, and ordered us to review thoroughly – are intact in my memory to this day.


[Page 194]

The ORT School

by A. N. Meshorer (Zingerman)

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

To the extent that I remember, the ORT trade school was established in 1922. There were two courses of study: carpentry and needle trades. The institution was able to sustain itself thanks to the efforts of three people: Dr. Steinberg, who was its Chair and worked for the benefit of the institution with real dedication and energy, Gedalyahu Lifschitz, the Secretary, who after an immense amount of dedicated work, after two years succumbed to a fatal illness, and Mrs. Hinde Goldstein. This triad was the living spirit behind every undertaking, and also in many other community undertakings.

From the outset, the school was opened for the children of the orphanage and the home for refugees in order to teach them a trade. I was the sole youth from the outside that the leadership consented to admit me to the study of carpentry, seeing that I wanted to be able to make aliyah to the Land of Israel as a qualified tradesman.

The first carpentry teacher was the instructor Zevi. He was from Vilna, a tradesman and an enlightened person. Mr. Zevi filled this position for only one year. Afterwards, his place was taken by Mr. Gorbacz, who was sent to us by the ORT central office. He was from Rivne who had quickly become attached to our city and retained his position for many years.

In the fullness of time, educational issues arose in both of the courses of study of the school. The leadership of the school created a special advisory board to address these educational issues, and attached four educators to it (unknown word) of the children of the orphanage, refugee home, o the carpentry shop, and the tailor shop.

The first graduates left the institution in the middle of the year 1924. In honor of the graduation, a very beautiful display of the handiwork of the students was arranged.

In the fullness of time, the school produced many graduates. Many of these graduates today, can be found in The Land.


Sarny Youth in the Centers of Learning

by Moshe Yuz

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

Year in and year out, the Hebrew elementary school, which belonged to the Tarbut school network, turned out young student graduates. The Talmud Torah and the Yeshiva also produced young graduates of age seventeen. Confronting all of them, with its full intensity, was the question of: “Where now?”

Only a limited number of the Jewish students succeeded in getting accepted into the national intermediate school. Apart from it, there was no other intermediate school in the city that was able to take in these young people, except for those who elected to pursue a trade and studied at the ORT trade school.

Also, the economic circumstances did not make possible the employment of sons in the family business, not because they were not functioning, but rather because the signs of impoverishment and decline was more than evident in them. It is no wonder that young people saw their path to leaving the city – to get training for aliyah, or to migrate to places where they saw better opportunities to obtain work.

There was not a center for Torah study in Poland that Sarny youth did not reach for the purpose of continuing their education. It was especially Vilna that Sarny youth chose, this being ‘The Jerusalem of Lithuania,’ whose institutions of education had gained a reputation in which the languages of instruction were Yiddish and Hebrew.

Year after year, tens of students who were scions of Sarny, left to study at the ‘Vilner Yiddisher Technicum,’ the Hebrew gymnasium, and the Teachers' Seminary. The number of Sarny scions was also large in the educational institutions of Warsaw, Kovel, Rivne, and the universities of Vilna, Lvov, and Kharkov.

The young people of Sarny excelled in their acuity and its thirst for knowledge, and its orientation to master the skills even under conditions of want. And because they acquired their knowledge out of a state of poverty, many were privileged to complete their studies with excellence. The scions of Sarny would stand out at all of these educational institutions, in their conduct, and their community and Zionist endeavors.

From their ranks, there emerged teachers, technologists, pharmacists, engineers, community leaders, and cultural leaders, who were a substantial mainstay in the far reaches of the Diaspora, many of whom reached The Land, and occupy positions of importance in the government and community life.


[Page 195]

Cultural Activities in Sarny

by Moshe Yuz

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

Page 196: A billboard advertising a ‘Literary Event’ about Jewish Intelligentsia in the Diaspora

Sarny was known as an important cultural center, not only for the local residents, but of all the towns and settlements in the vicinity.

Witness to this in a large measure were the community libraries who counted hundreds of readers among its supporters, and were in existence up to the destruction of the city during the Holocaust.

Four permanent libraries existed in Sarny: the Tarbut Library, the HaShomer HaTza'ir Library, the Yiddish Library of the Labor Organization ‘Kultur Lige Bibliothek,’ and a library for Polish language works, established by the government.

The government permission to be able to retain a library included with it permission to organize cultural and group activities. Because of this, all of the cultural and group activities in the vicinity were organized around the libraries. It was under the aegis of the libraries that all of the partisan activities were organized, especially the education of the youth.

The cultural activities of the vicinity especially were concentrated at the Tarbut Library that went from success to success, and was made into a large and important institution. The library got a start with the acquisition of books in the languages of Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian, but in the fullness of time, after many of the readers learned the Hebrew language, and became dependent on it, the library focused on the acquisition of books in Hebrew exclusively. There was not a Hebrew book that appeared in the market, of which several copies were not acquired.

Apart from it activity in lending books to be read, the library also dedicated part of its efforts to arrange discussions, lectures, literary critique, and Q&A sessions (kestl ovntn) on a variety of literary and cultural subjects. These undertakings stimulated a community interest in questions of the community and its culture. Every occurrence on the national front, literature, and of a community nature that took place in the Jewish world, found resonances on this platform, which brought much blessing to the national and Zionist endeavors, and to the education of the young.

Among the active librarians of the Tarbut Library who lovingly immersed themselves with dedication and a great deal of understanding in the task of engendering reading skills among the young people and the other residents, and maintained surveillance over the library assets and its development were the founder of the library: Nehemiah Nissman, Gedalyahu Lifschitz, who died prematurely, and for whom the children's wing was named, Ber'l Cirulnik, Chaya Hechtman s”hv, and, to be separated among the living, Moshe Zingerman, and Moshe Yuz.

Among those librarians, who worked at the library with commitment and trust were: Penina Feld, and Golda Torok s”hv, and to be separated among the living, Aharon Nissman, Levi Sukhar, and Shlomo Zingerman.

The use of literary criticism, and the kestl ovntn, served as a means of directing the community to reading and to aid in the development of good taste and a high intellectual level among the readers. Every new book that garnered praise and good reviews, served as a subject for literary criticism and discussion. The school teachers and the intelligentsia participated in these events and made a very respectable contribution to the dissemination of culture and reading among the broad rank and file of the community.

Among the active workers for the Tarbut one could count Shmuel Zingerman, L. Bieber, Abraham Turkenitz, and the teachers Rabinovich, Goldberg, Dikhtiar, and to be separated for long life – Gurfinkel, Chana Tarass, and others.

The theatrical drama group also contributed a respectable amount of effort to the development of artistic taste and national sentiment, who among its founders and workers, one could count Naphtali Berzowicz and Yehuda Falakhowsky.

The national and general content of the plays, the appearance of the adherents and their success in the presentation, the excerpts from the operettas that were prepared and accompanied by the talented and modest violinist Benjamin Edelstein, that transformed (unknown word) and that were hummed by everyone – freshened the life of the city, and served as a [invigorating] experience to both young and old.

The following actresses are recollected fondly: Rachel'eh Bernstein, and Buzys Frimer–Fish, Lyuba Czarniak–Pearlstein, and to be separated for long life, those found with us in The Land: Zina Frimer, Pess'l Zhultak–Adeles, Dina Korowoczka (Weinblatt), and Carla ‘Gliczka’ Gorenstein–Talisman.

Among the adherents, may we favorably remember: Yehuda Falakhowsky, A. A. Dworetzky, Shlomo Murik, Schwartztukh, Israel Bar–Neiman, and to be separated for long life – Naphtali Berzowicz, Herschel Plotnik and others.

The group of adherents educated a deep and permanent congregation of viewers, who en mass, attended the performances of traveling professional troupes that would come to our city periodically, with the recognition that in the city, there existed an audience that was thirsty for the art of the theater.

In addition to the theatrical troupes, our city would be frequented by actors and readers from Poland, America, and the Land of Israel. Among those who visited Sarny were the ‘Vilna Troupe,’ ‘Vieks,’ Abraham Morowsky, Zigmunt Turkow & Ida Kaminska, Jonas Turkow & Diana Blumenfeld, Dina Halperin, Nechama Kadish, Baruch Agadati, and others.

The continuous concern for the young people is worthy of special mention and praise. The library had a special children's section. Even the Drama Group of theater lovers would organize special events for children, presenting scenarios to the pupils of the school under the direction of the play director Yehuda Falakhowsky s”hv, who put together and re–worked several historical plays, and among the others, the play, ‘Between Two Generations,’ that was privileged to be performed a number of times, and garnered favorable reactions from among the children and their parents.

This congregation, thirsty for knowledge, that was raised on the lap of Hebrew and Yiddish literature, attracted the attention of literary people from all over the country who willingly responded to invitations to visit. Every appearance of a poet or writer was transformed into a cultural event that attracted hundreds of participants.

The visits of the following stand out in particular in my memory: Jonah Rosenfeld, Peretz Markish, Joel Mastenbaum, Z. Segalowicz, and Moshe Stavsky (Satoy).

The local resources also made a significant cultural contribution in the lectures on a variety of subjects and in their participation in the oral newspaper (‘Lebedige Zeitung’), that was considered to be practically a permanent institution and always attracted interested members of the public from all walks of life. Among those who worked on the paper, there were: A. A. Dworetzky, Tuvia Levin (T”L), L. Bieber, Yehoshua Nissman, A. Dikhtiar k”z, and to be separated for long life – Zina Frimer, Tonia Tarass, Ber'l Frimer and Moshe Yuz.

Because of this national and cultural undertaking, the number of those making aliyah, from Sarny to the Land of Israel, progressed and increased. Not a single family was to be found that did not send its representatives to the Land. Today, there is hardly a single settlement [in The Land] that does not have representatives from Sarny.


[Page 198]

The First Sarny “Spectacle”

by Yekhiel Salutsky

Edited by Sheryl Bronkesh

After the first revolution in Czarist Russia, the Zionist movement in Sarny emerged from its hiding place in the underground, and its organization proceeded and widened. The movement embraces all aspects of community endeavor.

At one of the meetings of the Zionist committee, it was tasked with arranging a spectacle (a presentation). As is known, at the time when there was a Czarist police, it was forbidden to put on plays in Yiddish, except in the large cities: Warsaw, Odessa, and Vilna. Our preparations for this presentation were accompanied by reservations and fears together: fear of the régime, and reservations that we would not succeed, and become a laughingstock in the eyes of the community.

After assessments and discussions, we selected the play ‘Der Intelligent’ by Ansky. The leading role of the ‘Intelligent,’ was taken by Mr. Ahar'l Zandweiss k”z, and the role of the father – Mr. Moshe Borko. Even I participated in the play. To my sorrow, I have forgotten the remaining players. The performance was an important event in Sarny. The play was performed many times, and always to a full house. These plays served as a magnet for attracting the young people in Sarny. The revenues were dedicated to various cultural purposes, but especially to the KK”L.

Over time, additional members were added to the Drama Club, and they put on the plays of: ‘Die Makhashayfeh,’ ‘Mireleh Efros,’ ‘Der Dorfsyung,’ and others.

Among those participants, etched into my memory were: Lyuba Czarniak and her husband Chaim Pearlstein (he served as the prompter), Manus Susnik and his sister, T. Berzowicz, Gorenstein, Chana Zandweiss, Moshe'l Gamerman, Ben Ephraim, Bayl'keh Gamerman and others. Abraham Furman and Benjamin Edelstein facilitated the musical part of the presentations.

 

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