<< Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page >>

The First Steps of Modern Hebrew Education in our Town

by Moshe Goelman of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

        With respect to modern education, or as it was known in those days, “improved” (metukan) education, our town, like all other towns in Poland and Russia prior to the First World War, was very conservative. Jewish children studied in cheder, and when they grew older, many were sent to continue their education in Yeshivas, some close by and others far off. This was with respect to boys. Regarding girls, most of them learned to read and write for one hour during the day in a cheder, separate from the boys, and their period of study was very short. When Reb Berl Siemienowicz sent his eldest daughter Sarake to Warsaw to study courses for kindergarten teachers with Yechiel Halpern, this was an extremely exceptional occurrence in our town.

        The majority of the Zionist maskilim in town were able to understand and speak Hebrew, and they would read “Hatzefirah” or “Hazman”, the Hebrew dailies that were published in Warsaw and Vilna. With regards to education, they relied on the “Cheder Hametukan” whose curriculum was based on the study of Hebrew language and its grammar, bible, and Jewish history. They also improved the physical environment of school – that is to say, that it was not a group of students sitting on benches on two sides of a long table, but rather separate school desks along the length of the schoolroom, as was customary in the government schools.

        A revolution in the field of Hebrew education did not occur at that time, but nevertheless, there were two attempts in that direction that are worthy of noting.

        a) Approximately two years prior to the First World War, Chuna Mondensztejn, the son of Yechiel the baker, returned to Stawiski and established the Cheder Hametukan, consisting of a kindergarten and grade 1. It was a “metukan” (improved) cheder in the full sense of the word both with regards to its physical appearance and its curriculum. The room was rented from one of the rich farmers who lived on the outskirts of the city, on the way to the post office, behind the civic court building.

        The students were mainly girls, with a few boys. Only a few parents would permit their sons to study in a cheder that had a mixture of girls and boys, and where the teacher taught without a head covering. Furthermore, the course of study was different from that which was traditional in the cheders. The power of Chuna was in his song. He had a pleasant voice, and his enthusiastic singing of Hebrew songs would draw the hearts of his students. At that time, I was studying in a Yeshiva in a city far away from Stawiski, and I would come home for Passover. I remembered visiting the Cheder Metukan of Chuna prior to the holiday, and I recall that the students were singing songs of Passover and sections of the Haggadah [1] . The Cheder Hametukan of Chuna lasted about two years, until the outbreak of the First World War.

        b) During the First World War, our town was conquered twice by the Germans: at first for two weeks before Rosh Hashanah of 1914, and the second time in the middle of the winter, in February, 1915. Our town was literally on the front line during the first year of the war. The front itself was at the forest on the route to Lomza. During the time of the occupation, Jewish youth were conscripted for various tasks, such as paving the road between our town and Jedwabne, fixing up other roads around our town, as well as sanitary work such as cleaning the houses and inoculating the residents against influenza and typhus, illnesses that were very prevalent in those days.

        At the beginning of 1916, the front moved in the favor of the Germans, with the conquest of Lomza, Warsaw, and the surrounding regions. The occupying army in Stawiski was composed of reservists. A German captain oversaw the town, and he had various guards at his side. Chaim Zebulon Bramzon was appointed by the captain as the mayor of the town, and several other prominent residents were appointed to the town council.

        The Jewish youth, for want of anything to do, began to organize. The Hatechiya meeting place was set up, which served as a location for meetings and various cultural activities. A library was established, consisting mainly of Hebrew books. On Sabbath eves, there were lectures. Members of the army and the German guards would come to the lectures. We received permits from them to engage in cultural activities. This detail is worthy of noting in the historical annals of our town during the First World War.

        At that time, there were two centers of Jewish life in Stawiski: The Beis Midrash for the adults and elderly in the town, and the Hatechiya hall for the youth. The cheders fulfilled their role faithfully in imparting knowledge of Torah and fine traditional education to the Jewish children.

        Moshe Aryeh Brzostowiecki was regarded as one of the finest teachers in the town, and excelled particularly in the teaching of Talmud. When Chaim Zebulon Bramzon sent his oldest son, of about ten years old, to study in the Cheder of M. A. Brzostowiecki, he mad a condition that he would dedicate a few hours of the day to the study of Hebrew language, Jewish history, and bible.

        At that time, I was occupied with private teaching to small groups of individuals, and Moshe Aryeh and Chaim Zebulon turned to me and asked me to teach those subjects in the cheder. I accepted this request happily, for I saw in it a chance to change the customary teaching methodology, and take the first steps toward the founding of a Cheder Metukan in town. For two semesters, summer and winter, I taught the students in the Cheder of Moshe Aryeh five days a week, for about an hour and a half a day. This was during the time that the Rebbe ate lunch and took his afternoon rest.

        Relations between us were excellent. Moshe Aryeh was happy that the number of his students grew, and due to the variation in curriculum, the students displayed greater interest, and paid attention better even during the study of Talmud. To my sorrow, this partnership only lasted for one year – 1917 – due to the opposition of the teachers in the city and their supporters. The teachers feared that as time would go on, they would be left without students, so they spread rumors that we are turning away from the true path, and setting up a generation of heretics [2] , Heaven forbid.

        I recall the graduation party that took place in the month of Elul, at the end of the second and final semester. A public quiz took placed in all of the subjects that the students had studied during the semester. Chaim Zebulon Bramzon, Aharon Eliezer Zak and David Dobrzyjalowski were the examiners. The emotions of both the students and the examiners ran very high. When Chaim Zebulon heard his son answer one of the questions in history, and explain the details of the era of Ezra, Nechemia and the return to Zion – his eyes welled up with tears. He kissed his son as well as the second student Zelig, the son of the teacher Moshe Aryeh, who both excelled in their knowledge.

        After the quiz, a party took place, and presents were distributed to the teachers and the students. I received a set of 5 machzorim for all of the holidays [3] inscribed with a special dedication. I still have them to this day.

        From among the students, two in particular stood out. These were the sons of Moshe Aryeh. One of them, the first born Chaim, was a well-known teacher for many years in New York. He authored several textbooks. He died while still in his prime. The second, his younger brother Zelig, changed his family name to Broshi. After some time, he immigrated to Antwerp, where he served as a teacher. He was in Belgium at the outbreak of the Second World War. He survived, and lives today in New York. He wrote two books – one on Rabbi Saadia Gaon and the second on Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkonos [4] . Aside from these books, he published articles in Yiddish and Hebrew in New York newspapers, and also articles on explanations of books of the bible.

Footnotes :

  1. The Haggadah is the text of the home ceremony conducted on the first two evenings of Passover (the Seder). Its main content is a relating of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, interspersed with songs and prayers. Return
  2. The word used for heretic here is Apikorus. It derives from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, whose philosophy was to enjoy this life because there is nothing thereafter. It is the traditional Hebrew word for a heretic or non-believer. Return
  3. A machzor (plural machzorim) is a holiday prayer book. A set of 5 machzorim includes a volume for each of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot. Return
  4. Saadia Gaon was a famous philosopher and leader during the late Babylonian period (around 900). Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkonos is a Talmudic sage. Return


The Founding Meeting of the “Hacherut” Organization
October 1, 1921

by Chaim Leibel Goelman of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Members: Madrykamien Litman
Imiol M. Tz. Marek E.
Imiol Sh. G. Marek Sara
Ipkowski Yaakov Morus Y.
Ejmanska Etka Morus K.
Bursztyn E. L. Markus Y.
Berkowicz Elka Mejzner Pinchas
Goelman Ch. L. Milberg Chaim
Golombek Gutka Siemion Rachel
Goldsztejn Gittel Sachnowicz Zerach
Goldsztejn Natan Sachnowicz Aharon
Golombowicz Leib Sachnowicz Leib
Golombek B. Z. Stolnicki Yaakov
Denenberg Z. Salomon Lemel
Deneberg Y. Perlowicz Feiga
Horowicz Reuven Finkiel Ch.
Zarocki Moshe Zipkowska Sh.
Chmielewski Z. Kalinski Y. M.
Chmielewski Nechemya Kaminski Chipa
Cheslok Rachel Kreplak Chaya
Jakubcyner Gutka Sztern G.
Linsberg Feiga Szpiler Libe
Lejbik Rivka Szwarc Natan
Lew Menachem  

Charter of the “Hacherut” Organization

  1. The union is an impartial, independent organization.
  2. The organization will conduct enlightened activities for the youth in a Zionist Socialist spirit.


        Zionism: Taking into consideration that the abnormal situation of the Jewish people is a result of the their lack of a homeland for almost 2,000 years already, Zionism strives to raise the level of the Jewish people to that of all peoples, and to base the life of the people in its historic land, the Land of Israel, and thereby to heal the wounds that they accumulated during their long exile. This organization sets as its goal to educate its members in the Zionist spirit, to strengthen the national feeling, and to raise a nationally conscious youth, who will fulfil the deposit in the appropriate epoch.

        Socialism: Taking into consideration that Socialism strives to liquidate the existing order, in which injustice and exploitation prevail, leading to wars and bloodshed – its lofty aim is to rebuild human society on a basis of freedom, justice, and collectivity. The organization sets as its goal to educate the youth in a socialist spirit, and to awaken in them a social consciousness so that they will ready for the social struggle.

        In order to actualize the above mentioned goals, the organization will base its activities upon the following points:

  1. It will arrange frequent readings on various topics. There will be a particular emphasis on the development of Zionism and Socialism.
  2. There will be lectures on Jewish history, politics, economics, etc.
  3. In order to combat illiteracy, the organization will open courses to study Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish, in accordance with individual desires.
  4. A reading hall will be opened in the existing library.
  5. Special funds will be raised for the library and the organization through flower days, evenings, and the like.
  6. It will work for all of the Zionist funds, especially for the national fund.
  7. It will support the Socialist movement, professional unions, sick funds, and the like.

Election Rules

  1. Elections will be secret and will be conducted in the following manner:
  2. Every member has the right to nominate candidates in writing.
  3. The candidates with the greatest number of ballots will be selected.
  4. There will be: a) a management committee of 7 members; b) a house committee of 6; c) an audit committee of 3; d) a reading hall committee of 3.
  5. Each member can be elected to one committee.
  6. Calling new elections requires the approval of two thirds of the members, or alternatively, elections can be called by the audit committee if they find errors in the work or the managing committee. They must bring their opinion before the general meeting, which will make a decision based on a majority vote.

Management Duties

  1. The management committee of 7 people selects a permanent chairman.
  2. The management committee sends a member to each committee, and also selects a secretary and a treasurer.
  3. The management committee appoints a librarian and a library committee of 4 people.
  4. The librarian, with the agreement of the management committee, can remove or accept a member to the library.
  5. The management committee has the duty to administer the program. They can also accept a motion by a member during their meetings.
  6. The management committee has the right to make decisions on all questions related to the ideological activity of the organization; technical matters must be brought to a general meeting.
  7. The management committee sets recreational activities, evenings, etc.
  8. The management committee has the duty to designate required material for public readings, etc., and the engage lecturers.
  9. The management committee has the rights to accept a new member.
  10. The management committee has the right to change the membership fee, in accordance with the needs of the organization.
  11. Meetings of the membership committee take place once every two weeks.

Member's Duties

  1. Each member must take interest in all that the organization undertakes, and frequently visit the organization.
  2. For not visiting the organization for the duration of a month, the member will be called before an honorary judiciary committee.
  3. Each member must ensure that an exemplary decorum prevails at reading events and meetings.
  4. Each member must submit himself to the discipline of the organization, and must fulfill exactly his assignments based on the decisions of the management committee or the other committees.
  5. For not coming to the general meeting – after receiving an invitation – a member will be strongly penalized.
  6. New members will be accepted upon the recommendation of two members and the payment of 500 Marks.
  7. There will be reductions for those who do not have the means.
  8. The membership fee must be paid by the 10 th of each month.
  9. Members will be not accepted if they are younger than 17 years of age.
  10. One member cannot transfer his ballot to another.
  11. For not paying the membership fee for a period of two months, a member will be excluded from the organization.
    Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.

Auditor's Duties

  1. The audit committee has the duty to issue a warning so that the organization does not overstep its charter, to audit the work of the organization, to oversee financial matters, etc.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  2. The audit committee must document every audit.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  3. The audit must not be less frequent than once a month.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  4. If it finds a bad ordinance, the audit committee has the right to call a general meeting to remove the protocol.

General Statutes

  1. This charter, or a portion thereof, can be changed by a vote with a majority of two thirds, at a general meetings called by the management committee or the audit committee.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  2. All polls (excluding elections and removing a member) are open.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  3. The reading events will be free for members. For non-members, there will be a charge. (Changes can be made at the discretion of the management committee.)Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  4. A member who refused to fulfill a statute or a protocol from a general meeting can be removed by a decision by two thirds of the attendees of a general meeting.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  5. General meetings will be held regularly four times a year; and extraordinarily based on a decision.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  6. A general meeting can make decisions with the participation of two thirds of the members; if there are fewer, the meeting will be postponed.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  7. The chairman: at the general meetings, he will be elected by the assembled. For reading events, he will be decided upon by the managing committee.

Rights of the Chairman

  1. The chairman directs the meeting. All members must relate to him with respect and trust. For insulting or expressing mistrust in him, one can be removed.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  2. The chairman issues a warning that the speaker should hold to the topic under consideration. After three notices, he can remove the right of speaking.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  3. Prior to removing the right of speaking from a speaker, the chairman must clarify why he is doing this.

The General Meeting

  1. Elects all committees.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  2. Considers the report of the audit committee.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  3. Confirms those matters that the management committee does not have the right to decide on its own.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  4. Can remove a member.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  5. Can change a point or a statute.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  6. All votes (except for elections, and removing a member) are open.

Library System

  1. A librarian and a 4-person committee will be chosen.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  2. The librarian and his committee will be subordinate to the management committee.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  3. The initiative to purchase new books belongs to the librarian, with the approval of the management committee.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  4. The library is open to borrow books two times a week – Monday and Thursday.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  5. Each leader pays monthly dues and a zalog [1] for the book (except for those who do not have the means).Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  6. Removing and accepting members to the library committee can only take place with the approval of the management committee.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  7. The timeframe for borrowing a book is 14 days. For each overdue day, there will be a payment of 5 Marks.

Statutes of the Reading Hall

  1. The reading hall is an independent entity.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  2. Daily newspapers, periodicals and brochures will come into the reading hall.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  3. The reading hall is open from 7:00 to 10:00 in the evening.Remark: There will be exceptions for those who do not have the means.
  4. The entry fee is 10 Marks. The weekly fee is 50 Marks. For members: 5 Marks per reader, and free entry for non-readers.

Footnotes :

  1. I am not sure of the meaning of this word. It is some sort of fee, obviously. Return


Hechalutz in Stawiski

by Yitzchak Kotton

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 203: Muli Wingrowicz, Mattityahu Liberman, Choronziski, Shimon Kagan, Chaim Pesach Kulawski, Avraham-Pesach Goelman -- Translator's note: the photo is entitled “Members of Hechalutz in Stawiski”, and is dated 18 th of Nissan, 1922, April 16, 1922}

        Approximately fifty years ago, a chapter of Hechalutz was founded in our town by a group of youth. The founding of Hechalutz was a significant occurrence in our town. This was the fruit of the vision of a few, who did not find satisfaction in the realities that surrounded them, a reality without aim and purpose. They were brazen enough to see into the future. Hidden in their bosom was the realization of the desire of their hearts – a group of young people dreaming, struggling, and making aliya to the Land of Israel to work it and protect it.

        The founding of Hechalutz did not arouse any opposition or negative reaction from the Jews of the town, most of whom were well rooted. Even though they were faithful to traditional Judaism, they accepted the change that was taking place amongst the youth with full understanding, for they realized that there was no future for the Jewish youth in the town, and life in the town was not going to provide them with a goal.

        At first, we were few, and our work was confined to a room that was the size of a door squared. However, within a short period of time, other boys and girls joined the small group, and a new life, vibrant and full of content, was infused into the Hechalutz organization of our town. We devised an interesting and practical program of work, and, through this; we succeeded in instilling the pioneering idea to the majority of the Jewish youth in town. Only a small number of the youth chose different movements.

        As new members joined, we became the center of pioneering Zionist publicity in the town, a center that could take credit for much successful activity. We succeeded in implanting the pioneering Zionist idea into the Jews, who up to that time were quite distant from this mindset. Through our educational programs, we showed the youth ways to serve their nation and their Land, and to prepare themselves to a free life in their Land. We served not only as an ideological center, but also as a practical center for hachsharah (preparation) towards aliya and labor. Until we were able to fulfil our objective [1] , we were practically the only pioneering youth movement in town. Youth continued to join us; and, from our side, we did what we could in order to take them under our wings in order to prepare them for realizing their aliya. It seems to me that we fulfilled this objective in a non-trivial manner, and the number of natives of our town who made aliya testify to this.

Translator's Footnotes :

  1. I assume that this means until the time that the majority of the leading members actually made aliya themselves. Return

<< Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page >>

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Stawiski, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2018 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 13 Feb 2003 by MGH