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[Page 667]

On the Jewish Workers' Struggle in Tarnow

by Eliezer Wurzel

Translated by David Schonberg

The economic and political regime in Poland till the outbreak of the Second World war, first under the yoke of the despotic Czarist autocratic rule and later under the Sanation movement (Sanacja) or Endeks (Endecja– ND) regime, did not allow or enable the broad Jewish masses to enter into heavy industry, facilitating their becoming productive. And just as in all other towns in Poland, also in Tarnow, Jews were involved in the [needle trade] textile industry, small trades and handwork.

At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, there had developed in Tarnow a strong and large textile industry, such as (including): clothing manufacture, millinery and other trades of the clothing industry, in which were involved, lived and fought/struggled thousands of Jewish salaried workers, Halupnikes– ‘outdoor workers’, and craftsmen. A larger part lived from small trades and other businesses and the third economic stratum was the Jewish professional intelligentsia– advocates, doctors and so forth.

Jewish salaried workers and ‘outdoor workers’were engaged in a bitter struggle with their bosses for the right of existence, for the recognition of their professional organisations and for a democratic orderly regime. Jewish small craftsmen laboured day, weeks and months in their dark, dusty and moist workshops, in order to still the hunger of their families. The poor small traders that wandered about in the markets, stood by their stands or who drew their livelihood from tiny, paltry businesses in the backstreets, were drained out by tax officials, due to the various taxes. They could hardly live through the day. This is how it went for years for the Jewish proletariat and lower middle class (petty bourgeoisie).

Walking through the Tarnow main streets or in the richer quarters, one could think that all the Jews in the town were rich merchants, house owners, advocates– as this is what hits one in the eyes. But he who takes the effort to go down to the damp cellar–apartments, the dusty roof–apartments or in the dilapidated and dark apartments in the mouldy courtyards of Grabowska or in Zydowska (Jewish street) – would immediately see that there reigned poverty, hunger, there ruled penury.

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There Jewish mothers nursed their hungry children with dream–lullabies about ‘raisins and almonds’, or ‘challah with milk will you eat’. Yes, it was not the above–mentioned opulence and glitter that embodied Jewish life in Tarnow. It was from cramped apartments that there breathed the struggle, from these sprung the fight for a new life, for human rights and existence.

 

Grabowka

Far from the town's glitter, from the high Gothic church spires, from the large beautiful houses of a modern and middle–ages style lay down below Grabowka– the largest quarter of Jewish workers, outdoor workers and poor craftsmen. Like snakes, the roads and paths came out from the wooden and clay huts to the earth–sunken small houses. There, like mushrooms after a rain, were born and raised children, who in time took the places of their parents in factory, workshop or market stands. They also continued the fight for workers' rights and rights for life.

However poor and constricted that the Grabowka quarter was, it nevertheless lived in a continuous fever, always trying to throw off from itself the romantic veils and bourgeois dreams that set it apart from its day–to–day life and struggle that its inhabitants led together with Polish workers for simple, elementary rights and human existence.

Grabowka lived its dynamic–political and Jewish–cultural life. Grabowka led a class struggle. From its crooked streets came out worker demonstrations, a call–announcement of the constant struggle.

“As long as I live I will never forget Grabowka”!– sang a Jewish worker–poet. As in Grabowka was embodied the dynamism of lava, the epic of Gorky's ‘Stormy Petrel’ {a bird}, Sholem Aleichem's, ‘Tevye, the Milchiger {the dairyman}’ and the holiday festiveness of Peretz's, ‘Shabbat should be on the World! ’.

 

The Jewish street–Zydowska

In the centre of the large four–sided market square stood the town–hall building, an enormous square building of the old style, with sculptured figures on the high battlements– walls with a tall tower, the symbol of the town's power.

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The north–east from the large market place led to the Jewish street, and from there– there was a nest of streets and little roads of the once upon a time Jewish ghetto, with dark, narrow passages, grey, high house walls and in these– a large number of study–houses, Yeshivas and hadarim (study class–rooms –for children). In the moist and dark apartments of the Jewish street lived mainly poor Jews: craftsmen, small traders, market stand owners, market people, shadhanim (marriage brokers), badkhanim (jester, comics), shamashim (synagogue attendants) and simply batlanim (unemployed) who lived from weddings, circumcisions and funerals.

The Jewish street lived in congestion and in devotion. The sun couldn't be seen, only the belief in the messiah. And so, wilted their days, weeks and months.

But in later years Jewish life and the Jewish street were shaken up and awoke from its lethargy. Tall gaunt Yeshiva–bochrim came or went to the Yeshivas and study houses and under their long black gabardines they carried –secretly– books/works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gorky, Heine, Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, Mendele, Bialik, Ahad Ha'am and others. Dreams as to new worlds and a new life took shape in a new generation, awoke in the Jewish youth and on their street a desire for knowledge, inspiring them to the struggle for Jewish and universal freedom.

The two large Jewish contrasts in Tarnow– Grabowska and Zydowska – the Jewish street– had for generations embodied in themselves the Jewish life in the town.

The economic crisis in Poland most harshly affected those parts of Tarnow's Jewish population that in any event were weak due to the crisis, especially in the last years prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The Jewish worker and hand labourer, especially the younger ones, didn't see for themselves any future nor any outlook–perspective. The majority saw a salvation only in fleeing from the town, in emigrating. Those who stayed, the class–conscious workers, set up a strong progressive movement in Tarnow. Together with Poles the Jewish comrades/members led the fight for a free, democratic Poland, fought against racial hatred and anti–Semitism, against the treachery of the Polish government. At the head of this movement were Tarnow communists and other fighters for peace. Not only Grabowska and the Jewish street took an active part in this struggle–battle, but also young Jews and Poles from wealthier circles.


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About the Jewish Cultural System in Tarnow

by Dr. Avraham Chomet

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

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a. Safa–Berura [Clear Language] Hebrew Schools

The school system in Poland had an avowed religious character during the Middle Ages. Therefore, the schools were maintained, chiefly, by the churches and clergy. Students of other religions could not enter the schools. Moreover, the Jewish population, even without this ban, did not send its children to schools of other religions. So, it always was necessary to create one's own Jewish school system. The Jewish school system in Poland also was created thanks to the fact that the complete attention of Jewish parents, the rabbinate and the kehila [organized Jewish community] was concentrated on raising and educating Jewish boys in a religious spirit. From the earliest years, therefore, a Jewish child attended a kheder [religious primary school], which did not provide any secular education. At the end of the 16th century, kehile teaching institutions existed for poor children, the so–called Talmud Torah [religious primary schools for poor boys]. In addition, a yeshiva [religious secondary school] existed in each Jewish community, whose children were supported with food from a special charitable fund, or gegesn teg [“eating days” provided by local households for the students] in rich Jewish homes.

The first elementary school in Tarnow, therefore, was the kheder. Jewish children studied there starting at age four and, in later days, during the reign of Kaiser Joseph II, when Jewish children also had to attend state schools, they would go to kheder in the afternoon. Frenkel's kheder on Lwowska Street in Tarnow educated an entire generation of the Jewish intelligentsia during the last years of the 19th century. In kheder the Jewish children became familiar with Talmudic knowledge and the most capable students then studied with great Gemara [Talmud] teachers.

Kaiser Joseph II erected separate schools in Galicia for Jewish children and these schools abided by religious directives and the teachers, brought from German lands, were hated by the local Jewish population. Very quickly, in 1806, the entire school systems were liquidated to the great joy of local Jewry.

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The schools of the Baron Hirsch Foundation arose in Galicia in 1888. Baron Hirsch, who then lived in Paris, allocated the sum of 12,000,000 French francs for the founding of schools for Jewish children in Galicia. A board of trustees was created in Vienna, which consisted of nine Jews and nine Christians and they were to create the schools in the larger cities in Galicia. A branch of the Viennese board of trustees was created in each such city. Dr. Adolf Ringelheim was nominated in Tarnow as the first trustee of the Baron Hirsch Foundation.

In 1891 a universal (powszechna) school was proposed by the Baron Hirsch Foundation that was at first located in Wajnfeld's house on Lwowska Street. In 1899 a new two–story school building was built on Topolawa Street where there was a residence for teachers in addition to the four–grade powszechna school under the directorship of Mr. Englender, a garden, an orchard and workers' workshops. There also was a trade school for girls where they learned to sew. In addition, the girls' school above all educated its students to be good housekeepers. There they learned to cook, to wash, to iron, to sew, to serve, reading, writing, arithmetic. In the four–grade school, they also learned religion and the German language in addition to subjects that belonged to the school program that also was taught in the regular powszechna school.

Children from the artisan circles were mostly those who studied at the Baron Hirsch schools,

 

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The Baron Hirsch School in Tarnow

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but there were a large number of Orthodox parents at the end of the 19th century who did not send their children to secular schools, having them taught privately in khederim and yeshivas. We have already mentioned that Jewish children who studied in both the government powszechna schools and in the gymnazies [secondary schools] supplemented their education in the khederim, where they studied Jewish subjects and Tanakh [the Torah, Prophets and Writings].

Zionism appeared early in Tarnow. It invaded the house of study and the slogan of cultural renaissance through the revival of the Hebrew language found supporters immediately. The maskhil [follower of the Enlightenment], [Hebrew poet and novelist] Mordekhai David Brandstetter, who became a fervent supporter of the Hebrew language and one of the founders of the new Hebrew literature, lived in Tarnow during the first years of the second half of the 19th century. Thanks to his influence, the first generation of Tarnow Zionists showed great interest in the Hebrew language and literature. An avowed Zionist atmosphere reigned in Tarnow right from the beginning, penetrated with Hebraism and Hebrew literature. In 1896 the society, Ahavat Zion [Lovers of Zion], founded a Hebrew school named Beis haSefer Evri [literally, Home of the Hebrew Book], led by Zakhariah Mendl Szpira, who was one of the first emigrants to Eretz–Yisroel, where he was the director of the school in Zikron Yaakov until his death in 1938. The teacher Balzer, father of the lawyer, Anzelm Balzer of Tarnow, also was in this school. A little later a second Hebrew school was created in Tarnow by Nakhman Zvi Bau and his co–worker, the writer Ber Zvi HaLevi [descendent of the Levites] Rumeld, who read a chapter from Ahad Ha'am's [“one of the people” – pseudonym of Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg, Zionist essayist] Al Parashat Drakhim [On the Crossroads].

The emphasis lay on the Hebrew language also in Ha–Shahar [the Dawn], the first Zionist organization in Tarnow, and in the student circles. At first there were courses from time to time and given mainly for the older young people. In 1902, several older Tarnow Zionists published an appeal to the Jewish population in the city, calling for the creation of a Hebrew school named Safa Berura [Clear Language]. This appeal was signed by Yitzhak Brandszteter (in Israel since 1908), Ikhl Lezer (died in 1925 in Tel Aviv), Chaim Hersh Lichtblau, who celebrated his 80th birthday in 1950 in Tel Aviv, may he live to be 120, Chaim Klapholc, Avraham Brandszteter (in Israel since 1921), Shmuel Wajntraub (now in Israel).

After the founding of the Safa Berura Society, whose purpose was to look after the Hebrew language among the Jewish population, significant Hebraists and pedagogues were brought to Tarnow, such as Yosef Umanski (now in Israel) and Zvi Szarfsztajn (now – a significant Hebrew

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The first committee of the Safa Berura Society in Tarnow

From right to left, sitting: Chaim Najger, Ikhl Lezer, Chaim Hersh Lichtblau, Avraham Brandszteter and Richter
From right to left, standing: Rafal Kopelanski, Tzvi Szarfsztajn, Yosef Umanski

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pedagogue in New York), who began to carry out Hebrew courses at the Safa Berura Society at the premises of the kehila [organized Jewish community] building. Because of the large number of [attendees] at the course, another teacher, Rafal Kopelanski had to be brought [to Tarnow].

Safa Berura developed comprehensive cultural activity by spreading knowledge of the Hebrew language when Chaim Najger arrived in Tarnow and Dr. Shmuel Szpan stood at the head of the Zionist movement in Tarnow.

Chaim Hersh Lichtblau (chairman), Chaim Najger, Ikhl Lezer, Avraham Brandszteter and Riter belonged to the committee that led the Safa Berura Society before the First World War.

However, the First World War interrupted this activity. After the war, thanks to the efforts of the above–mentioned community workers, there was success in renewing the activity of the Safa Berura. In 1918 a new managing committee was set up at whose head stood Chaim Hersh Lichtblau as chairman, Leopold Szinagel – secretary, Wolf Gecler – treasurer, Chaim Najger and Dr. Shmuel Szpan. The managing committee bought its own house on Święta [Saint] Anny Street in December 1918 with the funds collected from the Zionists and there organized a Hebrew

 

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The building of the Safa Berura Hebrew gymnasia [secondary school] in Tarnow on Święta Anny Street

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Hebrew courses for Jewish gymnazie students in Tarnow in 1921

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The Safa Berura committee at the departure for Eretz–Yisroel of Dr. Shmuel Szpan in 1921

Sitting from right to left: Wolf Gecler, Chaim Najger, Dr. Shmuel Szpan, Chaim Hersh Lichtblau and Izraelewicz

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school, a pre–school, a gymnastics room and a home for war orphans. All of Zionist life in Tarnow was concentrated in this house from then on. The large sum of 320,000 kron was paid for this house at that time. Yeshayahu Zilberfenig, who donated the sum of 50,000 kron, occupied first place among the contributors. In addition, Benyamin Kac, Zigmunt Flajszer (now in Israel), Wilhelm Szpira (father of the director of Kol Yisroel [Voice of Israel], Dr. Y. Szpira), Shlomo Wurcel, Mendl Dar, the Lichtblau brothers, Herman Flur and Chaim Najger paid large assessments. The house was taken over on the first of January 1919 and after the necessary renovation was carried out, the house was provided for the use of the Safa Berurah Society on Lag B'Omer 1919 [18th of Iyar 5679 – 18th of May].

Thanks to this it was possible to open a permanent public school. The charter to open the school was received finally in September 1923. The first class then numbered 13 students. Thus, rose the first Jewish school in Tarnow that was under the direction of the chairman of Safa Berura, Chaim Najger, and the important pedagogue, the director of the school named for Baron Hirsch – Liblich; it became a model public school.

The school numbered 49 children during the school year of 1924/25; during the next year 98; 149 children in four grades in the school year of 1926/27. That year the education ministry gave the school official recognition. In the school years 1927/28 the graduates of the Hebrew school transferred to the Hebrew gymnazie [secondary school] founded at that time.

On September 1928 the first class of the folks–shul [public school] numbered around 80 children and the entire school 170 male and female students. In 1927, when Safa Berura opened a Hebrew gymnazie, the parents sent their children en masse to the new educational institution.

The lack of an appropriate location for the school, which was located in the one–story building of the Safa Berura, interfered with its further development. However, the managing committee also overcame this difficulty. The [Safa Berura] building received another story. We know how much effort this cost and whose praiseworthy action this was from the Tygodnik Zydowski [Jewish Weekly] of the 14th of September 1928, no. 23:

“There is a man who had the boldness to begin to build a second story and thanks to his unbending will and iron energy all doubts were dispersed of those who were skeptics about the new undertaking. The Zionist enthusiast, our Dr. Szpan, with his enthusiasm and devotion to the matter, overcame the skeptics, who with pencils in their hands showed the impossibility of beginning and completing the construction. And this is

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Safa Berura school in 1922

The teachers: sitting from right to left: Cweker, Wajnberg and Umanski

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no exaggeration and just words of praise if we present the truth and, above all the known facts that [it was] Dr. Szpan, the creator of the great thing, who for many years enabled the development of the Hebrew folks–shul and gymnazie. He is our glory and pride and with his warm support of everything that is Jewish, with his relentless devotion to Zionist ideals that have penetrated his every limb, Dr. Szpan became the living conscience of all of us who stand at his side and work with him, drawing from the power, conviction and selfless idealism of a man who transported and inspired us to Zionist work. May this be a compensation for the untiring worker on our national terrain, the comrade Dr. Szpan, that behind him in his difficult life stand not only the organized extensive mass of Zionists and sympathizers, but that Dr. Szpan's warm heart and his straightforward work for the Jewish people is recognized by all of the Jewish community in Tarnow.”

The leadership of Safa Berura, which was held by Chaim Najger in 1929, decided to strengthen the contact between the Jewish parents and the Jewish schools, which had included the coeducational gymnazie under the direction of Dr. Z. Zilberfenig and the folks–shul under the leadership of Dr. Liblich. A parents meeting took place on the 20th of October 1929 at which a parent's council was chosen whose task was to work with the managing committee of Safa Berura under the direction of the pedagogic council of the school.

At the above–mentioned meeting, Mrs. Dr. Bronislava Szenkel was elected as chairwoman of the parent's council, Dr. Taubenszlag as vice chairman. Elected to the parents' council were: gymnazie section – Mrs. Argad, Biberberg, Mrs. Fertig, Shmuel Klajn, Ewa Cheszer, Mrs. Kurc, Zofia Liebl, Adolf Lichtblau, Dovid Lubasz, Mrs. Sztern, Menakhem Unger, Mrs. Weg, Mrs. Meier, Mrs. Wajs and the wife of Wigdor Wajs, Mrs. Wrubel; folks–shul section: Mrs. Abramowicz, Mrs. Dr. Borgenicht, Mrs. Bergman, Mrs. Dr. Klajn, Dr. Taubenszlag, Mrs. Flur, Mrs. Brand, Mrs. Buksbaum, Mrs. Szmirer, Mrs. Szlajgler, Mrs. Waserman, Mrs. Rozenbaum, Mrs. Rauchwerger, Mrs. Kluger, Filersdorf, Yosef Kurc, Mrs. Wictum, Mrs. Lion, Wajnrib and Laub.

Elected to the control committee were: Mrs. Feld, Szpanauf, Mrs. Flaszen. In addition to them, the following managing committee members joined the Safa Berura parents' council: Chaim Najger, Dr. Szpan, Liblich, the doctor from the folks–shul, and Dr. Zilberfenig from the gymnazie, as well as two teachers elected by the pedagogical council of the folks–shul and of the co–educational gymnazium.

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In 1930 institutions such as the folks–shul under the leadership of Mrs. Fudles, the folks–shul under the direction of Mr. Liblich, the gymnazie under the direction of Dr. Z. Zilberfenig, a library and reading room belonged to the area of activities of Safa Berura.

In 1930 the Froebel school [Friedrich Froebel instituted the creation of kindergarten schools] was attended by 50 children aged four to six years old. Two qualified Froebelists [kindergarten teachers] worked there. The poorest parents sent their children to the Froebel school. Therefore, the payments were minimal because a large number of parents were [excused from the payment that was required].

The co–educational folks shul consisted of four grades and six divisions in 1930, because the first two grades had two divisions. At that time 330 children were studying there. Eight teachers worked at the school, which was legally recognized. Approximately 10 percent of the students were freed from payment for the instruction and approximately 65 percent of the children paid a minimal payment of 25 zlotes. The majority of students came from workers' and artisans' homes. The standards of the scholars in the school is shown in the opinion of the school inspector in Krakow, Dr. Gurni, who, in an official report of the 20th of November 1920, after a two–day visitation at the school in the company of the Krakow school trustees, wrote the following (cited by the Tygodnik Zydowski [Jewish Weekly] of the 30th of May 1930, no. 19).

“The school has existed since 1923 and is located in its own brick building that is suitable for its hygienic demands. The school is equipped with a suitable number of teaching tools. The schoolbooks are maintained with care. The relationship between the teaching collective and the children is authoritative, friendly and sympathetic. The behavior of the children during the lessons and during the pauses [recesses] needs to be praised. The cleanliness of the children, the cleanliness in the rooms, in the corridors and of everything, stands out. The school entirely fulfills the tasks and duties of a state school. The teachers apply suitable methods, work honestly, conscientiously and with devotion. A comparatively large number of children were seen and they gave a pleasing impression. In no school have I come across such beautiful writing and it must be emphasized that this is true of all of the children.”

In 1930 the Safa Berura co–educational gymnazie was only a private school, had three grades and 112 students and six professors. That year, belonging to the managing committee were Chaim Najger – chairman, Dr. Shmuel Szpan – vice chairman, Dr. Szinagel – treasurer, Blumenkranz and Dr. Zilberman – secretaries, Henrik Flur, Shmuel Wajntraub and Meir Rozenbaum – as the inspection commission.

The Safa Berura schools showed constant growth. In

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1931 approximately 450 children studied in these schools. At the general meeting of the Safa Berura Society, which took place on the 1st of February 1931 under the chairmanship of Chaim Najger, special recognition was expressed for Dr. Shmuel Szpan for the development of the Hebrew school system and particularly for his work and efforts in rebuilding the first story of [the school's] own building and the addition of a second story. At the gathering, the service of Engineer Flachte, who had generously carried out the above–mentioned work, was underlined along with the service of Dr. Y. Fajg, who as the school doctor served the students in the school over the years without any payment.

In 1931 the following people were elected to the management committee of Safa Berura: Chaim Najger, Dr. Sh. Szpan, Dr. W. Szenkler, Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Zigmunt Flejszer, Shmuel Wajntraub, Moshe Blumenkranz, Shimeon Lajner, Dr. Y. Fajg, Dr. Josef Zilberman, Ewa Cheszer, Yehiel Kurc, Meir Rozenbaum, Y. Klajn, Henrik Flur, Herman Flur, Chaim Erlich and Leopold Szinagel.

The administrative work of the Safa Berura school in 1923 [Note: most likely it should be 1933] was carried out by Wolf Chahana. A quiet, modest man, he was devoted to this institution with his entire heart. He was in the school building from the early hours to late at night. He lived only for the school. He did not wait for decrees. He also was not an ordinary official. He painfully felt every blow, every difficulty. He fulfilled his duty with zeal and devotion until the last minute of the existence of the Safa Berura schools.

The vicious hand of the Hilterist murderers exterminated the life of this noble Jew and devoted Zionist. Honor his memory!

We learn about the further development of the Safa Berura school from a general gathering, which took place on the 4th of June 1933. According to a report about the gathering, which was turned in, 205 children were studying at the folks–shul and 175 children in the gymnazie. There were nine teachers at the school and 10 at the gymnazie, in addition to Dr. Fajg who without self–interest continued to carry out the functions of school doctor, alongside Director Liblich who led the folks–shul. Director Dr. Z. Zilberfenig helped to raise the level of education in the Hebrew gymnazie. Dr. Zilberfenig was an excellent Hebraist and proficient pedagogue and after his transfer to Krakow, Miss Dr. Stefania Szpenadl took the position for a time [but she] quickly had to resign from her position because of illness, and it was taken over (in 1933) by Dr. M. Rozenbush, an extraordinary pedagogue, who already ran the Safa Berura gymnazie

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The managing committee members of Safa Berura in 1933

First row, sitting, from right to left: Zigmunt Flajszer, Shmuel Wajntraub, Chaim Najger, Herman Flur, Ewa Cheszer
Second row, standing from right to left: Henrik Flur, Dr. Wolf Szenkler, Maurici Lion, Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Director Yitzhak Liblich, Herman Kluger, Director Rozenbush
Third row, standing, from right to left: Chaim Erlich, Meir Rozenbaum, Wolf Chahana

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and then the lyceum [secondary school for students from age 16–21], until the outbreak of the Second World War. Dr. Rozenbush perished tragically in Tarnow, murdered by the German assassins.

A new managing committee for Safa Berura was elected in 1933 with the following composition: Chaim Najger – chairman; Dr. Shmuel Szpan – vice chairman; Maurici Lion and M. Rozenbaum – secretaries; Moshe Blumenkranz – treasurer; Dr. W. Szenkler, Dr. Sz. Goldberg, Zigmunt Flajszer, Leopold Szinagel, Shmuel Wajntraub, Shimeon Lajner, Dr. Y. Fajg, Dr. Yosef Zilberman, Chaim Erlich, Kluger, Ewa Cheszer, Mrs. Dr. Waserman, Henrik Flur, Herman Flur, [and] Yehiel Kurc.

In 1934 the teaching personnel at the folks–shul consisted of Dr. Liblich, Marchfeld, Miss Rozen, Miss Ginzberg, Miss Ejchhorn, Wajnberg (now in Israel), Miss Brumer and Miss Cheszer (now in Israel).

The managing committee of the Safa Berura Society and the Zionist organization in Tarnow quickly took on as a new, difficult task the adaptation of the Hebrew school as a new kind of middle school in Poland that serves as a secondary school. The Safa Berura building in which the folks–shul and the gymnazie were located could not take in the lyceum. After many efforts and much strain, the Hebrew school system in Tarnow achieved these two phases in its development. They received a charter to create the lyceum and bought a new school building. This building, for years an inactive school, which had been named for Baron Hirsch, during the early years of the First World War had been occupied by the institution for war orphans (Nikolsburger), by the Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] school, Yavne, and by the sports gymnazie, Shimshon. As the Baron Hirsch School could no longer be recreated and the property was managed by the trustees of the Baron Foundation in Warsaw, the managing committee of Safa Berura bought both buildings and the garden from the trustee administration (in 1937). After the necessary renovations, the Hebrew gymnazie, lyceum, workshops, a playing field for students and a school garden were developed there. Thus, the Hebrew school system was established on a healthy basis and it was possible to carry out the normal functions of all types of schools.

In addition to the managing committee of Safa Berura and the Zionist organization, the rise and development of the Hebrew school system in Tarnow was brought about by many citizens with large sums of money. In order to immortalize their memory, a celebration took place on the 23rd of May 1937 for the unveiling of a marble memorial tablet on which were engraved the names of 37 people who made worthy efforts for the school both with large contributions for the purchase of the house and for the construction of the second story,

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The teachers at the Safa–Berura folks–shul [public school] in 1934

First row, sitting from right to left: Marchfeld, Miss Rozen, Director Liblich, Miss Gincberg
Second row, standing from right to left: Miss Eichhorn, Wajnberg, Miss Brumer, Miss Henya Cheszer

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The Parent's Council of the Safa Berura School

Sitting from right to left: Mrs. Katsner–Flur, Mrs. Raszkes, Mrs. Perlberg, Dr. Shmuel Szpan, Mrs. Dr. Goldberg, Mrs. Rozenbush
Standing from right to left: Dr. Liblich, Mrs. Flur, ?, Mrs. Lion, Dr. Wolf Szenkel, Mrs. Dr. Szpan, Dr. Rozenbush

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and the founding of the school. The following names[1] are etched in the memorial tablet.

Yeshayahu Zilberfenig, Benyamin Kac, Zigmunt Flajszer, Mendl Daar, Shlomo Wurcel, Herman Flur, Gedalihu Bornsztajn, Ayzik Brandsztater, Khanina Braun (now in Belgium), Gabriel Durst, Izidor Eizen, Maurici Feld, Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Viktor Grinhut, Henrik Holender, Herman Izraelowicz, Shlomo Keller (now in Vienna), Yosef Kec, Shlomo Klajn, Dovid Kerszower, Herman Lander (now in South America), Henrik Landau, Avraham Lezer, Engineer Moshe Lojchter,

 

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The Memorial Tablet in the building of the Safa Berurah School

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The teachers from the Safa Berura gymnazium in Tarnow in 1935

Sitting from right to left: Miss Zilbergfenig, Miss Resler, Director Rozenbusz, Miss Liblich, Miss Furer
Standing from right to left: Krasz, Feld, Dr. Wajsman, ?, Malkiszer

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Wilhelm Lichtblau, Dr. Wilhelm Maszler, Chaim Najger, Engineer Leon Flachte, Yehosha Safir, Yosef Safir, Dr. Shmuel Szpan, Wilhelm Szpira, Dr. Wolf Szenkel, Leopold Szinagel, Shmuel Wajntraub, Dr. Julius Drezner.

The opening of the lyceum in the school building, along with the transformation of the school Safa Berurah into a gymnazie and a lyceum named for Dr. Yehoshua Thon took place on the 4th of December 1937 in the presence of many delegates, among them: Dr. Thon's widow and his daughter, Dr. Nelly Thon–Rost. At the ceremony, Dr. M. Rozenbusz emphasized the moments at which the Hebrew school system of Safa Berurah had been supported. Prof. Szmulewicz from Krakow pointed out the connection between the Hebrew school system and the spirit of Dr. Yehoshua Thon, may his memory be a blessing.

The opinions issued in 1938 by such school visitors as Dr. Sztajn and Dr. Tartokower, who visited the Tarnow schools on behalf of the Union of Jewish Schools in Lodz, provide evidence of the level of the instruction in the Safa Berurah schools in Tarnow; after the visitations [they] declared that in connection with the academic disciplines of Judaism, the Safa Berurah schools in Tarnow belong to the best of all of the schools who belonged to the Union.

The Polish overseer, Dr. Wieczbicki, who in the same year visited the Safa Berura gymnazie [on assignment] from the Krakow trustees, declared publicly before the members of the managing committee of Safa Berura that as a school overseer he would be fortunate if the schools located in his district stood at half the educational level of the male and female students of the Safa Berura school in Tarnow.

Therefore, in 1938 the school received public recognition. The managing committee of Safa Berura, at whose head for many years stood Chaim Najger (after his departure for Eretz Yisroel, the chairmanship was taken over by Dr. Wolf Szenkler), carried out great work, such as its support of the extensive development of a Hebrew school network which demanded a great deal of work and effort. At the general meeting that took place on the 30th of December 1938, an enlarged managing committee was chosen with the following people: Zigmunt Flajszer, Regina Flur, Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, Dr. Avraham Chomet, Herman Flur, Yosef Gledcajler, Roman Jortner (now in Israel), Dr. Wolf Mandel (now in Israel), Dr. M. Menderer, Bronislawa Perlberg, Meir Rozenbaum, Yitzhak Roskes (now in Canada), Dr. Wolf Szenkel, Shmuel Wajntraub. In the Friend's Court: Artur Dumler, Dr. Ignatz Fisz, Dr. Yakov Yekel, Shlomo Keller, Dr. Leopold Szinagel. Review

[Page 690]

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Students from the Yavne school in Tarnow with the teacher Glas, of blessed memory

[Page 691]

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Students from the Yavne School in Tarnow

From the right: the teacher Glas, of blessed memory
From the left: the teacher Dovid Leibel, of blessed memory

[Page 692]

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Students from the Yavne School in Tarnow

The teachers from right to left: Dovid Leibel, of blessed memory, Director Malkiszer, of blessed memory, Miss Gecler (now in Regina) and Glas, of blessed memory

[Page 693]

Commission: Maurici Kac, Henrik Najman. Dr. Wolf Szenkel was elected as chairman of the new managing committee.

The beautiful work, the fruit of long years of cultural efforts by Tarnow Jews was erased along with the annihilation of Tarnow Jewry. After the liberation of Tarnow, the school building at Święta Anny Street #1, was taken over by the Polish Peasants Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe). The memorial tablet disappeared. The building of the former school named for Baron Hirsch was taken over by a state institution.

 

b. Mizrakhi School Yavne

The construction of a separate school system supported on the ideology of Mizakhi [religious Zionism] is connected with the development of the Mizrakhi movement in Tarnow. The Mizrakhist school program brought religious education to the foreground along with the students' deeper knowledge of the Talmud. The Mizrakhi workers, Wolf Gecler, Yehiel Kruc, A.L. Wajner and Khona Fesel were generous in every endeavor and with money for the creation of a Mizrakhi school presence in Tarnow.

In 1926 a school of the Yavne [religious Zionist] type was founded in Tarnow at which, in addition to secular subjects, Hebrew, Tanakh [Five Books of Moses plus the Writing and the Prophets], Jewish history, Chumash [Five Books of Moses] with Rashi, Mishnah [Oral Torah], Talmud, Shulkan Orech [Code of Jewish Law], praying and the like were taught.

In 1930 the Yavne School was led by the director Malkiszer. The school possessed four divisions of a powszechner [universal] school and the teachers, Dovid Leibel, Glas and Miss Hela Gecler (now in Israel) taught there. There also was a Froebel [kindergarten] school at the school for children from four to six. During the first year of its existence, in 1930, the school taught 30 children.

At first the Yavne School was located in the building of the former school named for Baron Hirsch. After the building was taken over by the Safa Berurah Society, the Yavne School moved into its own building. The Yavne School was the pride of Mizrakhi in Tarnow, which took care of the important Jewish cultural–educational institutions in Tarnow with dedication. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Yavne School also ceased to exist.

 

c. Talmud–Torah

The Talmud–Torah [religious school for needy boys] occupied a special place in the Jewish school system in Tarnow. Although this was a not a school in the actual sense of the word, it had a certain importance in relation to the khederim [religious primary schools].

[Page 694]

Only the Orthodox Jews, who did not have any trust in Polish or Jewish schools, sent their children to the Talmud–Torah. Therefore, the Talmud–Torah benefited from significant subsidies from the Jewish kehila. More advanced religious Jews wanted to bring in a different educational system to the Talmud–Torah, taking into consideration the program of the universal schools. Therefore, when the construction of its own building for the Talmud–Torah on Kaplanowka was considered, all of Tarnow Jewry helped to gather the necessary funds and a beautiful school building was erected very quickly. The kehila [organized Jewish community] managing committee expended much effort and money and during the first years after the First World War, when the kehila activists, Dr. Shmuel Szpan and Wolf Gecler, who were the actual initiators of reorganizing the Talmud–Torah in Tarnow, took an interest in the Talmud–Torah, Yeshayahu Zilberfenig, Wolf Gecler, the kehila managing committee member, and Dr Shmuel Szpan, Dovid Gecler and Chaim–Sholom Korn, as well as the chairman of Agudah, Elihu Gewirc, contributed significant money for the construction of the building.

However, there were extreme groups of the Orthodox who fought those Agudah–Orthodox who demonstrated certain secular leanings and they were not pleased that Zionist and advanced Agudah groups were involved with the Talmud–Torah. So, these

 

tar1_694.jpg
The Talmud Torah building in Tarnow

[Page 695]

extremists did not permit reforms in the Talmud–Torah and having a majority in the managing committee, they did not call a meeting, avoided every control and thus the initiative did not fulfill it task. A fight developed over the Talmud–Torah that naturally had a destructive effect on the development of the institution that had to fulfill designated tasks in the Jewish neighborhood, serving as the school for the Orthodox children because they did not attend any secular schools.

The struggle for stabilizing the situation for the Tarnow Talmud–Torah lasted for many years. In 1937 an understanding was reached and a new managing committee was chosen with the following composition: Chaim Aberdas, Mordekhai Unger, Elihu Baron, Shmuel Blic, Yisroel Gertner, Dovid Goldman, Elihu Gewirc, Shmuel Wajs, Sh. Wajnsztok, Wolf Weksler, Zalman Wolk, Elihu Wajnbeger, Shimeon Weg, Leib Jakubowicz, Avraham Landman, Ahron Lezer, Mordekhai Laufer, Yosef Padower, Hirsh Haler, Naftali Parnes, Shlomo Postrang, Yosef Finkelsztajn, Lajzer Pomeranc, Yosef Cymer, Markus Kelner, Yosef Kac, Yakov Rejnhold, Ayzak Szejnweter. Its secretary, the Agudah activist Yehiel Ahron Blumner rendered great service to the Talmud Torah.

This managing committee consisted of serious, observant Jews. Everyone perished as martyrs of the Tarnow ghetto or in the Hitlerist death camps except for Kac (who survived in Russia and then died in 1963 in Paris). The beautiful Talmud Torah building still stands today in Tarnow. A state school for nurses is located there.

 

d. Jewish Trade Schools

In addition to the above–mentioned schools, a Jewish middle school for girls was active in Tarnow that fulfilled one of the most important tasks in the area of moving the Jewish population ahead. In 1933 a trade school also was opened for boys. In addition to the theoretical and practical trade training of the Jewish young people of both sexes, they also studied general subjects, Hebrew, English and the geography of Palestine. This school, thanks to the perseverance and tireless work of the director, Mrs. Magister[2] Epsztajn (now Mrs. Fris in Israel), became an important part of the Jewish trade school system. At first the school was located in the building of the former school named for Baron Hirsch, then in a house on Saint Martin Street, no. 14, and the educational program included a course for house management, sewing, and a course for sewing linen,

[Page 696]

which had a great number of students because of the development of the clothing industry in Tarnow.

The trade school was a part of the Jewish middle schools. In 1937 at a general meeting of the society, the following managing committee was chosen: Dr. M. Menderer – chairman. Dr. A Chomet, Dr. Sh. Goldberg, Yosef Maszler, Magister Lenkowicz, Dr. Y, Merc, Dr. Fris (now in Israel), Dovid Batist, M. Hutter, Mrs. Dr. Merc, Mrs. Dr. Kac. At the time, the school gave a four–year cutter course of a gymnazie type and a one–year course for home economics. Before the outbreak of the Second World War they needed to build their own building [with] thanks to funds collected in America.

This entry–level school suffered the same fate of all Jewish institutions.

 

e. Trade Schools

Legislation in pre–war Poland had many directives that were aimed against Polish Jewry. Therefore, Jewish commerce in Poland developed a strong network of professional organizations that had as their purpose the support of the economic position and as a result they tried at first to raise the abilities of the trade workers through the creation and support of trade schools.

Several years before the Second World War an experienced and energetic teacher – Mrs. Einszpruch – with the help of the capable and young pedagogue, Dr. W. Taub (now is Wrocslaw), founded a Jewish school of business preparation that developed well. The Merchants and Industrialists Union in Tarnow became interested in the school and after a short time it received public recognition.

*

A significant success in Tarnow was had by Henrik Rausz's long–time chartered trade school, an institution for which he provided dedicated care, that mainly educated bookkeepers employed in Jewish trade and industrial undertakings.

Henrik Rausz gave half–year courses for bookkeeping, beginning in 1900, as well as one–year course trade courses and a one–year co–educational school for preparation for commerce (with public recognition).

[Page 697]

f. Beis–Yaakov

At the end, it is necessary to remember a school institution that was run by AgudahBeis–Yakov [Agudah – non–Zionist Orthodox organization; Beis–Yakov – Orthodox girls' secondary school]. Here observant Jewish girls were educated with a strong religious spirit. Thus, girls who studied in secular schools in Tarnow received their Jewish instruction at the Beis–Yakov school.

Such a comprehensively developed Jewish school system ceased [to exist] with the march into Tarnow by the Hitlerist army. The German “carriers of culture” immediately began to close all Jewish schools. The cultural efforts and successes of the Jewish community in Tarnow were destroyed. Almost all of the teachers from these schools where 2,000 Jewish male and female students studied died a martyr's death. After the terrible catastrophe, the surviving teachers and cultural workers from Jewish Tarnow could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

 

II

Jewish Libraries in Tarnow

a. Sifriyah Amamit

Public Library

Jewish libraries in Tarnow existed at first at each society or organization. The Stowarzyszenie Starozakonni Mlodczeczi Handlowej (Union of Jewish Trade Youth) had the first library and then the Professional Union of Jewish Trade Employees. Poalei–Zion [Marxist Zionists] and the Union of Jewish Socialists – Cz. P. S. – had its own library. The Zionist Society, HaShahar [Dawn] (then Zion) possessed its own library of Yiddish and Hebrew books. A Judaism library existed at the Judaism student group in Tarnow and at the Union of Jewish Academics under the name Bar Kokhba. HaShahar possessed a beautiful library.

In the first decade of this century (the 20th), Kahler, the shamas [assistant to the rabbi] in the Temple on Saint Anne Street, did a great deal to popularize the Jewish scholarly book in the Jewish neighborhood. [He was] always weighted down with books – the newest publications from the Yiddish, Judaism and Hebrew literature. He supplied Jewish libraries and young Jewish students, to whom he would give the books on credit, with convenient monthly installments. When the Jewish libraries developed in the city, Kahler lost his clients. However, with satisfaction, he would

[Page 698]

point to the libraries and take pride in their recognition that he was the only supplier of Yiddish books.

When the Second World War broke out, the Hitlerist murderers did not treat Kahler and his family with respect (his son was a Poalei–Zionist [Marxist Zionist] activist). He perished al kiddush haShem [in the sanctity of God's name] with a martyr's death. Honor his memory!

After the rise of Miriam, the Zionist women's organization, they immediately opened a Jewish library for a far–reaching audience.

After the First World War a large library arose at the Safa Berurah Society, merged from [the libraries] of various Zionist groupings: Bar Kokhba [sports organization], Miriam [Zionist women's organization] and others. This merged library bore the name of Dr. Shmuel Szpan, the recognized Zionist leader in Tarnow, for whom it was named in connection with his emigration to Eretz–Yisroel for the first time in 1921.

The library named for Dr. Szpan developed very well and in 1922 other libraries joined it, particularly from the Zionist youth organizations. Thus, arose a large united public library under the name Sifriyah Amamit [Public Library], whose first chairman was Dr. Yeshayahu Fajg, vice chairman – Moshe Klapholc, secretary – Wolf Chahana. In addition, Mrs. Dr. Fajg, Yehezkiel Hercman, Yakob Glik (now in Paris), Chaim Fridman and Sura Binensztok (now in Israel) belonged to the managing committee.

The fact that in 1929 the library numbered 15,000 books in the Polish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish languages provides evidence of its continuous development. The number of readers reached 1,400.

At a general meeting of the library members, that is, of the individual societies that had founded the library (took place on the 3rd of February 1929), a new managing committee was elected with the following composition: Mrs. Dr. Wajs, Miss Wajs, Miss Binensztok (women's organization), Chaim Najger (library named for Dr. Szpan), Dr. Szpan (Safa Berurah School), Dr. Chomet (local Zionist organization), Dr. Fajg (Hitachdut – Zionist Organization), Yosef Hajman (Merchants Union), Miss Keller (orphans home), Hercman, Glik and Rubin (Tarbut), Sztajn, Fus, Kajcz (Hashomer Hatzair), Miss Fryd (Gordonia – Zionist youth movement), Worcel (HaHalutz); [elected] to the managing committee cooperative: Dr. W. Szenkel, Dr. N. Szwarc, Moshe Klapholc (now – a lawyer–judge in Haifa); inspection commission: Dr. Waserman, Dr. Yosef Zilberman and Ch. Frydman. The managing committee constituted itself in the following manner: Chaim Najger – chairman, Dr. Fajg – vice chairman, Moshe Klapholc – secretary, Mrs. Dr. Fajg – treasurer, Dr. Chamet – consultant for Polish books, Dr. N. Szwarc – for German books, Ch. Hercman – for Hebrew

[Page 699]

books, Yakov Glik – consultant for Yiddish books. H. Rubin was designated as the administrator.

In April 1932 the Sifriyah Amamit [Public Library] Library celebrated the 10–year anniversary of its existence. The development and significance of this institution for the Jewish population in Tarnow was described then by Moshe Klapholc in an article published in Tygodnik Zydowski [Jewish Weekly] of the 1st of April 1932, no. 14, which we present here in its entirety:

“Ten years have passed since the Jewish Public Library, Sifriyah Amamit, arose in Tarnow. Thanks to the shared work, efforts and good will of almost all those available in Tarnow Zionist unions and societies, a large institution was created from small, insignificant libraries, whose cultural accomplishments are appreciated by the entire Jewish population.

“The library has existed for 10 years – these are 10 years of progress and development in every area. It began small – it established a foundation to which new bricks are added every year, which strengthened and expanded and deepened until finally a large, strong institution was created that stands on its own feet, without subsidies or outside help from the state, municipality or the kehile.

“Ten years ago, the Jewish Public Library numbered barely several thousand volumes and was located in a small, crowded premises, did not have any appropriate catalogue and library personnel. Now the library is located in a four–room premises and possesses a treasury of 16,000 works in the Polish, Hebrew, Yiddish and German languages. Four printed catalogues are provided for the use of the readers and three librarians, and the number of subscribers grows from day to day. It must be shown that there is no larger and [more] valuable Jewish library in western Galicia. The library subscribes to a series of domestic and foreign journals, and we will list only a few as an example: Przegląd Współczesny [Contemporary Review], Miesięcznik Żydowski [Jewish Monthly], Menorah [Light], Palestine, Literarishe Velt [Literary World] and the like. The book fund increased annually with over 1,000 works where is found, among others, the newest literary and scientific publications. The library does not consider the political party membership of the author when choosing books, but only and exclusively their quality and literary level.

“It must be remembered that the present managing committee will shortly undertake the publication of an expanded catalogue by literary category because we have decided that the mass production of books makes it difficult to include everything. We have to create order

[Page 700]

and systematize the chaos in the book world and make it possible for the reader to make a choice; if not, the reader will not be able to see the best book, could be misled by advertisements or find a satisfaction in the sensational literature. It must be emphasized that despite the widespread activity of the library, it lost none of its national character, that it supported in a significant way and continues to support the Hebrew literary creations, that it especially purchases works about Judaism, and that all Zionist organizations and society benefit from their free subscriptions to the library.

“Finally, with pleasure, let us emphasize that in connection with its 10th anniversary, which the Jewish People's Library is celebrating, the secretary, Comrade Chahana, celebrates his 10th anniversary, which with a rare diligence over the course of 10 years, that is, since the rise of the library until today, he helped its development with all of his strength. In no small measure, the library has him to thank for its present condition.

“In the later years, the Sifriyah Amamit library went through

 

tar1_700.jpg
In the office of Wolf Chahana, of blessed memory, (the first from right to left);
in the middle, Dr. Gur Arya Serlo (now in Israel), during Keren HaYesod [United Appeal] campaign in Tarnow in 1925

[Page 701]

considerable development and after Chaim Najger emigrated to Eretz–Yisroel, Dr. Waserman was chosen as the person from the library who had done a great deal on behalf of the library.”

The beautiful and rich Jewish library in Tarnow suffered the fate of all Jewish cultural institutions in the city.

 

b. Jewish Folks–Bibliotek

Before the First World War (in 1912), a Jewish Folks–Bibliotek [people's library] was founded by the Paolei–Zion [Workers of Zion – Marxist Zionists] party, whose basis was a book collection from [the members] of this party. The library possessed books in the Yiddish language. After the split in Paolei–Zion in 1920, the Paolei–Zion library consisted of several thousand volumes and was the pride of the Left Paolei–Zion in Tarnow. The Hitlerist vandals destroyed the work of the Jewish workers over many years. Not one book from the rich, Jewish library survived.

The Bund also had a rich library for the use of its members. No trace remains of this library either.

The Hashomer Hatzair [socialist–Zionist youth] organization also possessed a rich library and a larger or smaller library for the use of its members existed at almost all of the youth organizations.

 

III.

Tarbut

Ahavat Zion [Love of Zion] Union occupied themselves with the spread of the Hebrew language and literature in Tarnow and later Ivria [organization founded to spread the use of Hebrew and Hebrew literature], which Ahron Hofmajster as chairman, Avraham Wajnberg as secretary, Yakov Glik, Yitzhak Szedlisker and others led in 1906. The Union arranged Hebrew courses and greatly helped to spread Hebrew culture among Zionist and other groups in Tarnow.

The Zionist young workers, Miss Avraham and Miss Rozenblat (later the wife of Yitzhak Laufban, of blessed memory) spread the magnificent, modern Hebrew [language] from Ivria. Miss Avraham's translation of M.D. Brandstetter's Hebrew short stories were printed at that time in Maria, the Zionist monthly in the Polish language, under Dr. Berkelhamer's editorship.

[Page 702]

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The Hebrew writer, Daniel Perski, at Ivria in Tarnow in 1920

 

Ivria encompassed a large circle of Hebraists from various party beliefs. When the important Hebrew writer, Daniel Perski, visited Tarnow in 1920, he encountered a large circle of Hebraists from the older and younger generations who received him warmly. Hebrew culture in Tarnow spread very strongly among the Orthodox young people who were responsive to Zionist slogans. They organized Hebrew groups in secret – so that their strict Orthodox parents would not learn of them – and diligently studied the Hebrew language and literature.

The framework of Ivria immediately was too narrow for the large group of young and older Zionist who yearned to know Hebrew. The tasks for the Hebraists grew with the growth of emigration [to Eretz Yisroel] of the halutzim [pioneers].

In Poland in 1918 the organization Tarbut [secular Hebrew school system] existed, which won the recognition of all nationally conscious Jews. Tarbut created a wide net of Hebrew elementary and middle schools, particularly in the eastern area of Poland. In addition to the schools for the young or for the older students of the universal schools, Tarbut organized

[Page 703]

Hebrew evening courses in the largest Jewish centers in Poland. Tarbut had as its purpose looking after and developing the Hebrew language in the lands of exile.

Tarbut also carried on activities in Tarnow without much achievement in the area. However, for a long time the activity was limited because of the lack of its own premises. It is enough to emphasize that in 1930 the Hebrew courses in Tarnow took place in a side room in the Tarnow Temple. Yet, these courses reached 200 people (as was reported at the general meeting on the 22nd of March 1930 – cited from the Tygodnik Zydowski of the 30th of March 1928, no. 13).[3] In addition to this, a dramatic group was active at Tarbut (which we report on in another place), which, as mentioned in the yearly report, carried on two Hebrew revues every Shabbos [Sabbath]. An oyneg Shabbos [recreational gathering in honor of the Sabbath] took place at Tarbut with the participation of many young people. A managing committee was elected at the above–mentioned meeting with the following composition:

Dr. Zilberfenig – chairman, Mrs. Kenig – treasurer, Chaim Najger, Dr. Y. Fajg,

 

tar1_703.jpg
C[haim] N[achman] Bialik, of blessed memory, in Tarnow in 1931

Sitting from right to left: Yosef Umanski, Z. Ch. H. Lichtblau, Chaim Nachman Bialik, of blessed memory, Chaim Najger, of blessed memory, ?, Dr. Z. Zilberfenig, Dr. Yosef Zilberman, of blessed memory

[Page 704]

Y. Glik, Y. Hercman, Dr. Hela Ladner, Golda Abramowicz, Dr. Yosef Zilberman, Grabszrift, Fefer, Biberberg, Szpanauf, Kajcz.

Bringing Chaim Nakhman Bialik, the great poet, to Tarnow, who came to the city on the 25th of October 1931 brought in the main income for Tarbut. There was a holiday mood in Tarnow on that day. Many Jews and delegations from all of the Zionist organizations and youth movements waited for him at the train station. Ch.N. Bialik was present the same evening at a meeting of the lovers of Hebrew books, where he reported about the condition of Hebrew literature and books. The next morning, the distinguished guest visited the Safa Berura Hebrew folks–shul and middle school. One of his talks, entitled “The Liberation of the Spirit,” took place in Sokul hall. In his brilliant report, the poet called upon Hebrew activists to stand at the front of cultural work, warning about assimilation in the countries of the Diaspora if the political renaissance does not go together with a national [Jewish] renaissance.

After the report, a tea evening, at which the poet was greeted by Chaim Najger, Prof. Kresz and Fromawicz (from Jaslo), took place in honor of the guest in the hall of the Hotel Astoria. Bialik responded to the greetings with a long speech in Hebrew explaining the motives that led him to leave his worker's workshop and, above all, to awaken the conscience of the people.

The work of Tarbut in Tarnow was weakened a bit in 1932.

 

tar1_704.jpg
A group of Hebraists from the Orthodox circles in Tarnow in 1932

Standing from right to left: Moshe Rubin and Yehiel Englender (both in Israel),
Sitting from right to left: Lefelholc and Yona Sznajder (now in Israel)

[Page 705]

Therefore, at a general meeting held on the 17th of October 1932, a new managing committee was elected: Prof. Cwecher, Dr. Y. Fajg, Dr. Hela Ladner, Dr. Z. Zilberfenig, Prof. Krasz, Yehezkiel Hercman, A. Wajnberg, Marchfeld, Mrs. Henig, Szpanauf, Fela Taubenfeld, Dwora Fris, Rywka Rozenberg, B. Chaczner, Menasha Keller, A. Lichtinger, Arya Alwajs, Sura Szpanauf, N. Szilfoygl, A. Bursztyn, B. Szternhajt, Chaim Grinberg. Dr. Y. Fajg was elected as chairman.

Tarbut had a great loss with the sudden death of Yehezkiel Hercman, who died at the age of 34. He had joined the Zionist movement in his early years and not acknowledging the difference between theory and practice, during the Third Aliyah [immigration] he traveled to Eretz–Yisroel, where he was a wood worker for a long time. His bad health forced him to end his physical work. He later studied Judaism and pedagogy at the Vienna Pedagogium named for Dr. Khius. After returning to Krakow, he actively worked in various cultural institutions, particularly in the Hebrew [institutions] and was one of the most active in the area of maintaining the Hebrew language. His premature death evoked universal sadness in all Zionist circles in Tarnow.

Thanks to the efforts of Tarbut, Ansky's Dybbuk was staged in Hebrew. The Friday night oyneg Shabbosim drew all lovers of the Hebrew word. In addition to this, Tarbut provided courses in Hebrew and seminars on Judaism.

In the later years the Tarbut activity was led by the managing committee, to which the following people belonged:

Dr. Y. Fajg, Avraham Wajnberg, Mrs. Rajnhold, Mrs. Wajnberg, Shimeon Klajnhendler, Y. Sznajder, Marchfeld, Shimeon Sztorm, Hersh Gecler, Yitzhak Fink and representatives of separate Zionist youth organizations.

After Dr. Fajg emigrated to Israel, the Tarbut work was led by Avraham Wajnberg.

 

IV

Yiddish Theater, Music and Singing Societies in Tarnow

Purim Shpiln

The beginning of Yiddish theater in Tarnow dates to the last decade of the past [19th] century. At that time, Yiddish theater had its own building on the spot of the Kino [cinema] Apollo. At the end

[Page 706]

of the previous century this building was burned. Various troupes, which would come to Tarnow on tour, performed in this above–mentioned building.

Every year at Purim time Broderzinger[4] would appear in Szpindler's restaurant and in Grinhut's house at Lwowska [Street], then in Rotenberg's restaurant at Walowa Street. A week before Purim there were Purim–shplin [Purim plays] in various Tarnow halls and until the First World War, Purim processions in beautiful masks and costumes, some on horses, some on wagons or on foot, would pass through Lwowska and Walowa.

A Jewish amateur theater arose in Tarnow in 1905, in which Jewish trade employees and workers who belonged to the Polish Socialist Party (and then to the Zionist Socialist Party) participated. The performances took place in the hall of strzelnica [shooting range] in the municipal park. The repertoire consisted mainly of [Avraham] Goldfaden's plays. The more talented amateurs at that time were: Anker (later the owner of a tailoring salon) and Shmerling–Mantel (trade employee). The theater had its own costumes and decorations and benefited from its great popularity with the Jewish people in the city. The theater had several winter seasons.

After the crumbling of this amateur troupe, touring troupes visited over many years. However, there was no amateur troupe to carry on Tarnow's Yiddish theater tradition until 1917.

 

Hazamir

The dramatic group Hazamir was founded in Tarnow in 1917, which was led by the then Poalei–Zion worker, Y. Fogelfang. Almost all amateurs belonged to the Poalei–Zion group: Sztajndling (later an engineer), Miss Szifer. But first place was taken by Bronsztajn, later an artist in the Reinhardt Theater in Berlin, and A. Margulies. In 1917 Hazamir prepared to perform Peretz Hirschbein's Yoel. The amateur group succeeded in winning as director of the presentation the famous artist, Aleksander Granakh, who was in Tarnow at that time serving in the military.

We read about Granakh's visit to Tarnow and his interest in the amateur group in Tygodnik Zydowski (of the 5th of November 1931, no. 32):

“The rehearsals were difficult. The amateur troupe was not [well] matched. Finally, the general rehearsal took place in Zoldinger's

[Page 707]

room. It was a disaster. The director was desperate. He could not find a solution with the untrained actors. Two Jewish soldiers were in the room. I think one had been a corporal for a year. They did them a ‘favor’ and permitted them to be present at the tryouts. One of the soldiers, a strong brunet, wide shoulders, with glass–like sparkling eyes, seeing the helplessness of the ‘artists’ and ‘director,’ introduced himself to those present: ‘I am named [Aleksander] Granakh from eastern Galicia, in [military] service in Tarnow.’ He offered his help and readiness, as an example, to play several difficult roles. Those present did not believe [in him], did not have any confidence [in him]. Who was he; how did he know about theater? Granakh very modestly answered that he had acted in [Max] Reinhardt's Theater in Berlin. The Hazamir amateurs present smiled discretely. They did not believe the good guy who wanted to teach ‘directing’ to those in Tarnow. But Y. Fogelfang, who knew artists from the Viennese stage, questioned Granakh about the names of significant Viennese artists and when he showed his master's expertise in his acting, they magnanimously decided to allow him to work in the direction of Yoel. Granakh went on stage and played the main role. Everyone was as if frozen. The acting was exceptional. Then the work really began. Granakh improved, perfected, acted in the most important roles. Then everyone understood whom they had before them. The premiere of Yoel, under Granakh's experienced direction, was impressive. It was decided to present Got, Mentsh un Tayvl [God, Man and Devil] and the main role was given to Granakh. The rehearsals were supposed to start, but Granakh was called into [military] service outside of Tarnow. The managing committee of Hazamir said goodbye to Granakh at a special meeting, thanking him for his assistance.'

The Hazamir society was active during the years 1917 and 1918 and then dissolved.

 

Amateur Troupes

Several years later the Jewish Folks–Teater [People's Theater] under the direction of Hart appeared at the Safa Berura School. He performed in Tarnow for several months without interruption and thus transformed his theater into an almost permanent Yiddish theater in the city.

A small stage was set up at the Poalei–Zion organization hall in Pariser's house (in Pilzner gate) where

[Page 708]

the masterworks of Yiddish drama were performed. Y. Sroka, Mila Flur, (now the wife of Dr. Sroka in Israel), H. Grzyb (later an important communist activist in Germany) were among the most important amateurs on the stage.

In addition to the amateur troupe at the Bund, the appearances of amateur groups under the direction of A. Margulies, with the participation of Mrs. M. Korn (Lenkowicz), Bayla Szifer and others had great success.

The Jewish amateur theater in Tarnow stood at a high standard thanks to the fact that Sholom Bronsztajn was the theater director in Tarnow for a long time. Under his direction, Ansky's Tog un Nakht [Day and Night] was presented in 1930. Ovadia Yaari – student of the Massad dramatic school in Jerusalem – also was active in Tarnow as a director.

 

Muza

However, there was no permanent institution in Tarnow that could concentrate in itself all of the important amateur strengths in order to create a permanent (amateur) Yiddish theater. In 1923 several members of the intelligentsia founded Muza, the theater and music society that in the first years of its existence mainly was occupied with arranging Yiddish theater events.

The theater section was led by the talented theater amateurs, Engineer Naftali Salpeter, Yitzhak Szifer, Dr. Betsalel Szpajzer and M. Wisznowic. They all perished in a tragic manner at the hands of the Nazis.

Thanks to its affirmative activities in the area of spreading the theatrical culture, Muza acquired general recognition. The amateurs who particularly stood out were: Maks Wisznowic, A. Margulies, Engineer Naftali Saleter [spelled Salpeter above] Dr. B. Szpajzer, Marila Margulies, Miss Korn–Lenkowicz, Herszkowicz, Z. Rotenberg, Bilfeld and Jakov Hajberger. The famous female Jewish artist, Rafl–Leibl, would appear with Muza from time to time. The dramatic society, Muza, established as its main task acquainting its members with the best works of Yiddish literature and acquainting a wider mass with the worth and beauty of these creations.

A choir also arose at the society, which was led for a time by the significant conductor, Feywishes, until his move to Lodz.

The symphony orchestra developed particularly well under the

[Page 709]

management of M. Uber. In addition to it, a fiddle orchestra was active under the direction of Y. Gelb.

At the annual meeting of Muza that took place on the 2nd of December 1928, a managing committee of the following composition was elected:

A. Zajden – chairman (now in New Zealand), Dr. B. Szpajzer and M. Wisznowic – vice–chairman, Magister Galicer – treasurer, Y. Margulies, Engineer M. Szwanengeld, Dr. B. Czech, Dr. Libeskind, Miss Korn, Prof. Feld, Gertner, Kamienecki. [Members of] the review committee: Dr Y. Marc, Dr. E. Punarski and Y. Izraelowicz. At the above–mentioned gathering it was decided to found a Hebrew section that was quickly organized and in April 1929 it appeared in a review, Had Gadya, in partnership with the dramatic section at Tarbut. This was the first event of its kind in Tarnow, which took place with the thought of caring for the living Hebrew word. The success of the presentation was thanks, first of all, to Dr. Yeshayahu Fajg, Dr. Julius Merc, Prof. Feld and Avraham Wajnberg. In October 1929, a second Hebrew review named Pas Kula was presented – an evening of Eretz–Yisroel and folk songs that also was presented in several places in the Tarnow area.

From the funds that it collected from various events, Muza subsidized a large group of humanitarian and communal institutions, such as the academic house, the academic kitchen in Krakow, the Jewish “day care center” in Tarnow and Nadzieja [Hope], the society for the support of sick students.

Through the years of its existence, Muza fulfilled an important cultural task because, in addition to the amateur troupe, it was involved with the organization of appearances of such stars of the Yiddish stage as Ida Kaminska, Zigmunt Turkow, or the Vilner Trupe [Vilna Troupe] under the direction of [Mordekai] Mazo, who in the suitably reconstructed building, which once served as an egg warehouse (near the Apollo Kino), performed the works of Peretz, Asch, Ansky and others.

Its longtime chairman, Adolf Zajden, had great responsibility for the development of the society and, therefore, was honored with a diploma as an honorary member of the society, which he led until the Second World War.

The activity of the popular Muza Society is another sign of the high level of the creations of the Tarnow Jews for Jewish culture, Yiddish theater, music and song.

[Page 710]

 

Y.L. Peretz Union

The Union of Lovers of Jewish Art named for Y.L. Peretz was greatly responsible for the development of the Jewish cultural life in Tarnow.

 

tar1_710.jpg
Members of the Peretz Union with the writer, Hersh Fenster (fourth in the first row sitting from right to left) in 1930

 

This union brought important artists on tour to Tarnow, masters of the Yiddish word, such as: [Avrom] Morewski, Wajslic, Kamen, as well as entire theater ensembles, such as the Vilna Trupe, Kaminski Theater, Bela Belarina. In addition to this, an amateur theater was active at the union and a mixed choir under the direction of Z. Kinstler.

In 1930, at the initiative of the Y.L. Peretz Union, a local division of the Vilna YIVO [Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institute – Yiddish Scientific Institute – now the Institute for Jewish Research] was created at whose head stood Magister Dovid Lenkowicz.

 

Dramatic Group

In addition to dramatic sections at almost all of the youth organizations, such as Hashomer Hatzair [Youth Guard – Socialist Zionists], HaZioni [Zionist youth organization], at the Bund, Hitachadut and others, at the Jewish Sports Club Z.M.S. (Zydowska Mlodziesz Sportowa – Jewish Sports Youth),

[Page 711]

 

tar1_711.jpg
A group of active members of the Peretz Union in Tarnow in 1930

 

a dramatic group was active under the direction of L. Bilfeld, who was devoted to the Jewish theater arts and worked in almost all of the dramatic groups. There also was a choir of 40 people organized at Z.M.S. [Jewish Sports Union], under the direction of Kinstler.

We still have to mention the Wiedza (Visn [knowledge]) Society led by Avraham Lajnwand, who would arrange evenings of the lively Jewish word.

In 1937 a dramatic group was organized in Tarnow under the name of Dovid Herman. The very talented amateur, Sholom Bronsztajn, led the group. This dramatic group contributed a great deal to the revival of the Jewish theater in Tarnow. In addition to the director, Sholom Bronsztajn, the best amateurs were Yakov Hajberger and the Mrs. Lenkowicz and Laubfeld.

 

Music Society

Before the First World War, Tirk's music office existed in Tarnow and in 1914 the office was taken over by the bookstore owner, Adolf Zajden, who did a great deal in the area of

[Page 712]

developing music culture in Tarnow. He would bring to Tarnow soloists famous in Europe, such as Burmester, Marta, Petri, Michalowski, Dubiska, Rubinstein, Ada Sari and other musical celebrities.

The Muza Society had an amateur orchestra under the direction of Leon Gelb. There also was an orchestra at the Bund under the leadership of R. Eizenbach, a young composer and director, that is to say, a total musician. Alas, he died in the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

 

Singing Unions

The singing unions occupied an honored place in Tarnow's Jewish cultural life. We have already mentioned the Zionist choir in Tarnow in 1904 in another place. The student Shmuel Szpan and several other members of Jewish student groups at that time in Tarnow founded a permanent choir under the leadership of two students, Daniel and Menashe. The choir sang in the Temple on the holidays and, having received a [monetary] reward from Cantor Heler, they bought books for the Jewish library at the student union.

Several years later, in about 1909, Yisroel Feywishes the famous choral director from Brod, came to Tarnow and led the choir in the Temple. Then he opened a music school in Tarnow. When Harmonia, the Jewish national singing union, was founded in 1912 and an impressive choir arose among all groups of the Jewish national youth, Feywishes was designated as director of the choir and he led it to a higher level. The Harmonia concerts evoked great interest not only in Tarnow, but also in other Galicianer cities.

Every Thursday evening, Harmonia arranged the so–called “Thursday evenings” in the hall of the Baron Hirsch School at which the choir under Feywishes' leadership would appear. He also was active in the Tarnow Poalei–Zion and took part in all cultural events of the Poalei–Zion Union. Thanks to him, the Poalei–Zion academic union, Kherut [freedom], organized a large concert with the participation of the Harmonia choir, which took place in Krakow in the large hall at the old theater and it was an extraordinary success.

Feywishes' musical abilities as a teacher and director led him to widespread activity. With the outbreak of the First World War, he left Tarnow and went to Krakow. After very fruitful

[Page 713]

musical activity in that city, he moved to Lodz in 1922 and there he dedicated himself to the Hazamir choir.

When Hitler's hordes took Poland, Feywishes left for Warsaw. As Melekh Najsztadt related in his book Khorbn un Oyfshtand fun di Yidn in Warszawa [Destruction and Revolt of the Jews in Warsaw] (volume 2, p. 588), Feywishes is mentioned in the reports from the Warsaw ghetto as one of the artists who helped the Jewish underground movement and tried, although for a short time, to relieve the difficult ghetto life by arranging concerts. He organized a children's choir in the ghetto that excelled at a high level. During the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, the Germans sent him to the death camp at Poniatow and he was murdered there. Honor his memory!

The activity of Harmonia ceased after Feywishes left Tarnow. After the First World War there were various attempts to create a music society. Choirs existed at the Zionist youth organizations, but their activity was limited to within the unions.

In the last year on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War, the choir under the leadership of the experienced director, Kincler, was active in the new synagogue, and Prof. Wajs, a man of great vocal qualifications, directed the choir in the Temple. With the unification of the two choirs, there was success in establishing a united choir at the Tarbut Society – Hazamir, under the direction of Prof. Wajs. Director Kincler was employed with the building of several choirs that existed at the Peretz Union, at the Muza Society and other organizations. There also was a workers' choir at the Bund and at the “Youth” organizations.

At all of the periods of time of Jewish cultural life in Tarnow, there were efforts to connect the former choirs to the magnificent traditions in the city. With the destruction of Jewish Tarnow, the choirs and their singers also were annihilated.

 

Translator's Footnotes
  1. The transliteration of the names on the memorial tablet in the paragraph below is different from the spellings that appear on the actual memorial tablet. return
  2. A magister is an academic degree given in Poland equivalent to a Master's Degree received after five years of attendance at a university. return
  3. There is discrepancy in the year given for the meeting (1930) and the year of the newspaper (1928), which is two years before the event reported. return
  4. Broderzinger – Broder singers, from the city of Brody in Ukraine, were itinerant Jewish performers. return

 

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