For the Jews who lived in Bukovina, the fateful hour had arrived. They had been released from the East and were now a part of the West.
Changes in the cultural life of the Jews were closely associated with the changes in their political situation. The inherited longing for education, which was deeply rooted in their culture, found new nourishment and led in the following 150 years to the creation of a Jewish society with a unique character, the Bukovina Jews. The education of youth in the schools corresponded to the contemporary political constellation and this determined the gradual rise until 1914 as well as the demise until 1940. The Russian occupation (1940) destroyed not only the economic foundation of the left behind remains of this once so self confident branch of our people, moreover, the forceful oppression of every nationalcultural impulse, the antireligious propaganda, the ban on the use and cultivation of the Hebrew language, the following ban on the speaking or writing of Yiddish, the outlawing of Zionism and the hindering of nationalistic and Zionistic activity through imprisonment or banishment to Siberia brought the sad end.
The remaining Bukovina Jews in Czernowitz and the surrounding areas now shared the fate of Jews in the area controlled by Russia. If they would even partly survive the murder campaign directed against their national existence, one cannot predict today.
The inclination to study and learning seemed to them to be a religious commandment. In order to be able to serve God as a Jew and this in their perception was the goal of a Jew one must say the traditional prayers in the holy Hebrew language. The Jewish child must acquire knowledge of this sort early in order to satisfy the demands of daily life. On the two Passover evenings, the youngest son must in accordance with the biblical commandment: When your son asks you .., ask his father the four questions and what pure joy for the happy parents when the three year old prattles the words which he still doesn't understand. And can one imagine a Simchat Torah without a joyous troop of youngsters, carrying colorful flags with red apples stuck on the tip of the flag staffs and burning candles fastened to the apples?
The mysticism of Chasidism also captured the Jews of Moldavia and taught them that life is only an illusion and that after death, in the real world, the Olam Emeth, a new form of existence begins, the reunion of the souls of the pious with the souls of the original fathers and tribal mothers of the Jewish people. On the high holidays, in the prayer houses, the dead are commemorated with prayers, tears flow and every Jewish mother and every Jewish father has the fervent wish that after 120 years when the day of fate has come that their offspring will think of them in the same pious way. They emphatically wanted that after their deaths, their sons said kaddish for them. A marriage without a son who at the burial of his parents, and thereafter for a year before the assembled congregants in the prayer house, and following that at Jahreszeiten 2 says kadish, has failed its purpose. The term kaddish was actually carried over to the sons who recited the prayer and when one said that a father had left behind three kaddishem, it meant that there were three sons to say kaddish for their father.
It was understood that Jewish children had to prepare themselves for this obligation. It was not up to the father, burdened by the struggle to make living, to prepare his children, but the melamed 3 who was to be found in every Jewish community. In larger communities, there was a schoolroom called a cheder, in which the boys studied from early morning until late evening under the supervision of the melamed and his helpers. The subjects taught were reading (and writing rarely) the five books of Moses, Rashi commentaries, and for the advanced students, Talmud study. The teaching method was the worst imaginable. In a narrow dirty room with inadequate light and a suffocating atmosphere, the children sat jammed together at tables on which a few worn out books lay, one for perhaps every two or three students. They repeated in a screaming sing-song tone, the words the teacher recited and tried to outdo each other in the loudness of their voices and in rocking back and forth. Miscreants who didn't keep up with the chorus, were dealt a blow with a leather belt, the irreplaceable pedagogic tool used by the teacher to maintain order.
The cheder was both kindergarten and school at the same time. Many overburdened mothers gladly freed themselves from the worry of caring for their children and even sent three year olds to the cheder. Since many children, especially on winter days, couldn't make their way to school alone, they were fetched by one of the melamed's helpers, generally a poor homeless youth. He lived in the melamed's house, carried water for the melamed's wife from the nearby well, swept the floor, helped in the kitchen, rocked the cradle, sang the little screamer of his bread giver to sleep, was insulted by the boys who met him and constantly suffered from hunger. When he came to a home to take a child to the cheder and was given a butter bread by the caring mother for her darling's lunch, the greater part disappeared in the helper's stomach en route. He accompanied a dozen children to cheder and none of them received the entire breakfast that was sent along during the pause.
But the entire time spent in the cheder was not without joy. In the yard in front of the cheder, during the break, the children played and frolicked and returned only reluctantly to the classroom.
Girls rarely attended the cheder, but stayed at home and helped with the housework when they were older. Meanwhile, they learned at home to read Hebrew prayers. Before they were married, their mother taught them the laws of kashrut 4 and the blessings that were said over the Sabbath candles. In spite of this meager education, the influence of the pure Jewish family life was so strong, that the girls became excellent housewives and exemplary Jewish mothers.
In the villages in which the number of Jewish families was very small, they couldn't have a traditional cheder. Therefore, the youth were often sent to a nearby town to learn Torah or several families would get together and hire a melamed who give all the Jewish children of the village the usual education rotating the classroom between the houses of the different Jewish families. In spite of the zeal of the Jewish parents for the religious education of their children, the social position of the melamed was unfavorable. The teacher had left his wife and children in need in the city in order to take his position in the village and when he returned home on Passover, he brought back barely enough to celebrate the holy holiday in the fitting manner.
There is no doubt that this method of educating the youth in Jewish communities followed a centuries old tradition. A Jewish minority in an unfriendly environment could continue to exist only when it maintained its religion and national characteristics. Therefore, the Jewish child must early and in strict isolation must be taught the knowledge of Jewish spiritual values or later, be lost to the community.
Meanwhile, the need existed to break the restricting frame and give Jewish children the opportunity to attend a modern Israelite-German school to acquire a thorough knowledge of the state language and other secular subjects. One knew that such schools had been founded in Germany, Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Galicia and had proved themselves. But the Orthodox, at that time, the overwhelming majority decisively rejected this type of education as dangerous to the maintenance of the Jewish character. The cheder, remained now as then, the only acceptable education method for the youth. Even for children of poor parents who couldn't afford to pay the melamed, means were provided. So, originated in Czernowitz a Talmud-Torah organization which had a public cheder in a building designated for that purpose in the Synagogengasse 5 in which children received free instruction.
Even grownups sought out and had opportunities to fill gaps in their education. On Sabbath afternoons, they listened with devotion in the synagogue or klaus to the lectures and stories of learned congregation members or the rabbi from the Haggadah 6 , and talks on tracts of the Talmud or the Rashi 7 commentaries. Merchants and handworkers, in such hours got some respite from the hard struggle for existence and experienced the joyful feeling of the spiritual unity of all Jews. Also in the rabbinical courts of Wiznitz and Sadagura, the Chassidic followers, who stayed there on the high holidays, listened enchanted to the words of the holy rabbi, and returned spiritually refreshed to the reality of every day life.
While the pious got their spiritual food from the mystic of the Chasidic legends of the Baal Shem 8 and the traditional devotion to the daily prayers, the enlightened 9 Jews looked for a general educational opportunity for Jewish youth. Since, occasionally, measures taken by the government officials had the same goal (with the idea of promoting assimilation of the Jews) the anger of the Orthodox (Chasidim) directed itself especially against the Enlightened (Maskilim) among their ranks as the locus minoris resistentiae and they passionately fought every attempt to take the children out of the cheder and enroll them in a Christian or modern Jewish school.
The concerns of the pious were not unfounded. An imperial decree of March 24, 1841 read: If the Jews want to establish a normal school, it must follow the ground rules laid down for Catholic schools and Catholic teachers can be hired. If Jewish children attending a Catholic school are particularly numerous, during special hours, they can be instructed separately from the Catholic children. The Austrian officials knew that the Jews out of religions (and nationalistic) grounds didn't want to send their children to schools with a Christian character and therefore issued this school order: The lackadaisical school attendance of the Jewish youth is all the more to be corrected, since otherwise, the bad example of the Jewish parents, might serve as an excuse for the Christians also to neglect their children's school attendance. This order is very illuminating. First of all, it showed that the Christian population of Galicia didn't willingly send their children to elementary school in contrast to the Jews who started educating their children at a tender age and secondly, that it was demanded that the Jews comport themselves in a faultless way, a demand that the enemies of Jews have made in all places and at all times.
Since Bukovina was a district of Galicia, it was also subject to these education rules. Pious Jews sent their children neither to Jewish schools which were run in many communities in compliance with the imperial decree on the pattern of Catholic schools, nor to Christian schools. They registered them in Catholic schools, regularly paid the tuition, but continued sending them to the cheder.
In Czernowitz, there lived a great number of intellectuals who were thoroughly unhappy with this situation. Their leader was the noble Isak Rubinstein, latter the president of the Jewish community 10 . His helpers were: Salomon Brunstein, Hirsch Juster, Meier Mender, Majer Nadler and Jakob Rosenzweig. These men took effective action. The first thing to do was to provide the conditions required, according to the law, for the founding of a Jewish public school. Among these were a responsible school committee, a fund for the maintenance of the school, and a suitable school building.
The school committee was formed: The members were: Loebel Amster, Mendel Amster, Jeremias Baltinester, Berl Bardach, Mendel Bardach, H. Eisenberg, David Gerbel, Manoli Herzan, Schulim Hillel, Israel Juster, Jechiel Kohn, Meschulim Koffler, Simon Lazarus, Hirsch Luttinger, Israel Luttinger, Alter Muenzer, Josef Nadler, Chaim Rosenzweig, Abraham Rosenthal, Moses Rosenthal, Samuel Schaetz, David Salter, Josef Schaerf, Benjamin Tittinger, Chaim Tittinger, NachmanTrebitsch. Also, a suitable school building was taken under consideration.
At the beginning of 1843, the Executive Committee members of the Community, Mendel Amster, Hirsch Juster and Benjamin Tittinger visited the Government District Office in Czernowitz to get permission for the building of a Jewish Community school. The petition was well planed. The school was to use the curriculum of the state normal school and state certified teachers were to be employed. The school was to be under state oversight. The costs for the maintenance of the school were to be covered by tuitions. The school committee would provide for possible shortfalls, whereby it was stressed that the committee was prepared to pay the tuition for very poor students.
The District Office was inclined to accept these conditions and forwarded the petition to the Lemberg office for approval. The decision however destroyed all the hopes of the committee members. The petition was rejected on the grounds that it was not demonstrated that ongoing financial support could be provided for the school. The sense of the rejection was: The basic requirement for opening a public school is the creation of an endowment fund out of which the continued costs of running the school will be paid. If the Czernowitz Jews want to have their own school, they must propose a well thought out plan and above all, they must provide a legally binding document showing they will provide for the ongoing costs of running the school.
Now the political environment changed in a favorable way. The revolution of 1848 caused dramatic new orientation in the Austrian empire. Kaiser Ferdinand abdicated his position and the 18 year old Archduke Franz Joseph ascended the throne. In all areas, the dawn of a new better future was in sight. The new federal constitution of 1848 granted Bukovina full autonomy. Bukovina, formerly a district of Galicia became a crown land, the Dukedom of Bukovina with its own state government. The government on July 23, 1853 approved the opening of an Israelite central school and at the dedication of the school; the Executive Committee was given its well deserved recognition. After long negotiations, a provisional school building on Karolinengasse was rented and approved by the school officials. The founding document carried the date December 27, 1854 and was officially confirmed in the following year. On October 16, 1855 a 3 class boys and girls school with 268 students in 8 instructional classes was opened in a rented house and in 1857, a fourth class was added.
The list of the boys and girls of the first three classes in the opening school year of 1855/1856 and the list of the students of the fourth class in 1857 show many names which were famous in the later history of the land.
|Adel, Israel||Fressinger, Max||Reder, Benjamin|
|Baier, Kasriel||Gelber, Hudel||Retter, Chaim|
|Baecker, Chaim||Gerbel, Josef||Rosner, Moses|
|Binder, Isr. Wolf||Hacker, Leib||Rottenberg, Isidor|
|Brecher, Hirsch||Karpf, Jakob||Rudich, Eisig|
|Brennig, Benjamin||Kinsbrunner, Meier||Salter, Leib|
|Czeikl, Moses Leib||Klein, Michel||Salter, Michel|
|Czeikl, David||Luttinger, Hillel||Sacharias, Wolf|
|Czeikl, Selig||Lichtendorf, Uscher||Saltzman, Moses|
|Dornbaum, Maier||Lichtendorf, Chaim||Schmucker, Simon|
|Donnenfeld, Salomon||Lichtendorf, Wolf||Setzer, Menachem|
|Erlich, Berl||Lichtendorf, Nachman||Srul, Meier|
|Erlich, Abraham||Maderer, Jakob||Stark, Jakob|
|Erlich, Salomon||Moses, Abraham||Steinmetz, Nathan|
|Falkiman, Josef||Mondenach, Leib||Trichter, Jakob|
|Fenner, Berl||Mundstein, Nathan||Trommer, Abraham|
|Fenner, Hirsch||Premitka, Berl||Tuttmann, Daniel|
|Fleck, Rubin||Pasternak, Jesaias||Wallstein, Adolf|
|Flinker, Jakob||Rauch, Lewi||Wender, Simon|
|Baltinester, Bernhard||Barber, Josef||Dornbaum, Phillipp|
|Barasch, Julius||Birnberg, David||Ebner, Wolf|
|Barber, Bernhard||Choloney, Simon||Gottfried, Israel|
|Gerschel, Nissen||Muenzer, Markus||Stecher, Isak|
|Juster, Jakob||Naser, Jakob||Tauber, Chaim|
|Katz, Isak M.||Rudich, Leon||Tittinger, Saul|
|Litstaet, Benjamin||Salter, Abraham||Tutmann, Mordche|
|Luttinger, Markus||Salter, Salomon||Wender, Abraham|
|Merdinger, Wolf||Schneider, Abraham||Wender, Chaim|
|Merdinger, Leib||Sikofant, Leib||Wender, Isak|
|Merdinger, Isak||Scrul, Nathan||Zallek, Chaim|
|Mundstein, Litmann||Sternschuss, Hermann||Ziegler, Isak|
|Amster, Nissen||Gotlieb, Isak M.||Rosenzweig, David|
|Badian, Israel||Gottlieb, Nissen||Ruff, Moses Hirsch|
|Baltinester, Adolf||Gottfried, Uscher||Schaecht K. Isak|
|Barber, Max||Koffler, Adolf||Schapira Salomon|
|Berl, Bernhard||Kris, Samuel||Schweiger, Meier|
|Berliner, Jakob||Merdinger, Emanuel||Schweiger, Pinkas|
|Czeikl, Pessach||Packer, Jerucham||Tittinger, Moritz|
|Fruemmel, Abraham||Redinger, Isak||Tittinger, Selig|
|Gelber Salomon||Rippel, Abraham||Wizenger, Michel|
|Amster, David||Muenzer, Salomon||Srul, Moses|
|Berl, Moses||Redinger, Hermann||Tauber, Markus|
|Brecher, Feiwel||Rosenberg, Juda||Tittinger, Jakob|
|Eichenbaum, Simon||Rosenzweig, Emanuel||Weiser, Meschulem|
|Freisinger, Abraham||Rottenberg, Karl||Wender, Benjamin|
|Links, Johann||Scherek, Isak||Zappler, Abraham|
|Links, Samuel||Schweiger, Jakob|
|Allpern, Bella||Riemer, Hanni||Schefer, Ester|
|Altman, Rahel||Rosenzweig, Berta||Schmucker, Lea|
|Amster, Susi||Rosenzweig, Jetti||Schmucker, Rebeka|
|Becker, Lea||Rosenstrauch, Debora||Schnecker, Blueme|
|Buchholtz, Schendl||Rosenstrauch, Ettl||Schnecker, Rachel|
|Eckstein, Felzie||Rubinstein, Eva||Schuetz, Gusta|
|Eckstein, Henie||Rubinstein, Ernestine||Schuetz, Betti|
|Frenkl, Lotti||Rudich, Resie||Schwarz, Titta|
|Gelber, Rosa||Ruff, Chaje||Stanger, Rebeka|
|Gottfried, Malke||Ruff, Rosa||Tauber, Karoline|
|Hilber, Chaje||Ruff, Resie||Tittinger, Lea|
|Juster, Ernestine||Salter, Hassie||Trebicz, Rosa|
|Koenig, Alte||Salter, Lea||Trichter, Feige|
|Langer, Jetti||Salter, Lotti||Tuttmann, Sara|
|Luttinger, Ettel||Sauerquell, Lotti||Weibel, Jetti|
|Orenstein, Resi||Schaffner, Guda||Werbel, Chane|
|Orenstein, Hanni||Schapira, Berta||Winkler, Gusta|
|Amster, Rosa||Gottlieb, Hinde||Rottenberg, Lotte|
|Altas, Regina||Greishaber, Blueme||Ruhalter, Feige|
|Becker, Perl||Gruengrass, Schendl||Salter, Rosa|
|Berl, Jetti||Juster, Jetti||Sikofant, Gusta|
|Brecher, Dwossie||Juster, Resie||Stamper, Susi|
|Fehr, Ewa||Luttinger, Schendl||Tauber, Perl|
|Freisinger, Klara||Niederhofer, Rebeka||Trebicz, Lenonre|
|Gerbel, Susi||Rechenberg, Lotti||Tittinger, Schendl|
|Atlass, Karoline||Barber, Rosa||Rosenzweig, Marie|
|Baltinester, Amalie||Freisinger, Fani||Sauerquell, Rosa|
|Baltinester, Fanni||Koffler, Rebeka||Schaerf, Gusta|
|Baltinester, Honora||Rechenberg, Jeanette||Tittinger, Lotti|
|Barasch, Emilie||Rechenberg, Sofie||Weiser, Sara|
The development of the school took place in harmony with the general progress of the period and was a blessing for the Jews of the city. To be sure, for the most part, they still sent their children to the cheder, but little by little they found their way to the public school whose usefulness remained uncontested, all the more so because from the first day of its existence until the Russian army entered the city in 1940, that is, a period of 85 years, a large part of the lesson plan was dedicated to instruction in Hebrew and the bible.
In the course of time, the school carried through many reforms in order to achieve significant improvements. For example, at the beginning, teacher's pay varied according to the size of their classes and the subjects they taught. This occurred with the approval of the government's school regulating body, the State School Council, which until the school year 1869/1870 had to approve all school business, like obtaining a teacher for an open position or expenditures for instructional material, furniture or necessary repairs. Only in this year did the Community obtain the autonomy promised them by the law and became free to make its own decisions about its internal affairs. The oversight by the officials was now only an empty formality.
The first director of the school who also gave religion instruction was the district rabbi, Dr. Lazar Igel, as preacher and educator, a personality of towering significance. This impression, following from the respect owed the spiritual head of the Community, proved itself in the course of time to be false. A director must dedicate his whole effort to the school and is not permitted to be concerned with other agendas. Rabbi Dr. Igel, therefore resigned in 1863. His successor was Salomon Schuetz. After his retirement in 1887, the position was supposed to go to one of the teachers with the longest service, L. H. Baltinester or Adolf Steinhaus. Both candidates received the same number of votes in the Community Council two times and finally in the Community Council meeting of January 1, 1888, L. H. Baltinester was elected as chief teacher with a majority vote. When he retired in 1897 after 46 years of service, the teacher with the most seniority, Herman Feuerwerk was supposed to be his successor, but certain currents originating from the outside influenced the Community Council and Kalman Dubensky, a teacher working at the Communal Boys' School on Landhausgasse was named as school director. He is the author of the celebratory speech written for the anniversary celebration of 1905.
The first teachers in 1855 were; Abraham Gruenspan, extraordinary student at Lemberg University, L. H. Baltinester, Adolf Kettenberg, Salomon Loebel, A. M. Kormus, a former student at the Lemberg University, Johann Milkiewicz, (teacher of Romanian and Polish languages), Anna Weinberg and Jetti Ohrenstein (teachers of Home Economics). Since after a short time, teacher Loebel left, he was replaced by Adolf Steinberg who was summoned from Tarnopol. The second teacher for Hebrew, Aron Bettelheim was soon replaced by Simon Rabner, an author of Hebrew poetry. When teacher Gruenspan left the institution after his trial period Samuel Gerstman from Moravia was called to take his place. This lack of local teachers continued until 1882. It ended when the first Jewish graduate of His Majesty's Teacher's Training School in Czernowitz applied for a job. The worthy teachers S. Schutz, U. Landes, Kraushaar, Rauch, Ehrenkranz, Hauselmann, Miss Blum, etc. were hired shortly thereafter.
When the school was founded, the Executive Committee, at the order of the local school commissioner, had to appoint inspectors. The first were; Dr. Heinrich Atlas, P. Kunz and Mendel Tittinger.
Running the school required large expenditures and to cover these expenses, tuitions were instituted. The lowest tuition was 30 kreuzer and the highest was 1 Fl., 30 kreuzer. The tuition charged depended on the means of the parents. For further coverage of the expenses, a charge for kosher meat was introduced. In the first year, the total expense for running the school was 3700 gulden. During the first three years, the total expenses were 8000 gulden and the total income from tuition was 3090 gulden and 20 kreuzer.
The rented building on Karolinengasse was not adequate for the school's needs and the energetic president, Isak Rubinstein worked with all means available to him to erect their own school building. In 1858, the purchase of a building lot on Bischofsgasse (later, Universitaetsgasse) was considered. The state 11 government refused to approve the purchase because according to the law of October 2, 1853, Jews were not allowed to own land. President Rubinstein quickly decided to visit Kaiser Franz Joseph to ask him to approve the purchase of the land. His request was approved (order of April 1859) and the piece of land was purchased for 1577 guldens, but later when it proved to be to small, it was exchanged for a larger adjacent lot. The building was completed in 1860 and in the same year placed at the disposal of the school.
The number of students grew with every year. In the school year 1856/1857, there were 306 students (198 boys and 108 girls), 1857/1858 - 310 students (171 boys and 139 girls), 1866 - 575 students (261 boys and 314 girls) but already in 1872/1873 the total number of registered students was 741.
The money invested for the teacher's pension fund reached the sum of 1200 guldens in 1858.
In 1879, the Community Council enacted a new pay schedule for the teachers, making their remuneration equal to that of other public school teachers.
The founding of modern Jewish Community schools was not confined to Czernowitz. In Suceava, there was a similar institution, in Sadagura, there was a Baron Hirsch school that was maintained by the Baron Moritz-Hirsch Endowment for Professional Education of Jewish Children.
We can thank the work by Dr. Jakob Thron, The Jews in Austria, Berlin 1907, for our knowledge of some statistical details about the role Bukovina Jews played in public education in Bukovina.
In 1880, the first time a census of elementary school population sorted by religion was published, there were 15,020 children (9476 boys and 5544 girls) in the Bukovina elementary schools; of these, 2540 children (815 boys or 8.59% and 1725 girls or 31.11%) were Jewish. In the private elementary schools, there were 1448 children (870 boys and 578 girls). Of these, 542 were Jewish (294 boys or 33.8% and 248 girls or 42.91%).
In 1890, the number of Jewish school children was 5943 (2514 boys and 3429 girls). 5161 of these children were in public schools (2004 boys or 9.72% and 3157 girls or 18.94%) and 782 were in private schools (510 boys or 36.54% and 272 girls or 35.45%). The total number in this year was 38,299 in public schools (21,633 boys and 16,666 girls) and 2163 students in private schools (1396 boys and 767 girls).
In 1900 the number of Jewish school children rose to 8866 (4035 boys and 4820 girls). Of this number, 7720 (3169 boys or 8.69% and 4551 girls or 13.75%) studied in public schools. Compare these numbers to the total public school population of 69,621 (36,518 boys and 33103 girls). In private schools, there were 1135 Jewish students (866 boys or 47.3% and 269 girls or 28.38%) compared with the total private school population of 2779 children (1831 boys and 948 girls).
In 1890, there were only 4 male Jewish teachers and 11 female Jewish teachers or 15 Jewish teachers total in the entire land teaching at public elementary schools (3.37%) and in 1900, 9male teachers and 63 female teachers, altogether 72.
In 1895 there were 41 cheders with 55 melamidim and 1142 students; in 1899, 72 cheders with 86 melamidim and 4,531 students and in 1903, 66 cheders with 79 melamidim and 1476 students.
Great efforts were made to increase the number of students. In 1869, the Community Council attempted to set up evening courses for apprentices, but this attempt failed because of the lack of interest at that time by the craftsmen. After a year, the courses were discontinued because of poor attendance.
The elementary school law of 1869 proved to be very disruptive because it led to the school loosing its right to operate as a public school. Drawn out negotiations were necessary to finally restore this right in 1875.
Also, the disastrous infighting between the Orthodox and the Enlightened which was know to have caused a split in the Community led to a crisis, as a consequence of which, the kosher meat surcharge, a main source of income for the school couldn't be collected. Only a reconciliation of the two sides finally brought the hoped for improvement.
The thirst for knowledge of the Bukovina Jews could not be satisfied with the basic knowledge taught in the elementary school. Since they received the full rights of citizenship and all schools in Bukovina stood open to them, the percentage of Jewish students in middle schools and institutions of higher learning grew with every year. The anti-Jewish attitude of many of the teachers who came from the West to teach in the middle schools, had as a consequence that the Jewish students were really put to the test and proved to be among the most capable and successful in life. The situation changed as later, many Jewish teachers were hired in the middle schools and due to a new student friendly school law that reduced the demands on the knowledge of the students. The number of Jewish high school 12 graduates grew meteorically and before the war, there was the danger of an intellectual elite rising among the Jewish youth.
In Czernowitz, the first middle school, His Majesty's Obergymnasium was opened in 1808 under Kaiser Franz. The anniversary publication of 1909 reported several significant statistics.
In the opening year of 1908, there were no Jewish students. In the 1820/1821 school year, there was a single Jew among the 239 students. In 1845/1846, out of 343 students there were 10 Jews (counted as belonging to the German Mosaic confession). In the 1865/66 school year of the 162 German students, 100 were Jewish. In 1885/1886 there were 314 Jews among the 380 Germans. In 1905/1906 the total number of students was 1100 and among these, 870 had German as their mother tongue and 664 of these were of the Mosaic confession. In the anniversary year of 1908 there were 528 Jews in the institution. The decrease in the number of Jewish students at the Obergymnasium can be explained by the increasing Jewish enrolment at other middle schools like the City Gymnasiums 1 and 2 and the Oberrealschule 13 constantly grew.
In 1905, there were 755 Jewish students in the two city Gymnasiums in Czernowitz, 203 Jewish students at the Radauti Gymnasium (55%), 202 at the Sereth Gymnasium (55%), 191 in the Suceava Gymnasium (30%).
There were 356 Jewish students registered in the Realschule in Czernowitz (64%), altogether 1707 Jewish middle school students (46%). In 1909 the number of students in Bukovina gymnasiums was 3603 and among these were 1451 Jews (40.3%).
Many Jewish parents wanted to lead their sons to technical professions. This explained the great number of Jewish students at the realschulen. During the 1901/1902 school year, among the 507 realschule students there were 323 Jews, in 1907 included in the total Bukovina realschule population of 613 students were 316 Jews.
The Teacher Training Institute founded in Czernowitz in 1874, had the primary goal of training teachers for the Romanian and Ruthenian 14 elementary schools in the villages of the land when there were sufficient teachers in the city schools. The Jews who lived primarily in the cities, showed little desire to become village teachers. In the opening year, there were only four Jewish students, in 1888 there were 10, and in 1907, the number rose to 20. The number of female students was at the Institute was greater. In 1878, it reached 30% and in 1888, even 40% of the total number of matriculated students. Thereafter, the percentage sank very quickly. In 1907, it fell to 4.9%.
In Czernowitz, the State Vocational School had a lower commercial school associated with it, with almost exclusively poor Jewish students, since the course of study was only three years. In 1907, out of a total of 164 students, 153 were Jewish.
The Jewish students didn't only fill the middle schools; they also chose technical schools for vocational training. When such a school was opened, Jewish students soon found their way to it.
The statistical yearbook for Bukovina for 1907 listed 360 Jews out of a total of 1219 students registered at vocational schools or 29.58%. The number of Jews in the entire land at that time was 12.4% of the total population.
There was for many years in Czernowitz, an agricultural middle school, which similarly had a number of Jewish students far greater than the percent of Jews farmers in the land which was probably the reason for the later closing of the school.
Also, the education of girls was taken ever more seriously by Jewish parents. In the seventies in the previous century, there was a Higher Daughter's School in Czernowitz. It was a bourgeois school with three classes and laid special stress on learning the French language. The instructional language was, as in all public schools, German. The number of Jewish students in the school rose yearly. The six class Girls Lyceum in the Landhausgasse took the place of the Higher Daughter's School and was a middle school in which Jewish students were in the majority.
In 1907, out of a total of 447 students, 253 were Jewish (56.59%).
In order to give the graduates of this school the opportunity to pursue higher education, a reform gymnasium course of study was added to the curriculum. The way to every university stood open to graduates of this course. Jewish girls comprised about 80% of the students in this school.
Austria was, for the longest time a Catholic state in which the church had a decided influence on the education of children. That is why religious education had an important place in the lesson plan. In the name of equal rights for all citizens, Mosaic religious instruction was obligatory for all Jewish students. Although not all the expectations of the Jewish National circle were met, this instruction, however, gave the students without exception the knowledge of reading Hebrew texts (prayers, the bible, the prophets and the psalms) and the realization they belonged to Judaism. At the middle schools, as a rule, the local rabbi was entrusted with the task of teaching religion and occasionally, special religion teachers were appointed. In Czernowitz, Rabbi Dr. Igel gave the religion instruction at the gymnasium in two sections four hours weekly and on Saturdays he held religious services. His successor was Rabbi Dr. Rosenfeld, who however because of a heavy workload gave up the job as religion instructor. Thereafter for a long time, Abraham Heumann who came from Germany taught at State Gymnasium I as His Majesty's Religion Instructor. He was a sterling example of his profession. Later, many religion teachers taught at the various schools. The following should be mentioned: Isaak Hirsch at State Gymnasium III who wrote the pamphlet, My Contempt for the Bible and Babylon. It was a polemic against Professor Friedrich Delitzsch's attempt to Babylonize the bible.
The German University, founded in 1875 in Czernowitz made it easier for many Jews to obtain a higher education, since people without means, who up to then were not able to attend a western University, were now able to matriculate at either of the secular faculties, the Philosophy or the Law schools. Also, the number of Jewish students at the University grew with every year at the same rate as it did at the other schools of the land.
The highest educational establishment in the land gave, thanks to the comprehensive university library and thanks to the work of great scholars, among them Jewish professors with international reputations, an acquaintance with Western culture and the Jewish students were the most thankful sons of alma mater Czernoviciensis. The danger of full assimilation in the surrounding Christian world, especially the German was great. Just in time, the Zionist movement started and drew the best of the Jewish students to its banner. Herzl 15 was loved like a father and celebrated like a hero. His motto, return to Judaism before we return to the Jewish land fell on fertile ground in Czernowitz. The Jews wanted to prove to their German fellow students that they no longer wanted to be mindless followers, but they wanted to lead their own life outside of the study hall.
The first Jewish student society, Hasmonaea bravely took this step. When it appeared the first time on a stroll with cap and sash, (among them was the later leader of the Bukovina Zionists, Dr. Mayer Ebner) the Christian students were outraged at this Jewish chutzpah and in the student manner, much blood flowed. The young Hasmonaea, however had the proud satisfaction that the dean of the School of Philosophy, Dr. Isidor Hilberg, a Jew, appeared at their opening ceremony and in his speech proudly declared his belief in Jewish nationalism. Even though Royal Advisor Hilberg never actually engaged in any Zionist activities and only lived for his science, his words stimulated introspection. In the course of the next several years, new Jewish student groups with various orientations formed such as Emunah, Heatid, Hebronia, Zephira, which all placed themselves at the service of Zionism. Several years before the war, the Jewish student organizations became a factor of political significance especially since one of the professors at the University, Dr. Leon Kellner, the well known friend and fellow worker of Herzl's, with the help of his devoted students, formed the Volksrat 16 and successfully led the fight for purity in public Jewish life against the demagoguery that was widespread at that time. Judaism can thank him for the founding of Toyenbee Hall in a splendid building donated by Marcus Kisslinger where every Saturday afternoon lectures were held on Zionism and general problems and where the poorer citizens could take a lively part in the intellectual life of the nation.
In 1908, the Zionist student-body opened the fight for the recognition of their nationality at the University of Czernowitz. The Austrian laws were incomplete in this respect. Nationality was determined on the basis of the mother tongue. Since the Jews in the land neither lived in a closed community nor spoke their own language, they were considered either German, Polish, Hungarian, etc. The legal foundation for the recognition of a separate Jewish nation didn't exist. Moreover, no government of the multinational-state of Austria was inclined to create another nationality to aggravate the existing problem of multiple nations. Furthermore, the University of Czernowitz was situated in a region with many languages and a German minority.
The German character and the existence of the high level of education, this escape hatch of culture to the East were endangered when the majority of the student-body didn't belong to the German nationality. Here, the Jewish student associations stepped in. Yiddish was not recognized as a mother tongue and therefore, the organized Zionist students entered Romanian or Ruthenian as their mother tongue on official documents. The university officials were hit in a weak spot. Since all efforts to move the students from their nationalist viewpoint were without success, a compromise was reached. In the statistics, the Jewish students were still counted among those whose mother tongue was German, but it was noted that they belonged to the Jewish nationality. This was something new in the ruling circles of Austria. Since also the German Christians in the land, to their own detriment, because of their shortsighted anti-Semitic politics, declined to be counted with the Jews, it was to be expected that sooner or later, that regardless of their mother tongue, a Jewish nation would be recognized by Austrian law. In this case, the creation of Jewish elementary and middle schools and even in the distant future, a Jewish university in Czernowitz was to be expected. This hope was destroyed forever by the collapse of Austria in the World War, 1914-1918. That, however, the Austrian officials (the University in Czernowitz) recognized the Jewish nation, was a glowing page in the history of the Jewish student-body of the city.
During the war, 1914-1918, Czernowitz was intermittently occupied by the Russians. The Jews knew very well what they could expect from the Tsar's soldiers and whoever had the possibility, tried to rescue himself by fleeing to the western provinces of the Empire. The refugee stream poured especially into Moravia, to Prague and to Vienna. Everywhere, there were welfare offices for refugees and school attendance was made possible for the youth. The public elementary and middle schools stood open to the children. In Vienna, in the II district, parallel classes at His Majesty's Sophien Gymnasium were opened for students from Galicia and Bukovina. These classes were attended mainly by Jewish students. Also, the teacher corps consisted mainly of refugee Jewish professors. Likewise, in the X district, Jewish students could attend His Majesty's Maximilian Gymnasium and continue their studies during the war.
One exception was a small private Hebrew elementary school in Czernowitz that was established by the Hebrew School Association, Safa Iwria. The school was located in premises adjacent to Toynbee Hall and was to move to its own quarters on Synagogengasse which, however were never completed or furnished. The school suffered from a lack of a guaranteed source of funds for its support and survived, so to speak form hand to mouth. The teachers were poorly and inconsistently paid. The number of registered students sank from year to year. The school was associated with a course to educate Hebrew kindergarten teachers. Most of the graduates emigrated to Eretz Israel.
Schaje Goldfeld and Dr. Josef Bierer were of great service to the Hebrew schools in the land.
In 1919, the government build a Jewish State Gymnasium on Austria (Ghica-Voda) Platz in Czernowitz. Nothing Jewish was contained in the lesson plan, only the students were children of Jewish parents and they felt the forced concentration in this institution like a coerced ghetto. The class rooms were insufficient and instruction had to be divided into two shifts, before and after noon. The first director, Dr. Samuel Spitzer was a Jew, a fine educated man, who grew up in the liberal era in Vienna and had no understanding for Jewish-national concerns. He was followed as leader of the institution by Dr. Markus, a nationalist Jew and Dr. Emil Sigall. After they left, only Romanian directors were appointed. These saw in the Jewish students and the few remaining Jewish teachers enemies of the Romanian national state whose exposure appeared to be a worthwhile patriotic deed.
The situation of the Jewish school children in the provinces was the same or even worse. In Radauti, Jewish school girls were singing during a break. A Christian student was annoyed that the Jews were singing and she reported to the girls were singing the Communist hymn. The protestations of the Jewish students that they didn't even know the Communist hymn were no help. The students were expelled from the school. With every year, the chauvinism of the Romanian intellectuals grew in strength and ruthlessness. For Jewish school children, going to school was like going through hell. The graduation exam in the middle schools gave the examiner an opportunity to make life difficult for the Jewish candidate. In Czernowitz there was a particularly blatant case. On the evening of a day on which all the poor students had failed the examination, some of them demonstrated against an examiner who they met by chance on the street. Cries like down with the Bakschisch rang out. The Romanian press claimed that down with the Bakschisch in the language of the Jews was equivalent to down with the Romanian government and that this utterance deserved the strongest punishment. Public opinion was systematically poisoned. Student Fallik was put on trial and a Romanian school youth from Kimpolung killed him with a revolver in the court building in Czernowitz before the verdict was announced. The echo of this murder reverberated throughout the entire land and also in the Parliament in Bucharest, the anti-Semitic tide rose high. The murderer was later set free by a jury. The coffin of the martyr Fallik was followed by 20,000 mourners and he was buried with honors in the Czernowitz Jewish Cemetery. It was the silent protest of the pain filled Jews of the city who were condemned to helplessness.
The prosperous Jews of the city preferred to send their sons and daughters to private schools. Here, the Jewish children were in the majority and the higher tuition worked wonders. The same teachers who at the public (state) middle schools couldn't do enough to show their hatred for the Jews became benevolent, even mild, because it was in their interest and the interest of the school owner to do so. The attempt of the Worker's Education Association, Morgenroit, to maintain a private vocational school with Yiddish as the instructional language failed because of the antagonistic attitude of the Romanian officials.
In both the secular schools of the newly christened Romanian University in Czernowitz, Jewish students were admitted, but their number was small compared to the total enrollment at the University before the war.
A National Jewish movement of the student body became impossible. The Zionist student organizations were reorganized and for a while, it looked like the old spirit would flame up, but the Romanian government finally forbid, with a stroke of the pen, further activity of Jewish student organizations.
40 years of Romanian work by our Zionist oriented intellectuals ended. Only a few foresighted people were able to rescue themselves from the impending catastrophe by emigrating to Israel.
Only in the question of schools was an exception made. Jewish schools were opened in Czernowitz; among them was a seven class school in the former building of the Jewish elementary school 17 . The language of instruction was Yiddish and boys and girls studied together. There were even textbooks in the Yiddish language, translated word-for-word from the official Russian textbooks, but they were available in such small quantities that among 20 students, barely one received a book. The school director was a Jewish Communist imported from Russia who was active as an organizer and propagandist, but showed very little interest in education. His goal was to drive the Jewishness out of the school children. He and the students were watched over by a Jewish party member, the Zawped, a young man who was not overly threatening, but nevertheless was feared and detested.
The students were taught to be ashamed of their parents if they led a religious life style. The enjoyment of matzo during the Passover holiday was strictly forbidden as well as the visiting of houses of God. In parents meetings the school director and the teachers designated by him preached the gospel of Communism and laid special stress on anti-religious propaganda.
There was no school on Sundays. The anniversary of the revolution, January 1 and May 1 were holidays. No opportunity was lost to hammer into the school children how fortunate they were to grow up under the regime of Stalin (at the mention of that name, they had to applaud) and how highly they must prize their freedom. Concepts of bourgeoisie morality like honor, modesty, chastity, etc. lost any meaning. People who tried to live by these principals were held in general contempt.
The reeducation of the Jews was interrupted by the invasion of German and Romanian armies. Some of the Jewish school children, together with their parents were murdered and the rest were imprisoned in the ghetto or sent to their deaths in Transnistrien. The Temple in Czernowitz, a splendid building went up in flames and the chief rabbi, Dr. Abraham Mark and many Community functionaries died agonizing deaths.
When the Russian army returned in 1944, the Jews were already annihilated. Also, the Jewish school system gradually collapsed. The few remaining Jews and the Jewish refugees from central Russia withered in the melting pot of the Russian masses of different races.
Prof. Dr. Hermann Sternberg (Tel-Aviv)
In 1945 this underground school was completely liquidated. Rabbi Derbarmediger succeeded with the greatest sacrifice in sending 100 orphans to Eretz Israel 18 .
The yeshiva Beth Israel be Dameschek Elieser existed in Wiznitz since 1918 and was really a continuation of the yeshiva operated at the court of the Wiznitzer Rabbi Reb Israel before the First World War, which had been directed by his son Reb Mendel.
The new yeshiva with 30 students, founded by Reb Elieser was fully modernized. The director of the school was the Dajjan 19 of the Wiznitzer Kehilla, Reb David Schneebalg. To spare the students eating in private houses, in 1921 a boarding school with a cafeteria was opened at the yeshiva.
The money for building the boarding school was donated by the married couple, Chaim and Frieda Iwanier from Czernowitz. The number of students grew from year to year and reached 150 in 1934 which necessitated an expansion of the classrooms and the boarding facilities. The monthly budget ran between 55,000 and 80,000 lei. With the help of the industrialist Max Delfiner from Wiznetz, they were able to meet these costs.
The Wiznitz Yeshiva distinguished itself by the development of a new pedagogical technique. There were 5 classes in which in addition to exact study of the Talmud text, special attention was paid to real interpretation. In the yeshiva, in addition to Talmud study, the students were taught a craft like carpet weaving. The yeshiva also owned a comprehensive library with over 5000 volumes. The teaching staff included 4 well known Talmud scholars.
After the Russians marched in, the yeshiva was closed at the orders of the Soviet officials. Many of the students were able to escape to America and Eretz Israel. In Eretz Israel, Rabbi Eleasar reopened the yeshiva in Bnei Brak.
In Siret, the son of Reb Israel, Baruch Hager who was rabbi in Siret opened the yeshiva Beth Israel wtomchim d' orajtha, which, in 1938 he reorganized on the pattern of his brother's yeshiva in Wiznitz. He added a craftsman school and a boarding school. In 1940, this yeshiva was also closed by the Soviet officials. Some of the students emigrated to Eretz Israel where Reb Baruch reopened the school in Hafia.
Before WWII, both yeshivas, in Wiznitz and Siret were supported with large sums from the Professor Haffkine Foundation for Yeshivas under the direction of the well known Jewish historian, Dr. Professor Markus Wischnitzer who visited the yeshivas several times.
In addition to the yeshivas already mentioned, there was a fourth Bukovina yeshiva in Banila which was run by Rabbi Horowitz in a old fashioned strictly orthodox manner
Contributed by Dr. N. M. Gelber (Jerusalem)
1) Dacian: An ancient country and Roman province in SE Europe roughly equivalent to Romania and Bessarabia. Return
2) Kaddish, Jahreszeiten: Kaddish is the prayer a Jew says for a departed loved one. The prayer actually doesn't say a word about death, but talks about the greatness and glory of God. Jaheszeiten literally means time of year, or the anniversary date of the death. Return
3) Melamed: A teacher who didn't have the qualifications of a Rabbi. The plural is melamidim. Return
4) Kashrut: Kosher laws, the Jewish dietary laws. Return
5) Synagogengasse: Synagogue Street. I'm not going to translate the German street names. Return
6) Haggadah: The book used during the Passover seder. Return
7) Rashi: Rashi is one of the most well know writers of Talmud commentaries. Rashi is an acronym for Rabbi Solomon bar Isaac. He lived from 1040 to 1105. Return
8) Baal Shem Tov: Master of the Good Name; Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (1700-1760), the founder of Chasidism in 1736. Return
9) Enlightened: A movement started in reaction to the ways of the Chasidim, who the enlightened Jews considered backwards and narrow minded which had the goal of bringing the Jews into modern western society. Also know as Maskilim. Return
10) Community: The author uses the term Kultusgemeinde This term literally means religious community. In this essay, it refers to the Jewish community of a town, or sometimes to the governing structure of the Jewish community as defined by the Austrian government. I simply use the term Community whenever the author uses Kultusgemeinde or Gemeinde. There were two committees, the Kultusvorstand (which I call the Board of Directors) and the Kultusrat (which I call the Community Council). There were also, a president, vice presidents, a secretary, a rabbi, religion teacher, etc. The committees were elected by the Community and I assume that some or all of the other positions were appointed. Return
11) State: When I say state, I am referring to the government of Bukovina. Sometimes I'll use the word land to refer to Bukovina. Return
12) High school: The school is actually called a gymnasium in Europe and is roughly equivalent to our high school. You have to take a test or Abiture to graduate and be able to go on to the university. Return
13) Oberrealschule: Translates literally as upper middle school. Return
14) Ruthenian: a race that constituted 38% of Bukovina. They spoke the Ruthenian language. Return
15) Herzl: Theodor Herzl (1860-1904). The founder of Zionism. He decided that Jewish assimilation in Europe was impossible and that the only solution to the Jewish problem was the establishment of a Jewish national state. Return
16) Volksrat: Literally, People's Council. A political party with a Zionist bent. Return
17) Elementary school: Whenever the author said Volksschule I've been translating it as elementary school. They are actually a little different. At least in present day Germany, a Volksschule consists of grades 1 to 8. Return
18) Eretz Israel: The land of Israel. Return
19) Dajjan of the Wiznitzer Kehilla: Dajjan is a judge in a religious court and Kehilla is the government of the Jewish Community (see note 10). Return
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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.
History of Jews in Bukowina Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2018 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 29 Apr 2009 by LA