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[Columns 361-362]

Bluma Kirshenfeld–Wasser

 

The kindergarteners next to the Tel–Chai School

What a school that was!

by Bluma Kirshenfeld–Wasser, Tel Aviv

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

A Jew has to start with a short introduction: I have to admit and confess, that it is not without a heavy heart that I return to the families of my childhood. Everything is so different now! My experiences during the war have colored those school years with a different shade entirely.

Back then as a girl with two plaited braids, I used to run around the streets of Hrubieszow full of childish glee and without a care in the world.

Those times now seem unreal. After all, for many years after that, we would be marked with the signs of death from Hilter's plague!

My experiences from those years of youth are now nothing more than a collection of occurrences and facts about people – something like a beloved, fantastic, and distant dream. I will nevertheless try to conjure up from that sweet dream several concrete facts and forms.

We lived in the itinerant book seller's yard on Liubelski Street. My family: the father, Yitzchok Meyer Kirshnfeld from Dubienske, a butcher and also a scholar, had composed the books Mitamei Yitzchak and Yitzei Yitzchak L'Shoakh. My mother Leah from the Holtzer family, my two older brothers, Avrom Nokhem, one of the Zionist activists of the town, now in Cuba, and Yosef (who died in Bilgoraj), and my sister Dora (who was rescued). My mother had to demonstrate a great deal of wisdom and creativity to make ends meet with my father's unstable income.

The war with the Bolsheviks in 1920 was my first significant and painful experience. During the attack on our town, together with the other children, we ran to Shul Street, where we found the large synagogue with its thick outer walls, the house of study, and many rooms belonging to the Chassidic court. The school where I learned had been closed and the children wandered aimlessly about.

 

Oh, our school!

Oh, our school… It was a big deal in the town. It's name, “Ha–Tikvah,” also gave voice to the Zionist hopes of our group, who had set it up and kept it up. Under the banner of traditional Jewish kheyderim[1] a new form of education emerged, heralding innovation for the youth. Hebrew wasn't only the language of the school, but also its substance. Once I might have written off the phenomenon as pretentious and hoity–toity, but that's not the case. Looking back from today, I consider it a protest against everything that restrained our horizons and maintained the status quo.

The naive simplicity of the school builder's emotional relationship with Hebrew remains a clear picture in my memory. My brother led me to Pankse Street, where they were carrying out registration for the Ha–Tikvah School. It was there that I sang my Hebrew songs. I remember how proud the administrator was when I sang in my shrill, childish voice, “We have a land and it's called Palestine.” Everyone sang along and helped me with the words.

 

Builder, Teacher, and Student

The builders of the Ha–Tikva School: Dovid Tenenboym, may he rest in peace, was a distinguished Zionist activist, as well as Avrom Nokhem Kirshenfeld, Yisroel Shuchman, Dovid Brand (today in Israel), and others. The first teachers were: the Flaksers (brother and sister) from Lemberg, Shtekl, Ochs, Nirenberg, Blumshtein, Eisenberg–Eshed, Borech Yanover, and Mutshnik.

The local services from our school were more modest: two rooms off a street between stores. Intellectual tension always reigned supreme there.

The teacher Eisenberg–Eshed with his idealistic attitude occupied the place of honor. Actually, I have him to thank for the fact that I decided to continue passing on the torch to the next generation.

The blue and white had full reign over our Ha–Tikvah School. White and blue were our uniforms, the school was decorated in white and blue, and all of our events had a white and blue theme. Many of our events were set up, not just in order to cover or deficit, but in order to demonstrate that which was new and enlightened.

 

The school expanded and moved to a new location on Gurna.

In 1925 I left for Vilna, where I dedicated myself to the teacher's calling. In the difficult years away from home, the memory of my Ha–Tikvah School and its teachers nourished me with courage. When I came back to Hrubieszow in 1930, I was already another person, and the school had also changed. New people had taken over. The base of the Tel–Chai School had expanded. It became a respectable place of importance in town. The administration was pro–pioneer and labor–Zionist. Some of the noteworthy people and teachers in the school were: Meitshe Hoffman, Glassberg, Reichman, Polushko, Sandler, and others. The material position was rather dire. And we, the young teachers, had to roll up our sleeves to fight for the continuation of the school.

In my later years as a teacher, in Dobzhin, Dubienke, Sokhachev, Lodz, and finally at the Hebrew “Tarbut–Shul” in the Warsaw ghetto, I learned about the ideal role model of a Jewish teacher in Hrubieszow.

Translator's Footnote:

  1. The traditional Jewish elementary school where religious texts & Hebrew are studied Return


[Columns 363-364]

The Joys and Oys of our Tel–Chai School

by Hersh Pachter, Maged

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

 

Hersh Pachter

 

Eighteen years have passed since our Tel–Chai School ceased to exist. Our Yiddish–Hebrew Tel–Chai School came together as a school cultural organization supported by Labor–Zionism. A great deal of care and effort was put in so that the school could exist.

We became the fundraisers[1] for the school. Our skillful secretary, Shimen Glozberg, would find new donors each week for the school, and I always found new people to help us gather funds. Hrubieszow warmly brought us to life, but that was still not enough.

The Jewish community shared small subsidies with us, but they never completely covered our costs in cash; they used to demand paying up our debts from the taxpayer. The burden fell once again on me. With God's help, as the money was used by the teachers, we succeeded in collecting the taxes. Each month we would run a “Flower Day” with the help from “Freiheit” (Freedom). Twice a year we used to organize a performance to benefit the school. “Freiheit” used to run one of the performances with the help of the teachers, while the second would be organized by the students from the upper classes. Most of the population of the town was Jewish, but the leaders of the Polish intelligentsia skewed it so that nine thousand Jews would be represented by seven representatives and seven thousand Poles by seventeen represententatives.

As such, due to antisemitism, we never received any subsidies from the magistrate in spite of our best efforts.

I can recall a lovely episode. I suggested to our trustees that we feed the school children a bread roll with milk. They weren't especially enamored with the idea, but they weren't against it. After a concerted effort, we were finally able to convince them.

I turned our Hrubieszow committee towards America, where the secretary was my cousin, Avrom Pachter. It didn't last very long and the school received 50 dollars with which to feed the children. Thus my plan finally became reality. From a rotating list we invited women to divide up the rolls and milk for the children.

At every meeting of the trustees, the matter of funding for maintaining the faculty was the first priority. The friends of the trustees used to often give money from their personal funds as loans in order to pay the teachers. And with that stubbornness we were able to give 200 children a Jewish–nationalist education.

With a bowed head and a heavy heart I remember the young martyrs of our school, which were cut off from this world along with all of the inhabitants of Hrubieszow.

Translator's Footnote:

  1. Shnorers in Yiddish, closer to “beggar” or moocher Return


A School like that is hard to find!

by Klara Shoshani, Kibbutz Ashdot–Yakov

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

Recalling Tel–Chai School fills me with pleasant and loving memories.

I'm sitting here now, writing and thinking. Once upon a time...there were some good times. The memories unfold before my eyes, and slowly, I sink back into those warm, lost school years.

I still remember the Ha–Tikvah School on Gurna Street. Our dear school stood between two neighboring Christian houses: 5 rooms with an administrative office and a big yard. The kids used to laugh at the janitor, Benyomen, because he wasn't very bright. Our teachers were: Malke Ephron, Ochs, Handler, and Eisenberg–Eshed, who is today a friend of mine in Ein–Harod. The teacher Eisenberg was one of the founders of The Young Guard (Hashomer Hatzair) and all of the schoolchildren automatically belonged to the organization. He was the one who instilled in us a love of Israel and the Hebrew language.

He used to spend his free time in the orphanage, and like a good father he used to play games with us, with much love and tenderness. He was successful in that we all felt a great deal of comfort with him, which is something that we were otherwise lacking back then.

Later when Mr. Eisenberg emigrated to Israel, the school transformed into a cultural organization with the name of Tel–Chai. Meyche Hoffman took Mr. Eisenberg's place.

The transition was not an easy one: for starters, we used to learn in Hebrew, but suddenly we switched over to Yiddish. The teachers Meyche Hoffman, Reichman, Palushka, Leah Goldberg, Gazalchani, Kaleka and others belong to the Labor–Zionists, and their youth organization was Freedom (Freiheit). This resulted in a conflict between some of the students, but after a short while things quieted down.

Beloved by all the students, Meyche Hoffman became the animating spirit of the school. There was not one student that Meyche didn't know through and through. Everyone found in him a friend. As soon as he saw that a student seemed a bit lonely, he made an effort to start a conversation with them, and with great skill managed to remove their doubts and cheer them up.

Meyche Hoffman made a special effort to understand the children from the orphanage. When our hearts were filled with bitterness, we could confide in Meyche, and he would make us feel better.

I think that a school like that is hard to find. The school was the spark that inspired all of the other organizations. I will forever remember the day that Meyche emigrated to Israel. We hosted a good–bye party in the theater. Many students sang with him with tears in their eyes.


[Columns 365-366]

An Appeal from the Trustees of the Tel Chai School

by the Trustees of the 7th grade
Yiddish–Hebrew Tel Chai People's School in Hrubieszow

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

In the midst of the flood of suffering that poured down on us, forgetting in our own hour of need, we almost failed to notice the needs of the other children. Coming from parents stricken by poverty, they are silenced by their deep pain and troubles.

But we cannot be silent when we see these children on a daily basis, coming from weak and hungry Jewish families, coming to school at seven in the morning without having eaten breakfast, children who for weeks have not known the taste of milk, children who suffer right along with their parents…

The world that once showed these children compassion is now silent, overwhelmed by Jewish suffering overall, these children are now forced to the cities where they are abandoned to their own fates, to starve and suffer along with the adults.

We cannot allow this to happen!

The Yiddish–Hebrew Tel–Chai School, which has 200 children from the poorest rangs of Hrubieszow's population, are children who receive, in addition to an education, a knowledge of Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish, along with much needed food and writing supplies. These children call upon you to contribute and support their difficult struggle to continue on, which is now under threat of eviction. If it turns out that they should not be able to study further and be fed, then they could easily end up hungry and out on the streets of Hrubieszow. The trustees of the Tel–Chai School call upon our dear friends and comrades: help us in our difficult struggle for the continuation of our school!

The trustees: H. Pachter, Prof. S. Hubel, Prof. Z. Kreid, D. Goldfarb, A. Zimerman, A. Brenner, B. Frost.

Freedom Fighter's Voice (Bafrayungs–arbiter Shtime), July 20th, 1928


The End–of–the–Year Party
of the Hrubieszow Tel–Chai School

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

The first End–of–the–Year Party at the newly founded Tel–Chai school was for us a very festive occasion. Some of the activities that we ran were: a children's opera, poetry readings, and one–act plays in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish. Overall the first graders really stood out, as well as a 4th grade student, Feller, who recited Sholem Aleichem's, “What will become of me.” The student Englsberg also did a pretty good job with his recitation. All in all, the evening left a good impression.

Shabbos on the 7th was a meeting with the parents, where the teachers Hoffman and Palushka reported on the year's work. H. Hoffman spoke about the situation surrounding the schools, about the struggle with the Orthodox, and the material challenges that were worth overcoming. H. Palushka spoke about internal matters and about the school reaching the goals it had set for future changes. After that, the parents had a chance to speak. They all expressed their satisfaction with the school and its work.


Kopl Wertman of the Tel–Chai School Speaks

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

“The Revolutionary Girl”

Sarah is a small, chubby girl with two dull eyes looking out of a red face. When you ask her something, she answers, “first the revolution, then the union!” Once when her friend came and told her about a lecture at the union, her face flushed and she started talking about the revolution. The first sacrifice, she added, will be the landlord, who wants so much money for the rent. She will also make slaves of the bourgeoisie, and they will work for her. She will live in palaces and the bourgeoisie will live in cells. She will be a Countess and boss around her servants.

As she's giving her speech, her friend stands next to her, holding a book, where on the cover Kosciuszko is fighting the Russians. Upon seeing the picture, she said: “Just show me that story! Do you see, that's the French revolution. Boy, did they kill a lot of bourgeoisie there! Boy, how I love to see a war, a revolution! Boy, do I love to see the spilling of bourgeoisie blood!”

Her friend bursts out laughing: “That's Kosciuszko, duh!”

But Sarah keeps on going: “Well yeah, Kosciuszko was the leader of French revolution, duh!”

 

“Little Chaim”

Little Chaim (Chaimel) was a petite little creature with two thin little legs that look like two little sticks with boots. When he runs, the hump on his back rises, and from that vantage point we have the best witness of Chaimel's experiences. If someone hits him hard, Chaimel holds himself tight with his small hand and tries to convince himself that it doesn't hurt. He starts to ask himself, why am I weaker from Dovidl and Shmulik? And then quickly he remembers how the Rebbe once told them that a Jew is always small and weak and has to bow his head for a gentile, because that's how God wanted it. Even if the alphabet, “y” is the smallest letter.[1] Some kind of unknown force was holding him down, and that idea made him ask himself. “Is Dovidl a gentile?” Yes, he recalls, the Rebbe calls him “the big gentile.”[2] Chaimel's heart starts beating faster. If that's the case, and if it turns out that a gentile is superior, then a Jew like himself should bring Dovidl the “gentile,” something every day. There are those who bring him something, he assumes, and there are those who don't bring anything – and those he beats up.

But shortly thereafter, he remembers that Jews have the World to Come after death and that the gentiles are in hell. That thought calms Chaimel down a bit.

“Our words,” NM. 2, Hrubieszow, May 24th 1928

Translator's Footnote:

  1. This is a reference to the Jewish alphabet, or aleph–beys in Yiddish, where “y/i,” the letter “yod,” is the first letter in “Jew” in both Hebrew (yehudi) and Yiddish (yid). It is physically the smallest letter. Return
  2. It is not uncommon in Yiddish for a Jew to refer to another Jew as a gentile (goy) – whether in jest, affection, sarcasm, or reproach. Return

 

[Columns 367-368]

 
Jewish students of the National Gymnasium in 1929

Standing: Saul Nirberg, Ber Adamashek, Yenkl Feil, Waxman, Moniek Silverstein
Second row: Moniek Waxman, Yisroel Lox, Shloyme Ornstein, Matisyahu Eisenkranz, Yisroel Seid, Zisha Frimust, Franek Peretz, Efrat
Third row: Gershon Singer, Felik Ornstein, Yosel Reigel
 
Shoshana Widerman

 

Polish and Jewish students in the Gymnasium A.N. of Stashitz, 1928

 

The Jewish Youth of the Gymnasium

by Shoshana Gertner–Widerman, Givatayim

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

1930. After an exam that lasted two days, we gathered in the large hall of our Gymnasium (school) to hear the results. I stood next to my parents and impatiently listened to the names of my future classmates, whom Principal Nietz had called out. My name was similarly called out from the list, along with the rest who merited admission to the Gymnasium.

Instinctively, from the first day onward, we Jewish students tried to stick together, although the relationships with the Christian youth were satisfactory.

We inspired one another by reading the Classics, we learned geography together, studied the natural sciences, and researched the history of diverse groups of people. Often in order to solve a particularly difficult task, we would meet up with some of the Christian youth in the houses of their Jewish friends. The time spent together in school, scoping out the neighborhood, or hanging out at the library and movie theatre, brought both groups of people closer.

1934. We were violently ripped apart from this peaceful atmosphere when would hear the news of antisemitic unrest at the higher–level schools. As a sign of solidarity, the Christian students at the Gymnasium created a club against “Endekes”, whose goal was to terrorize the Jewish population of the town.

The solution from the Prime Minister, Skladkovski: Boycott the Jews – Yes, that's what made it possible for Polish youth to come out against the Jews.

At the Gymnasium the tension was palpable. With an oppressive mood hanging over us we used to come to school in the morning and tell each other the news of new attacks against Jews, carried out by Polish students, who we used to consider our friends. We used to go home in groups, so that we felt stronger, in the event of a possible clash.

Signs with large letters could be found on every wall: “Down with Jews!” On the walls of the Gymnasium another sign was on display: “Down with Baumgarten.” That was the name of a Jewish teacher who had taught us for a short period of time.

Remarkably, the Superintendent Saparavski, who came to Nietz Square to speak, found a Jewish student to lay the blame on, Mendel Levenfus. Only after a longer investigation did it come to light that the hero of the “wall–literature” was the son of the School Inspector, Yozef Griber.

There was also a portion of the faculty who praised the anti–Semitic outbreaks. I recall very clearly a lecture in Polish by Professor Zalevski from the 5th grade, where he said: “Jews gain their great wealth and property through theft and swindlery, and they have better opportunities for educating their children than the Christian population. According to his opinion, we should curtail the amount of Jewish children in school, because they don't do anything useful for Poland. They emigrate to Israel as soon as they finish their studies anyway, which just demonstrates their total lack of gratitude and utter flippancy towards the Polish state, who has treated them like their own native sons.”

We Jewish students were seething after hearing this anti–Semitic statement, and so we appropached the only Jewish–friendly teacher, Professor Shvidzinski, to unload our heavy hearts. He tried to calm and reassure us that this was just one individual's opinion, that of Professor Zavelski, and that the other teachers have different opinions. We understood that he was unfortunately unable to help us, but at the same time we could tell that our suffering caused him pain.

The personality of Professor Shvidzinski was the most sympathetic of all the professors who taught us. All of the surviving students from the Hrubieszow Gymnasium clearly recall how during the recesses he would stay in the hallway under the clock on the wall and read the F. F. S. newspaper, “Robotnik,” twirling his long mustache with his left hand underneath. From time to time he used to look up from his newspaper and smile at a passing student.

The way he treated Jews in the darkest days of Hitler's occupation met the highest expectations of a friend of the Jews.

[Columns 369-370]

Jewish and Polish Students of the Polish Primary School

Standing: Reizel Dimenstein, Rikel Eisen, Silbermintz, the rest: Polish students
Second row: Reizel Milner, three non–Jewish students, Marcha Finkelstein, Tila Eisen. Third row: Polish teachers and the priest
Fourth row: the third one, Oyfer, the fourth one, Gita Morgenstern

 

An example of the opposite sort of teacher was Professor Dubik, who with sadistic delight sought out the smallest mistakes of the Jewish students. Once he had chosen his victim, he would pummel the Jewish student with harsh words.

All of these upsetting antisemitic acts made us Jewish students band together even more tightly, and they motivated us to seek a solution to all the problems facing Jewish life. We formed a club to educate ourselves. At our secret gatherings (students were not allowed to get involved in politics), we used to invite representatives from different organizations, such as: Yosef Mernstein from “Hashomer–Hatzier” (The Young Guard), the teacher Hubel from “Polei–Zion” (Labor Zion), and Singer from “the Revisionists.” We would listen to their lectures with great curiosity. After the talks, we used to have discussions that would stretch late into the night. We would try to go home on the back streets to avoid running into one of our teachers.

The school's administration realized that we belonged to a secret club, but they were unable to discern any of the details. As a result of this deviance, the administration had a low opinion of our behavior.

In the beginning of 1946, I came back to Poland via Lublin and said good–be to my teacher, Professor Shvidzinski. With tears in his eyes he listed off all the Jewish students of Hrubieszow Gymnasium who were killed by Hitler's murderous actions. I can still hear his sad voice in my ears as he read the student's names.

As he listed the names I thought: Hitler didn't choose Polish soil as the slaughterhouse of the European Jewry by chance. The groundwork had already been laid by the Polish antisemites…

 

Pure and Radiant is the Sky

Pure and radiant is the sky,
fresh, and happy in the air,
–Sing to me, sing to me, a song of summer –
pleads the sick, weak child.

–Come with me to the valley, to the garden
We'll braid a wreath together;
from the flowers that grow
in the garden large and lovely.

–Oh my child, you see, broken
hangs my harp upon the wall,
long out of use from playing,
in my weak, old hand.

Long out of use from sweet joys,
is my old and sick heart,
summer, winter, fall, and spring,
the old pain lingers in me.

 

[Columns 371-372]

Golda Ader–Lerer

 

Jewish and Polish students of the Womens' Professional School

 

The Women's Professional School

by Golda Ader–Lerer, Ramat–Gan

Translated by Mira Rivka Blum

One of the most well–known schools among the Jewish community in our city until 1931 was the Women's Professional High School.

After ending primary school, we faced an important problem: what comes next? It goes without saying that we wanted to keep studying. Though we were still young, we could nevertheless realistically assess the futility of knocking on the doors of the Gymnasium. We analyzed the secondary education situation for the Jewish students and came to a decision: it's much more important for our futures that women have an occupation, and thus the idea for the Women's Professional school was born.

The professional training of the school consisted of three subjects: sewing, embroidery, and home economics. Aside from the aforementioned subjects, we also received a general education that would be equivalent to six classes in the Gymnasium. The last subject, home economics, caused us a lot of worry. Our parents were categorically against their daughters cooking unkosher food. Among us were children from very religious households, like (needs checking) Zlata Sakal, the daughter of Ariya Shoychet. We had to muster up a great deal of energy in order to convince our parents.

The school was run under the auspices of Sister Maria Voyeslavovna. The relationship with the Order of Sisters, and with Sister Maria especially, was not a particularly good one. At every possible opportunity, every undotted “i” or uncrossed “t”, she would criticize us and say that the Jewish students were wasting their time and money on their education when they were already good merchants.[1]

In 1932 the school's administration was taken over by Polish women–workers. The school was then brought up to a higher level. The change that came about was radical. We make a request to the teachers, and thanks to that, the students were treated with greater love and constructive feedback. However unfortunately for us, the Jewish children, the relationship did not change.

Take for example, a lecture giving an overview of economic geography by Sarah Chechovich from the secondary schools. During that time period, there were some Polish hooligans that murdered a Jewish student from Lemberg university. The lecture was a well–done, successful piece of work. But in the middle of the lecture, the Principal, Claudia Padharska, interrupts and says that the subject was communist propaganda.

“I don't want to tarnish the good name of this school, but otherwise, I would have you all arrested.”

Such incidents happened with great frequency. We suffered quite a bit, but our yearning to graduate helped us overcome these difficulties.

After graduating from the school we each had a profession, and thanks to that, we were all able to support ourselves throughout our lives. We were the trailblazers for many girls who followed our example.

“Under the Child's Crib”

Under the child's crib
A golden little goat stands.
He became a traveling merchant
Raisins and almonds.

Raisins with figs;
The child will sleep and be still.
Sleep, sleep, and as you rest,
Close your little eyes.

Close them up and then open them up,
the good angel is coming to wake you up.

Oh, you angel, go away already,
the child will sleep without fear.

Without fear, without terror,
the child will be able to learn Torah,
Torah, Torah, in his little head,
Milk and porridge and a little bread.

Bread with butter spread,
the mama and the papa
will lead the child to the chuppah.

Translator's Footnote:

  1. The Yiddish text uses the female form of merchants, hendlerins. Return

 

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