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[Page 115]


The Hebrew High School (Hagimnasia Haivrit)

Yaakov Maltz-Tel Aviv

The establishment of the Jewish high school in Piotrkow was an important event in the annals of Jewish education in the town. It was the culmination of several attempts to open a school that would impart to its students the knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish culture in addition to general studies.

In 1888, the periodical Hatzfirah published an announcement by Shmuel Abba Mindel regarding the opening of a private school “ which will teach its students Hebrew language and grammar as well as Torah, while living languages will be taught as required by the authorities by specialized teachers. The school will also provide meals to the students according to their ability to pay, and the character of students can be attested by the learned Rabbi Leib Eisenrowitz.”

The Russian-language Jewish weekly Voschov of 1890 relates that “ on October 16 of last year, the school inspector of the Warsaw district, accompanied by the director from Lodz, along with two senior teachers, visited the private Jewish school of Shmuel Abba Mindel of Riga, in the town of Piotrkow, and tested the students in Russian language and writing and in arithmetics, and were satisfied. The visiting dignitary expressed his gratitude to the above teacher, signed his name and left with an affectionate farewell. On December 17 the above Mindel was presented at the Piotrkow city council center a twenty ruble check by the director from Lodz at the order of the inspector, to be paid by the government treasury.”

In 1906 a school called “ reformed cheder” (cheder metukan in Hebrew) was opened in our town by M. Krinski, the author of the Hebrew grammar books. It was given this name so that the evil eye of fanatics would not harm it (the latter, speaking ashkenazic Hebrew, called it heder mesukan, Hebrew for “ dangerous school”). This school was closed when the First World War broke out.

In 1914 the Zionist association, Tarbut, started giving Hebrew lessons in the evenings; then it opened the Herzliya school. In 1919 the Piotrkow Zionists opened the Hebrew high school, which became an exemplary school.

According to Dr. Y. Katzenlbogen, the first principal of the school, it belonged to the association of high schools of Polish Jewry, founded by Dr. M. Braude of Lodz. The honorary president was Wilhelm Silberstein, the leading lay leader of the community. The members of school board were Dr. Avraham Leifuner, Avraham Stern, Yaakov Litmanowitz, Berish Dzibaltowski, Avraham Tarlowski, Yosef Goldfried, the dentist, H. Eicher, and Katzenlbogen himself. The chairman of the board was H. Eicher.

The board ran into many difficulties in finding a facility and securing funds. Its work was conducted under strained conditions. The economy of the newly liberated Poland was shaky, and the aftermath of the war was typified by social demoralization, increased crime, impoverishment, and, above all, the spread of anti-Semitism throughout the state. One must marvel at the courage of Piotrkow's Jewish community, which, under such conditions, was able to promote an important educational institution. Katzenlbogen writes: “ I remember how Henich Levin [nephew of Knesset member Rabbi Itche Meir Levin, a leader of Agudath Israel, husband of Rashka, the daughter of the learned Chassid, Rabbi Yukel Halevi Ish Horowitz; and father of the distinguished poet Leopold Lolek Levin], Yaakov Milstein, Israel Ziskind and many others who were not members of the board, nonetheless took part in organizing the school. I also recall Moshe Feinkind, Berish Rosenblum and Yaakov Maltz, who showed great interest in the school, but for several reasons did not take part in its organizing.”

The faculty consisted of Henich Horowitz (inspector and mathematics teacher), Manya Lefkowitz (natural history), Mrs. Gefner (Polish), Mrs. Stowitzka (Polish), Yakobson (Polish), Maria Kronman (Polish, spelling and arithmetics for the lower grades), Pinchas Bar-On (Hebrew), Yosef Berish Rosenblum (Hebrew), Imanuel Goldberg (Latin and mathematics), and Rivka Levin (daughter of the scholar Rabbi Yeshayahu Wolf Fulman).

Instruction was at a high level, which was also the assessment of the religion and public education inspector of the government. Two years after its founding, the school was recognized as a public school. The principal of the school from its inception was Dr. Katzenlbogen, who served until 1921. He was followed by Dr. Tzvi Zemel.

Dr. Katzenlbogen remarked that the board spent a great deal of time determining the tuition fees of needy students. Some 30 percent of the students received tuition reductions.

Moshe Omer relates: “ Among the founders were I, Avraham Stern, Henich Levin, Motl Goldblum, Yaakov Milstein, Berish Bitsh, Avner Margalit, Moshe Grinspan, Moshe Kenigstein, Yaakov Litmanovitz, and Avraham Poznanski. Some of them served on the first board after the opening of the school. Besides the teachers mentioned by the first principal of the school, Dr. Katzenlbogen, who survived the terrible catastrophe and now lives in Warsaw, were also Dr. David Zlotnick, Yaakov Fisch (Adi), and Shlomo Makovski. The last two, as well as Pinchas Bar-On and Yosef Berish Rosenblum, also taught Bible, Jewish history, modern literature and more. The physical education teachers were Krakowiak, followed by Grimeisen, who had served before as Maccabee coaches.

The paper Unzer Tzeitung, dated April 16, 1926, mentions the names of the graduates. The female graduates were Eicher, Barasch, Goldberg, and Hava (Hella) Rosenboim. The male ones were Shmuel (Mulek) Bronowski and Weintroib Kappel of Sulejow.

In the June 10, 1927 issue of the paper we are told that the “ Hebrew high school in our town was given full recognition by the authorities, according to the announcement of the ministry of education.” The paper adds that “ excellent results of the final exams of the school were submitted by the school. Eleven students took the tests and all passed. The female graduates are Basiar, Blumenstein, Grossberg, Hempel, Weinacht, Landa, and Stern. The male graduates are Wolfstein, Levin, Rosenzweig and Stern.”

Alumni of the Hebrew Gimnazjum in Piotrkow (late twenties)
Alumni of the Hebrew Gimnazjum in Piotrkow (late twenties)

The famous kindergarten of Maria and Roman Ginzberg, class of 1930
The famous kindergarten of Maria and Roman Ginzberg, class of 1930

The school administration proceeded to build a suitable facility for the school. After many efforts, a spacious three-story house was obtained on 8 Sulejowska Street.

In the new building the school increased its activities, increased the number of its students, improved the laboratory and expanded the library. The economic condition of the school, however, did not improve, and throughout its existence, until it came to an end when the war broke out in 1939, it struggled to balance its budget. Only through the efforts of the administration and the dedication of the students and the principal was a crisis avoided.

The principals of the school were Dr. Y. Katzenlbogen, Dr. Tzvi Zemel, H. Burenstein, Imanuel Mannes Goldberg, and Dr. Manheim.

The Principals and the Faculty

Dr. Katzenlbogen was the organizer and the first principal of the school, from 1919 to 1921. When he came to Piotrkow he dedicated himself to public activities and was the founder of the Ort vocational school. He survived the war and now lives in Warsaw.

He established the school curriculum together with the teachers, the students and the administration. He set the way for those who followed him.

Dr. Tzvi Zemel came in 1921 to head the institution. He had been known in Galicia, from where he hailed, as an experienced Zionist activist, who was distinguished by his dedication to the tasks he undertook. He came to Piotrkow in the year that some of the local Zionists, including Pinchas Bar-On, immigrated to Palestine, and there was a fear that the Zionist effort in the community would be weakened. He undertook to lead the Piotrkow Zionists. In 1924 the idea of issuing a Zionist paper, Unzer Zeitung, was realized, and he performed successfully as its editor. He served as a member of the Jewish community council and a patron of Hashomer Hatzair, and was also active on the board of the Friends of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He headed the school for eight years, then moved to Bialystok to head the 700-student Hebrew high school, the largest in Poland. In 1934 he immigrated to Palestine and headed the H.N. Bialik high school in Haifa. He died on 19 Kislev, 1947.

The teacher Henich Horowitz became the principal of the high school in Radom. His father was a founder of the Tarbut Zionist association in our town and his son followed in his footsteps. He was an affable person, one of the first Tzofim (scouts) in our town. He later joined the Tzeire Zion. In the Radom book, page 106, we find the following: “ The students regarded the school principal Horowitz as a friend and guide. He would explain his rules and policies in open discussions, and was willing to listen, to which his students responded with affection and friendship.”

The teacher Shlomo Makowski was a scholar, well versed in the Talmud and Poskim, early and late. He could quote entire chapters by heart from the old and the new sources. He was the son-in-law of the religious Zionist Yantche (Yaakov) Kenigstein, and the husband of Rachel, a teacher in the public elementary school for Jewish children. During the ghetto period he continued his activities in secret.

The teacher Dr. Grossfeld was a socialist Zionist thinker who devoted his free time to lecturing for the Poale Zion Z.S. Party on Marxism and Borochovism. His lectures were well received and attracted a large crowd to the party center every Wednesday. He was invited to serve as assistant principal of the high school in Radom.

The teacher Michael Weinsinger was active in the Gordonia Zionist youth. He is now in Israel, serving as the head of the high school section of the ministry of culture and education. His name is Dr. Michael Ziv.

Among the graduates of the school who later became teachers there, we should mention Leon Rosenzweig and his wife Genia, nee Stern. He was murdered by the Nazis and his widow, Mrs. Rozycka, lives with her daughter in Israel, where she holds an important position with Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Special articles have been written about the teachers Pinchas Bar-On, Yosef Dov Rosenblum, and Yaakov Fisch (Adi).

I am sorry I cannot provide more detailed information about the rest of the teachers, who dedicated their lives to the sacred task of educating hundreds of students in our town and its surrounding area.

lzkor Book

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