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[Page 120]

The Vocational School, Ort

The idea of vocational training in our home town had existed long before the establishment of the worldwide ORT organization.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the philanthropist and advocate, Gustave Levy (the head of the Doboroczynnosc), had promoted the notion – later widely accepted – that underprivileged youngsters should learn a trade, mainly carpentry and mechanics. Some courses had been organized but they lasted only a short time because of the outbreak of World War I.

The ORT school in Piotrkow became a reality only after the war, when the prominent ORT activist from Lodz, Dr. Jacob Kacenelbogen, became the principal of the Jewish Gimnazjum. Under his initiative, a conference of politicians, cultural activists and professional people unanimously resolved to establish an ORT school in Piotrkow. A committee of four was elected: Dr. Katzenelbogen, Moshe Feinkind, Dr. Leipuner and S.E. Zygelman. Thus, in 1921, a dream came true.

The vocational school, Ort - late thirties
The vocational school, Ort – late thirties

The Hertz Hall at Garncarska 7 served as the first location of the school. Moshe Shereshewski the well-known benefactor from Wola Krzysztoporska, was named as curator. Thanks to his leadership and the financial assistance of the Shereshewski- Szpilfogel families, a large building at Leonarda Street was purchased a few years later. The ORT in our home town, under the leadership of a group of skilled and dedicated men, emerged as one of the best Ort institutions, not only in Poland but also in Europe. When Dr. Leipuner, the first chairman of the school, died, Dr. Shimon Tenenbaum, his successor, dedicated a great deal of time and energy to the school. Later, the chairmanship was transferred to Dr. Israel Feiman, who guided the institution until the outbreak of World War II. Shortly after curator Moshe Shereshewski passed away, his son, Dr. Leon Shereshewski, took over the important position. He was quite a personality; he held a Ph.D. degree and was a member of the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce. He was also a gifted writer and playwright. Despite his very heavy schedule, he always found the time and energy (and also money) for the school, which, under the dedicated chairmanship of Dr. Feiman and with the unconditional help of loyal, able and devoted associates, prospered enormously. These associated were Jacob Berliner, A.R. Pinkusewicz, S.A. Zygelman, A. Weishoff, J. Glogowski, S. Zeiten and others.

These factors proved crucial for the ORT in Piotrkow to become a model vocational school in Poland. A significant number of out-of-town students lived in the dormitory (Bursa) managed by Leon Shitenberg, a respected teacher and educator. Thanks to the able and dedicated staff, the education and training in the school were of high quality. School director Broide, secretary Leon Kimmelman, instructors Zalman Tenenberg and Joseph Epstein, and teachers Leon Shitenberg and Ms. Rubin worked arduously and efficiently to give the boys the best start in life.

Those bright and eager, mostly underprivileged, students were the true contributors to the great success of the school. The few who survived became successful entrepreneurs in their respective professions all over the world.

A group of teachers and counselors of the 'Toz' camp in the Wolborski Forest - 1935
A group of teachers and counselors of the “Toz” camp in the Wolborski Forest – 1935

The fame of the Piotrkow ORT was widespread. Personalities like Arthur Zygielboim sent their sons there for schooling. Thanks to the efforts of the Board, an additional building wing had practically been completed when the war broke out.

During the Nazi oppression, the school premises served as a German shop, producing garments for the Wehrmacht. The Jews of Piotrkow were subjected to harsh labor there. Many contemplated with grief, during the long, cruel working shifts, the glorious past of the ORT school days, compared to the heartbreaking reality of the wartime present.

Izkor Book

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