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[Page 120]

B. Culture and Education

 

The Tarbut School (1920–1924)

by Buntsye and Tsivye

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

After World War I, the Jews of the town began to gather again from the faraway places to which they had dispersed. The majority of the town was destroyed, and those who returned began to restore it and took it upon themselves to build new lives. The work was far–reaching and daunting, but even so, people still worried about the problems confronting their school–aged children.

 

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The Girls' School before World War I

 

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Although there had previously been a Ukrainian–Polish government school in town, a large number of Jews did not choose to study there, because Jews could in no way adapt to its strange, intimidating atmosphere. The children were mostly Christians of various nationalities: Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, and even Gypsies, all residents of the town and its surroundings. Anyone who could secured a private education for his or her children; but there were still many children roaming the streets who were not being educated. What could be done about this situation?

One day, the news circulated in the Jewish streets that Zats, the teacher, and few young people were establishing a Jewish Hebrew school.

 

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The Folk School Founded by Avraham Zats, 1921

 

People from all over town began to enroll their children in this school. Many of the children who were attending the government school left it for this school.

From the start, the Joint Distribution Committee gladly supported the school. The first problem was how to feed and clothe the many children who were suffering from the lack of nutrition and proper clothing. Eventually, we received a substantial pledge from the Joint to pay for enough food to feed more than 300 students.

Over time, the school intended to be tuition–based, but the funding situation was already quite difficult and caused a bit of a crisis.

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The inflation that gripped the country in those days became worse and made things even more difficult for the school. It was possible to continue only because of its teachers' belief and volunteerism.

 

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Elementary School Led by Avraham Zats, 1922

 

The school had seven classes. Russian was the primary language at first, but afterward, it was Yiddish, with more and more attention dedicated to Hebrew. Most of the teachers were local, and generally speaking, the course of studies was satisfactory.

After a time, a plan was formulated to teach in Hebrew as the major language and in Polish as the language of the country, and the school became part of the network of Tarbut schools.

Among the most distinguished teachers was Avraham Yehuda, of blessed memory, who came to us from Berestechko to broaden his horizons. He was brimming with charm and idealism. Before the school was established, he taught the poor children for practically no wages, for free, even though his situation was very bad. In our school, he served as teacher and janitor: he cleaned the schoolroom with his own hands when there were no funds to pay a janitor. His idealism had no limits.

Of the rest of the teachers, we must also mention the school's leader, Avraham Zats, teacher Yentele Sheyn, and beloved teacher Levitin, the authorities who established the school and managed the classes.

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They carried all of the school's burdens and worries, small and large, and handled them with grace. Kind and gentle manners also prevailed between the teachers and students.

Under the leadership of Mr. Yechezkel Zats, father of our teacher Avraham Zats, we organized an orchestra and chorus that elevated and enriched the school's cultural life.

Officials of the central Tarbut organization in Rovno, to which the school belonged, arranged the teachers' and students' affairs and did everything they could to establish the school, especially with regard to lesson plans and curriculum. Among those who should be particularly mentioned is Mr. Shmuel Rozenhek.

On holidays, especially Hanukkah and Purim, parties and familiar plays were organized in the school. The plays were generally too popular for the tiny school, so they were offered to the public, and ticket sales helped support the school's budget. Many still remember the play “The Sale of Yosef,” which was performed in the town's large theater and was very well received. On Lag BaOmer, we would set out from the town to the nearby forest, unfurling white and purple national flags above us, with our band playing nationalist songs. In the forest, we would organize various games, make bonfires, and enjoy ourselves in the fresh air. Our parades were the envy even of the Christians.

At first the Tarbut School had a good relationship with the Polish government. But as time went on and relations between the Polish government and the Jews worsened all over Poland, things changed for the worse, and these changes affected the school negatively. The government demanded a yearly renewal of the school's license, and each year we had three months to wonder anxiously if our license would be renewed. There was a celebration on the day our license renewal arrived: we would assemble and joyously sing in the chorus to celebrate.

Once the Polish Sejm representative, Avraham Levinson, of blessed memory, visited us. His visit was a very special experience; we wore our best holiday clothes to go out and greet him. He spoke to us in unblemished, fluent Hebrew. He made a very strong impression on us. We felt that the Hebrew language was alive and vibrant. He was very impressed with the children of the school. Such a small town–but with such a large population that would study Hebrew! He also worried about whether our license would be renewed.

At the end of the third year of the school's operation, the government began to remove obstacles in their way. The sore spot for our school was that because it was an independent Hebrew school, they demanded that the school employ only certified teachers. So began the school's downfall: a change in management.

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In place of Avraham Zats came a manager from Lemberg, a Mrs. Horvits. Then Teacher Levitin fell sick and, after a time, died; and the smile that lit up every student's face disappeared. The loss was difficult , and then Teacher Sheyn left. Another wind began to blow in the institution.

A parent's committee arose and worked well, being filled with parents who were willing to work, but the possibilities were slim. The financial situation continued to decline, and within a year of its organization, the school ceased to exist…

The heart greatly grieved for the loss of this public educational facility, and it was especially hard on those whose studies were interrupted and thus who could not complete their primary schooling. However, the school's students did not lose their connection to the Zionist movement. After a short while, they organized the Pioneer movement in our town. And many of them immigrated to Israel and helped build the country.

After a few years, a new Hebrew primary “Tarbut” School was established, whose manager was Mr. Yosef Vayl.


The Tarbut School (1924–1939)

by Tsvi Zagoroder

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

During the early 1920s, when many Tarbut schools were opened in many Volhynia cities and towns under the direction of the Rovno center, and many children from various backgrounds and outlooks were drawn to them, the Zionists in our town were inspired to reopen the school out of a concern for teaching the younger generation the wonders of Hebrew language and culture. The local Zionist committee dedicated more and more discussions to the question of the school. They planned and planned, until finally, with the advice and approval of the Tarbut center in Rovno, they moved forward and opened the school in 1924.

At the same time, a two–year kindergarten in our town opened to prepare students for second grade.

We had some difficult issues to overcome before we could go forward with the school, such as a suitable space, good teachers, and a good and experienced principal to get the school started. Above all was the question of money and the resources to cover the school's budget. But we were not frightened by the difficulties ahead of us, and we geared up for the work.

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The school was designated to be in Mrs. Boym's rental house, and we took it upon ourselves to refit the structure into a functioning school. Toward the beginning of the new school year, we opened our first classrooms, and just before studies began, we brought our library there and set it up there for the students' use. After a while, we also centralized our Zionist work there.

We invited Mr. Yosef Vayl to be the first principal of the school. The following women served as teachers: Eyda Vayl, the principal's wife; Mina Fudlis; Lishtsinger; Henye Zeger; Tsivye Finkelshteyn; and Dvore Kitayksher–Kagan; as well as Mr. Dov Rechelski. After the Vayl family immigrated to the Land, Fave and his wife took their place.

 

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Tarbut School Board

Standing (right to left): Lekhtman, Lerner, Sheyn, Fidel. Seated: Rechelski. Velkh, Vayl, Eyda Vayl, Gur–Arye, Fudlis, Zagoroder

 

There were many girls in the school, and they did very well in their studies. It wasn't long before the sound of Hebrew was heard coming from our students in our town's houses and streets. The Zionists were very proud of this school, and the town's Jews of every type, even those who were not Zionists, chose to send their children to the Tarbut School and give them a Jewish education.

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It is also worth noting that, without exaggeration, the school was the jewel in the crown of our town; and very quickly, word spread throughout the surrounding areas of the high level of its studies in the primary and personal education its students were receiving.

 

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Tarbut School Students and School Board, 1935

 

[Page 127]

During its first year, the school counted its students by tens. In the following years, the number reached 300, studying in eight well–organized classes. At the same time, the Polish government school had seven classes and only about 50 Jewish students.

The local Zionist committee, along with the businessmen Duvid Sheyn, Chayim Kremen, and this writer, as well as the principals and teachers, invested their best talents in the institution, working with full harmony and familial concern to address its needs and development. Tarbut officials Messrs. Shmuel Rozenhek, Brakovski, Aynshteyn, and others who from time to time came from central Tarbut to visit the school, and other Zionist delegates who visited Radzivilov, were very impressed with the school. The Polish official who visited the school also praised the level of studies. What is particularly important to point out is that the pupils from our school were admitted to the government technical school in Brody.

Thus, we Zionists were filled with satisfaction at the sight of the students learning in an atmosphere of cultural Hebrew and Zionism and gaining talents to be used in the land of their ancestors.

 

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The certificate reads, in part, “Hebrew School Certificate for participation in seven grades of the Radzivilov Tarbut School. For Tsviye Sretbito, a girl, January, in the year … in the city of Radzivlov.”

 

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When we arranged a celebration in school or when the students and teachers marched in the city streets, as they did on Lag BaOmer, for example, there was great joy in our hearts.

Over time, the Tarbut School students comprised a large portion of the pioneers from Radzivilov. Sometimes they received specialized training, although many of them went to the Land of Israel at the beginning of the Fifth Immigration (1930–1939) and thereafter.

 

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Jewish Students from a Public Polish School Class with Teacher of Jewish Religion Yitschak Grubshteyn.

 


The Radzivilov Library

by Tsvi Zagoroder

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

The years 1918–1920 were the aftermath of World War I. Our townspeople began to return from their exile and their places of dispersion from east and west in order to rebuild the homesteads destroyed during the war and rebuild life in their birthplace.

I returned to Radzivilov from my exile in Czechoslovakia at the end of 1920. Terrible chaos raged in the city. The people were so desperate to earn a livelihood and meet their basic needs that I simply could hardly recognize the townspeople of the past.

[Page 129]

 

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Tarbut School Board

 

Fronye Goldgart–Korin, Manye Lebov, Tsvi Zagoroder, Dore Lebov, Manye Fodlis

I thought to myself: are these people really the same ones who escaped from here during the war? They are certainly similar, because they are striving by themselves to replace in one stroke all they lost during war. Can anyone in these circumstances consider fundamentals such as institutions devoted to cultural life, schools, establishing public life, and welfare?

Nevertheless, several people like those I just described did come forward; they were “crazy about this one thing,” such as Shimon Eynspektor, Roze Lizek, Roze Sitner, Fronye Goldgart, and Manye Lebov, who took it upon themselves to establish a public library. They collected books wherever they could, in different languages, especially in Yiddish and in Polish, and opened a library for one and all.

This was during the time when many communities were dominated by the Zionist movement and Zionists participated in all of the public institutions, so I joined the Library Committee in the Zionist Activist Group (the union of Zionist groups in our town).

Attention was then devoted to acquiring books in Hebrew. When I traveled to Warsaw in 1925 as the delegate from Radzivilov for the gathering of communities in Poland, one of my intentions was to purchase Hebrew books for a few hundred gold pieces.

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Eventually we expanded the Hebrew holdings of the library so that later, with the development of the Tarbut School, the students were able to incorporate the books that we got into the core of their studies. The library grew and developed, was transferred to a new setting in the Tarbut School, then housed in Mrs. Boym's house, and after some time was transferred to the Tarbut association.

When I left the city at the beginning of 1936, the library had grown to several thousand volumes, many of them in Hebrew.

The library existed until 1939. With the outbreak of World War II, it was cut down like all of the other town institutions–these and everything else that we built together.

 

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Group of Tarbut School Students with Teacher Horenshteyn

 

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Tarbut Teachers Rechelski, Velk, Groysman, Zagoroder

 

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Tarbut Student Lag BaOmer Outing, 1931

 


[Page 132]

{Pages 301-302 in Yiddish section}

Teachers in Radzivilov

by Arye Ayzen

Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman

Besides the teachers who educated Radzivilov's Jewish children in schools, there were also “instructors”: teachers who taught very young children the Hebrew alphabet and then Chumash and Rashi, and teachers of Gemara, who taught youngsters more Talmud at home. Among the former were these:

R' Moshe Roytman, R' Asher the Teacher, R. Mikhael the Teacher, R' Zalman–Hirsh the Teacher, R' Eli Brizgal, R' Shmuel Sinerekhes, R' Berel the Teacher, R' Tovye the Teacher, R' Motsel the Teacher.

And here are some of the latter, our Talmud teachers:

R' Shuel the Teacher, R' Itsik–Leyb the Teacher, R' Aba the Teacher, R' Marder, R' Dudye the Teacher, R' Moshe Tarnopoler, R' Avraham Sosover, R' Yoel Lerner, R' Yisrael the Teacher.

 

Members of the Radzivilov Drama Club before 1928

Shmuel Sher, Eli Chomut, Boske Brandvayn, Sluve Kremer, Boris Koltun, Chave Ayzen, Zeyde Fershtut, Feyge Grinboym, Leyeke Polem, Melekh Shtern, Nachman Nudel, Yankel Shrayer, Mikhel Shpizel, Rivkele Mandel, Munke Stirt, Feyge Faktor, Matis Tsukerman, Tovye Yakire, Avraham Koyfman, Roze Ayzen.

 

Members of the New Drama Club

Shmuel Fershtut, Moshe Grinblat, Leyb Ayzen, Hirsh Poms, Avraham Grosman, Yitschak Furman, Shurtsel Zats, Itsikel Nudler, Rachele Fik, Yechezkel Royzman, Esterke Grosman, Neche Tsinayder, Yoske Stirt, Chane Polem, Leyzer Groysman, Serke Treybitsh, Yosel Karent, Boris Koltun.

 

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