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[Page 231]

The Coeducational Commercial High School,
One-Year Commercial School, and Commercial Evening Courses

Translated by Bill Leibner

From the merchant and industrial association in Sosnowiec

Sos231a.jpg [9 KB] - Josef Saper

The need to improve the level of commercial management of commerce was quite obvious to many people. This called for serious modernization of the concepts of business management, especially amongst the Jewish sector that was heavily involved in business. The difficulty that Jewish youngsters encountered in trying to enter commercial or trade schools made it imperative to create educational facilities where the Jewish youth would be trained to assume leadership roles in commercial and manufacturing establishments.

There was no doubt that the Jewish businessman possessed trade knowledge, experience and initiative; however he lacked trade skills. This was a weak point amongst the Jewish merchants who continued to use the old selling methods while their competitors became better organized and used the latest selling techniques developed by the scientific and technical institutes. With the best-motivated intentions and experience, the salesmen of today also needed technical knowledge.

The latest school reform of Poland anticipated several levels of commercial training, notably one-year training programs, high schools, lyceums, and higher institutes of commercial studies.

The percentage of Jewish youth in these institutions was abysmally low. It was therefore incumbent on the Jewish economic societies to take matters in their hands and create opportunities for the Jewish youth in the field of commercial education.

This was the main topic of the conference that was called for in Warsaw during the summer of 1937. Representatives of Jewish economic societies and Jewish commercial schools met and elected a central office to plan the development of Jewish commercial institutions in Poland.

The first steps in that direction were made in Sosnowiec in August of 1937. At a meeting between chairman Josef Saper, chairman Herman Alinor, and director Aron Gotwort, it was decided to call a conference of the of all executive committees of the merchant and industrial association and the small merchant association. The topic was to be the Jewish commercial school. The session took place on August 31st 1937 under the chairmanship of Saper. It was decided to create a one-year commercial school. A committee was elected to implement the decision. It consisted of Adolf Landau, Wladislaw Feldman, Mauricy Rajcher, Abraham Dawid Kajzer, Pessach Federman and H. Mangel, engineer.

[Page 232]

The one-year commercial school

Thanks to the efforts of Chairman Josef Saper, the city educational authorities granted the necessary license for the commercial school. In October of 1937, the commercial school was officially opened under the directorship of Aron Gotwort.

The school was located at Pschejazd Street number 1, and was especially prepared for the task. 50 students of both genders registered at the school. Some of them were not residents of the city but came from Upper Silesia and Zaglembia. The school was equipped with the necessary tools and labs to analyze various merchandises. It was also endowed to teach students organizational and commercial techniques of selling and buying, as well as techniques of advertising.

The students finished their academic school year and then practiced their newly acquired skills for three months with various commercial establishments. The first graduation took place on January 29th 1939.

A supervisory board checked the development and implementation of the commercial curriculum. The board consisted of Ignacy Rajner (chairman), Mrs. Dr. Bronislawa Grodszinka (vice-chairman), Mrs. Lena Sztarke-Nachner (treasurer), engineer Mamlok (secretary).

It also provided needy students with financial assistance. The board was also responsible for providing places for the students to practice their acquired skills.

Commercial evening courses

The executive committees of the merchant and industrial association and the small merchant association decided to open commercial evening classes for merchants and commercial employees. They already had the school facility and the teaching staff of the one-year commercial school at their disposal.

The first 5-month course organized under the leadership of Aron Gotwort started in January of 1939 and was well attended. The participants took their examinations in June of 1938. Members of the various commercial and economic organizations attended the event. The courses also received government approval that entitled the school to grant official certificates to the students. Besides these courses, the merchant and industrial association planned additional fields of study.

Sos232.jpg [16 KB] - The front of the high school
The front of the high school

[Page 233]

The Commercial High School

The one-year commercial school and the commercial evening courses did not solve the lack of commercial schooling opportunities for the Jewish youth in Zaglembia and Upper Silesia. There was a great need for a commercial high school that would fill the void.

The driving force behind the concept and the plan was Chairman Josef Saper, head of the Merchant and Industrial Association in Sosnowiec. At an executive meeting of the association on November 9th 1937, it was decided to build a Jewish commercial high school. The participants at the meeting pledged sizable contributions for the project.

On November 30th 1937, a plot was purchased on Skladowa Street. The seller, Salomon Perelberger from Krakow, was very amenable to the project. The purchase transactions followed rapidly with the assistance of Kalman Fiszel, member of the executive of the Merchant and Industrial Association.

Construction of the building started at the end of June of 1938. The official groundbreaking ceremony took place on July 20th 1938 under the chairmanship of Josef Saper.

The latter spoke at length about the need for such a school. Present at the ceremony were many representatives of various commercial and economic organizations of Sosnowiec, Zaglembia and Upper Silesia. The building was placed at the disposal of the school administration for the school year 1938/1939.

The first part of the building that was ready for occupancy were two classrooms for the commercial high school, and three rooms for the one year commercial school and evening commercial courses. The students were from Sosnowiec, Zaglembie and Upper Silesia. The large and comfortable teaching halls, and the modern labs and tools impressed all visitors.

The curriculum consisted of general and commercial subjects as well as Jewish subjects, and notably, Hebrew. The youth were educated along responsible lines and in the Jewish national spirit. Stress was placed on physical activities. The school had at its disposal many sport facilities including a large sport field. The fact that the building or part of it was finished within a few months indicated the speed with which the work progressed. All this was due to the great efforts of Josef Saper who implemented the concept into reality. Of course, many people contributed large sums of money so that the chairman did not have to worry about cash problems. Some of the more notable givers were; Alexander Gutman, Henryk Singer, Aron Singer, engineer Szymon Sztarke-Nachner, and lady Rega Szpigel.

Under the leadership of Josef Saper, a building committee was created to finish the building, provide the furnishings and, to pay all outstanding debts of the enterprise. The committee consisted Markus Birman, Henryk Singer, Mendel Lubelski, engineer Max Lipszyc, engineer Szymon Sztarke-Nachner, Peretz Skszinia and engineer Boleslaw Donat-Szlajfsztajn. The director of the high school was Aron Gotwort, whose dedication to Jewish commercial education, educational standards, and teaching achievements were of the highest level.

[Page 233]

The Mizrahi School

One of the more important educational institutions in the city was the Mizrahi School in Sosnowiec. Two generations of national religious youth were educated in this institution during its several decades of existence. It thus contributed to the renaissance of the national Jewish movement of the Jewish people. It was no surprise that it gained the confidence of the various Jewish sectors of Sosnowiec.

The school was established in 1918, the year of the rebirth of the Zionist dream of a homeland. The local political Mizrahi leaders decided to create a school. They were L. Jungster, M. Sh. Kerner, Sh. Wajs, H. Kristal, I. Cwajgenhaft, and Sh. Glicksman at the head. The school cooperated with the somewhat older Zionist high school. The first principal of the Mizrahi school was the military rabbi Dr. Frenkel. He soon left the position.

[Page 234]

Sos234a.jpg [24 KB] - Lab to analyze composition of materials
Lab to analyze composition of materials

Amongst the most famous people to visit the school was the famous Hebrew poet H. N. Bialik, who expressed admiration for the educational work performed at the school. The writer Daniel Perski also visited the school, and so did Rabbi Szapiro and many other influential people. The school is presently experiencing financial difficulties that it is hoped will be solved by the Jewish community in order to enable it to continue the wonderful educational work. It is hoped that the Jewish population will restore its confidence in the school that has achieved a very high scholastic standard.

Sos234b.jpg [20 KB] - Commercial and technical laboratory classroom
Commercial and technical laboratory classroom

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