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[Page 237]

Education and Culture


The Public School (this was the occasional name of the Talmud Torah) in the early 1920s

Teacher: 1. Yisrael Toporovsky 2. Baruch Yoshchikman 3. Mrs. Kaufman (wife of the doctor;
it is said that she committed suicide by injecting poison. 4. The writer Yisrael Zamora (Tel Aviv).


The Establishment
of the Talmud Torah Public School

Documents from 1907

Translated from Hebrew by Yossi Lerner

We received a printed booklet in Russian with the name (see the engraving) in Hebrew translation: “The regulations of the public school Talmud Torah in Yedinitz, Hotin district, Bessarabia region”. The booklet included 10 pages, was printed in Hotin, and contained 33 paragraphs.

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From this booklet, we can learn that the school Talmud Torah received an official license in May 1907. It seems that the school existed several years before 1907 without an official license. The regulations indicated the vision of the school: To provide Jewish children with thorough knowledge and religious-moral education.

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The following study subjects will be studied: Russian, Mathematics, Jewish religion, Hebrew, Bible, prayers, Russian and Hebrew calligraphy, poetry, and gymnastics. The annual budget was 1960 rubles. The school director will get 480 rubles, the second teacher 350 rubles, the Hebrew teacher only 300 rubles, the other teachers much less.

80 rubles were dedicated for clothing and footwear for poor pupils.


Excerpts from the official regulation of the public school Talmud Torah in Yedinitz. The date: May 15th, 1907

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The money will come from the following sources:

korobka (Kosher meat tax): 750 rubles, fundraising and factories: 750 rubles, and from tuition: 24 rubles per year. The poorest 20% of pupils will not have to pay tuition. The duration of studies will be four years: two preparatory programs, and two basic classes. Pupils will be admitted at the age of 7 years. If there will be enough funds in the budget, there will be craft classes.

The public supervisors for the school management or the first 4 years were Shmuel Wineshenkar, Shmuel Tokghauz, Hirsh Finegold, and Yaakov Ben Yitzhak Roisenberg.

The license for opening the school was given by the institute with the following title: “The Ministry for Interior Affairs (M.W.D) (Education Administration in Odessa), the supervisor (inspector) of elementary schools in Bessarabia region, fourth district, situated in Soroka.”

The date: July 6th, 1907

This regulation's booklet was found at the national university library in Jerusalem by David Vinitzki, who published several articles in this book.


The official license of the Talmud Torah.
The date: July 6th, 1907

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Text within Photo: Founders and Supporters of the Tarbut National School in Yedinitz, 1925.
Photo taken upon the departure of Mordechai Lachtermacher for Brazil.

Seated in middle: 1. Moshe Voskovoynik 2. Avraham Greenstein 3. Leib Goichberg (Odesser) 4. Chaim Gukovsky 5. Mordechai Lachtermacher 6. Yisrael Shott 8. Motya Zeidman 9. Fruma Litvak.
Standing, from right: 10a. Shmuel Lerner (Varnetchka) 10. Tema Kizshner 11. Bronka Gurfinkel (Brazil) 12. Gittel Zeidman 13. Zonis (sister of Sheindel) 14. Manya Fichman 15. Sheindel Zonis 16. Eidel Galon (Goren) 17. Tanya Gurfinkel 18. ----- 19. Menucha Gelman 20. Polya Rosenthuler 21. Dina Rosenthuler 22. Chaya Chasid 23. ----- 24. ------ 25. Dina Feingold 26. Tsilia Goldstein (Rosenthul).
Seated on the ground, from right: 27. Sheintsa Kertsman 28. Zvia Fishman 29. Miriam-Manya Weizman-Caspi (Israel) 30. Fradis 31. Gusta Revkolovsky 32. Buzya Gandelman (South America) 33. Sonya Gandelman-Sozshman (Israel) 34. Manya Silberman-Malay (South America) 35. Esther Silberman 36. ------

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The Jewish Cheder in Yedinitz
in the Last Century

by Yosef Diamant

Translated from the Hebrew by Paul Bessemer

Yosef Diamant z”l


I began my studies with a melamed for beginners by the name of Leib “Knish” (potato pancake). During those days, people in town gave others living in the city a nickname, sometimes being deprecating. Basically, all the teachers were known by their various nicknames.

Leib Knish was a tall, thin Jew, with a goatee and long payot (side curls; forelocks). I believed it was only the need to support himself that pushed him to work as a teacher. It certainly wasn't a sense of pedagogy that motivated that decision. In this way, I was brought into a large courtyard full of children between the synagogue known by the name of “Kinsky kloiz,” because most of those who prayed there, or its founders, were horse traders. The courtyard belonged to someone who moved material and plaster for construction and brought sand to the houses for Sabbath evenings to scatter it on the floor before the sanctification of the Sabbath, as was customary during those days. (Translator unable to find any information on this practice.) They called this Jew “Uncle Darkness,” and many tales circulated within the city regarding this Jew and his name. He was a Jew with a solid frame, with a bright red beard and forelocks; he knew “what was written” in the Torah, and he even knew some chapters of the Psalms by heart. During the time when he was distributing his wares, the material, and the sand, he would hum and recite chapters of the Psalms from memory, or the weekly Torah portion, or a portion of the prayer liturgy from the Days of Awe.

In the courtyard where the cheder was located, the herd of children dispersed about, with some studying at the cheder and others, just children from the street, running around and playing with each other. Those who were picked out by the teacher's assistant (the “belfer,” בלפער a teaching assistant in a Hebrew school or cheder.) after the students had the opportunity to be called into the classrooms to be taught, began with the alef-bet, and after some time had passed, they'd move on to the kametz-alef, and then the “ivri” and so forth (terms of Hebrew grammar).


Rabbi Zusia the Melamed

Nearby Leib Knish was the cheder of Zusia Melamed, and only two courtyards separated the two, cheders as if by intention, so that the student who completed one's studies with Rabbi Leib as in the first stage, then moved to Rabbi Zusia to continue the second stage: Chumash with Rash”i's commentary and the first tractates of the Gemara.

In contrast to “Leib, the Tall One”, Zusia was short, his face was etched with wrinkles, bespectacled, and behind the lenses of his glasses, there was a pair of eyes [reflecting goodness] always smiling. The cheder was in the back section of the house, separated from the other rooms, and had a long table in the middle and two benches flanking it was enough for twenty students.

Rabbi Zusia was a “progressive”. He had already begun to teach modern Hebrew, although still through translation into Yiddish, and he was a stickler for proper penmanship. and With the Romanian occupation, a teacher was brought in, who taught the advanced students the Romanian language for two hours per week. The wife of the melamed, Sara, was among those righteous people in the town, and often concerned herself with helping the poorer residents.

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After learning the Chumash, I moved from the beginner's cheder to a much better one, but it didn't lack severity. One of the improvements was that in the winter we began to study during the evenings as well, and as a result, we began to esteem ourselves more greatly. In addition, when we would finish studying in the evenings, we would walk home with a lantern containing a lit candle in our hands. On the way, we would sing songs. That achievement was not one to be disparaged. The cheder bestowed honor upon the courtyard, and on the main street, the postal street. In the same courtyard, behind the cheder, was a “Lidovnik” cellar for storing ice, that during the winter they would saw out of the “Hapansky” River and bring it to the cellar to store and preserve it, which they would take out during the summer for use and delivered especially to the shops that sold soda and beer. There was also an agent and middleman living in this courtyard, Feivish “Fakter,” who provided seasonal workers (“strakares”) to the estate owners, and who had both his office and his apartment there. During the harvest and threshing season, a horde of dozens of day-laborers would descend upon Feivish's office. Of course, the students found in all these things a reason to torment him.


Laizer Bard

The melamed of the new cheder where I learned was a portly Jew with a big paunch, long payot, and a long, wide beard that reached to his navel. Accordingly, they called him “Laizer Bard” (Eliezar the Bearded One). He was meticulous and devoted to his profession. His wife was a virtuous woman, broad in girth and energetic. Her face was pitted, the vestiges of the chickenpox she was afflicted with in her youth. She knew the halakhah for the house and made sure that silence prevailed in the cheder. All the business of the cheder, the calculation, and collection of tuition fees was in her hands.

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Rabbi Eliezar himself was exempt from all things dealing with money and their calculation, and so he devoted himself, heart, and soul, to teaching. Rightly so, they

called this woman “Shifra Saldat” (Shifra the soldier). At the conclusion of a unit, an attractive girl by the name of Ganandal, who had a golden braid going down the back of her neck and was about 12-13 years old, and who for the time she was very small, listened to the lessons her father gave to his students., She would argue with us, the students, that she had greater knowledge than we did, even though she was just a child. At that time, there was no obligation to educate girls. She knew the entire Torah and as we were studying it, she was clear about the weak points and passages that the students got stuck on, such as: “But as for me, when I came from Paddan Aram…” (Genesis 48:7) (from Jacob's words to Joseph, before his death) and others. Moreover, she knew all of Shivchei HaBesh”t by heart.

The number of students in the cheder was smaller than before, and for that reason, it wasn't possible to slack off in one's studies or to arrive late to the cheder without the rabbi noticing and being punished for such. Apart from regular punishments, such as reprimanding and lashing with a whip for commonplace transgressions, the “offenders” tended to be given more severe punishments for grievous infractions. The rabbi would pull down the transgressing student's pants, pull their shirt over their head, and force them to walk around the cheder like this. For this reason, the student would spit in his face and proclaim: “For this transgression, here it was called a transgression, you are being punished.” The name of this punishment was “keene.” The effect of this punishment could be read in the student's faces for several days after the deed, and the emotional depression certainly didn't disappear quickly.

The principal subject of study at the cheder was, of course, Chumash. At first, a chapter a week, and later, the entire weekly Torah portion for that week. Rabbi Laizer also prepared his students for “drasha”, which they would take to their homes, for the celebration that was organized in honor of starting to study the Chumash. That's also what he did when we began to study Rash”i, he selected passages of the prayers and birkhot ha-nehenin (blessing is made over food, drink, pleasant odors, and other pleasurable experiences).


Mendel der Grober

From the cheder for studying Chumash, I passed to the cheder for studying Gemara, with Mendel “der Grober,” who lived in the courtyard of Rabbi Getzel or Getzi Farber (“the painter”). Getzi was a Jew who was short in stature, with a small beard, curling payot, and who wore boots in both summer and winter. He was observant and set aside times for himself to study Torah and would attend lessons at the Talmud Torah in the Great Synagogue, between the mincha (afternoon) and ma'ariv (evening) prayers. He was originally from Austria. Some said that he had drawn water to pour on the hands of the Admo”r from Rizhin (present-day Ruzhyn, Ukraine) and had even been the gabbai at the synagogue named after the Admo”r (may his righteous memory be blessed). In Yedinitz, he found a livelihood in the dyeing of wool for people in the surrounding community. Rabbi Getzi's apartment faced the street. The front room of the apartment was used as a hardware store that his grandson ran, and the room in the rear served as the dye shop. In the courtyard was a low stove built for boys, and from behind it, arose a chimney, and on its top part was a copper tank affixed into which the wool was placed after the water with the dye was boiling. The wool was taken out in about an hour, dyed in the desired color, and hung to dry on the fence near to the house. The dying room served as a sort of divider between the apartment of Rabbi Getzi and our cheder for studying Gemara. It appears that neither the melamed nor the students' parents had a problem with having the dye-works so close to the cheder.

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The melamed's name was “Mendel der Grober” (Mendel “the Coarse /the Oaf”), or “Mendel Kardander.” His wife Rivka devoted herself wholeheartedly to the business of running her house and the kitchen and didn't get involved in matters of the cheder or tuition. His two daughters had almost reached maturity and thus, he had no interest in the small children.

Rabbi Mendel was an ungainly, clumsy Jew with a pleasant disposition. The students took advantage of his weakness and irritated him with their mischief and pranks. Rabbi Mendel would turn to the whip in his hand for assistance and would beat them. We students once planned to damage the whip. According to the advice of others, we attached the whip onto a stick from a tree and coated its leather strips with a thick layer of garlic, and then put it on the stove. This was on a Thursday evening, an hour that the stove was being used for baking challahs for Sabbath. According to those giving advice, after doing this, the whip should completely crumble. On Friday morning we created a disturbance to anger the melamed. He started to look for his whip and found it, to his surprise, on top of the stove, and we all awaited the miracle of what would happen next. But to our great distress and disappointment, the disturbance didn't work out and the whip remained the same whip as it had been before. Moreover, it only angered Rabbi Mendel more when he saw that the whip was now shiny and that smelled like garlic, an odor emanating from it. To his question “Who did this and why?” not one of us answered. Each one acted as if they didn't know a thing and put on such a surprised expression to match that of the melamed.

In this cheder, Rabbi Mendel began to teach us Talmud. He began, as usual, with “Bava Kamma.” One page per week, and afterward, Gemara with Rash”i's commentary, the weekly Torah portion in part, even though it was with the commentary by Rash”i, the first Prophets and the meaning of the words in the prayers of weekdays, the Sabbath, and holidays. Every day we would pray in groups, under the melamed's supervision, and according to the following order: one student would read the first part and the rest would listen. When the first one had finished his part, the second one started in with the following part and so on. There were instances where the melamed would stand up from his anger and go into the kitchen or another place during prayer time, and we then would turn the page and skip over several chapters. When he would return to his place, he would naturally be amazed at how we had gotten that far and so fast in the prayer book t. In that way, we would revert to our mischief at every opportunity that came along, until we were finally caught in the middle of our transgressions and punished.

The study of the weekly “lesson” in Talmud took place in this way: the melamed read the beginning of the lesson and after that, all the students would repeat it in groups and then read in unison, like a choir, so that there was almost no chance of determining who was actually reciting and who was simply looking at the book or pretending to look at it. As a result, on each Thursday, when each student was supposed to read the lesson individually, it was extraordinarily bitter because we would then reveal the shame of the fakers and those who weren't paying attention all week. The result: the melamed would get angry, shout, and beat [them]….

In the afternoon the “teacher” (moreh) would come to the cheder; they called him to “shake up,” not to teach religion but to teach us handwriting and math for two hours per day, and all in Yiddish. The “teacher” would receive his salary directly from the parents in addition to the tuition which was paid directly to the melamed.

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Avraham Zlatshever

From the cheder of “Mendel the Fat”, the melamed of Gemara, I moved to a new cheder with the same study plan, but at a little higher level. This was within a high school for these studies. Yedinitz didn't have a higher level of cheder than this, and whoever wanted to continue and complete their study of the Talmud would study at the synagogue, at a place where they were maggids giving daily lessons; the work of the maggids wasn't done to receive a reward.

This cheder was in the courtyard of Shim'on Garber (the stockbroker) on the Street of the Butchers (Katzabiye Gass). They called the melamed Avraham Zlatshever, after the city in Galicia from which he had arrived in Yedinitz, and where his family had settled (סגל). His wife Batya devoted herself to running the household and taking care of the children. Out of respect for her husband, she didn't get involved in matters concerning the cheder. Their son Pinchas, who was my age, studied with us in the classroom, and he had three other sisters and a brother, all younger than him; all are now in the Land of Israel. When we were placed in this cheder, we soon realized that it wasn't just the melamed that was new, but also his way of interacting with the students and his manner of teaching what was new and different from what had been the custom in the previous cheders. Rabbi Avraham was a clever person, and his knowledge of the Talmud was profound. His manner of instructing showed him as an experienced pedagogue, one who knew the soul of a student. On the one hand, it was necessary to be pleasant in one's interactions with [the student], but on the other, it was also [necessary] to demand of him, and in exacting fashion, that he listen fully to his lessons and not shirking his responsibilities. His manner of explaining and of approaching the student affected the student and caused him to love his studies. The clever eyes of Rabbi Avraham testified to the fact that they saw everything and that their net was cast wide in every direction, and that the tricks and smart-alecky behavior that we were used to doing until that point would have no place here. Before the first lesson, he turned to us as if we were adults and said: “I have no intention of reading the lessons to you as is customary in other cheders, likewise, I see no advantage in group reading/reciting by the students. In my opinion, this method creates a loophole for shirking. You have already managed to acquire some knowledge in the Talmud. Our method will be something like this: One of the students will read the lesson, each one in order, and I will correct those things needing to be corrected. At the same time, I will have the opportunity to monitor how each one of you listens.”

Rabbi Avraham knew how to keep this promise and he did, in fact, catch those students in their mischief and disobedience. Very frequently he would suddenly stop a student in the middle of his reciting and turn to the second or third, who would then continue to recite. In this way, the students who weren't listening to the recital would be caught and embarrassed.

The bulk of the lessons were learning the Talmud with the commentary by Rash”i. And for some parts, also the commentary by the Rash”a, one page per day, in addition to the weekly Torah portion with Rash”i's commentary, and on Thursdays, we would learn the weekly Torah portion with the commentary of Or HaChaim. We also studied the Prophets and the other Biblical writings, one chapter a day. The exegesis of the Tena”kh was according to Rash”i's commentaries: “Metzudat-David” and “Metzudat-Zion”, we studied it in Hebrew letters and also the reading and writing according to the popular book “Gan Shesheuenim.” Afterward, as we were already considered to be advanced students since in just a little while we would reach the age of becoming bar mitzvah, we could all pray by ourselves without the supervision of the melamed. The melamed prepared the students who reached the time of their bar-mitzvah, and that was most of them, teaching in the halakhic rules of laying tefillin (Jewish prayer phylacteries). according to the Shulchan Arukh, as well as the trope for Torah recitation.

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During the time that I studied at Rabbi Avraham's cheder, there was only one student who wasn't “from the minyan”, or “extraneous” in the language of the gentiles. It was an older boy, approximately 17-18 years of age. He finished his mandatory education in the cheder at age 14-15 but he wanted to continue to supplement his learning. His father found that those from a good family like his son, the son of a wealthy merchant of whom the honorable and respected people were already speaking, it wasn't comfortable to be one of the yeshiva students (bochers), those hanging out at the house of study. Therefore, his son continued his studies by himself, in his father's house, and Rabbi Avraham employed him as a guide/instructor and counselor in his studies. He would come to the cheder at appointed times, but not every day, and the lessons and guidance in his studies he would receive separately, outside of the classroom. We, students, were jealous of him for having reached such a level as this, and we looked him over, from bottom to top. The student's name was Shlomo Chaim-Yaakov Hellers.


A New Spirit

In the meantime, an invigorating wind began to be felt blowing through the towns one that heralded the arrival of a new age. The Yedinitzers started to sense that a period of internal breakthrough was imminent in the cheder and the inward-looking insularity of the beit midrash (House of Study: a place for older boys and men to study Torah) over a page of Gemara. The appearance of the first representatives of the movement of national revival was heard: an enlivening (moshav ruchot), and the aspiration for freedom, liberation, and social reforms.


How did we learn Russian?

The winds of the 1905 Revolution reached our town as well. A considerable part of the youth had begun to seek out a way to enlightenment. We were seeking this enlightenment in the Russian language. Those who had independent financial means left Yedinitz and traveled to the big cities: to Kishinev, Odessa, and others, to purchase enlightenment from certified teachers and elite institutions. For others, including myself, and who remained in the town, Russian language teachers came to our assistance. Those parents who were faithful to the tradition looked upon their sons' aspirations with bitter disappointment. I even started to study with a Russian language teacher at the cheder, away from my parent's apartment, and whom I hired myself. My parents, who had despaired of influencing me to change my direction, sent various messengers to me. One of them was a tall boy by the name of Mordechai Alter, who was nicknamed “Der Langer” (the long one) and who was among those hanging out at the beit midrash. The next one was Rabbi Shmuel Schechter, the Jewish butcher and who was a relative, and the one who was numbered among the guests at my parents' house. His approach was to claim that it was “the destruction of the family” or that “it was likely to harm your father's health,” and so on. Nevertheless, I continued my path and with my studies. However, after some time, financial matters became rather complicated in my family, and I was forced to cease my Russian language instruction and return to my parents' house.

In many houses in Yedinitz, disagreements, and arguments erupted between parents and their children over very similar issues. These arguments gave rise to bitter disappointments on all sides and much heartache. A portion of the youth who sought enlightenment/secular education continued their paths and a few even managed to reach the heights and a certain position in life. There were cases where the children had been spared by their parents' mercy (hezilu me'rucham 'al horim), and the last ones encouraged their children's aspirations for enlightenment and status.

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Elementary Education Teachers and Talmud Teachers
A Melamed for Beginners and a Melamed for Gemara

by Shmuel Kafri

Translated from the Hebrew by Paul Bessemer

At age three, my parents sent me to the cheder of the well-known beginners' melamed in Yedinitz, Rabbi Daniel Harasher.

Rabbi Daniel's cheder was right in front of our house, and I remember that the first study period began in the winter and that I didn't want to stay in the cheder and even cried bitterly about it. Rabbi Daniel threatened he would lock me up with the goat (he had a goat in the courtyard) and my fear grew manyfold. In fact, I submitted to him, but on Monday, I again refused to go to the cheder.

No amount of persuasion or “nice things” from our store could motivate me to return to the cheder. Ultimately, it was only by force that I was impelled to go to the cheder. And indeed, it took only one winter to get established in the cheder, and by the start of the summer I had already studied with Avraham Sha'iah, and he, too, was a beginner's melamed, but at a higher level. We'd also learn to pray with the siddur with him.

My third melamed was Rabbi Itzik, who was called “Mit die Brillen” (“The One with the Glasses”) who had a more progressive method of teaching than the two previous ones. With him, the children already learned Chumash with the commentary by Rash”i and even the beginnings of Gemara.

Rabbi Itzik marked the transition to Gemara study with a festive atmosphere. His method was to teach every child according to their ability to absorb the material. He knew how to make his students like their studies. When he taught the Torah portion “Vayechi” and arrived at the passage: “And as for me, when I came from Paddan Aram…” (Gen. 48:7), he began to teach the sad portion with the help from a sad melody. This method of teaching, especially the melodies to accompany his teaching, they were what formed the character of the students: those who allowed the love of the Land and people of Israel to penetrate their hearts.

Rabbi Itzik was an artist at creating handcrafts that inspired our thoughts. With preternatural exactitude, he “built” and ordered the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, in small scale, on boards and his palm fronds, the Tent of Meeting (ohel mo'ed), the priestly breastplate (choshen), and linen apron (ephod), the ark with the cherubs, and much more. He used all these to help him illustrate the boring parts of the mikra to the younger students. Rabbi Itzik would even put together various toys from walnut shells that he would 'gift' to students as prizes for students who performed outstandingly in his lessons.

Afterward, and according to their progress, the students would move from the melamed Itzik to learn at the cheder of Berish, which would be for them the start of learning Gemara.

For those students who had advanced in their studies to a high level of instruction, there were two melameds in Yedinitz. These were: Rabbi Gedalia and Rabbi Mattityahu (Mates) (my father, Yankl Mateses). They taught Gemara seriously and even with the Tosefot with the commentaries of the Rash”a and the Mahar”am. The students tended on Thursdays to study “Or Hachaim” for the weekly Torah portion and on Shabbat afternoons the students would come to the melamed's house to study “Pirkei Avot”.

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During both the summer and the winter, and after the reciting of the “barkhei nafshi”, they would learn “Reshit Chokhmah” or the “Toldot”, as well as examining the mussar, or the ethics in the literature of the Chassidic Jews.

In addition to the melameds, the township's residents also occasionally brought in a good melamed from outside whose reputation preceded him. That's how several respected families were brought by them to Yedinitz, such as Rabbi Eli from the nearby township of Rishkan, a melamed with a broad knowledge and a unique method of teaching Gemara.

Nisan Vaisman brought Rabbi Eli to teach his sons, Nachoum and Avraham, as well as the author of these lines and other sons of prominent families.

It is only proper to mention the melamed Rabbi Israel Koloblotzsky, who was known by the name “Rabbi Israel Kaladawker” (after his town of origin in the Ukraine). The cheder of Rabbi Israel was located near the Great Synagogue and his students, some 20 in the group, were the children of the township's “Pani” (Ukrainian word for nobility) among them Moshe Furman, Avraham Zaltzman, and others. Studies with Rabbi Israel were already at a high level. But he taught Chumash with the commentary by Rash”i and Gemara.

Rabbi Israel was a tall Jew, of wide girth and with a very blond and very tangled beard. His income from his work as a melamed wasn't excessive, and there were days in which his wife realized she couldn't rely on her husband's work to support them so she opened up a grocery store that provided them with a respectable existence.

Among the least progressive melameds was the one who only taught us “Hebrew,” which we were just beginning to read. It was Rabbi Isser. Nobody knew what his last name was.

Rabbi Isser would struggle to make it to the synagogue at least once per day; on weekdays, the Sabbath, and holidays. They said he had taken upon himself a vital task in the house of prayer: the close observance of the clock and ensuring its proper functioning. Only for the sake of assurance, since the clock worked and ran just fine, he would over the course of the day go to the post office, and it should be recalled, that the walk from his house to the post office was considerable. There he would check the one at the post office and afterward adjust the one in the synagogue accordingly.

In conclusion, I would like to mention Gedalia the melamed. He was a Jew of short stature, with a long beard that tapered sharply at the end. His cheder was typical: in the middle of it stood a long table and two long benches, one on each side. His students were the children of well-off and respected families in the township. Rabbi Gedalia had lost his wife and become a widower, and the task of being a housewife was passed to his daughter Shayndl's shoulders.

For many years Rabbi Gedalia was known as one of the praised and well-respected melameds in the town and even in later years, when he was stricken with blindness, he would teach the chapters by memory. He could easily discuss all six orders of the Mishna.

His students, especially the more mischievous ones among them, took advantage of his physical limitations and perpetrated all manner of pranks during the lessons, acting in a manner that they certainly wouldn't have dared to be if the situation was different.

Hadera [Israel]

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This is How they Taught

by Ephraim Schwartzman-Sharon

Translated from Hebrew by Paul Bessemer

Rabbi Yaakov Schwartzman (known in town by the name of “Yankel Mateses”) recounted the teaching method of his father Mattityahu, who was invited by several prominent householders from Yedinitz to come from the township of Tomonubek in Ukraine so that he would teach their sons. There were only six children, and he taught Gemara in exchange for a payment of nine rubles for his “time” of half a year.

The hours of study were very long. They would start studying at five in the morning and only would finish during the evening hours, with the setting of the sun. Apart from Talmud, the students also studied portions of the “Meginei Ha'aretz”, the “Shulchan Arukh” and more. The first study break was between seven and eight o'clock in the morning for the Shacharit (morning) prayer, then eating a quick breakfast, and for saying the Birkat Hamazon (the traditional blessing after meals). From eight o'clock until noon, my father taught his students Talmud and explained and debated the minutiae at length with them on various subjects in the Gemara.

At noon they took a lunch break, and after exactly one hour of remaining at home, they all returned to the cheder to continue with their studies. The order of learning was something like this: each 'tractate' was studied by two students together, and the six students under his charge were divided into three separate groups. They reviewed the lesson that they had heard from the rabbi during the morning hours, and if questions arose among them, he would explain and expand them. That way, they would study until it was time for the minchah (afternoon) and ma'ariv (evening) prayers. After ma'ariv, the students ate what they had brought with them from home, then recited the birkat hamazon blessing together, and after that, my father would test them to be convinced that they had fully understood the lesson that he had taught them that morning. If they failed to prepare the lesson properly, an evil and bitter fate awaited them. Only at seven or eight o'clock in the evening would he release his students, who were between the ages of 10 and 15 years, for them to return home. In the winter, he would delay them until nine or ten o'clock at night. They would return home with glass lanterns lit with candles in their hands to light their pathway in the darkness of night.

This was the order of study on every Sunday of the year. On Mondays, at the crack of dawn, before they began to study the next page, each student was obliged to go over the lesson that he had learned on Sunday. The student was expected to reply on every subject and the interpretations and commentaries on Rash”i, the Tosefot and even the Rash”a. They continued their studies according to this schedule, morning, and evening, until Thursday. On that day, they had to review all the lessons that they had learned over the course of the week before the rabbi, and without “God forbid!” errors.

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Afterward, they had to learn the weekly Torah portion well, with the commentary by Rash”i, “Or HaChaim”, and the Ramb”am. Whoever didn't properly learn or understand what they had learned was punished on the spot, by sitting in cheder for two additional hours after all his study colleagues had gone home.

On Friday at dawn, the students went over the entire “Or HaChaim”. Each one recited the weekly Torah portion in melodic trope, along with the haftorah. After this “review,” the studies continued until about ten o'clock. At that time, everyone ceased their studies and returned to their homes. With that, the weekly learning schedule was at an end. Friday was also devoted to the bathhouse in honor of the approaching Shabbat, and it even allowed the Rabbi some free time to prepare himself for kabbalat Shabbat (“welcoming” the Sabbath).

It would be only proper to point out that over time the number of Rabbi Mattitiyahu's students grew to 18 in number, and that they studied in two groups: beginners and advanced. He refused to accept additional students due to the lack of space in his cheder and the lack of time to teach them. His profound knowledge of the Talmud, the power of his explanations, and his manner of lighting up the faces of his students earned him a good reputation. The pride of every householder and wealthy person in the township was to have his sons study Gemara at the feet of Rabbi Mattitiyahu.



Dagous Shmulevitz, the Teacher

M. R.

At the beginning of the 20th century, when the “Talmud Torah” school was moved from its previous building near to the Great Synagogue to another building and renamed “Shaarei Tzion”, its first founders, among them Shmuel Weinschenker, Meir Blank, Ben-Tzion Teman, and others, attempted to bestow upon it a modern character.

The large structure with its spacious rooms allowed them to do this. The students, now it was both boys and girls, were divided into classes. The tables, the special benches for the students, the chalkboards, and such had a beneficial effect on the general atmosphere at the school. And so, the administration concerned itself with bringing a special teacher to the school to teach the Hebrew language and literature: Dagous Shmulevitz, of Lithuanian origin. He was a pioneer among the modern Hebrew teachers in Yedinitz.

Leon Trachtenbroit, a student at the school at that time, remembers that there were then four classes, including both boys and girls, and that there was an overall study plan from religious studies like Torah and the Prophets, language, literature, history, and the knowledge of the Land of Israel. In addition to this, they also devoted particular attention to the study of the Russian language.

The teacher Dagous attempted to instill within the students the national spirit and love of the Land of Israel. It should be remembered that this was the time of the initial awakening and organizing of the Zionist movement, with the appearance of Theodor Herzl. He took care to organize parties for students and always was against a background of identification with the Land of Israel when the central point of the lesson was a chorus of children singing songs of the Land of Israel that were then beloved and well known. It is unfortunate that over the course of time his name has been forgotten and no one ever mentions him.

The above text is an excerpt from the book by Ephraim Schwartzman-Sharon, HaOr Lo Da'akh (“The Light Has Not Been Extinguished”)

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My Religious and Secular Teachers

by Dov Duri (Berl Dondushansky)

Translated from Hebrew by Dafna Meltzer

As far as I remember, as a small child I studied in the cheder of R. Yoel Zinkever. He taught his students to read and learn Bible verses. R. Yoel was already elderly and barely managed to control the children in the class. Therefore, we took advantage of the situation and because of boredom, we spent most of the day outside playing.

I remember that once R. Yoel came to me and asked: “Young man, what are you doing here?” - Rabbi, I said whimpering, aren't I learning from you? “You are correct my son,” said the Rabbi, “indeed, you are the son of Hirsch, so go run home and bring your tuition, which we need for the Sabbath.” The same story was told in the town about other teachers.

After a year, I attended the cheder of Yehiel Fisheles. The students studied also Rash”i with R. Yehiel. The truth is that the Rabbi did not force the students to learn Rash”i; but whoever wanted to, had to get up at dawn and arrive at the cheder at the earliest hour. More than once, we had to walk in the dark while holding a lantern.

Yehiel Fisheles was an interesting character. He would compose whimsical skits for each Jewish holiday like Purim, Pesach, Hanukkah, etc. He called these skits “Purim-Gross[1],” “Pesach-Gross,” etc. His skits were written with sharp humor and when he read them, all those present at the celebration, students and even the parents, “rolled” with laughter. It is a pity that none of this interesting material survived.

R. Yehiel instilled in his students a great love for Israel. He excited our childish imagination with stories about Israel. He was loved by his students; he was never angry at them and never laid a hand on them. Indeed, he conquered their hearts with his humor.

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After R. Yehiel Fisheles' cheder, I went to study with the teacher Yaakov Hersh-Leibs (Kizhner). Yankel Hersh-Leibs' school was considered modern. The studies were conducted in the purest Hebrew-to-Hebrew method. The teacher was demanding and ill-tempered, and for that reason the students did not like him. The study of the Hebrew language and the speaking of it at home with his family, did not prevent him from emigrating to Brazil.

A higher level of education was found in the school of Moshe Zamchauer (Leiderman). Here the studies improved considerably. The students studied arithmetic, history, and even Gemara . The atmosphere in this school was national-Zionist. Learning Torah from R. Moshe was pleasant. Many students were sorry when they were forced by their parents to leave this school and attend the brand-new high school that opened in the town. At the high school, I met for the first time the teacher Hillel Dubrow. From the very beginning he won the students' hearts. After a short time, we all felt in our childish way, that he was guiding us in a direction we wanted to take. More than once we even visited him at home, and there he told us stories about Israel.

Under his influence, we started collecting funds for Keren Kayemet LeYisrael at parties and during the holidays. We also set up a collection of boxes in the street. It can be said without exaggeration that the influence of Dubrow on our Zionist future was considerable.

I had another teacher who influenced my life: Baruch Yshtzigman. Even though I did not study in the school he presided, I was home-schooled by him for free. Many town members were his students and owe him their education: his influence shaped their future lives.

Baruch Yshtzigman was a humble man, shy, but an extraordinary teacher and educator. He spoke of Israel with uncommon enthusiasm. During his entire life, he dreamed of moving to Israel, but he did not fulfill this dream.

These notes from Dov Dondushansky (Dori), z”l, were received by the editors of this book a short time before his death, when he stepped on a land mine placed by Arab terrorists in the banana fields of Kibbutz Masada.

Translator's footnote:

  1. Literal translation (from the Yiddish) of “big” Return

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The Teacher and Writer Aryeh-Leib Yagolnitzer

by Achinoam Yagolnitzer

Translated from the Hebrew by Dafna Meltzer

Aryeh-Leib Yagolnitzer was born in 1882 in the town of Orinin, near Kaminetz-Podolsk, Russia. As a youngster, he studied in cheder until his bar-mitzvah under learned teachers but taught himself general studies.

When he was young, his family emigrated to Argentina as farmers, but after four years, the family returned to Russia and later settled in Bolgrad, in southern Bessarabia.

At the age of seventeen, he was sent to study Torah with his grandfather, R. Moshe Lamdan. On the way to his grandfather, he stayed at his uncle's home in Odessa, and there he married his cousin, Bina, who from that point on, faithfully stayed at his side.

From a young age on he was “bitten” by Zionism and Zionist activism, and it is in this area that there were plenty of interesting events in his life. At fifteen he still attended synagogue. It was customary that on the Eve of Yom Kippur every charitable organization would set up a “bowl” at the entrance to the synagogue to collect contributions for such organizations. Young Aryeh-Leib did not hesitate to demand to place a “bowl” for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael. This request was met with opposition, particularly among those who viewed this request as “crossing the line.”

At the end of the prayer, the youngster stepped up to the podium, pounded the table, and proclaimed that he had an important announcement to make. The congregation went silent, curious to hear what he had to say. Aryeh-Leib called out those at the synagogue who did not want to contribute to the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael and told them, in part: “With your prayers, you will not bring the Messiah any closer; for that, you need to engage in actual activism and only then, you will hasten his arrival.” (Such things were considered heretic at the time). When he was done, his father, my grandfather, went up to the podium. He faced the community, all of whom were disturbed by his son's “nerve”, who dared to preach to those praying in not less than on a holy day.

All of Yagolnitzer's days were devoted to imparting the Hebrew language as widely as possible. This was, for him, for Aryeh-Leib, something of a celestial inner calling for the revival of the language and the Jewish people.

He was fluent in foreign languages so that he was able to translate from German and Russian into Hebrew the writings of the Jewish-German poet Heine; of the Russian writer Lermontovand, and other writers too. Aryeh – Leib also composed poems and plays of his own and was a regular contributor of literary pieces to the newspapers “Hatzfirah,” “HaOlam,” and others. He also wrote and published a book on teaching basic Hebrew titled “הזיוון” (“The Splendor”).

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Teacher and Poet A. L. Yagolnitzer and his wife Bina
The photo was taken in Bolgrad, Serbia on October 3, 1911.
Two years later they arrived in Yedinitz.
Photo insert: A. L. Yagolnitzer in the 1930s in Palestine.

* * *

As early as 1914 he was invited to lecture in Israel, but he settled in Yedinitz for a few years. He arrived in the town even before World War I broke out. He founded a school for children and fostered public and Zionist activities.

His house, our house, was the home of anyone to whom Zion was important; Zionist organizations would gather in his house, whereby the main topics to be discussed and argued were sociology and literature, the redemption of Israel, and ours. The discussions usually ended with singing about a longing for Zion.

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While he was busy in the field of education in the towns of Bessarabia, his work was hindered by the outbreak of the war. After the war, when Bessarabia was annexed to Romania, his influence spread throughout Romania. After Yedinitz he taught in Iasi, and then he was a Hebrew teacher at “Safah Brurah” (Clear Language), Teachers' Seminar (parallel to “Tarbut” in Bukovina) at Chernivtsi, and for a few years, he was even the head of “Tarbut” in Bucharest for the entire country of Romania. He spearheaded the first organization of Hebrew teachers in Bessarabia.

In Yedinitz, Yagolnitzer composed the poem “The Power of Repentance” (“ëåçä ùì äúùåáä”), which was about Hasidism. This topic was close to his heart because he was from a family of Hasidim, descendants of Baal Shem Tov[1].

He also wrote a play titled “Michal and David” which was published posthumously. His students and his friend, the writer, and critic Israel Zemora also published posthumously his book, “Fruit of the Forest”.

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Fate decreed that all his descendants (six daughters and one son) emigrated to Israel ahead of him. He emigrated at a ripe age (54) in the year 1935. In Israel, he was a teacher at Nahalal and afterward in Rehovot. There he published Bible research, grammar, and children's books in “This Morning for Children” (“הבוקר לילדים”). His greatest wishes finally came to fruition.

His son and his daughters all settled in Israel, in kibbutzes and moshavs, in a private settlement, and in town. His son, Dr. Matania Yagolnitzer, who was born in Yedinitz, passed away in Israel in 1971. His daughter Pnina Ben-Shaul, a member of Kibbutz Ma'abarot, died in 1972.

Aryeh-Leib Yagolnitzer passed away in Tel Aviv in 1945 at the age of 64 and was laid to rest in Kfar Hayim, in Emek Hefer, where his daughter Achinoam lived.


[Newspaper clipping: “Hatzfirah” Jan 19, 1914, in Hebrew]


Education in Yedinitz on the eve of World War One

An article of this length was unusual in those days in Jewish publications (the year World War I broke out). This was published, apparently, in “Hatzfirah” (then a daily newspaper), a newspaper well respected because of its above-average Hebrew content. The author, who signs his name as Avraham-Jacob the Hebrew, did not disclose the names of the activists, the teachers, the private school, and the cheder, which he mentioned. The daughters of the poet and teacher A. L. Yagolnitzer report that he used the pen name “Avraham-Jacob the Hebrew.” On the other hand, he would mention other names when he praised them.

We must mention that in those years there were already well-known teachers in the town: Yakov Kotzer, Moshe (Zamkhov) Leiderman, Yaakov Hersh-Leibs Kizhner, Zvi Kozminer, and others. The same year, the renowned teacher Dubrow arrived in Yedinitz.

Translator's footnote:

  1. Baal Shem Tov, “Master of the Good Name,” was the title given to Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760) founder of the Hasidic movement. Return

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The Teacher Yaakov Kizhner
(Yankel-Hersh Leibs)

by Alexander Melechson

Translated from the Hebrew by Dafna Meltzer



Yaakov Kizhner, known as Yankel-Hersh Leibs was one of the best known teachers in Yedinitz at the beginning of the 20th century, and was one of the first to teach “Hebrew in Hebrew.”

He educated generations of youth in the town, all of them knowing Hebrew perfectly and being faithful to their people and their culture. His sons, and in particular his daughters, helped him with the work at his school, which was located at the home of his father-in-law, the teacher Hersh Leib. In the year 1924, Yaakov Kizhner emigrated to Brazil, where his son Kalman already resided. With him emigrated his son Itamar and his daughters Necheh and Hannah, z”l, who passed away in Brazil, and Tovah (now – Keizerman).

In Rio de Janeiro, Yaakov Kizhner continued his sacred mission of teaching Hebrew. He passed away in 1936.

In his new country Yaakov Kizhner also earned respect and praise from his students, their parents, and the Jewish community. He excelled not only in his knowledge of Jewish sources but also in science and general knowledge. His knowledge was particularly extensive in geography and high mathematics, even though he was self-taught. He was gifted in music; he could read it and sing and composed tunes for several poems which he taught to his students. Those were liturgical texts, Jewish songs.

In Yedinitz he had been among the founders of the Zionist synagogue “Sha'arei Zion” and the adjoining library, in his new place of residence, Rio, he was one of the organizers and founders of the synagogue “Yavne,” which over time became not just a place of prayer but also the destination for local Jewish intellectuals and Hebrew speakers.

His descendants continued his tradition and loyalty to Judaism, to the Jewish culture and the Hebrew language, something which defined their great father.

* * *

My Teacher Yaakov Kizhner z”l

He was known in Yedinitz as “Yaakov Hersh-Leibs,” named after his father-in-law, Hersh Leib, an early education teacher.

Born in Briceni, he moved to Yedinitz after 1900 when he was in his twenties and was very active in “החדר המתוקן” “the Reformed Cheder” in our town, where studies were in the purest Hebrew and was co-educational.

He was good looking, impeccably dressed, and his entire demeanor showed seriousness. I don't remember him ever raising his voice at a student. Even so, there was absolute discipline in his “cheder.” He was aware of the new advances in the field of education, and copies of the journal “Education” were piled up on his bookcase.

I remember very few of my classmates in R. Yaakov Kizhner's classroom, but I will mention here Itzhak (“Sonia”) Kormansky[1] (died in the Holocaust) and Reuven Kizhner (not related to the teacher) who emigrated to the United States; I believe he resides in New York.

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Efraim Einis had a sweet voice and was considered then as “musically gifted.” R. Yaakov volunteered to teach him to read sheet music. Efraim also emigrated to the United States, visited Israel, and I met him there. In the years 1912-13, two girls studied with us: Nehama, daughter of Shmuel Groman, and Tovah, the daughter of the teacher, R. Yaakov; his other daughter Necheh assisted him in teaching. I ask the rest, whose names escape me, to forgive me.

He taught in Yedinitz for twenty years. But after the First World War, he was disillusioned with life in Bessarabia and emigrated to Brazil.

His health deteriorated after he arrived in Brazil and passed away at the prime of his life when he was only 54 years old.

In the heart of his students wherever they were, he knew to how to instill the foundation of general and Jewish studies; may his memory be a blessing.

Dr. Elimelech Blank, Tel Aviv


The Teacher Zvi-Hersh Kozhminer

The teacher Zvi-Hersh Kozhminer taught in Yedinitz from the turn of the 20th Century until his death at the hands of the Romanians and Germans in 1941.

His family arrived in Yedinitz from the Ukraine when he was still young. Zvi-Hersh finished high school in Kiev and received a completion certificate, which allowed him to teach children “of his own religion.” From the moment he arrived in town, he established and managed private elementary schools. His name was mentioned in an article in “Hatzfirah” in 1900 in connection with the establishment of “a school for indigent children” (see in the section for “Theater”). Unlike other Jewish educators he taught not only Hebrew and Jewish studies but also Russian (during the time of the Tsar) and laterRomanian (after taking additional courses). He also taught general studies in private schools under the management of other Hebrew teachers.

His daughter Freda (Mital, now a teacher in Tel Aviv) was during the 1930s a teacher in her father's school. During the first Russian occupation (1940-1941) Zvi Hersh-Kozhminer taught Yiddish at the Jewish school.

He was killed by the Romanian invaders in 1941 after he organized a resistance to attack the soldiers who assaulted women hiding in a cellar (see the section “Holocaust”).

P. M-T

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School report cards issued by the Jewish schools in Yedinitz

Moshe Leiderman's School was also called, at times, “Tahkamoni” and other times “Moriah”
Upper Elementary Hebrew School – this was the name of Baruch Kutcher's school
Public School – this was the official name of “Talmud Torah” (Torah Student)

School report cards were also issued by the other schools under the teachers Dubrow, Kozhminer, and others, but we don't have any samples of those.

Translator's footnote:

  1. A Russian name or nickname for men “Sonie” or “Sunie” or “Sonia”. Return


The Public High School of R. Baruch Kutcher

by Leah Fuchs-Kutcher

Translated from Hebrew by Dafna Meltzer

“The Public High School for Boys and Girls” was the name of my father's school, and this is how notices between semesters and graduation certificates referred to the school.

The curriculum included: prayer, Torah with Rash”i interpretation, Gemara (interpretations), the Hebrew language and its grammar, Jewish and General History, Jewish Geography, Nature, Mathematics, Romanian language, and the history of Romania.

In 1923 the students studied two foreign languages in the sixth grade – French and German. The teachers who taught these languages were Clara Bromberg, Gokovski, Bitner, Dr. Loibman, and Dr. A. Blank.

The educational system was twofold: sacred texts in their Yiddish translation and general studies in “Hebrew-in-Hebrew.”

His discussions with students covered the general as well as the Jewish topics, but particularly about the Jewish Holidays, both religious and national. He would emphasize national values; his main purpose in the instruction of students was going to Israel. Even on a field trip for Lag BaOmer he would incorporate Hebrew songs

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and stories about Israel. The same for T”u BiShvat, when the entire program consisted of stories and songs about Israel besides the material about that specific day.

In general, the atmosphere in the school was one of acquiring national values and even in religious studies, the goal was always Israel, the Israeli people, and the Israeli spirit. Israeli spirit, according to him was the Hebrew education.

His students enjoyed the poems of the national poet H. N. Bialik. At one celebration, as far as I can remember, where representatives from all the schools in town participated, one of the students, Michal Grozman, recited the poem “HaMatmid” (“The Talmud Student”) to great acclaim.

Many of his students emigrated to Israel, some earlier on, some later on. All, of course, spoke Hebrew and they liked to tell that the Hebrew language on their lips was ingrained in them by my father decades ago.

Most of the time, the school was housed in a rented, private home. For many reasons, he had to move often. The studies were held in two shifts. The reason was, apparently, that some of the students also attended the public school, where they also studied in shifts, and they came to my father's school to study Hebrew and religion in their spare time.

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R. Moshe Leiderman's school in 1923

Center, seated: R. Moshe Leiderman (9), Noach Leiderman (7), Leib Leiderman (11)
Right, standing Guty Leiderman (4)
Students: 1. Aharon Levitas 2. Yaakov -----? 3. Moshe Kerick, deceased 5. Yosef Shapiro, later a teacher (deceased), 6. Yitzchak Gertzman, later an attorney (deceased), 8. Eliyahu Bitchusky, 12. Eliezer Rashkovsky (Brazil), 13. Asher Roseblatt (escaped in the 1930s by swimming across the Dniester to the USSR, and died there in exile, 14. David Littman (Chernovitz), 15. Yehoshua Rosenthal, 16. Yitzchak Linderbaum, 17. ---- 18. Moshe Rosenthal (Doctor, moved to Israel in 1972), 19. Riva Leiderman, 20. Ita Katz, 21. Elisha Katz, 22. Moshe Schinderman (Israel)


My Father and Teacher
R. Moshe Leiderman (from Zamkhov) and his Family

by Yitchak Bar-Samcha

Translated from the Hebrew by Dafna Meltzer

My father and teacher, R. Moshe Leiderman, was asked to teach in Yedinitz when Talmudic and Jewish studies were the central subjects and secular studies were a necessary evil. My father's strengths were in his great knowledge of Hebrew and grammar. He was also very talented at presenting Talmud lectures, as he demonstrated in the Talmud study groups in his hometown Lipkan, where he was considered a great teacher.

One of his students, R. Noach Landa from Zamkhov, a descendant of the well-known Landa family, “chose” him to marry his granddaughter, Dvorah, daughter of R. Gutman. Since then, my father was known in Yedinitz as “Moshe from Zamkhov.”

The story of my family moving to Yedinitz, described as a “city of lights,” which was told time and time again, remains fresh in my memory. The trip started on a beautiful day, sunny and bright, with a landscape hope-inspiring; and it ended with rain and wind that turned the road into a swamp, where the wheels of the cart sank. I remember vividly

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all the Jewish landowners, the merchants, and the artisans, who turned the place into a beehive of creators and laborers. With their help, the farmers received full compensation for their crops and acquired the tools to improve their lives. And all the while, the government representatives put up barriers to these improvements and were determined to keep the non-Jewish population uneducated.

Most of the Jews were alone in their pursuit of education for their children. They invited teachers from other parts, and over time, even established schools with an increasing number of grades. In those days, parents wanted their sons to stay true to their heritage. They instilled in them the knowledge of Torah and Bible with all the commentaries, but also provided them with a general education.

One of the more famous teachers who taught in Yedinitz was Yehudah Steinberg, a well-known writer. His books “In the Town and in the Forest” and “In Those Days” earned praise. One of the characters in the story “In Those Days,” R. Heim, a soldier in Nikolai's army who had lost a thumb, lived in our town. He would sometimes fashion “guns” out of pieces of wood, and with those, we “shot” our enemies on Lag BaOmer.

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Also, the Rabi from the same story, who managed to get himself through deception into the jail of those who had been kidnapped to encourage them to put on Tefillin and eat Kosher foods, was similar to R' Shmuelik Dayan, naïve and beloved, who led religious services in our town in those days. Moshe Zamkhover , my father, and teacher, who was from the same town of Lipkan, and a young friend of Yehudah Steinberg, was also called to teach in Yedinitz.

In those days teaching hours started early, at eight o'clock, and ended in the evening after eight – a school day of more than twelve hours. On Fridays, the school would start before dawn to make up for the lost hours in the afternoon, which were devoted to Shabbes. Even lunchtime during Saturdays was used as a sort of “study time” to learn customs and study Psalms. The concept of summer vacation was unknown in our school. Cancellation of Torah once a year was caused only by the Uriadnik, a kind of Police Sergeant, whenever it struck his fancy. Every summer, this Gentile would show up fully armed, spreading fear on teachers and students and sending them off “according to the law.” However, the next day, after receiving a “gift,” his wrath would disappear, and studies would resume.

Father, with his sense of humor, explained that those vacations were part of Jewish holidays, whose purpose was to unite and to exemplify some kind of basic daily concept: On Saturdays, for example, people were not allowed to work; during Sukkot, the Sukkah replaced the abode; during Passover, it was forbidden to enjoy chametz ; during Shavuot, we preferred vegetables and dairy products over meat; during Rosh Hashana, we divest ourselves of sins; on Yom Kippur, we abstained from food and any other physical pleasure. The same was applied to days off from school. Then, the students were prevented from chatting and obtaining wisdom. During the holidays we confined ourselves to prayer and veneration of a G-d who chose us from among all the peoples, gave us the Torah, and planted within us the entire world.

For two generations he taught them to love Torah. All his days were devoted to teaching until the bitter day when all Israel was expelled to Transnistria and there his soul was crushed, in front of his daughter Rivkah, who at the same time as she became an orphan, she lost her husband, Eliahu Rozman and her brother Leib, a member of Gordonia.

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My father's praise and memory are kept in the lips and hearts of hundreds of his students, many of whom live today in Israel. A lot we learned from him, both religious and secular, as in Moshe's prayer “And this is the Blessing” that my father would recite every year on Simchat-Torah: “Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.” This passage was embedded in his pupils and children and became part of their souls.

Even his son, Noach Leiderman, sang with great enthusiasm and regaled his friends and students. Israel seemed to him a sort of “Noah's Ark” to which we must enter to be saved from the flood and the extinction that threatened the people of Israel.

Noach, like his friends Shimshon Bronstein and Avraham Weisman, was part of a group that helped those who wanted to move to Israel. Among the immigrants (in 1924, even though he left Yedinitz in 1920) was his brother (the writer of these words) Yitzchak and his wife Haya Bar-Samcha, who were lucky enough to devote themselves to Torah and education in Israel in the Galil and the Sharon Valley. After a time, my brother Menahem and his family also arrived.

Here arrived in a torrent the waves of the Holocaust. Only my brother Gutman and his wife Sonia escaped the clutches of the enemy by going to Peru, in South America. About the rest of the family, I gathered bits and pieces of their terrible deaths.

My father and teacher, R' Moshe Leiderman “Zamkhover,” was murdered in Transnistria in the 1940s. I do not have his date of death or place of burial.

My brother, the teacher Noach Leiderman and his wife Liuba nee Sheindelman (Sheni), and their son Shlomo-Peretz were shot to death by their Hitlerist landlord in Riscani, where he was teaching. The exact date is also not known to me.

My brother Leib, a faithful member of “Gordonia,” where Mordechai Reicher was one of the leaders, was killed somewhere in Russia.

My brother-in-law Eli Muzman, son of Moshe'le Shohat, was killed in Transnistria in the 1940s. His wife, Rivkah, and his daughter, Dvorah, live now in Belz, Bessarabia.

How sad and painful was the fate that shut and closed the gate in front of them before they had a chance to step on the land of their ancestors.



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