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E. Culture and Education

[Page 294]

Representatives of the
Hebrew language revival movement in Bedzin

(The “Ivriya” organization)

by Mosze Rozenker

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The First World War greatly harmed the Jewish population, whose source of income had been whittled away. At the height of this worrying period and with nagging thoughts about both the present and the future, there were a few citizens, for which the problems of our people were close to their hearts and did not forget them even at this critical time, and they conceived the idea of imparting the Hebrew language to the youth. Indeed, the introduction of this ray of hope and light into the darkness of our lives, served as a basis for the Zionist movement in our city with all it's parties and directions.

In October 1914 the following men assembled: T. Klajnman, J. L.Traub, M. Rotenberg (the three of them were murdered), Mrs. Kowlaska-Graubard (now in Israel) and the writer of this article, to discuss the implementation of this idea. We decided to form an association, whose purpose was to endow our national language to all levels of our people. We called it "Ivriya" and it was a source of inspiration and filled our hearts with joy. After a time we were joined by Elimelech Rotner, of blessed memory, a Zionist and a Jew who completely dedicated himself and who strove greatly for the cause and was chairman of the organizational committee of our organization.

We conscripted the local teachers to our activities: Sowotka, Zilberberg, Londner, and Zajdman (all of whom were slaughtered), who did their utmost in the field of teaching. In addition, the teachers Horgal and Janowski, of blessed memory, who were not born in our city, taught Hebrew in Bedzin and eagerly accepted our invitation [to join in]. The lessons took place in the evening in the school belonging to M. L. Sandiszew (died in Israel). We saw a blessing in our work, since hundreds of students signed up for the Hebrew classes. It should be noted that even religious circles and assimilated families approached us [to join in].

Our work was not easy, since we encountered many financial difficulties. The tuition fee that the students paid did not cover the outlays entailed, and we were forced to find different ways of covering the deficit that we carried. To this purpose we founded a patron's organization that participated in monthly payments, and we organized various events (lectures, parties, theatricals and film days) in order to obtain the money that we required.

We were also active in the artistic field. A theatrical troupe was founded with the association, directed by the talented teacher Zilberberg, which presented various plays from time to time and was lovingly received by the audiences. Most of the "actors" were youths, who were conscripted from the "chaderim hametukanim" [modern religious schools] and from the "Moderni" [Modern] school, which existed at that time.

There were quite a few disruptions by ultra-religious circles, since our association provoked their anger and saw our activities…as a desecration of the holy language. In particular the "Chassidim" of the Rabbi from Gur incited against us and threatened to boycott the parents whose children visited the "Ivriya" and had fallen into evil ways… but we were not deterred. The primary teachers were also disturbed by our activities, since they were worried about their livelihood.

As the "Ivriya" developed, others joined in: Mirjam Tenenbaum, Zvi Fefer, Motel Erlich, Jechiel Tencer, Jehuda Szenberg (who are no longer alive) and Mrs. Rechil Graubart-Gutman who luckily survived the horrors of the Holocaust and went with her children to live in Israel.

We weren't content with only teaching the Hebrew language, but also ran cultural activities, in particular to which, Dawid Melc participated, a member of Kibbutz Ein Harod. Bible classes were also started [by us].

This valued activity continued during the war years. In 1917, with the Balfour declaration, a number of Zionist organizations popped up in our town and our members, who were active in "Ivriya" joined up to these and were their driving spirit.

The "Ivriya" organization continued on in the "Tarbut" [culture] association that was established in our town after a period of time.

We would like to memorialise the teacher Rabbi Josef Wroncberg, amongst the first teachers and Zionists, who was active in our town during the first years of the [20th] century. He began his activity in the "Hovevei Zion" [Lovers of Zion] association, and he imparted his ideas to the town's residents and ignited their longing for Zion. He loved the Hebrew language and did much to disseminate it. Many people received a Hebrew education from him. He was always deep in study, a multi-talented teacher and educator, witty in writing and in speech and his many students drew their knowledge from this abundant source.

There were many Hebrew teachers active in Bedzin and Rabbi Josef Wroncberg was one of the greatest of them. His memory is remains in the hearts of his last few students in Israel!

Bed-294.jpg [22 KB] - The writer, David Maletz
The writer, David Maletz (Ejn Charod)
with a group of girl pupils
Standing from right to left:
Szenwald, Tenenbaum, David Maletz, Zalmanowicz (Paris), Szenwald.
Diamand (Franz Kafka's wife), Frida Graubart,
Sara Lisker-Kowalski, Cesia Ryncki

[Page 295]
The “Tarbut” [Culture] Association

by M. H.

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

In the first years of the nineteen twenties a "Tarbut" association was established, as a branch of the center in Warsaw, to impart Hebrew into all public circles and develop a Hebrew educational system. All the local Zionist parties, apart from "Mizrahi", which had its own educational system, represented the "Tarbut" association. The "Poeli Zion" [movement] were included with Zish"a ("National Jewish school organization") but still respected the Hebrew language and the Right-wing "Poeli Zion" recognized "Zish"a ("Central Jewish school organization") and were committed to education and culture in Yiddish.

The local committee of "Tarbut" were represented by delegates of the General Zionists, the "Hitachdut" party, the "Shahar" organization, Revisionists, the "Hashomer Hazair" organizations, "Gordonia" and "Hashomer Haleumi", however they did little in the association because most of their efforts were for their own organizations.

Next to "Tarbut" there was a well-stocked library, from the days of the "Ivriya", however there were few readers because of the lack of space in its usual location. The library drifted between houses till a remote corner was found for it, in the General Zionists hall. Since there wasn't a paid librarian, there was no-one to worry about the library, to bolster it and purchase new books. Out of their fondness for the language, the following worked as volunteer librarians: Hanoch Altman, Dawid Lewin, Dawid Rembiszewski (the three of them were killed) and Berisz Liwer (now living in Ramat Gan), who excelled in his tireless loyalty and dedication to every Zionist task.

Apart from teaching Hebrew in evening classes, no actual constructive contribution by the "Tarbut" organization in Bedzin can be noted. These evening classes, for which the writer of this article worked for to the best of his abilities, – had a great deal of success, especially during the years of the great "aliya" [emigration] to Israel. Hundreds marched to its doors, however, we weren't able to satisfy everyone because the poor conditions in the building. Only after the management of the "Yavne" school agreed to give us the use of some its classes every evening, were we able to extend our activities, and opened our doors wide to all those eager to learn Hebrew. These were the teachers that taught the evening classes and worked to its success: A. Z. Bornstzajn, Iccek Ziberszac and Iccek Fiszel from Sosnowiec. They were taken from us. May their memory be blessed and the memory of all the "Tarbut" activists remains with us.

Together with this, it is essential to note that though Bedzin was noted for its loyalty and national activities, it didn't have a "Tarbut" school purely for teaching Hebrew, apart from the "Yavne" gymnasia (named after Fürstenberg, and the "Mizrahi" school), in which Herbrew was extremely prominent. However, more than once attempts were made to establish a Hebrew school, being that all the necessary essentials for creating and maintaining it existed, but the last plan, the most realistic, was thwarted with the Holocaust and the loss of our community.

The late journalist, Lejbl Kerner addressed this question in "Zaglembie Zeitung" [Zaglembian daily] in 1938:

"The idea of establishing a Hebrew school in Bedzin is accompanied by birth-pangs and great efforts. We became tired of hearing in the many meetings dealing with this subject uplifting news that had nothing definite and practical being done behind them. There is no doubt, that a "Tarbut" school is a vital need and many parents would gladly send their children to receive a Hebrew education, since only a school of this type would be able to educate its students in national spirit, and its graduates would continue on to complete their studies in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem or in the Technion [Israel Institute of Technology] in Haifa. Hence it is incumbent on the Zionist activists of Bedzin and the devotees of the Hebrew language, to set out with enthusiasm and enterprise in order to fulfill the idea of a "Tarbut" type school that we need like our daily bread".

On the subject of praise we wish to recall the Zionist women's organization "Wizo" in Bedzin, at the head of which stood the outstanding activist and lecturer par excellence who knew Hebrew extremely well – the late Necha Rotner, who began a Hebrew kindergarten during the nineteen twenties, which exists till the Holocaust. More than once I happened to be in the kindergarten and received pleasure and spiritual uplifting, hearing the Hebrew language spoken by Jewish children in Bedzin.

Even though, in the end, our "Tarbut" activities weren't very fruitful, it can be determined that this organization served as an important stimulus to the imparting of the Hebrew language to the Bedzin population, from which only a few survived and managed to "make aliya" [emigrate] to Israel.

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