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Culture and Education {Cont.}

[Page 295]

The Hebrew-Polish Gymnasia “Yavne”

(named after Szymon Fürstenberg)

by Mordechai Hampel

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Dedicated to my teachers, tutors and classmates in “Yavne”, who completely drank from the “poisoned goblet”.

The cannons that had slashed through the world's skies during World War I had yet to be hushed, in 1919, with Poland under the German regime, at this critical time in the world, several Zionist activists in Bedzin initiated the basis of an idea for a Jewish school, which had not existed in town up to that stage. Amongst those that I remember are: B. Prager, M. Szajn, J. Wigodzki, J. H. Erlich, J. Rotner, S. Gutman, M. K. Erlich, the engineer Zmudzki, Brachia Majteles, all of blessed memory, and others who are no longer with us, and Mr. Abram Liwer, who should live long, who now resides in America.

The idea of founding a Jewish school captivated the educated residents of the city, engrossed in a national spirit, who were compelled to send their children to a Christian school (trade orientated), by the name of “Szkola Handlowa“, since there was no Jewish educational institution. The founding of a Jewish Nationalistic school was important – though not a trifling affair, and the implementation difficult, since from where would the large monetary capital be found that was necessary for this, a suitable building, that needed to be expansive, a teaching staff and so on, however, where there is a will there is a way.

A committee was elected, that was entrusted with carrying out the mission, and in fact, it went into immediate action, and after quite an amount of work it was crowned with success. An apartment was found, that was more or less suitable, two stories, in a house belonging to Dowidl Zmigrod, in Kollotaja Street, opposite the town hall. In this extensive house, with several wings, there were was also the Mrs. Bojarska Jewish girl's school.

[Page 296]

The long-awaited school that was founded on the utraquist example, that is to say: dual language, Hebrew and Polish. It was given the name “Yavne“, in memory of the spiritual center of Rabbi Jochanan Ben Zakai, which existed after the destruction of the second Temple.

Local teachers were called for, not necessarily qualified and licensed, and I would like to favorably mention, those who endowed me with an education from my beginnings in first grade, and they are Mrs. Dora Szwarc (nee Erlich, presently in Haifa), Mrs. Rozencwajg, Mirjam Tenenbaum, J. L. Traub, Poljwoda, Telner, Heniek (a Christian, an art teacher), the cantor Szerman (presently in America). Dr. Noach Braun was made principal, was born in Galicia, who worked in the Institute for Eastern Studies in the Jerusalem University.

It happened over 40 years ago… I was examined in my knowledge of the Hebrew language by the principal, Dr. Braun. After he saw from our conversation in Hebrew that I spoke fluently, he commended me and slapped me on the back as a sign of his approval and encouraged me to preserve on in studying Hebrew. After Dr. Braun retired from the gymnasia in Bedzin, and transferred to the gymnasia in Kielce, Dr. Fajwel Widerman took his place, and he was also from Galicia, who also taught the Roman language. He was fortunate and survived after the annihilation of the Jews of Zaglembie, and described what had befallen him in those tragic years in his Polish book called “Plowa Bestia” - “The brown beast” Munich, 1948. (I have presented a section translated into Yiddish in this book – M. H.)

In the last ten years of its existence, till the Second World War broke out, Dr. Dawid Einhorn served as its principal and during his time the school reached the height of its development.

When the gymnasia was founded there were only five departments (three preparatory classes and two senior classes), though in time, from year to year, more departments were added. Of the founders of the first two graduation classes, I remember the graduates Zew Erlich z”l (later continued on in the Technion in Haifa), Aron Domb (now living in Belgium), Anszel Wajcenberg z”l (one of the Jewish workers in the Bedzin town council), Stanislaw Wigodzki (now in Warsaw and active in the field of Polish culture and language), Leon Opoczinski z”l, Laudon, Wermond, Aszer Warszawski, Jechiel Sztark (the last two are now in Israel).

The school grew and grew and many came to knock on its doors, but it was unable to absorb many more students, because of the poor housing conditions in the gymnasia, the space available became smaller and more unsuitable. The question of accommodation greatly worried the school management and the patron's committee. Then a savior came, and he was Szymon Fürstenberg, his soul now in Heaven, a tireless public activist and a generous philanthropist, who decided to erect a new building worthy of the name of the gymnasia. And indeed, he realized his dream: Fürstenberg purchased a large plot in Sobieskiego Street and five years later an extensive building proudly arose with all the improvements, enhancements and equipment that we would have been proud of, had it be located in Israel. Huge sums of money were invested in this grand building, and the benefactor did not spare anything, so that the work was carried out to perfection in all of its details and requirements.

When the building was transferred to the trustees, with its luxuries and many comforts, in line with the latest educational techniques, the late donor Szymon Fürstenberg defined a condition, that the gymnasia would be named after him and his wife. This was not because he was seeking fame, rather for personal reasons, who was used to explaining to the gossipers, whose name they opposed: “Since my children have disappointed me, in straying from the national spiritual values of the Jewish people and alienated themselves from them, for that reason I wish to receive spiritual contentment from Jewish children, in general, that they will fondly remember at some stage, that in the walls of my gymnasia they received the treasures of Jewish culture, wisdom and knowledge…”

Fate was cruel, and in the gymnasia, in which Torah education had been created, the war now housed itself, in the form of the evil Nazi conquerors regime and from which they carried out the destruction of our communities.

Years passed and the gymnasia named after Fürstenberg and his wife, received full governmental rights, became renown throughout the region. The gymnasia, to which students flocked from all the Zaglembian towns, extracted thousands of students and hundreds of graduates throughout the world with an academic title. A small group of lawyers, doctors, engineers, professors and scientists, “Yavne” graduates, settled in Israel and are active in civic and social life, in the spiritual field and culture of the state.

A number of words in memory of Alexander Zyskind Bornsztajn, may the Lord avenge his blood, my Hebrew teacher during the years that I studied in “Yavne”. All the knowledge acquired in childhood, all that I learnt from him, is kept in my memory. He was an intellectual with many virtues. He knew our language and literature in depth. On account of his mild and gentle character, some of the students used to taunt him, and more than once we saw him standing bewildered in front of the students, who belittled him, but he forgave them for their mischievousness. I was a constant visitor to his home (his wife was from the renown Berisz Prager family in Bedzin, from which only the son, Juda, survived the Holocaust and is in Israel) and we worked together in the “Tarbut” organization to disseminate the Hebrew language through all the levels of our people in Bedzin. His daughter, Hanka, a charming girl, was active in “Gordonia”, and Hebrew was her mother tongue – we held much hope for her because of her talents and virtues, however she died a martyr's death with the people of the underground.

When I said goodbye to my teacher, when I made my aliyah to Israel, he said to me: “Please send my regards to all my acquaintances in Israel. I – who knows if I will ever see them”. Indeed, he never managed to see the land of Israel, his yearning. I bitterly grieve that the family of my teacher, Bornsztajn, were taken away together with my other teachers. Their memories will remain in the hearts of their students.

These are the graduates of the gymnasia in 1939, several months before the war, who were examined amongst other subjects in the field of Jewish Studies and several of the students planned to continue their studies in the University of Jerusalem: Lajb Dancygier, Ester Gutman, Henrik Szpilberg, Gutman Jungster, Mordechai Jarzombek, Icchak Kac, Mina Kahana, Jonatan Klajman, Irka Szwarcbaum, Adolf Woznica, Juda Banach, Kajlbojm, Szlomo Borzykowski, Dwora Bursztyn, Sara Czernowa (all of them from Bedzin), Jona Klajman, Bencion Kozuch (from Sosnowiec), Michael Manela (Dabrowa) and Mila Kleber (Katowice). Only a few them remained alive.

[Page 297]

Bedzin supports the Jewish Scientific Institute

(From “Zaglembier Zeitung”, No. 27, 1938)

by Icchak Pesachson
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The Jewish Scientific Institute “Yiddisher Wissenshaflicher Institut” was founded in 1925. The institution managed to concentrate within its few years of its existence, spiritual treasures and published important research activities. Its activities were all over the world, in every place that there was a Jewish settlement, even in the smallest.

There is a need to be within the walls of the institute, to monitor its work, to reflect on its deeds, to examine its archives and resources, in order to truly evaluate this precious institute's place in advancing the Jewish spirit. The institute carried out this sacred work, whilst thousands of supporters and admirers accompanied it with affection and brotherhood. From here comes the well-known admiration of YWA amongst all levels of the people, regardless of political party and outlook in the Jewish public.

The institute doesn't have any means of its own and needs the support of the public for its upkeep, and for that reason through Poland there is now a fund being run to supply its needs. In every locality it is received with understanding and given generous response.

In Bedzin as well, a fund was founded and not only did it succeed, but our town displayed for a further time its well-developed public maturity towards all its spiritual assets, and found a respectable place amongst the communities that excelled in activities for YWA.

The committee that took this mission upon itself was composed of friends: Dr. Wajnziher, I. Pesachson, I. Frajlich, Mirjam Tenenbaum, Ichaak Wygodzi, the editor Szpigelman, Dr. H. Perl, the painter Szmul. Cygler, J. L. Fajner, Markus Gertner (all of them killed) and Mr. Motel Gold (now in Israel). Heading the project was A. Bursztyn, an envoy of the center.

The fund was helped by: The late Dr. Ferber, Nuta Londner, Isacher Bajtner, Nachman Landau (killed), Benjamin Graubart (died in Munich) and Mr. Alfred Szwarcman (now in Israel).

In particular the major donors, who are worthy of praise, should be mentioned and include: The Jewish kehila, Szymon Fürstenberg, the brothers Chaim and Icchak Shajn, Jakob Gutman, the manager of “Huta Faniches”, Szpigelman, Dr. Ferber, Mosze Kalman Erlich, Eliezer Borzykowski, attorney Dr. Sztajger (famous for the case that place in the twenties concerning the false charge of an assassination attempt on the president of Poland – Wojciechowski), attorney Dr. Zilberszac, Cwi Fefer, Dr. Rechtszpet, Dr. Filipski, Dr. Nisenblat, Olert (all of them killed), attorney Dr. Rechtman (in Israel) and many others that are not mentioned.

There was wide promotion and the publicity undertaking goes well. Lectures, functions and seminars took place. In the halls of the Jewish kehila an exhibition was presented on YWA achievements and its various literary publications, and the large crowd that attended and their great enjoyment could be seen in their eyes. The president of the kehila, Eliezer Rubinlicht, and the secretary Frajlich (both of them killed) should be commended on their assistance that they gave us in every direction.

The “Gmilat Chesed Kasse” [philanthropic] organization is also worthy also of a special acknowledgment in that it enabled us the use of its expansive hall, in which our seminars took place.

Large sums of money were donated by hundreds of people, however we weren't less excited by the modest donation of ten to twenty pennies, that were given to the project by people with little means and unemployed workers.

This is the power of YWA, that the all of the town took part in the project.

Bed-297.jpg [41 KB] - Jewish soldiers with Rubinlicht
Jewish soldiers with Rubinlicht

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