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[Page 85]

Educational and other Learning Institutions (cont.)

Not everyone, in spite of his or her honorary title, was truly successful at higher education. There were some among them who were uneducated, and it was impossible to know how they had achieved the title of “Doctor”. There were some whose level of morality was not in line with their respectable degree.

Galicians of all levels of education began flowing to the city of Kielce as well. And when the announcement was publicized that a Jewish Gymnasium was opening in the city, and teachers were sought, an entire flotilla of male and female teachers, all of them bearing the title of “Dr.” and offering their willingness to accept a position at the new institution.

After investigating and checking into every single candidate, and many debates and evaluations, the faculty was finally selected. Dr. Noach Braun, a man of academic education, qualified in various eastern studies, a religious and nationalist Jew who sympathized with “Mizrachi” was accepted as the principal of the Gymnasium. There were many among the teaching faculty who were outstanding in their fields. There were poets and authors among them, who occasionally would publish their works. The most well known among these were Dr. Rotman, who today is an educator in Israel, the Cantor and Dr. Baruch, who also later moved to the land of Israel.

kie085.jpg [24 KB] - The teachers and a class from the Jewish Gymnasium in Kielce
The teachers and a class from the Jewish Gymnasium in Kielce

A special committee was organized by the teachers' parents to support the Gymnasium. Several of the committee members devoted themselves heart and soul to improving and updating this educational institution. The Gymnasium officially belonged to the community authorities, but found no help there; the community council members from the “Aguda” faction did not permit the community authorities to allow the Gymnasium to function under its auspices, nor to take in interest in it and supply its needs. Among those who were active in the Gymnasium's favor, Chaim Wajnryb stood out, a public activist without compare; from the day the Gymnasium was founded he stood at its side and guarded this educational institution like the apple of his eye. In good days and bad, he did not remove his attention from this hobbyhorse of his. He dealt with it always with affection and devotion. There were times when the Gymnasium would be going through a serious crisis; danger that this entire edifice, which had cost so much money, energy and strength would crumble and dissolve entirely; but in these critical moments Wajnryb stood like a fortress, gathered his friends and with joined forces they succeeded in extricating the Gymnasium from the breaking waves and to bring it to a safe harbor. Among the committee members who stood at his side it is worth mentioning and remembering Aharon Josef Moszkowicz, Elazar Arten, who was the chairman of the committee until he immigrated to the land of Israel in 1932 (currently the chairman of the Organization of Kielce Natives in Israel), Grynberg, Mosze Kaufman and others.

kie086.jpg [13 KB] - Elazar Arten, chairman of the Gymnasium committee
Elazar Arten
Chairman of the Gymnasium committee
(currently the chairman of the
Organization of Kielce Natives in Israel)

The first principal, Dr. Noach Braun, in spite of his education and pedagogical talents and his abilities in all respects to stand at the head of this sort of educational institution, did not serve in his position for long. Although during his stay in Kielce the inhabitants were fond of him, everyone regarded him as a man elevated above the average person. Immediately in the first year after his arrival he began to be active outside the walls of the Gymnasium as well. He would give speeches at public meetings and give educational lectures to advanced youths. His speeches and lectures were full of content.

In spite of this, he did not feel solid ground under his feet. Within the Gymnasium as well, disagreements broke out, arguments and squabbles between the teachers; not everyone wanted to accept the principal's authority. The disagreements between the teachers affected the course of studies badly. The principal saw himself as too weak to enforce discipline among the teachers, and was forced to leave his position at the Gymnasium, to the disappointment of many who had experienced his company and enjoyed the fruits of his mind. He later settled in Israel.

After him the engineer Rusek came to direct the Gymnasium. He was a Zionist activist, a man of energy. He understood how to direct an educational institution with great success. However, he also didn't live in Kielce very long. During his tenure the Gymnasium committee was wrestling with financial difficulties. The principal was never sure whether his salary would be paid on time and in full, and therefore, when a principal's position in another city was offered to him in more congenial conditions, he left the post.

[Page 87]

The third principal was the engineer Icak Rzelinski, who now lives in Israel and has an important position with the manufacturer's association. He was a Zionist activist well known in the cities of Poland, and settled in Kielce for a long time and held the post for many years. He developed broad and varied Zionist activities in the city; he participated in every Zionist endeavor with his strength and energies. Without flagging he did his national, education and cultural work. Afterwards as well, after he left the position, he would visit his former workplace from time to time; he was unable to leave it completely. There were many emotional ties between him and the city's inhabitants. Rightly, Rzelinski was considered a “Kielcer”, even here in Israel, he does not go far from the natives of Kielce, participates in their meetings, their celebrations and also their sorrows. The Kielce residents are used to saying, when they mention the name of the Gymnasium principal “our Rzelinski”, because he justly earned with his activities a citizen's rights among the Jews of Kielce.

After him, until World War II broke out, Dr. Feuer held the position of principal at the Gymnasium, a personality in the national sense, not too warm and not too cool. Our national tongue was foreign to him as well. He began, therefore, to study Hebrew with the writer of these lines; but his free hours were taken with other matters, and the rules of the language, which had been strange to him from the days of his childhood, did not take root. After several months, when he saw no success from his study, he said a final farewell to the Hebrew language.

This principal served only as a front for the authorities; and he had only a small influence on the course of studies and its direction; the spirit was given and created by a few teachers, who were gifted with inspiration, and Dr. Pelc, who at the time was made head of the committee that dealt with the affairs of the Gymnasium.

Among the Gymnasium teachers one young man, called Grojbrad, was particularly impressive, a Hebrew and Jewish history teacher. He had the gift of speech; his public speeches made a deep impression upon his listeners. He had a particularly large influence upon the youth who were drawn to him, and he served as a counselor, a lighthouse, and was well liked by the younger generation.

The relations between the Gymnasium and the private and public elementary schools were decent in the first years of its existence; there was no competition between them. The elementary schools prepared the students for the Gymnasium, and the latter would make application materials available at the start of the academic year. However, in the last few years before the Shoah that overtook European Jewry, the Gymnasium administration decided to open lower grades as well, in order to improve the state of its budget by adding students. But by then wild competition was out of hand also in the education of boys, and the results were bad for education in general in the city.

I will mention here also the “Tushia” [resourcefulness] school, which was not really a special school with any unusual direction, but was a sort of continuation of the school founded by the “Mizrachi”. The change here was not in the essence of the curriculum and also not in the make-up of the faculty, but a change of ownership is what occurred here. The members of the “Yavne” school committee of the “Mizrachi” were mostly businessmen, sunken head and shoulders into their private businesses, and their minds were not free to deal with school affairs. As long as Reb Icak Finkler stood at the head of the committee, all was well; he did not take his eye off the school; if he felt any lack there, he did not rest until he removed it, and order returned. But his father, the Admo”r of Pinchev [Pinczow] moved to Sosnowiec with the members of his family. The “Yavne” school was left with barely any responsible stewardship. No one was in charge of its internal procedures, or of its budget. Months went by and the teachers did not receive their salaries.

In this situation, the teachers decided to take the school into their own hands. The “Mizrachi” committee did not agree to turn its educational institution over to private individuals of its own free will, not even the teachers who were members of the “Mizrachi”. However, the parents of the students were on the side of the teachers. They were convinced that the course of studies would improve and be run in better order in a situation where the teachers themselves had an interest in the schools existence and when its responsibility was on their shoulders.

The faculty finally opened the “Tushia” school. Appointed as principals were the writer of these lines and Mr. J.L. Micnmacher, a young man with much energy who understood pedagogical ways in all their various methods. Many improvements were made to this cooperative school, new and appropriate furniture; a radio, that in Kielce at the time was something of a rarity, was introduced to the school, in order to give the child an opportunity to enjoy the special children's programs that were broadcast at specific hours during the day.

kie088.jpg [34 KB] - 'Tushia' school, the teaching faculty and the principal, Pinchas Cytron
“Tushia” school, the teaching faculty
and the principal, Pinchas Cytron

The “Tushia” school developed rapidly and its importance and value grew from year to year, not just in the eyes of the parents, but also in the opinion of the authorities. The government inspectors were always expressing their satisfaction from the order that ruled there.

The “Mizrachi” however, didn't give up its school, and it continued to exist under the direction of Fiszel Guthart, an activist in the “Torah VaAvoda” [Torah and Work] faction. Teachers were brought in from other places; however it continued for only one more year, for the members of the “Mizrachi” soon learned that they were keeping it going for naught. They could see with their own eyes that the children were leaving their “Yavne” school and transferring to “Tushia”. Eventually, the “Tushia” school remained the sole heir of the “Yavne” school, which also continued its tradition, did not leave the path that the “Mizrachi” had laid down for it in the matter of educating boys by even a hairsbreadth and only occasionally introduced internal and external changes depending on the pace of its development. Alongside the school, a library of scientific and pedagogical books was established. The school made significant contributions to the “Keren Kayemet” and the “Keren Hayesod” Funds [Jewish National Funds]. The school had a “Keren Kayemet” committee whose members were students. This committee collected respectable sums from the students for this national financial institution, and the teachers did not prevent themselves from making an effort to promote it to the students.

The “Aguda” also ran a line of “cheders” called “Yesodei HaTorah” [Foundations of the Torah], in which the city's “melameds” taught the children the Pentateuch and the commentary of Rash”i, Gemara and the commentary of the Tosafists according to the time-honored fashion. And several hours a day were devoted to secular studies, which were entrusted to the graduates of the Gymnasiums. I will mention here the names of the outstanding “melameds” who taught Torah to the children of Kielce: Rabbi Mendel Paczanower or Bornsztajn, a Chassid of Alexander, a great Torah scholar, his son Rabbi Motel served as the rabbi of Checiny. Rabbi Judel Rotszild, a Chassid of Gur – great in Torah and in personal qualities, Rabbi Mejer'l Bajrzeciner, a Chassid of Checiny, Rabbi Heszel Zalcer, Rabbi Aba Charendorf and Rabbi Mosze Jakubowicz, Chassidim of Alexander, and of the “melameds” of the younger children I will mention Wolf Horwicz, one of the first “melameds” in Kielce, Dawid Chroberski (Belfer) and others.

kie089.jpg [32 KB] - Laying of the cornerstone for the 'Yesodei HaTorah' school
Laying of the cornerstone for the “Yesodei HaTorah” school

Before World War II broke out, the “Aguda” in Kielce was about to build a large building on a lot that Rabbi Fiszel Kohen had dedicated to this purpose, in which all of the “cheders” of “Yesodei HaTorah” were supposed to be concentrated as well as a trade school, from which religious artisans who observed the commandments and earned their livelihood from the work of their hands were meant to eventually go forth. The cities leading citizens participated in the laying of the cornerstone and at that very spot respectable sums were raised to carry out this essential endeavor, which was supposed to reflect glory on the community of Kielce. However, in the midst of the construction work the war broke out and together with other plans, this plan was also cancelled, eternally.

In Kielce there was also an educational institution for poor children, abandoned children, called “Talmud Torah”. This institution began its existence at the beginning of the twentieth century, as soon as the community developed and those that stood at its head had to also worry about the education of the children whose parents could not care for them, because of their poverty, or who were orphans. The children received a basic education there as well as clothing from time to time. At the head of the Talmud Torah stood a principal who himself taught the children. Aside from him there were also an infant's “melamed” and a teacher who taught the children to read and write in the language of the country. Among the principals, Nachman Dawid Kaszanski, Bunem Wirzewa and Elazar Manela particularly excelled.

With this we conclude the portion of the education and cultural institutions in Kielce, and its development from the old fashioned “cheder” to a modern nationalist school. We saw the long process of the struggle of the old with the new until the crystallization of the later in a synthetic manner in the sense of old wine in new vessels.

But all the efforts and all the energies that were invested in the institutions were, unfortunately, wasted and for naught. No edifice in the Diaspora can continue, it hasn't a solid foundation. A storm came and uprooted the tree from its roots to its branches and fruits.

I have written in this book the manner in which the development in the field of education was conducted in our city and the names of the people who were active in the field of Jewish culture in our community so that they will remain in the memory of the descendants of Kielce natives, and that the names of the people will not be erased from our hearts, for their activities deserve to be engraved on the memorial monument of the martyrs of our people. The tree was uprooted, but it sent its seeds to great distances, and thanks to them we have been fortunate enough to become an independent nation in our ancient homeland, in the State of Israel.

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