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Heders and Yeshivas

[Page 218]

A Town of Bote–medroshim and Khadorim
A Town of Study–houses and Jewish Religious Elementary Schools

by Yekhiel Magid–Rosenberg

Translated by Tina Lunson

There came a wild water and it extinguished the illustrious Torah–filled town Ostrovtse, which had been called by the name of the teacher, rabbi and genius Rebi Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi may his holy memory be for a blessing. Ostrovtse was full of geniuses of Torah, teachers, instructors and judges, and even plain Jews, householders, were experts and astute in Talmud and its commentators. There came a wild water and it extinguished the town… and all at once it was all exterminated…

There were twenty–some Hasidic shtiblekh [prayer rooms] where people prayed as a community three times a day, studied a page of Talmud with commentaries and the “page of the day”; people there were engaged in piety: every shabes they made a kidush, drank a l'khaym toast, celebrated the third meal together, and observing the end of the sabbath; observed the yortsayts of various rabbis, sang zmiros and songs of joy. The congregation of the Hasidic shtibl was like one family. One helped the other with monetary support, arranging a loan.

There were two yeshives in town. The first was the Novorodok yeshive “Beys yosef” with its more than 200 pupils whom the town maintained with “eating days”. The older boys ate in their own kitchen and slept at various families' homes. That yeshive used the new bes–medresh and the two small study–houses of Rov Yekhezkel Shener and Rov Shleyme Tsheshler. The old bes–medresh was free for the town's bes–medresh boys. The yeshive boys were mostly

 

ost218.jpg
The “Yavne” library of the “Mizrakhi

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from the surrounding towns, and each family was happy to maintain a boy by giving food one day a week or a shabes. Those who were not able to offer food one day, because they themselves were hungry, took in a boy to sleep, just to have the mitsve.

 

ost219.jpg
The kheyderOr Torah” of the “Mizrakhi

 

The second yeshive, “Bes mayer”, named after the old Ostrovtse Rebi Mayer Yekhiel Haleyvi of blessed memory, had some 150 boys who were taken care of by the town proprietors. That yeshive was called “the Hasidic yeshive”. There they studied Talmud and commentaries with all the commentators, such as Sh”kh, T”z, Ktsus–hakhushan, Pney Yehoshua, Shita M'kubtses, Khidushey ha'R”m, some Mharsh”a, Mhr”m, Mhrsh”l, Ra”sh. We also studied the laws of slaughter [of animals for food] and rules of purity. Directing that yeshive was the young Rebi Rov Yekhezkel, the son of the old Rebi. He granted ordination for slaughterers and rabbis.

The laborers of Ostrovtse never had enough to eat but every day before dawn they hurried to pray together in the bes–medresh and often they took time to add a few chapters of psalms. The same thing happened in the evening, after freezing a whole day in the market, trying to earn a few groshen. These were men such as the wagon driver, porter, water carrier, or even the tailor, shoemaker and other craftsmen after a day of work went to the bes–medresh for the afternoon and evening prayers. Afterward to sat a the tables where they studied “Ayn yakov”, “Orekh Khayim” or even the page of the day. Each one had his group and each group had its table where they studied together every evening.

When a magid [itinerant preacher] came to town to give a lecture in the old bes–medresh or the big shul, everyone came to hear the sermon and everyone

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scraped together their last few groshen to toss into the plate for the speaker, who stood by the door. Often the laborers did not have money to buy a piece of bread or a few rolls and milk for the children. But they told themselves, “God will provide tomorrow”.

Shabes morning all the study–houses, and the big shul were stuffed with laborers and craftsmen who had thrown off the weekday–ness and were now free to pray were reciting psalms with enthusiasm. Beyond the study houses and the big shul the Hasidic prayer rooms were overflowing.

Poor children studied in the big Talmud–Torah for free. Yellow Osher from Bodzekhov was a teacher there. The children there also learned to read and write Yiddish and Polish, and arithmetic. The Talmud–Torah was in the middle of town, by the market, in the Vakhnes bes–medresh, so that it would be close to the poor Jewish children. The headmaster of the Talmud–Torah was R' Meshele Orenshteyn (R' Meyshe Henekh's) and the assistant headmaster was R' Yisroel Guterman) Marme Beylis). The teachers were misters Elieyzer, Shimeon Mordkhay, Leybl the yellow, Khayim Binyumin and Itshe Mayer.

The Talmud–Torah began by teaching the alphabet with the elementary teachers and went up to Talmud with commentaries. When one graduated from the Talmud–Torah one generally went to the yeshiveBes yosef”, which consisted of a small yeshive and a larger one. Besides that, there were another dozen kheydorim in town with very good teachers who studied privately with students from families of means.

Pity the beauty that lies buried in the ground, pity those who are lost and will never be found.

 

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