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[Page 110]

Memories of the Hebrew School in our City

by Yehudit Hadar

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Hebrew School in 1923 with the teacher Kurtz
Thirteen of the students are in Israel, and one is in the United States.

As I have been informed, there used to be a Hebrew School in our city under the directorship of the distinguished teacher Brecher, a resident of Podhajce. The teacher Brecher was a Hebrew teacher in our city for many years, but one bright day, he packed his suitcases and set out for America along with his family. In the meantime, until another qualified Hebrew teacher arrived, all sorts of youth, mainly students who had already mastered the Hebrew language, gave classes in Hebrew.

Many of the residents of our city were not satisfied with this situation, and attempted to bring a good, experienced teacher to our city. Their efforts bore fruit, and they succeeded to bring a teacher by the name of Rozen to our city. He arrived in our city before fitting premises for the Hebrew School could be found. After a short time, they succeeded in renting appropriate premises for the Hebrew School at the home of the Pulver family. The premises had two large rooms that could hold 30-35 students. I still remember the first day when the students gathered in the Hebrew school, the welcome and the first conversation of the teacher Rozen with the students, who were very much taken by him at that time. The teacher Rozen was of average height, approximately forty years old or slightly older. He arrived in our city from the town of Zlotniki. He had the high forehead of a scholar, and his visage exuded intelligence and good heartedness. People would say about the teacher Rozen that he was an expert in Talmud and a good pedagogue. We began our studies in an elementary fashion, and we paid great attention. In the meantime, other students joined us, and other courses were opened for beginners and those more advanced. We studied Hebrew, grammar and Bible for one hour each day, and the studies were conducted in an orderly fashion. One bright day, the teacher Rozen did not appear at our class. We were worried. Then the rumor spread that the teacher Rozen left our city for unknown reasons, and we were left once again as sheep without a shepherd.

We suffered greatly from the lack of a teacher, for we had become accustomed to our studies. After a short time, a young man, tall and with an erect posture, arrived in our city. His appearance exuded nobility and honor. He was a refugee from Russia and his name was Goldstein. He accepted upon himself the leadership of our school, and quickly exerted his authority over the students. He introduced a new style of learning, and imbued a completely different character to our school. The classes were conducted in literary Hebrew, unlike the teacher Rozen, who taught us in a biblical style. In addition to Hebrew, grammar, and Bible, we also studied literature and song with the teacher Goldstein. Form time to time, we also performed small plays on a wooden stage, such as “The Binding of Isaac”, “The Flood”, “King Saul”, etc. Goldstein intended to settle in our city, for he was still a young man of 28. However, the Polish government opposed his residency in the city and ordered him to leave. I believe that he was commanded to leave Poland since he was a refugee from Russia. The school reached a state of crisis after he left.

After Goldstein left, there were a few teachers in the city, but they did not succeed in striking roots, since they were not as successful at teaching as their predecessors, and their students were not able to get used to them. In the meantime, the students dispersed, and we lost the premises at the Pulver home,

[Page 111]

for it was difficult for the remaining students to pay even the rent. Once again, the committee or the group of donors concerned themselves with bringing a Hebrew teacher to our city at any cost. They got up and went to Lvov, the big city, where there was a Tarbut teacher's seminary. After much searching, they brought a Hebrew teacher to our city. He was a bachelor, approximately 29 years old. His externals did not offer much promise. He was tall, and his face did not exude anything special. He seemed like an ordinary young man, and at first it was difficult to get accustomed to him. However, here the adage was fulfilled: do not look at the container, but rather what is in it. After we succeeded in finding two gigantic rooms in the home of Dr. Avner and the classes started we were forced to admit that we erred in judging the teacher Kurtz by his appearances. He was a teacher who was graced with all fine talents, with a proper approach, a fitting mode of relating and great patience. In short, he was a genuinely wonderful teacher. The classes started with a small number of students; however, with the passage of time, all of the students who had previously dispersed returned to the school. All of them returned to the students' benches, and the school bustled with many students. Almost 90% of the youth studied in Hebrew courses. That teacher by the name of Kurtz, whose externals did not promise much, knew very well how to win over the hearts of the students with his wonderful style that caused the students to absorb very quickly, and with his great dedication. He not only succeeded in winning over the hearts of his students, but he also won over the heart of a young woman who married him. He then settled in our city. Since his wife was a native of our city, people stopped worrying about Hebrew teachers, and the members of the committee breathed a sigh of relief.

In the meantime, Rozen, the former teacher, returned to our city. He along with Kurtz did their share in developing the Hebrew school in a fine fashion. The school remained in existence until the outbreak of the Second World War, in which the students perished along with their teachers and parents. The school ceased to exist with the loss of Jewish life in the city.

One thing is certain and agreed upon by all of those who survived, most of whom live in Israel that the Hebrew school of Podhajce provided its deep power and influence in educating its students in Zionism and the Land of Israel.

Students of the Hebrew school of Podhajce
with the teachers Kurtz and Rozen

Reb Yechiel Meller

He was born in the city of Podhajce on Dec 7,. 1822. In his youth, he went to live in Stanislawow with his father, where he was educated in the manner that was customary of the cheders of that era. He studied only Talmud and Halacha. At the age of 16, he married a woman from Lvov, and there he began to learn the German, French and English languages, and delved into their literatures. When Mr. Stern began to publish his Kochvei Yitzchak periodical in 1945, he asked him to become an assistant in preparing the articles. He agreed, and many of his articles were published in all of the 26 editions. He also wrote several satirical stories that were published in Hanesher and Haet, published in Lvov.

In 1883, the first section of his book Nitei Neemanim, an anthology of all of his various articles, was published.

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