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Chapter Eight – Culture and Education

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Ludwika Weintraub's Jewish Secondary School

by Shlomo Heftler

Translated by Hadas Eyal

Ludwika Weintraub

Ms. Ludwika Weintraub, the owner and principle of the Jewish Secondary School, perished in the Holocaust along with thousands of the Radomsk Jewish community. She was born in Piotrków in 1890 and graduated from the public secondary school there. After graduating from Geneva University in Switzerland, she returned to Poland a few years after WWI as a certified German language teacher and settled in Radomsk. With help from the wealthy Jews she opened the first secondary school in town for boys and girls. The school was initially housed in the Blumshtein house on 8 Steshelkovska Street where it had only six classes. When it moved to the Sovinsky house on Krakovska Street eight full classes were opened. In 1933 the Weintraub school was relocated to the vacated building of the Polish Secondary School.

Weintraub contended with enormous financial difficulties from the very start. Most of the students paid only half the tuition and some paid just the bare minimum. But Ludwika Weintraub and her teaching staff somehow overcame these obstacles. The school was superior to the two Christian secondary schools in town and praised by the Polish Education authorities for its high level of studies.

The teaching staff that stood by Ludwika Weintraub for many years and helped achieve her substantial goal of quality secondary education for Jewish youth included Dr. Prof. Yaacov Polisyuk, Dr. Prof. Elza Polisyuk, Prof. Shimon Bir, Prof. Israel Bromberg, Prof. Yosef Barbi, Ms. S. Rozencwaig, Ms. Adela Wachtel, and David Ehrlichman the Hebrew teacher who was born in Radomsk. There was also a small circle of supporters who helped in various ways.

The fifth department and secondary school teaching staff 1919/1920

Standing from the right: Rachel Rubin, the Rajkter sisters, A. Jdevski, R. Gliksman,
S. Weinberg, R. Zaks, S. Tiger, B. Rosenboim & M. Slomintski
Second Row: G. Grosman, principle L. Weintraub, Zalcman, Altman & H. Aronowich
Third Row: Z. Geborg, B. Luria.

Graduating students and teaching staff 1932

Standing from the Right: Y. Lichtenstein, Horowitz, Moshe Gelbard, Moshe Hartman,
Arna Rodal, Issachar Minski, —, Opman, Dubshits, Dovjinska, Yaakov Brotski.
Teachers: Prof. Israel Bromberg, Ms. Grosskopf, Prof. Yaacov Polisyuk (principal),
Prof. Elza Polisyuk, Prof. Wavon, Yaakov Brotzki.

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The last graduating class and teaching staff of the Jewish Secondary School 1939

The Shalom Aleichem Library

by Yehuda Liberman

The Shalom Aleichem Library opened on May 1st, 1926 in the Poalei-Zion Party cultural hall in the house of Beniamin Holzberg on 28 Pshedborska Street by activists known as “The Foursome”. It was not the first library in town. The I. L. Peretz Library on Kaliska Street in the city center, an initiative of the Association of Craftsmen in 1924, had approximately 2000 books in its collection and hundreds of readers.

The process of opening a library from scratch, without prior operating experience, without funds to buy books, and having only minimal equipment was difficult, hesitant and doubtful. Furthermore, the intended location was not in the town center. Despite the foreseen difficulties, it was decided to go ahead with the project because books always played an important role in Jewish life. We were rightfully considered 'people of the book' – the book a faithful companion of our people. Firstly, books were an important educational tool. Youth who began working before completing sufficient education supplemented their knowledge through books. Secondly, craftsmen found relief from their tedious work as well as spiritual enjoyment that the realities of their life could not provide. Students spent time reading in their free time.

As a socialist political Party whose missions were first and foremost education and Aliya, we insisted that teaching be delivered exclusively by our Party members. In addition, we saw the library as a cornerstone of the cultural center we planned to build for our youth and adult members. With time we established an open common university, adult night classes, a drama club and a choir.

Building the library was seen as the crowning glory. We dedicated our youthful energy to the goal and were determined to succeed. I was given the responsibility of managing the project. Chaim Goldberg was my right hand man. I also held the post of first librarian.

When the library opened in May 1926 it had only a Yiddish language section of 500-600 books. The first books were donated and Poalei-Zion members who were carpenters volunteered to build our first shelves. There were few readers in the beginning, and, of course, the reading material was not rich in variety because we purchased books according to a pre-planned ideological agenda.

A Polish language section was later added by chance, thanks to a group of girls from the Weintraub Secondary School who agreed to give us several hundred Polish books that were collected for another library that was inactive. Shifra Vitenberg & Pola Pachter (now in Israel), Pola Schwartz & Manya Offman (now in the USA), Bella Teiger & Lola Rapaport (perished in the Shoah) and others helped us manage the new Polish section and several of them worked as librarians for many years.

The Polish books were so popular that we began to purchase books in both Yiddish and Polish. The number of readers consistently grew but fees were low and we needed money to fund the fast pace of the library's development. We did this by organizing successful performance shows and selling tickets.

We wanted to open a Hebrew Section but that took 10 years to accomplish. Our relentless efforts to purchase books in different languages was well appreciated by our readers. A bond of loyalty developed between the library management and the readers. A group of creative women took upon themselves to fundraise by organizing movie-days during the summer and parties in the winter, the income from which made it possible to expand the library. One of the most memorable was a very successful Eretz-Israel themed ball along with the local Keren-Kayemet branch in the winter of 1931.

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With time, our library became the central library in Radomsk and an institution that brought much esteem and respect to our movement in our native town. As I review the library's history today, 35-38 years later, the incredible spirit of dedication and voluntarism that beat in the hearts of our activists looms brightly. They took on the development of this flourishing project as a holy mission and deserve all admiration and appreciation.

Up until I made Aliya in 1933, the people who served as librarians were Moshe-Yitzhak Shitenberg (now in Israel) and Yechezkiel Skorinski of blessed memory who was a dedicated quiet librarian for many years who was not lucky to make Aliya and perished in the Shoah. Yekhezkel Grosman was an assistant librarian for a while.

When I left in 1933 the library had 3000 books and approximately 400 readers. It continued to grow after my Aliya and “shallowed” small libraries that could not continue operating. Such was the fate of the large I. L. Peretz Library that suffered financial difficulties mainly because it lacked public support and did not have a youth movement. A thriving library required volunteers that were difficult to find among craftsmen after a long exhausting day of work.

When the I. L. Peretz Library closed and was to be sold, our library bought 3000 books from them. Our inventory doubled and hundreds of readers joined. Our space became too small and we moved to a designated small house exclusively for the library in the courtyard of Chaim Gelbard on 5 Market Road in the town center. The move from Holzberg house was part of a larger move to accommodate the expansion of all Poali-Zion divisions that required renting several separate spaces for the Party, the youth, HaPoel, the workers associations and also for the library.

I would now like to return to an earlier period to describe the cultural projects that we developed in the library and to mention the outstanding contribution of Israel Bromberg z”l who played a central role in them all. He was born in the city of Kolomyya in eastern Galicia and arrived in Radomsk as a history teacher at the Weintraub Secondary School. Humble and unpretentious, a true friend to the youth, an extreme opposer of assimilation, he always spoke Yiddish outside the walls of the school. He was different from his colleagues who spread the Polish language and culture.

Bromberg was not a Zionist. We first met in the library where he was an active reader. He approached us with a request to volunteer with the youth. He led literature and history courses for both youth and adults and was a vivid contributor to our Shabbat evening gatherings on literary-historical topics (political-ideological topics were led exclusively by Party members).

Bromberg came up with the idea an open a common university with courses on specific and interesting subjects. In the 1930 winter semester, 39 lectures were attended by 4000 participants. All lectures were held in the Party club house in the Holzberg house. The opening ceremony was in the city hall. The project continued in the winter of 1931 until the authorities, who did not like the gathering of hundreds of Jews in the Party club house every Shabbat evening, looked for ways to stop the activities. They claimed the roof was too low, not properly plastered therefore not suitable for crowds of hundreds of people, and banned further lectures there. That winter we opened adult night classes for many students. For many years there was also a choir led by Leibel Zaks, son of the cantor Shlomo Zaks. A drama group occasionally performed original Yiddish plays.

Board members and activists of the Shalom Aleichem Library

Standing from right to left: Moshkovitz Y. S., Aron Fiszlewicz, Chaim Goldberg, Binam Birenboim,
Shmuel Neiman, Yitzkhak Blum, Shlomo Brener, Yehuda Liberman.
Second row: Eliezer Mandel, L. Winter, Hershel Gliksman, B. Torner, David Vaksman.
Seated: Rachel Tubiash-Shtein, Sara Dawner, Adella Ofman, R. Dawner, R. Zionckowski,
H. Weiner, Malka Shmulevitch, Grosberg

The Library stand at the Keren Kayemet Bazzar, 1934

In the “window”: Mania Shapira, David Wielunski, Mila Goldberg
Seated: Avigdor Grochman

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We also had difficult times. The Jewish Communists did not like our activities. Communism was prohibited in Poland and the Jewish Communists operated underground by infiltrating various cultural organizations and youth movements to capture innocent people into the communist net. The Communists ruined several organizations who were unable to block their methods but our situation was different because the youth was educated in a set and clear way – preparation training and Aliya. Our youth were strong and immune against the misconception that others will solve our problems. The Jewish Communists were unable to corrode our youth from the inside the way they did other groups in town, so they launched a physical war of barging in on book exchanges and attempting to organize propaganda gatherings when there were many readers in the library. Our members knew how to handle these campaigns and the inciters were thrown out.

The Hebrew section opened much later than planned – 10 years after the library opened and was made possible by our efforts here in Israel.

In 1934, Shita Moshe and I began to assemble a Hebrew language book collection for the Shalom Aleichem Library in Radomsk. We eventually compiled several hundred books that were worthy to be sent. At the same time, our friend Haim Goldberg made Aliya settling in Haifa where he took upon himself to find additional books.

The books were sent to Radomsk through the World Hebrew Union with books the organization donated. The library managers were happy to receive the gift from Israel and named the new Hebrew section after Meir Wolkovitch z”l who passed away shortly before.

The library reached its record numbers just before the Holocaust: 15,000 books and 1,000 readers. The second generation of library management were whole heartedly dedicated to it and cultivated the place for many years. The institution was pride and glory of the Jewish public and brought honor to our movement as its founders. But the Polish sky suddenly clouded. The Holocaust arrived at lightning speed. Hitler's troops invaded Poland in order to physically annihilate the Polish Jews and demolish their culture. First and foremost was to confiscate all Jewish libraries and send the books to Germany as raw material for its paper industry.

How did the library avoid destruction? Tuvia Bujikovski z”l, the last of librarian at the break of the war described how it was done in the book he wrote of his memories. He was unable to abandon the library he was part of from the day it was founded until that bitter day. A loyal reader and member of Poali-Zion, the majority of his education to that point was from its books. He saw it as his duty to save the establishment despite the mortal danger in doing so. Undeterred by the challenge, he decided to hide the books with the help of his friend Sunny Okrant (later a member of Kibbutz Lochamei HaGetaot). In broad daylight and under the watchful eyes of the German soldiers, they moved several hundred books to the apartment of our friend M. Z. Rosenblat z”l. Okrant left Radomsk shorty after. Tuvia was unable to rest before he moved the rest by himself to the concealed library attic – 14,000 or so books.

At the end of the war, Tuvia returned to Radomsk and rushed to check the fate of the library he hid. The Polish family that lived in the small library building were unaware that the house had an attic or that books were hidden in it. For a small cash prize, the Polish family agreed to let Tuvia take the books to Warsaw where he handed them out to people of the Kibbutzim preparation groups organized in Poland who were thirsty for books in Hebrew or Yiddish. Our surviving books were very useful to the survivors of our people who were preparing for their new life in our country. Sadly, the books from Mordechai-Zelig Rosenblatt's house did not survive – Hebrew and Yiddish books in Poland were destroyed in the German paper industry.

That was the fate of the Shalom Aleichem Library z”l that was founded in 1926 by a group of fanatically devoted visionary youth.

Between the “Cheder” and School

by Yechezkel Grossman

A. From all my teachers, I have learned

Reb Michael Melamed
A child not yet five years old hovered over a page of vowelized Hebrew letters on his first day of school. Next to him sat his teacher reb Michael Melamed holding a pointer. Suddenly, sparking colorful candies appeared on the page. Surprised and happy, the boy looked to his teacher. His father who stood behind him said it was an angel who throws sweets to a boy who studies kamatz-aleph-ao, kamatz-bet-bo. Actually, the boy understood the sweets were from his father but accepted the explanation. This is how the boy came to share the secrets of the supreme angels on his first day of school. His soul expanded when he met the angels on the first page of the Chumash; on the Rosh-Hashanah shofar tekiah verses; and on the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. He dreamt of them and told the stories to his mother, friends and anyone who was willing to listen.

During the winter Michael Melamed's students sat in the Cheder and in the summer time they sat on long low benches under the trees at the edge of the fruit garden in the courtyard of the Gonshorovitz house on Częstochower Street. Reb Michael Melamed was also a medic, almost a doctor, and an overall virtuous man.

Reb Mosze Melamed (Garncarski)
Mosze Melamed on Krakower Street was a strict and orderly educator. The children washed hands while singing together 'Modeh Ani', 'Seh-oo Yadeichem', etc. Punishments were ranked by severity and performed in a special ceremony. The children studied in the morning, went home for meals, and returned for more lessons in the afternoon. During winter time when it became dark at 3:00-4:00 pm, the child would walk home with a square kerosene lantern (a “lumetral”) buttoned to his coat.

Reb Dan Melamed
Reb Dan was the only son of Moshe Melamed. Reb Dan introduced a modern school method in his Cheder. There were no punishments, no whippings and the work load was lighter. Instead, he explained and illuminated, added classes on general subjects and taught Hebrew. The children loved him and happily arrived each morning.

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Reb Szlama Melamed (Judkiewicz)
Reb Mosze and reb Szlama were partners for a time, both running one school – a child studied Chumash and Rashi with Mosze Melamed then continued Gemara/Talmud and Tosafot with Szlama Melamed. They amicably separated at some point and referred students to each other.

Reb Yekhezkel Melamed (Shmulevitz)
Reb Yekhezkel was the son-in-law of Yehoshua Melamed married to his daughter Sara'le. He was one the sharpest Gur yeshiva students. A true G-d fearing man but even though he was popular and accepted by the Gur Chasidim – they did not allow him to teach their children because he was not a good teacher. After his wife passed away leaving him with three children, he married Frimet the daughter of reb Gershon Melamed. His fate was a lifetime of poverty.

Reb Icchak Silver Melamed (Rozenfarb)
Reb Icchak'l Silver as he was called, had a unique teaching method of his own that neither the parents nor the children understood. He never explained the texts he taught. He translated the sentences into Yiddish for the pupils to repeat them after him and memorize by heart. Never did he engage the heart of a child in story or aggada nor did he ever initiate conversation. The children were forbidden to lift their heads from their books as long as he was in the room. If he caught one of them looking at something other than the rabbi or the book during class, he would threaten punishment from hell or would properly spank him. Despite all this, reb Icchak'l was one of the most important Gur Chasidim in Radomsk, loved, respected and popular as a cheerful man who spread joy around him at holidays and events. He was also a truly G-d fearing man and a totally dedicated Torah scholar.

B. Public Secular Schools

There were two public secular school for Jewish children: the one named after the famous Jewish-Polish hero Berek Joselewicz on Szałkowska Street had a Jewish teaching staff. Chaim Kreindler was the principle. The other school on Stacja Street was named after the famous Polish poet Adam Mickevich. The teachers were Polish (except one who was Jewish) and the main objective was to cultivate and instill love of the Polish homeland, its history, heroes and land. I went to this school. The only Jewish subject was “Moshe's religion#148; and it was given no importance.

Once Jewish students found Eretz Israel on the world map, they discovered the state of their people among the people of the world and how the Jews were at the lowest rung compared to the Gentiles. When the teacher sat with the children and told them glorious stories of the Polish homeland, the Jewish child jealously searched for similar comparisons in the history of the Jewish people. On the magnificent May 3rd and November 11th Polish celebrations the Jewish child yearned and prayed, tears chocking his throat, that he will one day be lucky to celebrate with his own people in his own country. Despite this all, it is important to mention the faithful work of the teachers, Jewish and Polish, full of good will to educate their student to the best of their abilities.

There was only one a Jewish secondary school in town. Very few Jews studied in the three Polish general secondary schools. Jewish boys and girls were the minority even at trade secondary school. I remember a literature class in which the teacher highly praised the talents of a Polish author who translated the book of Psalms. It was odd to hear such appreciation of the translation and learning it through memory of the original text which belongs to us.

Religious studies were for the Christians. I remember how a teacher once declared at the beginning of religion class: “those of the commercial religion out”. The Jewish students left automatically except one who remained seated. To the teacher's question he responded: “there is no such thing as a commercial religion”. The teacher repeated the instruction with a style change: “those of Moshe's religion out!”. The student stood and left.

Berek Joselewicz public secular school teachers

Seated from right to left: Mrs. Tenenboim, C. Kreindler (Principle), Mrs. Bogdanska

The Public-Government School for Jewish Children (the teachers – Polish)

Only the three numbered children photographed here survived:
1. Halina Friz (now in Buenos Aires); 2. Genia Feigelman-Bardatch (now in the USA);
3. Sara Gelbstein-Leon (now in Israel)

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The Brave Young Men of “HaKoach”

by Dr. Michael Gonshorovitz

Commemoration of the Radomsk Jews who were brutally killed and buried in unknown communal graves must include the people from the sport societies “Hakoach” [the power], “Hakochav” [the star], “HaPoel” [the laborer], and the “Bund” [General Jewish Workers' League]. Each society organized vibrant youth activities that represented Jewish pride, universal human ethics and national values.

HaKoach was the most vigorous. The young men who started it began to secretly exercise and organize with the goal of countering the widespread inferiority sentiments among Jewish youth. By their own devices, without any public financial assistance, the young men of HaKoach dressed in blue and white uniforms entered the sports field to compete with Polish teams.

We all remember the strong proud HaKoach members: Dudek Sandomirski, Moshe Goldberg, Konitspolski, Wolman, Fishel Heftler, Moshe Pashrovski and others. Moshe Goldberg and Dudek Sandomirski regularly represented HaKoach in the Radomsk sports events.

The golden years for HaKoach were 1930-1938. The chairman at the time was the energetic dentist and charismatic sports teacher Yosef Gil who successfully engaged the majority of the youth. Under his leadership, Mr. Gil expanded the organization adding Dr. David Winfal as co-manager and forming a committee board that included Ignaz Goldberg, Okrant, Henrich Zukerman, Laufer, Dorfman, Michael Gonshorovitz (secretary), Leib Bugaiski and others. In addition to the football section that was already active, new sections of tennis, table-tennis, athletics, volleyball and ice hockey were formed.

The entire Jewish community cheered and celebrated when the HaKoach football team won the municipal championship in the arena in Częstochowa. Our HaKoach was one the best Jewish teams in Poland and the players were famous among both Jewish and Polish sport fans. I still remember several important victories against Częstochowa “Korona” (2:1); against the Piotrków champion “Concordia” (3:1); and against the Tomaszów champion “Lech”. Our team also played against Polish premier league groups “Wisla” and “Grabarnia” from Krakow, “Polania” from Warsaw and participated in international matches against “Vac” Vienna and “HaPoel” from Israel (7:4).

Our Hakoach club was the foundation of the Radomsk municipal team and delivered a nice surprise to both the Jewish and Polish local publics with a 2:1 win over the Polish garrison-force Częstochowa team and its goalkeeper Czyk who was also the goalkeeper of the Polish national team at the time. Our best player was Pistack Kleinerman. When he served in the Polish army stationed in Częstochowa he was Czyk's team mate on the national army team. Kleinerman was also on the Polish National Second Team.

Jewish HaKoach players on the Radomsk municipal team were Max Rodel (Motek), Kleinerman (Fyetl), Lefkovich (Marik), Moshe Goldberg, Michaelov Gonshorovitz and Hertz-Hirsch (Kobel). Additional brave good HaKoach players were Haftel, Schwartz, Mendele, Lifshitz, Koziol, Shlomo Fishman, Lulu Liebe, Avraham Berliner, Yankaleh, Davidovich, Shaya Koyntski, Yosef Goldberg, Machek Rodal, Bruno Rodal, and Berish Gotlib.

The Women's HaKoach team on a three-day course in 1934
Along with the organization committee members

Standing from the right: Ignaz Goldberg, Herschel Zukerman, Madgia Vigodski,
Kopel Bialistok, Mania Bugaiski, Zorski, —, P. Ler, Mila Goldberg, Dorfman, Taichner.
Second row: Gliksman, Neimark, Ruma Varshavski.
Bottom row: Gliksman, Rojska Zaidman

“HaKoach” Radomsk vs. “HaPoel” Tel-Aviv September 12, 1934

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Our athletes successfully competed in other types of sports. The table-tennis team won the county championship several times and played in the Polish championship finals in Krakow: Kleinman, Hertz, Grichter, Kugel, Ofman, and Yosel Zandberg. The volleyball team – Hertz, Shvartz, Kugel, Gonshorovitz, Nilton Shaya and Lifshitz – won the county youth championship. Grichter excelled at tennis, winning the county championship and playing in the finals of the Polish national youth games.

Respect to the memory of the Hakoach youth and all the Jewish athletes from the other sports organizations in our town before the Shoah who did not live to continue in the liberated independent Eretz-Israel.

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