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[Page 210]

The Hebrew Kindergartens

by A. Arye

Translation by Naomi Gal

The wish of Rovno's Zionists for Hebrew–National Education prompted a circle of its activists to found Hebrew education institutes, first of all a kindergarten, whose graduates would move to Hebrew school and would be educated in the Hebrew Culture spirit. And so, in 1918 Tarbut founded in Rovno the first kindergarten in the Zionist Municipal Council's apartment, at Avraham–Haim Niman, Plotnik House, on Shoshina Street. It was a typical pioneer's step. There were not many parents who consented to send their young children to a Hebrew Kindergarten; some sent them without paying attention to the kindergarten curriculum and language, after all this is not school and there are no other kindergartens in town, let the children play there under the supervision of a kindergarten–teachers and we shall see later…but most of the parents who sent their children to this kindergarten – took this step with clear purpose and intention: a real beginning of a full Hebrew Education.

The Kindergartens, the first named after Dr. Y. Chelnov and the Second named after N. Serkin – in Tu B'shevat Celebration – 1919


When it was agreed to open the kindergarten and some children were gathered, they searched and found an experienced Hebrew Kindergarten Teacher: Toybe (Yona) Barkovsky, a graduate of the courses for kindergarten teaching headed by Yehiel Halperin (she was the daughter of a famous Lithuania Rabbi and related to the Fissyook family). Although there were very few Hebrew Kindergartens back then, there was a lack of kindergarten teachers, and the choice of this teacher was successful in every respect. Until then there were no kindergartens in Rovno and it was a great novelty. Kindergarten teacher Barkovsky found her way in Rovno immediately and with no further ado, opened the kindergarten with the first twenty children who registered. The Fissyook family sent two children to the kindergarten craving Hebrew education, especially since the head of the family was a Zionist and a Hebrew supporter.

In its second month, the kindergarten was filled with more children and functioning like a regular kindergarten, and the teacher refused to add one more child to the thirty in the group. Many parents pleaded but the teacher insisted, claiming: Kindergarten is where the child's soul is formed before school and he needs a framework and the right conditions; also, there is a limit to the teacher's capacities, taking into consideration the apartment and the rest of the arrangements.

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This hurt especially poor parents, believing that their children were not accepted due to the high tuition demanded, which only rich people could afford.

Very soon the Hebrew singing and chatting of the toddlers could be heard, like new growth in spring, which revives, intoxicates and brings happiness. Zionist activists were filled with joy seeing their endeavor bloom. Spiritually, this kindergarten belonged to the city's Tarbut, but the material yoke fell on the shoulders of the parents' council. Then came the idea to found a second Tarbut Kindergarten with public initiative. Tarbut Council opened a second kindergarten. To this kindergarten Nehama Keat was summoned, one of the graduates of Alternan's course in Warsaw; she, too, was an experienced teacher from Lutsk. As soon as an apartment was accommodated for kindergarten needs, and there was no lack of children – the new kindergarten was opened for thirty–five children, most of them from poor homes, with low tuition. Special discounts were given to some orphans. Basically, there was no difference

The Second Kindergarten named after N. Serkin – 1919


between the two kindergartens; on the contrary, the second learned from the first's experience. And so, from 1918 to 1919 Rovno had two Hebrew Kindergartens.

In Tu B'shevat Celebration, which was held for the two kindergartens together, the names were decided: the first was named after Dr. Chelinov (the famous Zionist activist from Moscow), and the second after Serkin (the public–nationalist from Kiev). The celebration included the children, the parents and Rovno's Zionists. Soon the Kindergartens made themselves a name in the city and outside of it, and the vibrant Hebrew chatting of the toddlers was more than Hebrew publicity; everybody saw and realized that indeed, the language that was considered ancient and dead – could be resuscitated and revived.

In 1921 and 1922 there was in Rovno a kindergarten with two groups, that included about eighty children from all walks of life in the city. The kindergarten was run by the teachers Ada Zonder and Dora Unik (both are in Israel). Since that time, there were in the city kindergartens alongside the Hebrew Schools.

There was a temporary school established for the transition from kindergarten to school for hundreds of boys and girls, children of the refugees who passed through Rovno in 1921; it was sustained by the community with Joint money under the direction of the kindergarten teachers Fruma

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Dreznin from Berdichev and Yaffa Bunis. This place functioned for one year, till the children were transferred to schools or left Rovno.

Tarbut Shelter

by Yaakov Adini

Translation by Naomi Gal

I personally rented an eight room house next to the market's square, facing the edge of “Bergeshloss” workshop, I approached the school I attended in the past and received part of the benches I needed and ordered tables, chairs, cupboards etc. – all the necessary furnishings for two school classes and two classes of kindergarten, all together one hundred and twenty children. I invited the kindergarten–teachers' sisters Silverstein to work in the kindergarten and one teacher (whose name escapes me) and me for teaching the school classes. With the Silverstein's sisters' guidance, I bought the necessary equipment for the kindergarten.

After the establishment was founded and equipped, I recruited from several places asking for children in need of education. The number of refugees from Ukraine and the surroundings was great, and they were glad to send their children for free to school and kindergarten – no matter which language would be taught there. And so, the quota of hundred and twenty children was soon met, and the work at the institution began.

And with it began the fundraising from the community, seeking support for an establishment that already existed. How, where from, this institution is not on the list of the existing institutions in the city? – instead of asking, come and see for yourselves. And so, on a nice Friday, a supervision–committee arrived in a carriage sent by the community, to see, witness, discover and submit a report about the institute. The committee members investigated and submitted the required report, and the result, which even the haters of the Hebrew Culture – the Yiddish supporters of those days – had to say “Amen” to, and agree to include the institution in the community's budget.

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A struggle about the size of the budget began, the daily provisions for the children, clothes for the needy – all the things that were compelling for refugees, even as they had to become accustomed to the idea of educating their children in the living Hebrew language, different from the one spoken at home. The struggle was not at all easy. But still, the institution strengthened just from being included among the other Tarbut institutions in town.

When the institution was one year old, on the eve of my Aliya, I was able to enjoy the labor: one hundred and twenty children speaking fluent Hebrew and breathing Israel's air while still being in the diaspora…

Shavuot Celebration – 1934


Elementary Schools

by Yaakov Adini

Translation by Naomi Gal

On the second year of the founding of the Tarbut Hebrew Gymnasium, a plan emerged to found Hebrew elementary schools, which were badly needed. The Yiddish schools were declining, the Polish schools did not fit the Jewish children, Talmud–Torah was considered a charity school for poor children and the Jews wanted to educate their sons in Tarbut institutions, but the young Hebrew Gymnasium was not suitable for most of them and the tuition was high. So Tarbut committee decided to found a Hebrew elementary school and at the beginning of the school year of 1921–1922 the school was opened in Shpona building next to Tarbut Gymnasium at Yokelson Yard; the gymnasium banner was replaced with the school's banner and that year three classes were opened accommodating over a hundred boys and girls. Many of the children were from the orphanage – most of them Polish School candidates. There were parents who took their children out from the schools named after Peretz and Shalom Aleichem and from the Polish school and transferred them to Tarbut Hebrew school under the direction of the teacher A. Rosin.

Since one of the goals of founding the school was to prepare students

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Tarbut Elementary School A'


for Tarbut Gymnasium, the gymnasium management and the principal applied themselves to adapting the school's curriculum to the gymnasium. Later a second similar school was founded in the building of the gymnasium, where studies were conducted in the afternoon. These two schools were related to the gymnasium, except for management and budget. Tarbut Branch in Rovno took care of maintaining the schools that needed funds in addition to their income from tuition and students' parents' donations.

After a few years Tarbut founded an elementary school on the Volya. These schools went through different phases, but they delivered an educated youth, who filled the gymnasium's benches and the ranks of the Zionist movements in the city. The spiritual–national influence of these schools, which students took back home, was great.

The Elementary School named after I.L. Peretz


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The Beginning of Tarbut Gymnasium

by Moshe Nahashon (Kipper)

Translation by Naomi Gal

With the crumbling of the dictatorship–regime in czarist Russia, March 1917, a wish was born among the Russian Peoples for national culture. Amid the Jewish people, too, especially amongst those devoted to the Zionist Idea, a turning point was reached; a strong movement came forward for Hebrew culture and creativity, and its tool – Tarbut Union, whose aim was to turn the Hebrew language into an educational language and make it an asset of all people. This Union, headed by the late Hillel Zlatopolsky and his daughter (may she live a long life) Shoshana Persitz, helped considerably the founding of Hebrew elementary schools all over Russia and also to the opening of high schools, where the language of the general curriculum was Hebrew. With Tarbut influence and support, plans were laid for Hebrew Gymnasiums in the big Jewish centers: Kharkov, Kiev and more. The echoes reached small villages, too, and woke among the Zionist activists, pro–Hebrew education, the wish to imitate the big cities and also found Hebrew Gymnasiums. The external conditions, as well, helped these activists to create Hebrew learning facilities, since while the czar regime restrained Hebrew schools and demanded to instill the country's language as a teaching language in elementary and high school, the new states, born on the Russian Imperial's ruins after the war (Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Poland and others) were more lenient with permits to found Hebrew education institutions, and in some cases even encouraged and supported them, wishing to further separate the Jews from Russian culture and wean them from the wish to join Russian Schools.

The Jewish population in the new states and in the occupied territories, that passed from hand to hand (Poland, Lithuania and others), faced a serious dilemma: to hold on to the previous culture and stay with the Russian school, where they received their education for many years (in this case, it was feared that the new occupiers would see the Jews as a disloyal and hostile element to their new homeland in all areas), or to adhere to the new culture that just budded and was not yet rooted, even not among those people who were revived after being enslaved for hundreds of years. The vacuum caused many Jews to opt for Hebrew schools, and the Yiddish, too, instead of the general school, and they sent their children in masses, although they sometimes had to pay a high tuition – while the government schools in the state were wide open to them for no fee or a very small one. Hence, we gained in the new countries a branched net of Hebrew and Yiddish schools of all kinds, that absorbed Jewish children from all walks of life.

Around this time, when Volhynia areas were conquered by Petliura's armies and the beginning of the founding of Ukraine, Tarbut's activists in Rovno, headed by Arye Garbuz (Avatichi) managed to get a permit from the education ministry in the Ukrainian Government to open four lower classes of a Hebrew Gymnasium in Rovno, with Hebrew as a teaching language. This was a first attempt to create a Hebrew Gymnasium in Volhynia.

However, it was not easy to found a Hebrew High–School in those days: the demand for Hebrew teachers was great while the supply was meager. It was especially difficult to find adequate teachers for general studies in Hebrew schools, there were only a few teachers with academic education who knew enough Hebrew to be able to teach general studies in high–school.

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There were only two schools to train teachers for general studies in Hebrew: one was in Odessa under the management of Dr. I. Mohilever and the other one in Kiev, under the management of A. Kahanshtam and they did not have yet their first graduates. Besides, the main goal of these establishments was to train teachers for primary schools and not high–schools.

Hence, Rovno's Zionist activists who initiated the opening of a Hebrew Gymnasium were in a dire situation. They sent letters and delegations to Tarbut Center in Kiev, required and demanded teachers and a principal for their gymnasium, which was about to be opened – and got no response. But their salvation came from an unexpected source, due to the political changes that took place in Ukraine, after the collapse of the Hetman Skoropadsky's government and the occupation of Kiev, the capital by Petliura's armies and afterward by the Bolsheviks. When the Russians entered Kiev, as is known, extinction was the fate of all the Hebrew and Zionist establishments in the city and its surroundings, and among others, the teachers' school in Kiev was closed; and then Tarbut Central Committee proposed that I become the principal of Rovno's Gymnasium (before I was an academic teacher of mathematics in Hebrew in the teachers' school in Kiev), and so, both the Gymnasium and I, found our salvation…That was at the end of summer, 1919.

However, this did not solve the whole problem. Under the conditions of the Bolshevist Regime the existence of the institution was uncertain. But this, too, found a solution: by chance, the supervisor of education in Rovno was a young, intelligent man who was unfamiliar with Jewish matters, and the quarrel between the Yiddish Supporters and the Hebrew aficionados was foreign to him. He did not look for reasons to persecute Hebrew, and due to his personal connection with Garbuz he enabled us to operate and did not disturb the first steps for the opening of the Hebrew Gymnasium; on the contrary, he helped annul the confiscation of the apartment that was intended for that purpose, and thus, the first uncertainties were over.

The preparations for the first school year were going full speed, many students registered, the candidates were chosen, and had entry tests. Some of the parents supported the institution with large donations in addition to tuition and the first academic year seemed under a good omen. Meanwhile there were changes at the war's front. The Poles, who had their eye on Ukraine, burst forth and occupied one area after the other and by the end of 1919 Rovno, with a large part of Volhynia, was under their rule.

When the Poles entered Rovno, they issued a proclamation that all existing schools in the occupied territories, elementary and high–schools, had to get new permits from the education inspector of Volhynia in order to open in the next school year. The Russian gymnasiums, as well as some schools where the teaching language was Russian or Yiddish got a permit immediately, but Tarbut Gymnasium's request was not even answered. It was hinted that the inspector's intention was to give permits only to older schools, which already existed. Tarbut activists in Rovno were confused and the risk was that the parents, who waited impatiently for the Hebrew Gymnasium, would despair and send their children to other schools. Since Rovno was still under siege, no one could come or go unless he had a permit from the military manager of transport, we wrote to the Jewish National Council in Warsaw, asking for moral support, but they were knee–deep in their own political war.

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Tarbut Gymnasium in its First Year


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and taking care of the daily lives of the Jews in Poland and the annexed regions, and paid no attention to a minor matter like opening a Hebrew Gymnasium in a remote place named Rovno – and did not respond to us. Only when I was able, after many efforts, to get a travel–permit to Warsaw, and after running there from one governmental office to another, it turned out that all matters in the occupied territories in Ukraine are decided not in Warsaw, but by special authority located in Vilna.

I will not relate the complicated negotiation I had with the heads of Polish Education about approving Tarbut Gymnasium (read my article “Creative Labor” in “Hedim” newsletter published in November 13, 1943 in Tel Aviv for Tarbut Conference with Volhynia's graduates), but two details are worth mentioning. When I addressed in Warsaw one of the branches of the Ukrainian occupation authority that had to do with education and culture in the occupied territories and told the director about the delays and obstacles complicating the opening of Rovno's Gymnasium, the official was surprised: What does it mean Hebrew Gymnasium? How can one teach general subjects in Hebrew? And what would become of the gymnasium graduates, how would they be able to go on to higher education schools? I explained to this important clerk that the students at the Hebrew Gymnasium will get a complete high–school education similar to governmental high schools, will know all the subjects, including Polish, and will have no less knowledge than any student in a civilized nation, and that Hebrew Gymnasiums already exist for many years in the Eretz Yisroel and in occupied Polish territories (Vilna and Bialystok). But he insisted: He knows nothing about it.

It was not the same when I met in Vilna with the head of education department for occupied Ukraine and spoke with him at length about education. He showed great expertise in Jewish education establishments and asked at once in which language it would be taught, Hebrew or jargon (his word). He agreed to the opening of four classes which were approved by the Ukrainian authorities and promised to send instructions to Volhynia Region's inspector in Kovel; and he also gave me the copy of the letter for Rovno's authorities, saying Tarbut Gymnasium should be opened. And so, Rovno then received approval for the first and only Hebrew Gymnasium in all of the occupied territory in Ukraine.

This came as a complete surprise to the Tarbut Office in Warsaw, and the director of the office, Moshe Gordon, congratulated me on my success and revealed that they had worried, being sure in Warsaw that the permission would not be granted. In Rovno the joy was great. The opening of the gymnasium was done with pomp and circumstance and a base was laid for one of the most important education's institutions in Volhynia.

Teacher recruitment was a great problem, as it was not easy to get certified as competent high school teachers. We added to our staff teacher Smolla, a woman graduate from the teachers' school in Odessa, and later teacher Eliezer Boslik and the kindergarten teacher B. Brad. Polish teacher – Ze'ev Kornink (Dagani), a graduate of Krinsky School. I taught the general studies: mathematics, Natural science and geography (this after Garbuz, who taught natural science as a student of agronomy, made Aliya).

When the academic year was over, things again turned upside down. The Bolsheviks occupied Rovno again and the existence of the Hebrew Gymnasium was jeopardized, but the Bolsheviks Regime did not last and after about three months they had to leave Rovno.

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The Staff of the First Teachers in Tarbut Gymnasium


In the beginning of the school year of 1920 Rovno was again occupied by the Poles and Tarbut Gymnasium opened on time. The number of the students grew constantly, more departments were added and it moved to a better building; teachers were added, among them Mr. Shmuel Roznak and others – and its prestige increased all over Volhynia and near and far regions.

I will not linger on experiences that happened to me as the Gymnasium's principal and activist in Rovno's Central Zionist Chamber (arrests, suspicions etc.). In the beginning of 1921, before I made Aliya, the directorship of the gymnasium passed for a short while to David Levin and afterward to Itzhak Pikengur (Gur–Arye) and frequently changed hands until Issachar Rise became the principal. During his time, the gymnasium evolved and became an exemplary institution, educated hundreds of students in Hebrew Culture, Zionism and the Eretz Yisroel. Many of the gymnasium's graduates are presently in the ranks of the land's builders and its defenders and many of them went on to higher education and now occupy prominent posts in different institutions.

Tarbut Gymnasium and its Evolvement

by Itzhak Gur–Arye

Translation by Naomi Gal

Indeed, the city of Rovno does not have the past glory of Torah and luminaries like her sisters in Volhynia: Austraah, Dubno, Krementz and Lutsk that are older than her. But it was in Rovno that the Zionist Movement found a broad operational leeway for evolvement since the beginning, and her leadership in this area surpassed her neighbors. The supporters of the revival movement – were by the same token supporters of the Hebrew Culture already during the first years of this century. Suffice to mention the “Corrected Cheder” that were Hebrew schools, Hovevai Sefat–Ever association, the Hebrew and public library and all the other endeavors of the National Revival that found a place in Rovno.

After the Russian Revolution, the cultural activity reached a peak when conditions were created for national and political work. Once the two kindergartens and the Hebrew shelters were created

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Tarbut Gymnasium was established in 1919–1920 under the direction of the pedagogue–mathematician Moshe Kipper, and was one of the first Hebrew High Schools in Ukraine and Poland.

The material that I still have as the Gymnasium's principal in the school year of 1921–1922 (after its first principal Moshe Kipper and his successor David Levin) and the information I have from the gymnasium's history show that the first entry exams for the gymnasium were held during the Bolshevik Regime by principal M. Kipper and the teacher A. Garbuz, with no assurance that the gymnasium would be opened considering the political circumstances at that time. And indeed, because of obstacles, the gymnasium's opening was postponed for weeks and months until the city was conquered by the Poles and studies began only on November 9, 1919. The students, eighty of them, were divided by their knowledge and age to four classes, three of them preparatory and a first class of high school. There were six teachers. The teachers had to surmount difficulties and obstacles they encountered in their work, but they were able to advance the institution in the right direction and implement its curriculum.

At the beginning of 1920, a second class was opened and the number of students increased to 140 (two teachers were added as well). In 1921 there were 100 students in the three preparatory classes and the three classes, and while I was the gymnasium's principal, a fourth class was opened and there were already 270 students (183 boys and 87 girls) and 10 teachers: Gaifman, Smolla, Boslik, Roznak, Tichtyle, Rosen, Krempaner, Karshinsky, Feldman and Rabinowitz. According to the educators' reports the success of the students in their studies, the Hebrew and the general, in 1922 was 85%; the students who studied since the preparatory classes did particularly well. The gymnasium thrived. It continued to evolve and had good probability of success; its financial situation was not bad, it hardly needed any outside support and was maintained just with parents' tuition payments.

Among the difficulties the gymnasium faced in its beginning – in the first school year, was the lack of recognition by the Polish Authorities, who did not willingly accept the existence of a Hebrew high school in town. This caused many problems for the principal Kipper and for Tarbut activists, especially legally. The question of the “Concession” of the gymnasium remained open; the authorities demanded someone who was certified by them, while Tarbut demanded to certify its representative – someone appointed by the supervision council, and this entailed deliberations and expenses that didn't benefit the institution. There were concerns, too about getting or printing textbooks, finding adequate teachers every year and keeping the gymnasium's direction. And if these worries were similar to other private gymnasiums in Rovno, for the Hebrew Gymnasium they were much more problematic and exhausting for many reasons, and still, the gymnasium developed and grew every year.

Rovno's Tarbut Gymnasium received recognition at the Hebrew High Schools Conference that took place in Poland in December 25–27, 1922 in Warsaw. This conference was convened by Tarbut Center in Poland – the first one dealing with high schools in the state – and was very valuable in strengthening the Hebrew high school education in Poland. Each high school was allocated three places in the conference. The representatives of the gymnasium enjoyed during that occasion

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Principal Pikengur (I. Gur–Arye), teacher Barkovsky and the third–grade class of Tarbut Gymnasium


hearing that their gymnasium was considered one of the best in the country after the war, and was praised profusely.

Already in 1921, the gymnasium issued its statute, but with time, changes were made by the authorities' demands. The standard of studies became higher, the arrangements ameliorated, and the teachers took care of the national educational pedagogical side – basic elements in this kind of institution. Responsibility and full dedication were given by the teachers and the activists who took care of the gymnasium in every respect.

During the summer recess the gymnasium arranged to send groups of students to nearby summer camps and there were teachers who accompanied the students. The summer camps were good for the students, for their health, recuperation before the next school year, and served as a continuation of the institution's educational policy. The sportive activities, the excursions, the discussions etc. were both beneficial and pleasurable. We remember the parades of the gymnasium's students in Lag Ba'Omer, which became a tradition. The parade in the city's streets accompanied by the orchestra–chorus of the gymnasium's students always left a huge impact and were a remarkable Zionist national demonstration. This same orchestra–chorus performed in every party and ball the gymnasium held and in other Zionist festivities in town. The students, in the most part, adored their gymnasium, most of them joined “Hashomer–Hatzair” Movement of those days and participated in national sport organizations.


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