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Lights and Shadows in Tarbut Gymnasium

by Moshe Karshon

Translation by Naomi Gal

This relates to the second period of Rovno's Tarbut Gymnasium. When its first principal, Moshe Kipper made Aliya in 1921 and the principal changed – Mr. Itzhak Pikengur (Gur–Arye), and afterward Mr. David Levin – the first period of the gymnasium was over. Taking care of this young education institution the local council of Tarbut

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continued to strive for the gymnasium's evolvement and clear a path for this establishment, but encountered problems from all sides that caused quite a few concerns. The Polish influence, well felt in Rovno, decreased the number of students drawn to the gymnasium. The reasons were lack of privileges that other high schools in town were granted, and the economic situation that worsened, hurt, too, the gymnasium's income. These damaged the gymnasium and cast it aside, after all the brouhaha that originally surrounded it. It seemed at times that all its grandeur might disappear and indeed it was in danger back then.

At the same time Tarbut council invited qualified teachers from Galicia, who together with the first teachers formed the pedagogical team of the gymnasium. The curriculum was getting better and better, and the supporters and devotees saw advances in its development. Their spirit did not falter and they hoped the authorities would recognize and grant it privileges, similar to other educational institutions, so that its prestige would be restored.

But then something happened: difference of opinions occurred between Mrs. Gayfman, the temporary principal (who had the curator's concession to direct the gymnasium) and the teachers, especially the new teachers, and the gymnasium's council was in difficulty. This created inner complications and frictions, which clouded the course of studies and the gymnasium's future. Meanwhile a sixth class was about to be opened. Apparently, everybody was supposed to rejoice, talk and congratulate, but it was not so since the situation in general was unsatisfactory. Some of the activists among the students' parents woke up realizing the worrisome situation and decided to get involved and find a way to surmount the difficulties. They came to Tarbut Council's assistance at the right moment. After strengthening and expanding the parents' committee and sharing with it the practical aspects, they made changes to the gymnasium's administration, renewed proceedings for parent's payments and improved its management. When they were able to ameliorate the parents' debt paying and tuitions, it became possible to eliminate most of the debt that weighed on the gymnasium and pay the teachers and the staff. Also, the gymnasium was able to release the official principal and other workers who needed to be replaced; slowly things changed and there was a feeling of general relief.

When the teacher Issachar Rise was nominated in 1925 as the gymnasium's principal, it begun flourishing again. Still, there were obstacles and delays from different sides, but the new principal together with the management and Tarbut's Council and the parents' committee were able to find solutions in all cases. Rovno's Zionists saw, and for good reason, the gymnasium as the ultimate Hebrew–Educational Institution whose goal was to educate a national generation and it was their joy and pride, every sacrifice seemed worthwhile as long as they could bring the school to a higher level. The gymnasium needed urgently more students for the above–mentioned reasons and also because there were not many who wanted to send their children there. The go–getters went to synagogues to attract parents to the Hebrew Gymnasium, explaining the value of Hebrew education in comparison to education in foreign schools. It is unknown if this publicity or the talk had any influence on different parents – but the number of students in the gymnasium started to increase, was growing from year to year, until it became too crowded in Dr. Segal's rented house. It was necessary to remove the Hebrew elementary school from the gymnasium whose principal was the teacher B. Rosin and move it to another building. And so, they opened

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in the gymnasium parallel classes and a seventh grade. Summing up this period of time one has to mention the devoted advocates who worked hard for the gymnasium and its establishment: engineer Baruch Kagan, the community's deputy director; Pinkas Perlmutter, and the writer of these words. After seven years of dedicated activity by the renewed management, the gymnasium had its two first academic years and became known in all of Poland. These were the days when the idea of building a home for the gymnasium was born, a lot was bought, on which the building was erected later.


The Gymnasium from 1929 to 1939

by Dr. Menahem Oren (Havoinik)

Translation by Naomi Gal

I was a teacher in Tarbut Rovno's gymnasium for ten years (1929–1939), while my colleagues were: Issachar Rise, principal, Menahem Gilerter, Yitzhak Barkovsky, Yitzhak Katolik, Eliezer Boslik, Shmuel Shtif, Griezmann, Taube, Cahana, Goldhaber, Noa Plantovasky, Krashinsky, Noah Gris and Hanka Zademanovna. The parents' committee cooperated with Tarbut's council and both took care of the gymnasium throughout the years. The politicos were: Moshe

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Hebrew Gymnasium in Rovno
First year 1924

 

Karshon, Eidelsberg, Pinhas Perlmutter, Engineer Baruch Kagan, Aaron Rappaport, Nehemiah Lutsky, Brenerman and others. They should be credited with the building of the magnificent building of the gymnasium. Full understanding existed between the teachers and the activists, in the pedagogic work, too, and with combined forces the gymnasium's prestige was elevated for all eyes to see.

If during the first years and in the twenties, there were great concerns about the withholding of the gymnasium's privileges by the education's Curatorial, it was able in 1934, after its first graduations, to motivate the curatorial to hold official exams in Hebrew for the gymnasium's graduates, in the presence of its representatives, so that the gymnasium's baccalaureate would be recognized. For this purpose, the curatorial sent Mr. Flishinsky, its representative, a Pole who knew Hebrew and he participated in the final exams with the examiners, who were our teachers and the governmental gymnasium teachers. The last ones examined the students on Polish subjects, the history and geography of Poland, and the Gymnasium's students demonstrated a deep knowledge. We had some doubts about the benefits of official exams by a governmental committee, since higher education institutions in Poland did not accept Jews, only to certain faculties, while France and other European countries recognized the gymnasium's diplomas without the governmental committee's exams. And most important, most of the graduates were heading to the Eretz Yisroel, and Jerusalem University and Haifa's Technion knew and recognized Tarbut Gymnasium and respected its graduates' diplomas, so what was the point of governmental exams with the curatorial benevolence? And: the preparations by the teachers and the students hurt the educational side of the gymnasium, which was on quite a high level, wasted time and energy and put stress on the students for many months. That is the reason the gymnasium gave up the idea of the official exams, and those who were interested in baccalaureate with governmental approval, transferred for their last year to other Jewish–General Gymnasiums. It should be said that the level of studies in the gymnasium was high and it filled well its role in educating the young generation.

 

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Although during its last years some of the gymnasium's students had revolutionary ideas and even a propensity for communism, most of the students remained loyal to the national flag and to the Hebrew Culture, despite the blowing winds. Should we attribute this propensity to some teachers with leftist inclinations? It might be possible, although they were expelled from the gymnasium over time and the prevailing spirit and the educational direction in the institution favored a strong national consciousness.

Like other educational institutions, the gymnasium begun in 1929 during summer–breaks having summer–camps for students under the supervision of the gymnasium teachers and instructors; these summer–camps were not always successful, but still were very valuable. In 1938–1939 I was responsible for the summer camps under certain conditions, and it opened in Sekolah, near Setru Drohovitz in the Carpathian Mountains. The teacher Noah Gris, who left the gymnasium under known circumstances, demonstrated deep dedication while working in the summer camp (that was led in a Hebrew National spirit). Later he was summoned to teach in Tarbut's elementary school A', with Boxer as principal, on the Volya.

Principal's Rise's travel to the Eretz Yisroel in 1932 and the impressions he brought back, as well as the visits of messengers from the Eretz Yisroel in Rovno, who came to the gymnasium and lectured to the students and teachers, certainly had their influence on the spirit of the building of the Eretz Yisroel, and they chiseled faith and hope in all hearts. We will not forget the visits of Bialik, Tchernichovsky, Berl Katznelson, Lieb Yoffe, N. Bistritzky, David Ben–Gurion, Yosef Sprinzak and many others, who found in the gymnasium a Zionist–Hebrew fortress and a breeding ground for a Hebrew generation. And indeed, most of the graduates made Aliya.

The gymnasium's parties and balls were famous, an atmosphere of Zionism and Eretz Yisroel prevailed over them. Hanukah balls became a tradition and the preparations were thorough. On the top of the building of the gymnasium there was a huge Hanukah Menorah whose electric candles' lights could be seen from afar. The students were proud of this menorah, seeing in it the reflection of the menorahs on the building of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem and it other places in the Eretz Yisroel. The programs of the balls and celebrations were varied, and the chorus and orchestra of the students under the direction of Lamberg, the music teacher, and others, always played a major role.

The financial situation of the gymnasium was satisfactory. Unlike all other gymnasiums, which enjoyed governmental and municipal support, Tarbut Gymnasium was maintained by tuition only. A slightly difficult time was between 1932–1934 when all the monies were invested in the building, but the teachers as well as the administration's workers were able to accept the situation and shouldered the yoke the building expenses imposed, knowing it was required for the gymnasium's evolvement. It should be remarked that the salaries were not low at all (the salary of a gymnasium teacher was between 300 to 600 goldens a month, comparing to other high schools that paid about 200 to 500 goldens a month), and throughout all its existence the gymnasium supported itself respectfully.

This is how it was, give or take, until World War Two broke out. The entrance of the Russians to Rovno and the change of rule cruelly hurt this Hebrew establishment, which crumbled, and not too long afterwards ceased to exist. New times arrived, with new “tunes”. What happened in those days in and outside the gymnasium – is well known to teachers and students and to all the city's citizens. The school year began belatedly with no guarantee for the future, and in the middle of the academic year

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a new principal appeared – Liev Izraelovitz Baritva, an envoy from the Soviet Authorities, who immediately exerted his power, brought in Yiddish and Russian languages and studies in a different spirit; he obliged the teachers to accept the new system and accept its regulations, and the teachers suffered and left one by one, except a few who gave in. Most of the teachers and the students hoped that this will all go away and that the situation would change, but they were unable to do on with their work and stay loyal to Hebrew and national spirit.

The teacher Shmuel Shtif was nominated as a principal deputy, willing to work with Baritva. The young woman Ma–Yafit (the local Rabbi's daughter) who was nominated by the new regime as a general secretary of the regional union of the professional teachers, treated the institution with respect (she was a gymnasium graduate) and the teachers, although their political philosophy was different. Some people thought that the ruling communist party would not harm, for the moment, the Zionists and its Hebrew institutions, since it began persecuting the Bund, but then step–by–step it spread its hostile rule on them, too.

When Rovno's community was destroyed, so was Tarbut Gymnasium – its pride and joy for twenty years.


The Last Class of the Gymnasium

by Zvi Spector

Translation by Naomi Gal

During the last class of Tarbut Gymnasium in Rovno we lived in an atmosphere of the threat of war. In spring 1939, we were preparing our final exams feeling that heavy clouds of fire and lead were crowding our young lives' skies and above Rovno, our city.

According to high school reformation that was carried out in Poland during the thirties, studies were conducted in the two upper classes by orientation, for instance: Humanity Studies, Natural Studies, Mathematic–Physics, Education etc. And so, the gymnasium's seventh and eighth grade became officially a lyceum.

During the school year of 1937–1938 the seventh grade of the gymnasium became the first class of Tarbut Hebrew Lyceum in Rovno. There were two orientations in our lyceum: Humanity and Natural Studies. This system was a positive advancement since it deepened the knowledge in the subjects the student chose and intended to pursue as a lyceum graduate.

The twenty–eight students were divided according to their free choice into two oriented classes.

We were twenty–eight in our last school year – last in every respect, we, the students, and our magnificent institution, which was our pride and joy, and the pride and joy of the national public in our city.

Most of the lyceum's students were born and lived in Rovno, and only about twenty–five percent were from the villages close–by and far away.

The wide general education that the gymnasium and the lyceum provided with the additional value of Hebrew Culture, elevated our students to the ranks of the best Jewish youth. A part of them – the leaders of the Zionist Movements and their members – fulfilled their aspirations: Aliya to Eretz Yisroel.

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But others, quite a few, under their homes' influence and other external elements, stayed, groping for life paths.

Our guide and homeroom teacher, who accompanied us for six years, from the gymnasium's lower grades till the end of the lyceum, was Itzhak Barkovsky. Barkovsky, who in his youth was a Volozhin Yeshiva student – where he earned his rabbinical certification – turned later to education, studied general subjects and went on to teach. He was one of the most experienced and dedicated teachers, fulfilled his teaching mission with rare fire and enthusiasm, and invested his great energy and deep knowledge in shaping his students' personalities.

As a lyceum instructor Barkovsky continued in his typical way to be interested in each student, his family, mental and social situation. As a Zionist he sowed all the years in the fertile ground of the Hebrew institution's students the idea of Aliya and fulfillment, although, he himself, on the verge of Aliya, changed his mind and withdrew. When I met him, during the Soviet Regime in our town, he continually beat himself and repented for his mistake, for which he paid with his, and his family's life.

In June 1939, we, twenty–eight graduates of the last class were passing our final exams. And these are the graduates' names:

1, Agbar Luba; 2. Bardaat Shimon; 3, Birfeld: 4. Brenerman Moreh; 5. Grovestein Barouche; 6. Havel Naomi; 7. Wassermann David; 8. Zolotnik Henya; 9. Lutsky Menahem; 10. Litvak Avraham; 11. Margalit Figeh; 12. Meirzomen Meir; 13. Maze Pinhas; 14. Nodelman Aaron; 15. Salitra Shmuel; 16. Sodovicher Dov; 17. Spector Zvi; 18. Frishberg Barouche; 19. Fox Israel; 20. Fisher Shoshana; 21. Feldenkrais Aaron; 22. Fishman Itzhak; 23. Rider Kalman; 24. Rosen Isa; 25. Riseberg Moshe; 26. Shoat Rachel; 27. Steinman Haya; 28. Schwartzberg Shoshana.

Since we were busy preparing for our final exams, we hardly had any time to plan our future, and the day after we finished lyceum, most of the graduates were in a dilemma. Some deluded themselves that they would be accepted to higher education institutions, despite the circumstances; others were thinking of attending the teachers' school in Vilna, and a few decided to join their parents' business until the situation would clear.

However, we did not have much time to think about our future: all of a sudden, the Poland–Germany War descended upon us – the beginning of the horrible World War Two – and following it the occupation of our city by the Russians.


The End of Tarbut Gymnasium

by Barouche Roitelman

Translation by Naomi Gal

The way of the world is to praise the first ones, people as well as endeavors, and that is the way it was done with Rovno's Tarbut Hebrew Gymnasium, its first classes, teachers and students were praised and extolled; but hardly anything was said about the gymnasium's last classes and its end. This is why I see it as my obligation as one of its students

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in its last period, under the Soviet Regime, to relate a chapter from my memories from back then, so that future generations will not forget.

In September 1939, about two weeks after the Red Army entered Rovno and installed the Soviet regime, the gymnasium's school year began as was planned. There was no change of teachers, regulations, language of teaching or the curriculum, but in those days' atmosphere there was apprehension about changes that might come from the outside. And indeed, after a month, a man appeared in the gymnasium, who presented himself by the name of Britava, and with him arrived a political director (“Politruk”) by the name of Slotsky, and in their hands an order to hand over to them the gymnasium's direction: there was no choice – they became the heads of the institution. Dr. Rise, the dedicated and loyal principal, educator, and teacher, who served for twelve years and was the driving force behind it, lost control over the gymnasium and after two months left the school and moved to Lvov.

The first thing the new gymnasium leaders did was to annul the Hebrew teaching and replace it with Yiddish. The syllabus was completely changed. A few teachers were brought in: for Russian and Ukrainian – Mrs. Lisiza, and other subjects – teachers who supported the new curriculum. New textbooks in Russian and Yiddish arrived, as well. In addition, the need was raised to translate a few books from Russian to Yiddish for the gymnasium's use. A difficult situation was created for the veteran teachers, the loyal Hebrew teachers, as well as for the students, who were unable to come to terms with the new conditions. It was especially painful to see teacher Barkovsky's sufferings, a seasoned Zionist and a Hebrew spiritual man, who was forced to explain to us Yiddish literature and present to us the Yiddish writers of Russia, who were foreign to us and our spirit. These were grueling days, and we felt on the edge of the gymnasium's spirituality, the Zionist fortress of the city and the Jewish–Polish Kibbutz, that was slowly falling apart in front of us.

Slotsky, the political principal, did not settle for that and begun enlisting communist youth from the gymnasium students and even managed to attract some children to the Komsomol Movement. Most of the students were indifferent and found themselves at a crossroad, but most of our friends remained faithful to the Zionist Spirit, hoping that the conditions would change. We dreamed and planned for the future. Some wanted to leave Rovno on their way to Israel, and indeed, a small group managed to get to Vilna and from there, in a circuitous route fulfilled their Aliya. The situation that was created and the sufferings inflicted on the veteran teachers and on the students, who were loyal to Hebrew and the national idea, strengthened the ties between them. The supporters of the new “culture” in the gymnasium, along with the students who joined Komsomol became repulsive to us, we regarded them as demolishers and destroyers. It was painful to see Mr. Havoynik (Oren), our homeroom teacher, whose warm–father–like attitude and concerns about his students were touching, trying to calm us and avoid an explosion. It this kind of situation, there is no wonder that the school year was unproductive, and when it was over we faced the question: Where to? Usually most of the gymnasium's graduates made Aliya, but not so for us, the last class. We dispersed, some to Lvov – others for continuing studies and others to the provincial towns.

On June 22, 1941, the war between the Soviets and the Germans broke, not a week passed and Rovno and its surroundings fell into the hands of the Germans–Nazis. The gymnasium graduates who were in Rovno or Lvov, managed to escape to inner–Russia before the German Occupation, or were drafted to the Red Army, but the fate of those who remained was bitter. If, in the beginning of the war, under the Russian regime, Baba Roitman and Newnia Gorinstein were uprooted from our ranks

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were the first victims among the gymnasium students; then, when the Germans entered, we had to sacrifice our dear friends: Syuma Goverman, Alexander Liberman, Avraham Roskis, Tamar Boslik, Luba Shuster, Sara Rabin, Pnina Strut, Hanna Bogoshvitz and some others. The rest of our companions dispersed, some in Rovno's Ghetto and others in towns and villages and their fate was the same as the ghetto inhabitants. Only a few of us dared join the partisan groups. The spirit of national consciousness and education we absorbed at the gymnasium inspired them to go against the nation destroyer – and they fought, and some fell in the war.

As we discovered later, all the teachers remained in Rovno's ghetto and from there were led down the path to destruction. Among them were our dear teachers: Barkovsky, Krushinski, Boslik, Karolik, Griezmann, Zaidman, and Lisitze. There was no news about the other teachers but it is doubtful that they survived. The teachers who left for Russia: Noah Gris, Dr. Menahem Havoinik (Oren), Plantovsky, Cahana – survived and arrived in Israel. Also, our friends who were drafted to the Red Army in Rovno and remained alive after the war, most of them are in Israel and bear with us the pain for the loss of our dearest, our teachers and our school and youth movement friends in Rovno.

As one of the seventeen survivors who remained from Rovno's community that once numbered thirty thousand people, except the refugees that were absorbed and lived in Rovno's Ghetto, I came back after long and dangerous wandering, as soon as it was freed by the Russians on January 5th, 1944. Before that, I spent about a year and a half with partisans in Ozenin Forests fighting the enemy, and when my feet treaded again Rovno's ground, I discovered the city in ruins.

After a month, I and others received letters from gymnasium friends, in which we were asked not only about relatives and friends' fate, but also about our gymnasium and our dear teachers. Meanwhile more friends surfaced, emerging out of forests and hiding places, and we all searched for our exterminated past… The Gymnasium's Building, hurt during the war, stood deserted; all that was left were walls, weeping for a whole world destroyed by strangers and beauty that evaporated forever.

A year passed. With the stream of the Polish repatriation many of our friends who were in Russia arrived in Rovno. With those returning to Rovno was the Mathematics teacher Shtif. When I met him, an old and weak man, he broke down crying and said his wish was to make Aliya. The teacher Noah Gris came back, too, which helped considerably the few Jews who had returned to the city. (He made Aliya but two years later returned to Europe). The heart awakened in such meetings, the sorrow and grief were too deep for joy. Some stayed in Poland, but most made Aliya with us. When we were wandering through European countries we found out about the fate of a few other friends. We found nothing whatsoever about Manya Stein, Pinye Pindel, Avraham Pirkes, Manya Finkelstein, Pinye Tsalingold and Boyman. Twelve of the gymnasium's graduates arrived in Israel after the war and two more remained in Europe. Each one of them went through hell on his way and only after thirteen years of suffering they met here in Israel with their surviving teachers.

Arye Gandelman, a gymnasium student (in Kefar–Saba now), who studied there during the two years of the Russian Regime (1939–1941) until the Germans' entry, reports that during that time the gymnasium was managed like a high school with a ten–year curriculum, which was customary in Russia. The teaching language was Yiddish and they taught: Russian, Ukrainian and German.

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Toward the third year they were about to turn it into a Russian school, according to the wish of both the students and their parents. Nothing was left of the Hebrew in the Gymnasium, and only some of the veteran students missed the gymnasium's first days. When the Germans entered – the studies came to a full stop.


Talmud Torah

by Israel Chomsky (Zines)

Translation by Naomi Gal

As in every Jewish Community, Rovno, too, had an establishment for education and Torah “Talmud Torah” that was in charge of educating children of poor families to Torah and Mitzvot and giving them direction in life. As usual, religious Jews and managers of synagogues dealt with Talmud Torah, but there were in Rovno public activists who also assisted. They recruited teachers for Talmud Torah, take care of it and collect donations for its maintenance.

In 1885 David Hersh (Litvak) decided to found a Talmud Torah Fund in Rovno and together with other activists begun collecting donations for a building. The fund–raising repeated itself week after week, until the collectors had enough money and they began building on a lot on Zamkova Street (near Ludomirsky' castle); later they built there “Hachnasat Orhim”, “Linat–Zedek” and the Trisky Cloise. With the little money they had, the activists were able to build a small wooden–house, where Talmud Torah was lodged to the joy of all the city's citizens. David Hersh continued to take care of Talmud Torah's existence and development. Studies continued and new children, from poor families, were accepted and studied there nine to ten years until they graduated and moved from Talmud Torah to working positions.

On Soborna Street (later, under the Polish Regime – Klashtorna Street), next to the small wooden bridge that was known as “Titer Brikel” an old house stood on a big lot, which the late R' Favish Oxenhorn (Panibiler) left in his will to Talmud Torah. When the small building of Talmud Torah became crowded the activists moved it to this house (around 1894–1895), although there, too, there was not enough space for Talmud Torah's needs, so they began building on the same lot a two–story brick–house. The construction lasted about three years – with pauses due to lack of money – until the building was finished. In the Zefira Newspaper number 284 Hanukah 1898 there is a Rovno's story:

“Yesterday (Hanukah 1898) our congregation celebrated the inauguration of the new Talmud Torah built by the late Oxenhorn inheritance. The celebration was very beautiful and all the cities' dignitaries participated. VIPs were invited from other cities and attended as well. The famous cantor Margovsky (Zadel Rovner) from Kishinev sang accompanied by his chorus the prayer “Hanoten Yeshuah” and other holyday songs. Then R' Zalman Ashkenazi took the stage and gave a meaningful lecture” (Signed by M. S. Fishmar).

Beside the managers who handled Talmud Torah, an administration committee was formed, its members were: Dr. Yehezkel Oirbouch, Dr. Garfinkel, the activist Zvi Heller,

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and others, and a financial committee, including the biggest merchants: Mendel Ridel, Shlomo Kolikovisher, Meir Landau, Yaakov Bayol and Gedalia Waldman, who were committed to the building and used part of Layvish Ginzburg's inheritance: 2500 rubles. The committee was able to get 1000 rubles from another inheritance, H. Rau from Warsaw, a non–Jew who had assets near Rovno. The municipality allocated 2000 rubles for the public building of Talmud Torah, and in addition, the committee collected about 2000 rubles from donations. s Hence, the committee collected about eight thousand rubles that were invested in the building which stood proudly in the city's center and brought respect to the local community.

In order to allow collecting monies for the building and its maintenance, the school had to be registered with the authorities. The matter took a few years and only in 1902 the establishment was officially recognized as a Jewish School and from then on it received governmental grants. In addition, Talmud Torah was supported by Education Distributers in Kiev. Until World War One about a hundred children studied at Talmud Torah, all of them from poor families, tuition–free. During the war years the number of students increased, since most of the refugees' children studied at Talmud Torah. There were then about 250 boys and girls. Concerned about the children's health and well–being, a nurse was sent to handle hygiene.

In 1916 the writer of this article was sent by the Education Distributers to serve as a teacher in Talmud Torah. There were four classes in the school and accordingly four teachers: Mr. Sucharczuk, the principal, Mr. Konivsky, Mr. Smaliar and Israel Zins.

When the Joint's Aid arrived in Rovno, Talmud Torah benefited from this assistance and for four years (1919–1923) was able to balance its budget with the Joint's help, including hot meals and distribution of clothes and shoes for the needy students.

A committee of supervisors headed the institution, and in 1916 some of the members were: Moshe Stock and Idel Sinizer, Rovno's dignitaries. This committee was responsible for the establishment and took care of its maintenance and existence.

When the governmental school for Jews was formed, it was lodged in Talmud Torah's halls and the studies were conducted in the afternoon; the teachers were: Mirar, Yurovsky, Schneider and Burstein. After the revolution, this school was named after I. L. Peretz.

The Jewish Partisans who entered Rovno after it was liberated from the Nazis reported that Talmud Torah's building was unharmed by the bombing during World War Two and the Holocaust; they found the building still standing and the sign: “Talmud Torah” still displayed.


Etez Haim Yeshiva

by Yosef Meshulach

Translation by Naomi Gal

Around 1890, Itzhak–Meir, a Lithuanian yeshiva student arrived in Rovno sent by R' Eliezer–Yaakov Hawash (one of the founders of the yeshiva in Telshi, Slovodka and “Kolel Haprushim” in Kovno) who acted on behalf of Ovadia Lehman, a Jewish philanthropist from Berlin, who gave large sums of money to found yeshivas in the region's cities. Itzhak–Meir

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turned to Rovno's Rabbi, who was then R' Itzhak–Shlomo–Yoel Sherman, and through him – to the community's leaders and they decided to found a yeshiva in Rovno*.

Itzhak–Meir was a gifted scholar and per R' Sherman's request agreed to stay a while and establish the yeshiva. The idea of the yeshiva was close to the hearts of some, amid them R' Itzhak Halperin, R' David Schpizgloz, who together with Rabbi Sherman undertook this Mitzvah and after a short time the yeshiva was opened in a rented apartment of two rooms in an old house in an alley near Krassna's Synagogue. Two or three Minyans of young boys sat around a table with Itzhak–Meir at the head and he taught them Torah in the spirit of Lithuanian yeshivas. Soon, some boys arrived from the nearby villages to study in the yeshiva, instead of traveling to faraway yeshivas, and to Itzhak–Meir and the activists' joy the yeshiva begun growing. After a year there were forty students, amid them many students from Rovno's Talmud Torah.

When Itzhak–Meir was summoned away from Rovno, R' Eliezer Hawash sent R' Shmuel Idelzak from Janowiec (next to Shavel in Kovno's region). He, too, was a yeshiva student and knowledgeable of the Torah and he became the head of Rovno's Yeshiva. R' Shmuel continued his predecessor's ways and gave the yeshiva his best. He was especially satisfied to see the yeshiva growing and evolving in the Volhynia city, where yeshivas had almost ceased to exist in previous generations.

The increase in the number of students required an additional teacher, and so R' Yaakov from Brzeszcze was summoned, and he taught together with the yeshiva's head, and with time they added “Mussar” (“Morals”) and the yeshiva evolved slowly in the framework of the Lithuanian yeshivas. In its fifth year there were approximately seventy boys studying, most of them from poor families and as was customary, they ate in philanthropists' homes once a week, and so each boy received his nourishment throughout the week in seven different houses… except a few the boys were able to sleep in the yeshiva's rooms or at their study locations.

In the third year of the yeshiva it was temporarily transferred to an old wooden house, inherited from R' Favish Oxenhorn (AKA “Fanibiler”) – until they began building the big Talmud Torah Building. When the number of the boys increased, since many were arriving from other towns and villages and it became crowded, the managers begun searching a more suitable housing, It so happened that the local merchant, Itzhak–Wolvil Zoop, a well–off childless man, took interest in this sacred matter and under the influence of the yeshiva managers purchased a big building with a yard on Nijne Dvorezkaye Street and under his wife's Hansha (born m Margolis) and his name – consecrated the building to the yeshiva. The building was repaired and restored to be suitable for this purpose and the yeshiva moved there. Since then, a new era began for the institution. It was given the name “Etz Chaim” (“Tree of Life”) and the number of students reached a hundred. The donors of the building, the Zoop Family, agreed to continue maintaining the yeshiva, its teachers and students. Other rich Jews followed suit and increased their support of the yeshiva and with other city's generous donors its existence was insured.

About four melamed taught in the yeshiva and as principal R' Eliezer Levin was summoned from Lutsk, he was previously the rabbi of Horodenka, near Pinsk–Stolin, a brilliant Bible scholar, deserving of this post.

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One of the melameds, a brilliant man excelled in explaining the courses in–depth and in a modern–scientific and pedagogical way that penetrated the student heart. His language was concise and clear and his explanations sensible. G. A. Sade, a yeshiva student (born in Dubno) tells that when he studied from 1912 to 1914 there were one hundred and twenty students from ages 10–16 with just a few 17–18 years–old. The last ones were outstanding in their Talmud knowledge and their many gifts (Moshe Alisker, Archik Dropsker and others). For a while R' Yoel Shorin “The Genius from Poltava” served as the principal and after his death R' Itzhak Orlinski replaced him.

Periodically, the managers and Torah experts came to test the students in the melamed's or the principal's presence and often got into discussions and interpretations. Sometimes there were arguments between the testers and the tested that lasted for a long time. Later they spoke at length about these discussions and appreciated the knowledge of the yeshiva students and their achievements. Every now and then students left for continuing education at the yeshivas of Zvhil and Berdichev and even as far as Lithuania. On the other hand, new students arrived at Rovno's Yeshiva and the Torah's voice was always heard from their house.

If during the weekdays the students prayed in the Yeshiva's Minyan, on the Sabbath they dispersed to the different synagogues. A local Jew, a sonless wood–merchant used to invite to his house a group of boys and youngsters from the yeshiva for tea on Sabbath's morning before the prayer and then go with them to the nearby synagogue on Krassna Street, fully enjoying the company of Torah learners. He was a good–hearted Jew, one of the yeshiva supporters, his face radiant, a long beard adorning his face. Another generous Jew was Shif, who showed interest in the yeshiva, donated closets for the students' clothes and belongings, and it was quite a novelty. At that time the yeshiva building had a boardinghouse for more than seventy boys who came from the outside, each student had a bed in the hall and the rooms around it. The yeshiva's guardian arranged a small buffet, but since most of the students were poor and took things from the buffet on credit, it was quickly emptied and closed down…

There was a tradition for the yeshiva pupils to take part in the funeral of deceased VIP's and in the Minyans in their homes. A class of boys would attend before the funeral and recite psalms, and the older ones went to pray in a minyan for the deceased at his home. For this service the families of the deceased donated money to the yeshiva. The loyal supporters of the yeshiva received these services free for their support.

There was a foundation for the evolvement and growth of the yeshiva, but World War I, that began in 1914, put an end to its progress and caused its decline. This was a tough time for the city and its institutions, but still, the yeshiva continued to exist.

When the authorities in Ukraine changed and in the general mayhem of those days, there were no means to support the yeshiva and many of the students left, but when life went back to normal under the Polish Regime, the yeshiva slowly renewed its existence and was back on track. The head then was Rabbi Levin, who searched and found ways to restore the yeshiva's prestige. He and the establishment's supporters: the local Rabbi Moshe–Eliezer Rotenberg, R' Tuvia Nyman, R' Ephraim Wisebrot and others gave it their best and thanks to them and with their dedication the prestige

[Page 234]

was restored. They introduced an income from “Aliyot” for the yeshiva and found other sources to maintain it adequately.

Among the managers and contributors to the yeshiva were: R' Mendel Frishberg, R' Zvi Fishhoit, R' Shmuel Goldfeld, R' Yosef Patachnik (the son of the Rabbi Meir'ka), R' Aaron–Yosef Lerner, R' Mendel Horovitz, and Rabbi Moshe–Eliezer Rotenberg. In 1935 the head of the yeshiva was R' Israel Weinstein, who provided his experience and knowledge for many years. The graduates of the yeshiva were accepted to important yeshivas and many of them excelled.

Hanan Ziblatt, a yeshiva student from Yezerani, said that when he was at the yeshiva between 1925 to 1931 there were at the yeshiva close to 200 students from around Rovno: Zdolbuniv, Yezerani, Warkovitz, Brzezno, Stepan and others (Rovno sons did not study back then at the yeshiva). Most of the students were young boys, around Bar–Mitzvah age, who learned from the famous melamed R' Haim and the melamed R' Israel who excelled in teaching the bible and Gemara to older students. R' Israel was considered one of the pillars of the yeshiva in his time, he was bright and his teachings enriched the students' learning, so was R' Shlomo Richman, who taught Hebrew and Torah during the twenties.

At that time the Education Inspector ruled that general studies had to be part of the yeshiva's studies, including the state language and so, these kind of studies were introduced to the yeshiva. Many of the students were glad for this novelty and some intended to continue their studies in Vilna's teachers' school. Others went from Rovno's Yeshiva to big yeshivas in Lithuania.

Most of the students in the yeshiva were supported by their parents or relatives, but a large number of older students who did not get help, became night watchmen at stores (they used to stay the night at the shops for a guarding fee).

Rovno's Etz Chaim Yeshiva was not considered a prominent yeshiva at the time, but it occupied an important place and became famous in the Jewish world in Poland. No great Torah scholars came from it, but most of its students received adequate Torah and Talmud education and absorbed the spirit of learning and Judaism. The Zionist spirit blew inside the yeshiva's walls and the students begun dreaming of making Aliya, and indeed, most of them fulfilled their dream and made Aliya.

 

* According to another source, at first R' Hershel Levitan was sent to Rovno, one of the Mussar people, in order to establish a yeshiva, but when he was a guest in one of his previous student's homes he refused to eat Sabbath challah – the city's Hassidim disapproved and refused his proposal.


A Nurses' Course for Public Health

by Deborah Adler (Garbuz)

Translation by Naomi Gal

In order to give health assistance to Rovno's Jewish population the Joint established after World War One a public clinic, where Dr. Tabetchnik served as a general physician and a few other doctors helped him. Next to the clinic a pharmacy and a dental–clinic were opened, where the dentists Bookimer and Shmuel Gorin worked with their aid Dora Garbuz. These institutions benefitted the city, but there was a great lack of medicinal workers.

The economy and the conditions of the Jewish population and the many refugees in town demanded special attention to the masses' health and required medical treatment and hygiene for those large numbers of people who were poor and greatly lacking in health care.

[Page 235]

For this endeavor, adequate and especially trained forces were needed, so the Joint decided to train nurses and caregivers and teach them the required skills. In 1921 the joint opened in Rovno a course for nurses and caregivers under the direction of Dr. Golob, the Joint's physician. This was another Joint establishment worth mentioning.

Among the teachers–lecturers in this course, which became like a nursing school, were: Dr. Tabchnik – interior diseases and anatomy; Dr. Koan – therapy; Dr. Guzman – Bacteriology; Dr. Shwidky – Therapeutics; and others. A curriculum was set and experimental work, all the necessary arrangements, and as soon as the course was announced dozens of women–students registered. Most students saw their future role as a public mission and a social–national service. They all were high school graduates, and some – graduates of higher education, and they were serious and conscientious about their studies. During the studies, which lasted a year, the nursing students worked in Joint's clinics in the city and participated in a practical course. Some of them, who were in the medical field previously, were very successful and were useful while they were still in the course.

When the course ended there were official exams, testing the students' skills and knowledge and they received diplomas. After the course the graduates were assigned suitable jobs in and out of the city safeguarding people's health, assisting healing, preventing diseases and treating people who needed medical assistance. Among the graduates who excelled were: Anna Shimonovitz, Clara Berman, Rivka Frishberg, Sonia Zilberfarb, Dina Hodorov, Frida Baharal, Dora Garbuz, Rivka Baharal , Bluma Mirsky, Bat–Sheba Kaufman and some young women from the refugees who arrived in Rovno. Nurse Shimonovitz, who excelled, was sent by the joint in Warsaw to train in X–Ray and when she returned she served in this capacity.

At the party given at the end of the course the students submitted a thank–you letter to Dr. Golob that stated:

“To the Medical director of Rovno's Joint Branch and our school's principal dear Dr. Golob,

In the celebration today of the first class of the nursing school “Briut Ha'am” (“The People Health”) in Volhynia, we, the school's students have the pleasure to express to you, dear Doctor, our deep gratitude for the beneficial work as the Joint's medical director, and especially for your dedication to organizing and supervising the nurses' courses of “Briut Ha'am”.

Due to your persistent and constant efforts, choosing the right teachers and managing a most efficient organization, we acquired deep knowledge, practical experience and full consciousness of our missions and obligations.

Our work just begins, and we promise you that your work will bear fruit. The experience and knowledge will be used for the benefit of masses of people, whom we see as our sacred role to serve.”

(Signed: all the students)

The course was a success and the organizers set a second class, which was successful, too.

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The committee, administration and the orphans of the Boarding House – 1937

 

The First Orphanage

by Yehudit Wexler

Translation by Naomi Gal

After the wave of riots that swept over Ukraine Jews and the nearby regions in 1918–1919, orphans and widows in the hundreds and thousands remained without protection nor livelihood. The Joint, the Jewish–American Aid Committee enlisted to help these ill–fated multitudes. As a direct result of these horrible riots an orphanage was founded in Rovno. It was after the pogrom in Zvhil (Novohard–Volynski) at the end of 1919, when the city's Jews escaped to nearby Korets bringing with them dozens of children, orphans who lost a father, a mother, or both. The relatives of these orphans were themselves in dire straits and the activists were unable to give basic help to these wretched; nevertheless these brave people who faced the rioters felt obligated, as they escaped from their burned city to Korets, to take with them the orphans without giving a thought to who will support and educate them. Among these thirty–forty children, most were three to ten years old.

 


The Administration of the Orphanage (for young children) – 1931

[Page 237]


The Board for Helping Orphans and abandoned children – 1934

 

Korets Community, afraid and terrorized by the rioters, was still able to give sanctuary to many of Zvhil's refugees and orphans. They lodged and fed them, but were unable to support them for the long run. Mr. Azriel Maliyar (Uri) a Zvhil survivor, traveled to Rovno looking for advice and help for the orphans. When he met Kalman Gam, who was the head of the community's committee and a trustee of Joint's money in Rovno, he found understanding of the situation of the orphans and the refugees from Korets. Gam promised the Joint's assistance and already during that meeting gave Maliyar money to feed the orphans for a month. Mr. Maliyar returned to Korets encouraged and the orphans were taken care of. But the security situation did not permit keeping the orphans in Korets, the war front was close by and the danger of riots threatened every settlement near the front. They spoke with Rovno activists, and decided to bring the orphans to them; the Joint promised to care and support them.

In the winter of 1919 Zvhil orphans were moved to Rovno with their caretakers, Bilhah Perliatre, B. Trombolsky, the sisters Kaplan and Mordechai Bibber (Bone), who continued taking care of the children in Rovno. At first the orphans were lodged in an apartment rented especially on Niemezkeye Street. There were some Joint and Zionists' volunteers who took upon themselves the care for the orphans, feeding and educating them. The activists were: David Tovvin, Zvi Zigel, Mendel Bialer, Mordechai Resis, Pessah–Lieb Hirschfeld, Ze'ev Idsis, David Baharl, Arye Garbuz (Avatichi), Rosa Segal, the sisters Sonia and Dora Unik, Riva Baharl, Dora Garbuz and others. Mr. Chomsky was summoned as a guide.

But since orphans from other places were brought to Rovno and the apartment was not suitable for all the children, they rented a special house in Plotnik's yard and renovated it. Kindergarten teachers were hired and the activists, too, used to arrive every day to help as much as possible. Rovno's community committee and the Joint did not spare work nor money to secure all the needs of the establishment that absorbed all these children, and soon it became a social–educational establishment – an orphanage.

After a while they began bringing more orphans to Rovno from near and far places and lodging them at the orphanage. When it became too crowded, they rented two

[Page 238]


The Administration, the Staff and the Orphans of the “Boarding–House” – 1933

[Page 239]


The Orphans of the Second Transport from Volhynia to Israel

 

additional apartments. Hence, the orphanage was split in three locations. The first two were managed by Yehudit Wexler, the kindergarten teacher Kliner, Alexandre Barash and Mendel Bialer with the counselors Taibale Apel and Duba Kirsh, managed by the Zionists, and the third one, managed by Hava Ulman, was under Yiddish influence. There was no lack of frictions between these two…

When the primary arrangements were made and the establishment's maintenance was assured, the problem of educational direction arose. Each movement wanted to provide them with their own educators, in their own spirit… A few of the children of school age were sent to study in Tarbut and Talmud Torah and the younger ones were under the guidance of a kindergarten teacher, while the children who were with Hava Ulman learned Yiddish. There were cases in which children from Hava Ulman's group ran away to Yehudit Wexler, this provoked quite a few arguments and disagreements…

And then Mr. Israel Belkind arrived from Eretz Yisroel with a plan to bring Ukraine's orphans to Israel, and educate them there. The Yiddish supporters, together with Hava Ulman were not happy with the plan and made sure that their children would be sent to America… After many preparations, around seventy children from Wexler, Apel and Kirsh's group were moved to Warsaw and at the same time another group of about seventy–eighty children were brought from Lvov. The children were kept in Warsaw close to six months, until the Aliya arrangements were made according to Belkind's plan, and about hundred and fifty children, with their educators and caregivers, Wexler, Kliner, Apel and Kirsh – made Aliya.

Afterwards groups of orphans were brought to the orphanage which continued to function under the direction of Shoshana Markush (Raisa'le).

 

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