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[Page 89]

The Trial of the Yeshiva

by Rabbi Asher Sandomirski

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Edited by Jane S. Gabin


Rabbi Sender Nachmanowitz
(father of Sh. Nachmani)


The Eitz Chaim Yeshiva existed until 1920 in its building. Then the Bolsheviks expropriated the building as well as my place of residence. We returned to the Beis Midrash of the Tailors. We studied in an unofficial manner, and we did not know who the Yeshiva heads were, for they made efforts to be discreet. I would go with Reb Leizer Itshe to collect donations of money and bread for the Yeshiva students.

When I was arrested, they placed me in a special prison cell for interrogation. I was there for a month. They interrogated me: Who directs the Yeshiva, and how does it maintain itself? What was my connection to the Yeshiva? Later, they freed me, and placed me on trial, which was conducted in Yiddish.

The chief judge Kort came from Minsk. Rabbi Isser Zalman of blessed memory and I appeared in court. He was accused, as they found with him a note, regarding receiving money for the Yeshiva. The postal receipt was in the name of Rabbi Isser Zalman of blessed memory. Mass'[?]son was also arrested for posting announcements in the synagogue calling for a revolt against the decrees regarding the study of Torah. Since the shamashim [beadles] permitted the affixing of announcements, they were also summoned for judgment. Among them were Reb Natan Fiszkinhorn, the shamash of the Karnaim Synagogue, and Reb Sender Nachmanowitz, the shamash of the Mishnayos Synagogue (the father of Sh. Nachmani).

A large crowd gathered in the hall of Rabbi Chaim Yoshia Frydman. The members of the court were: Kort, M. Efron, and someone named Trachnilowicz, who resided in a room confiscated by the government in the home of Rabbi Isser Zalman.

Mass was the first to be interrogated. As a Yeshiva student, he would tap his foot and bang his fist on the table during his testimony, as he was wont to do while studying.

His orderly claims, along with movements, changed the trial proceedings to laughter and mockery. Following him, the shamash Reb Natan of the Karnaim Synagogue was interrogated. He became perplexed. He got mixed up and declared that he was a matchmaker and broker. He wanted to prove that he did not earn his livelihood from being a shamash, and that he had various sources of income that was insufficient for his livelihood.

They asked him: “Did you read the counterrevolutionary announcement that was posted in the Beis Midrash?”

“I read part of it, but not the majority, for I did not have time.”

“What did you read, and what did you not read?

“I did not read it at all.”

“You are a broker, you are a matchmaker, is it possible that someone with businesses such as yours does not know how to take care of his matters?”

“I did read.”

“If you read it, why did you permit counterrevolutionary matters to be posted?”

He retracted, “I did not read,” and slunk weakly onto the chair.

I pointed out: “He will die of a heart attack. A physician must be summoned.”

The judge Kort asked me in anger, “You are a communal activist?”

I responded: “I am not an activist, but rather a human being, and I want to offer him help.”

Dr. Meizel was summoned, and they let the shamash Reb Natan go.

They summoned me to testify. The first question they asked me was: “What government is better, the Czarist, or the rule of the people?” I responded: “I am not a politician, and we believe that the law of the government is the law, and we must pray for the wellbeing of the government.”

They summoned Reb Sender, the shamash of the Mishnayos Synagogue. They asked him for an explanation from a known verse in Genesis, and they pronounced it with errors and omissions, and suddenly paused. Then Reb Sender said: “O, o, continue on.” Laughter broke out in the hall. Since he was elderly, they did not continue on with him.

The trial continued on Friday night, and we stood up to worship – I, Rabbi Isser Zalman, and Reb Natan. We worshipped aloud to attract attention. The trial continued on the Sabbath, and on Sunday to Tuesday.

I was asked: “Earlier you stated that the present government is preferable in your eyes – for what reason?”

I responded: “I have never visited a theater, and now under your rule, I have merited not only to visit a theater, but to also become an actor.”

Laughter was heard in the hall.

An account of the proceedings of the trial was sent to the Chik (The central committee) in Minsk. To our joy, all the accused were freed.

After about a half a year, a nighttime search was conducted in my home, and they found papers of letters from America, proving that I was involved in the maintenance of the Yeshiva. The second judge was a Jew named Minkin. During that trial, I was again interrogated. Rabbi Isser Zalman of blessed memory was already in Kletzk (Poland).

They asked me if I had been fired from the Yeshiva.

I said: “It is obvious that I have been fired, since the government is not content with it.”
[Page 90]


Left to right: Rabbi Asher Sandomirski, the Mashgiach of the Eitz Chaim Yeshiva; his father-in-law Reb Shachna the Shamash; Rabbi Asher's wife and his family


Question: “So, who stands at its head?”

Answer: “I do not know. Perhaps Rabbi Isser Zalman found someone to take care of this, but he is in Poland.”

Question: “How do you sustain yourself?

Answer: “Since there are people who do not see the hidden light in the Bolshevik regime, and they heard about my first trial and feel that the trial is like the Beilis libel, and therefore do not see it as a just, proper trial. Therefore, they support me.”

Question: What did you do in Petersburg?”

Answer: “I do not have what to sustain myself with. I traveled to preach in public as a Maggid, as is Jewish custom.”

Question: “And how is this? Do you not receive money from America?”

Answer: “This is insufficient for my livelihood.”

Question: “What is the content of these sermons?”

Answer: “That they should pray, observe the Sabbath, lay tefillin, and be careful about the laws of kashruth.”

Question: “Did you ever preach about the benefit of the government?”

To this, I asked: “Are there questions and deficiencies in the government for which there is a need for preaching to correct?”

One of the judges asked: “Did you ever preach that the citizens should pay their taxes on time?”

Answer: “These are already new sermons. By the time it would take for me to prepare a sermon on this matter, you would have already received more than the sermon, and I would not have anything to preach about.” One judge asked: “What is your Torah?” I responded with a question: “Why is your Torah not our Torah?”

Question: “What is the essence of the Torah? Is it socialist or bourgeoisie?”

Answer: “Our holy Torah is neither bourgeoisie nor socialist. The Torah of G-d is complete. Were you to have absorbed a scintilla of the socialism included in our Torah, you would progress much further.”

Question: “If the Torah is socialist, why does it state, 'for there never will cease being poor people in the land'[1]. Therefore, the Torah is bourgeoisie to us.” I told them: “Why do you delve only into this verse? Indeed there is another verse: 'For there will not be a poor person among you'[2]. They claimed: “What is the explanation of the previous verse, which expresses a specifically bourgeoisie concept? With a Torah such as this you force feed young children!”

I said: “I was in Peterburg [?]during the time of famine. A day came when they brought bread to the city and distributed portions of bread to the residents. The black worker received a liter and a half, the employer a liter, the free professional (doctor, engineer) ¾ of a liter, and the former bourgeoisie a quarter of a liter. Thus, your government discriminates between the poor and the wealthy. In our city, a commissar travels in a car, whereas Wendrof, the son-in-law of Reb Shmuel the Shamash – a black worker – receives only 40 rubles a month and his family is perishing of hunger. Is there not discrimination in your regime as well?"

Question: “On what do you base this?”

Answer: “In the Torah, there is simple explanation and hidden explanation. Everyone knows the simple explanation whereas only certain special people know the hidden explanation. I can tell you the simple explanation – I am a simple person and I see it as my duty to note the value of the head of the rabbinical court, who is also an expert in the most secret of secrets.”

Question: “In the Torah, it is written, 'you may extort a foreigner, but you may not extort your brother'[3]. That means, from a foreigner, from a hard-working farmer you can flail his skin and suck his blood, whereas to your Jewish brethren – you cannot charge interest.”

Answer: “I do not find any support that the term 'foreigner' refers specifically to a farmer and worker. Our Torah goes hand in hand with your Torah. Regarding the payment of taxes, the bourgeoisie pays heavy taxes and if he is late with a debt, he must pay interest. A member of the professional union pays smaller taxes. A Communist pays barely anything. Why? Because you fulfil, “you may extort a foreigner, but you may not extort your brother.'”

They continued to ask me on the story of David and Bathsheba. They asked in which Yeshiva I studied during my youth.

On the day of the verdict, the Jews of the city closed their shops and went to the courthouse (in the Zalewski building). They sentenced me to a five-month prison term and exile for five years – with a choice of a far-off place or somewhere 100 verst[4] distant from Slutsk.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 15:11 Return
  2. Deuteronomy 15:4 Return
  3. Deuteronomy 23:20 Return
  4. A verst is a Russian measure of length, about .66 of a mile (1.1 km). Return

[Page 91]

The Modern Cheder

by S. Nachmani

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

At the beginning of the year 5667, the first modern cheder was opened in Slutsk by the Hebrew teachers Mordechai Hazanovich, Shimshon Nachmani and Dov Cohen. This institution gained a reputation all over the area and the number of its students increased month by month. Until the establishment of the “Modern cheder”, the education in Slutsk was poor and dark, by the melamedim (teachers), who tyrannized their students with a cane and a leash, without a trace of Hebrew and a national spirit in their teaching. There was an enormous opposition to the modern cheder from the melamedim and the ultra-Orthodox. This issue also came to Delturia before the authority.

It is worth noting that Avraham Epstein, Hillel Dubrov and Y. D. Berkowitz conceived the idea of the establishment of a modern cheder back in the years 5662-3 (refer to Berkowitz and Epstein's letters).

Epstein's trip to Ekaterinoslav for training in the teaching method of Hebrew in Hebrew and pedagogy in general ended in disappointment. He realized that the three of them are not ready for this: they lack professional and pedagogical training. The trio dispersed. In the meantime, Berkowitz became known as a master Hebrew writer. Dubrov wandered from school to school in the cities of Ukraine. Epstein was a teacher in schools in Warsaw. A few private Hebrew teachers remained in Slutsk. Due to the aspiring for a matriculation certificate, there was a great demand for Hebrew teachers. Dubrov's activity left traces, such as: the Zionist library and club Tsheina (founded with the great help of Y. D. Berkowitz), which was closed after Zionism was banned by the government.

The Hebrew teachers and admirers of Hebrew literature were S. Nahmanovitz and Dov Cohen. It was the period of crisis in general Zionism and the Hebrew teachers belonged to the left-wing parties and Po'alei Zion.

In approximately 5664, a new teacher, Mordechai Hazanovich, was discovered in Slutsk. Hazanovich, who came from Stari Durogi, where he was a home teacher with Mr. Leib Berger. Hazanovich found him a partner in Slutsk and settled down with her. He was known as a gifted teacher, with a pedagogical sense, even though he did not receive pedagogical training in any Ulpana (school). In the meantime, he was content with teaching private lessons and there were many who knocked on his doors inviting him to teach Hebrew to children and adults.

The rumor about the modern cheders reached Slutsk. The traditional cheder and the Talmud Torah for the children of the poor still stood firm, although there was one young teacher who installed benches in his cheder, but the teaching method remained as it was. Hazanovich, of course, joined the Hebrew Speakers' Association, which continued to have a miserable existence. He visited or taught in the modern cheder in Homel under the management of Israel Adler and once he was familiarized with the teaching methods according to the natural method, he came up with the idea of opening a cheder of this kind in Slutsk. Some of the parents supported him and the main helper was the head of the local Zionists, attorney Karpman, even though he did not intend to send his children to the modern cheder. His story should be told in the chapter regarding the Zionist movement in Slutsk.

Hazanovich energetically approached to realize his idea and influenced his friends Nahmanovitz and Cohen to join him. The principles were: a) a mixed school for boys and girls, b) the method of teaching is Hebrew in Hebrew. A spacious, four-room apartment was rented, with a closed yard next to it. Furniture was ordered from the carpenter Tuviah Makhanik and his son Yosef, who was a devoted Zionist. The furniture was the same as those of the local gymnasium: benches, cathedrals, blackboards, cabinets and more. Ads have been posted in the city and in the synagogues regarding the opening the modern cheder. The Zionists helped with propaganda that was successful and in the fall of 5667, the modern cheder was opened, which was filled with male and female students for grades 1, 2, and 3.

The three teachers obtained “melamedim” (teaching certificates) certificates, which decorated the walls of the rooms, and they started teaching using the method Hebrew in Hebrew, from the first day. It was like a wonder to see the little children speaking and singing in Hebrew in the house and on the street. The lack of experience was made up for by their efforts and their study of Hebrew and general pedagogical literature. Language studies were made according to the books of Ben-Ami, S. Ben-Zion and the Bible. The special teachers, Moshe Katznelson and Yosef Goldberg, were invited to teach the general studies, in order to teach Russian in the evenings. The material achievement was also surprising. The investments in furniture and appliances were covered little by little. In the first winter, in addition to the teachers, they hired also a Shamash (beadle), Reb Meir the shoemaker, who took care of cleaning the house, heating the stoves and served as a messenger. The propaganda against the modern cheder by the melamedim


The teachers of the modern cheder
From right to left: S. Nachmani, Mordechai Hazanovich, Dov Cohen, Noah Rubenitz

[Page 92]

and the ultra-Orthodox circles was fierce. Is it possible? Can boys and girls study together and walk bareheaded? But all this was to no avail.

In the summer of 5667, many students were added and it was necessary to invite another teacher. They wrote a letter to Avraham Epstein, who was then living in Warsaw, and he responded immediately, returned to Slutsk and joined the group of teachers. Epstein, who had already gained experience in the natural method and was by nature a gifted teacher and an educator with supreme grace, increased the attraction to the modern cheder and many flocked to it.

The coordinator of the work was Hazanovich, who was already a permanent resident of the city and a father of a family, and so it was natural that he handled all the technical matters of the modern cheder. The rest of the teachers, who were singles and did not live in the town, did not take root in the modern cheder. They strived to do great things, some of them went far away, and some strived to immigrate to Israel.

The accusations against the modern cheder increased day by day in the ultra-Orthodox circles mainly, the rabbis announced a boycott of it and there was a case of one old man, who was absent from the city for a while and upon his return he found that his grandson had been studying in the modern cheder. That old man tore a tear and behaved mournfully and announced that he would not rise from his mourning unless his grandson leaves the cheder of the heretics.

One morning, the modern cheder was surrounded by the police and a thorough search was made in the children's benches, in the chimneys of the stoves and also in the attic. The police searched for a self-defense weapon. Indeed, there was a basis for the police's concerns, because one of the teachers was a member of the self-defense committee. He used to aggressively collect sums of money from the wealthy residents of the city in order to purchase weapons, and they probably snitched on him. Of course, no weapon was found, because it was hidden in the safest places. The panic that arose in and around the cheder was stopped by attorney Karpman, who suddenly arrived in a carriage. After a conversation with the police inspector Nadziratl Gaborski, the search was stopped.

The single teachers did not last long in the cheder. The first to drop out was S. N. that for reasons beyond the institution's control, was forced to leave Slutsk in 5668 and his place was temporarily filled by the teacher Eliyahu Greenfeld (who is of course Eliyahu Yarkoni, one of the first veteran teachers at Petach Tikva). He didn't last long at school either, and likewise, Avraham Epstein and Dov Cohen, who left Slutsk and traveled far away. Other teachers came in their place. However, the modern cheder was established and existed until the October Revolution and in addition to Hazanovich, other teachers such as Ze'ev Gotzeit, Berger, Noah Rubenitz, Nachman Schweidel, N. Enchantedin, taught there.

The writer Y.D. Abramsky dedicated in one of his “The Bridge” booklets warm words to Gotzeit, and these are his words:

- - - “Gutzeit was one of the best persons, he was an old bachelor all his life, as if he was born an old bachelor, with one blind eye, a Hebrew teacher, accustomed and experienced. A master craftsman. He set the foundations of the Hebrew language in Slutsk. Berkowitz and Lisitzky had a vision and high aspirations. Gotzeit was the foundation and the root of Hebrew. Anyone who is from Slutsk and knows Hebrew - he is one of Gotzeit's students, he was the “unknown soldier” and the Hebrew language owes him a lot and it owes him a favor for his acts. He supported economically his old mother and his sick sister, and dedicated his life to the Hebrew. Many teachers


The modern cheder in Slutsk, its students and teachers
In the center: The teachers Eliyahu Yarkoni (Greenfeld), M. Hazanovich, Avraham Epstein, Dov Cohen

[Page 93]

I have seen in my life. I have never seen someone like him. He had a passion for grammar. All his essence was dedicated to the Hebrew grammar. The one good eye he had was a good eye for the Hebrew, a straight eye, observes to the “roots” and observes the ways of the “declension”, so they will not deviate from the right path. It was said of him, of Gotzeit: Gotzeit saw with his one eye things that the big “reviewers” did not see with their two eyes. The “stress” was never “lax” in his hands, he knew the difference between the “Vav Hachibur” and “Vav Ha'ipuch” and how to use them, and he practiced the expression of gutturals and the laxities letters according to all their principles… Gotzeit had a student named Yaakov, who also had a passion for the Hebrew language, that used to say: If you want to know more about the letter “Ayin”, from which I learn Hebrew well, go to Gotzeit : “Gotzeit is the “Ayin of Ya'akov”, he is the source. When my time to leave Slutsk came, I took a book and wrote on it: “To the man that only the truth was spoken from his mouth”.

[Page 93]

The letters of Avraham Epstein

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Letter A

Ekaterinoslav, 26 Shevat, 11.2.1903

My brother Dubrov!

My brother, please send me the latest notebooks - the verb tables for Zeldas, I need them very much. - - - The letter of our association, “Hebrew speakers”, made a pleasant impression on our association. I myself served as the secretary that evening and I was assigned to prepare a reply to your letter. But you already know my answer, I'm a little lazy and I don't have much free time. Nevertheless, don't be desperate, as I am slowly getting to my main goal. I am now teaching a company of various artists, and if I will succeed, I intend to take the test to get a teacher's certificate - this certificate is of necessity. I am not sure if I will be able to complete it until May. The time has come to do something regarding the foundation of a modern cheder in Slutsk. It is necessary to collect material, to group a collection of various objects and things - necessary material according to the English method. It is necessary to encourage the people, to act according to the public opinion, in general, and to prepare the ground for it. It is necessary to buy different toys made of wood and stone. In one word, to take from everything that can be taken, small as well as large, and do not underestimate it. The details are in the letter.

Your brother,
Avraham (Epstein)


Letter B

Ekaterinoslav, 6.6.1903

My brother Dubrov!

I wonder about two things. I am amazed at myself that I could hold back for such a long time and not write you anything, but I am even more amazed at you, how could you go over this thing in silence, as if all this did not concern you in any way and as if there had never been anything between us. I can't believe that you have already stopped being interested in me, in my situation, in my ambitions and my future plans. We all had one goal, you and me and Berkowitz, and this goal brought the three of us together and created a special atmosphere between us, some kind of relationship and inner connection that goes beyond the usual friendship.

Believe me, my brother, I myself did not divert my mind for a moment from this goal, and the idea of finally founding a “modern cheder” in Slutsk was the main thing that directed all my thoughts, deeds and actions. And if I myself have not written to you until now, I deserve to be reprimanded and I hereby say “I have sinned!” But you - how could you completely forgot me and did not remind me of my duty to my city and did not ask me what I was thinking of doing and did not write me anything about the state of affairs in Slutsk and how your preparatory work for the benefit of our idea is progressing? It is an enigma and it will remain an enigma! However, I do not wish to settle an account with you. I know for myself that just as I do not write because of my organic laziness, which has been rooted in me since I was born, so do you, you do not write because… because writing is extremely easy work and therefore it's hard for you. This thing is a parable to a woodcutter who happened to sign his name and couldn't, because his hand was trembling, and he was amazed at the same thing: even the cedar in the forest explodes with the force of his hand, but to hold a pen – that is beyond his strength.

You are a lively man with many activities who love to work, and write a few lines - this is beyond your strength and it makes you to sweat. First of all, how are you? Is everything good with your health, your spirit and your financial condition? How did the loneliness affect you after Berkowitz was taken from you? (Berkowitz contacted me after he escaped in the middle and left you alone, but from the words of his letter I saw and understood the great inner battle he had before he decided to leave his safe place and try the big world).

Are you still dealing with public needs, like you've been dealing with up until now? What is the state of the Zionist movement in our city? Did you have an election and who did you choose? (Surely the “honorable delegates” who were in the Minsk church were elected again this time). What is the state of the library “the child of our plays” and who is managing it now? What is your attitude towards the library and the association, after you resign? And the Association of Hebrew Speakers - does it still exist?…

I'll now move on to the question that concerns us the most, the “modern cheder”, which we want to establish in our city. It is difficult, of course, to limit the time in which our idea can come true in reality. But I am certain that the actions for its realization will start – I do not have any doubts about that for a single moment. This thing is necessary, and it cannot be otherwise.

During the time that I spent in the modern cheder in Ekaterinoslav (this is surely already known to you) I learned to know all the details of the matter, both from the material and technical side as well as from the descriptive side. I realized that

[Page 94]

the establishment of such an institution and its maintenance require much more forces and much larger sums than you can imagine. Only a social initiative, only the participation of some public institution, of some association, or an entire society, will be able to put this thing on a proper and strong basis. The efforts of individuals will do nothing, because the “modern cheders” are in a special situation, which originates from the nature and essence of the cheders themselves.

One of the main conditions of the cheders of this kind is: an arranged division between the students based on their knowledge and their languages. In the old cheders there is no regime and order in this regard. In almost every cheder, the number of students is the number of classes. The melamedim themselves are conducted according to some gradually known method: Bible - Chumash, Talmud and Hebrew, everything in taught in a mess.

The reason for this vision is understandable: the melamed must, according to the nature of things, always accept new students, because the number of veteran students naturally decreases. Therefore, if in a certain period of time, he had 20 students with similar knowledge, then over time, this number of students will decrease and their place will be taken by new students, who do not have the knowledge of the veteran students. Meanwhile, he already has two classes. And this process is expanding from time to time. This is how the mess occurs, which finds a place in almost all the cheders, and which brings the melamed to a loss of his strength and the students to a loss of time, apart from the immoral effect on the students, which is a direct result of such an abnormal situation.


Letter C

Ekaterinoslav, Tuesday, 1 of Chol HaMoed 2.4.1903

My brothers and friends!

You brought me to a great trial in your letter. You didn't make a mistake when you said that my “corner” is dear to me. From the moment I came here I would miss it and all my actions and thoughts were aimed at the main goal of returning to my corner and fulfilling the idea for which I traveled to Ekaterinoslav. However, for that very idea I decided not to listen to the voice of your call. I am still not ready enough, I still lack the experience, so that I can head a respectable enterprise as the foundation of a “modern cheder”. The pedagogical information and the plans, which I have already gained, are not enough. They are news I picked up by hearing and sight. However, I desire to actually work and acquire the practical information. And such a case, as it seems to me, will be available to me in a few days.

One of my acquaintances, who is also the chief supervisor of the modern cheders, both here and in Nikolaev, promised to find me a position in the cheder in Nikolaev. Although there is more than an eighth of a doubt in this matter, nevertheless I promised him to wait for his answer. And regarding the companies that you want to establish, I say to you: I stand behind you! If you manage to open a cheder for little children that begin their studies, that would be great, and I ask you to guard the little orphans - the children of Haya Zelda - whom we all owe respect to. I think that you can have them even among the girls – there is no harm in that. After all these things I am telling you that I will indeed intend - even if it will be only in a long time from now - to return to Slutsk. Much of it depends on the state of affairs. But my return should not stop you from doing everything you have set out to do.

Zuta intends to reply to your letter, perhaps he has already written to you. I have already reconciled with Zuta, I spent the first seder night in his company.

Your brother Avraham


Letter D

Ekaterinoslav March 20, 5 Nissan

My brothers Dubrov and Berkowitz!

Forgive me for my late reply. I had a few things to take care of, things that were not so important, but kept me so busy that I couldn't turn my heart to other things. And now my mind is free in such a way that I could handle the question that occupies us with the proper seriousness. You want to found companies for beginner girls and you are asking for my advice on how to arrange this and how to introduce the natural method. I have already written to Berkowitz regarding the pedagogical information and the basics of the method of study, that they are one of the things that cannot be acquired only by sight and hearing. All the theories and lessons in the world will not give or add anything to you, before you have acquired a decent experience in action. Continuing education in the profession of teaching is not given from person to person in written classes; It was obtained with a lot of hard and continuous work, in total addiction to this thing. Although you can acquire the basics of the natural method according to Epstein and Sheltzel, but the technique and the pedagogical tact will only come after a while.

I myself also applied to the advice of the teachers' council of the modern cheder and here they also replied to me the kind of things I said above and they also offered that I would use the material collected and recorded in the journal of the cheder. This material is very respectable because it is not a theory that is created after a thorough and deep thinking first, but rather the result of live work. I will try to copy this material little by little and send it to you, and it will be of great help to you.

And now I would like to make some general comments on the matter regarding the companies you want to establish.

It is necessary as much as possible to reduce the forces and not disperse them. It is necessary to set up a “cheder” in the full sense of the word. It is necessary for the apartment to be spacious and the furniture, the benches and the tables, to be of the best quality available. This thing is very important because during their studies, the students have to do various movements and actions from time to time and therefore everything should be aimed at those actions, so that the students do not feel any pressure and distress and it will not be harmful to the order and the regime.

The natural method is visible and therefore it is necessary to prepare a collection of various objects: pictures, names of toys, earthenware, straw, dirt, hay and other trivial things. The bottom line: it is necessary to get the students used to bringing all the objects they find into the cheder. And all these objects need to be marked with numbers and called names. Mainly this is necessary for the sake of the students, to make them like the studies. It is necessary for this purpose to plan multiple things which bring them into motion, and to occupy them

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all at once. The teacher must speak only a little, only in the necessary time, and bring the students to the inventions by asking questions, in such a way that they themselves find the answer to the question. He must also treat the students with affection and sometimes also have fun with them, and the main thing is to prepare himself before each and every lesson.

In order for you to know for yourself the progress of the studies and how far the students have progressed, make a journal and write down in it every time the new words and everything that deserves to be written down. I am sending you one page as an example.

A month later, after the students have learned to chat and understand what is being said to them, start teaching them to read and write. Reading and writing will be learned together, in parallel. We need to purchase a movable Alef Beit, large letters that are printed on pieces of parchment. Maybe one of the Torah scribes in our town could make one? You can teach the writing according to Yalin: Reading according to the little children - the student's book.

But first of all, you must visit the municipal school for a certain time and watch the ways of teaching. I think that Yalin will do his best for you and this will be easy for you. And here I almost have nothing more to say to you. If something comes up during the time that could benefit you more or less - I will let you know at the time.


Letter E

Slutsk, February 6, 1908


I have to leave my hometown - Slutsk. From working here in the “modern cheder” for a whole year, I was left with a pile of torn hoodies and a swarm of debts on my back. In short, I have no purpose to stay here. In case some position is found around your place, in a village, in a town - it is all the same for me! As long as your poor body is still debating in the world of chaos, it needs to be fed. It seems that this is how I am destined for my creativity, that I will be constantly tottered from place to place, without status and without a path. The result of my stay in Slutsk – only despair in the heart and a row of graves in the soul.

Try to get me a positive answer.


A small episode: our Nahmanovitz was really exalted, he was a real hero: in the middle of winter “on a stormy night”, he suddenly left without his parents' knowing about his leave and without a government license! And he did not have enough time to take his belongings as well. It is said that his suffering soul found rest in Rogtsov. “He traveled from Slutsk and settled down in Rogtsov”. Oh Slutsk, Slutsk - my heart belongs to you, to your cheders and to your heroes!

Hillel my friend!

The conditions you propose me are accepted (although the salary is somewhat insufficient). I am willing to accept this position upon the agreement of the council.

The first-class delivery is aimed at my belongings. If God's decree is that I should be among the Hebrew teachers, - then I only want to be a teacher for little children. The little children are my sphere, in which I feel like a fish in a stream. I don't know, maybe it's a coincidence, but in Slutsk I gained a lot of publicity as the teacher who was more liked by the students. I think I have some talent about it.

When are the two months of vacation? It was appropriate to set them in the months of Sivan, Tamuz.

I am waiting for an official answer from the “teachers' council”.


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