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[Page 508]

A day with the pioneers

by A. Einhorn (Warsaw)

(Impressions of the pioneer farm in Będzin)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

A. Einhorn, one of the editors of the “Heint” [Today] newspaper in Warsaw, visited the Będzin pioneer farm “Hechalutz” in 1921 (you may read about the farm in M. Hampel's article “Zionistische Parteien [Zionist parties], Hechalutz movement and youth organizations in Zagłębie”). Einhorn published his impressions from his visit to the farm (11.10.1921) in “Heint”:

The editors

A number of years ago, fifteen pioneers leased a plot of land on the outskirts of the city, seven morag in size, and began cultivating it. Fifteen youths, sons of “Balei Batim”, of well-known Jews in the city, left their comfortable and peaceful life and decided to work this land. Instead of experience they only brought with them belief, instead of strong muscles and calloused farmers' hands – only a clear decision, instead of monetary means – only a long range goal. With these “belongings” they achieved a wonderful paradise that was a rich and impressive botanical collection, existing in the thick atmosphere of the factory chimneys of Zaglembia.

Yes, the pioneer farm in this format was a revelation. Jews flocked there they received satisfaction and pleasure from the youths proudly displaying their farm. On the other hand, the Christians stood amazed, nodding their heads and shrugging their shoulders: “Drobne zydóweczki, jak to fajnie oni robia…” (Pitiful Jew boys, but they are doing it so well…”).

In deed, there was something to be proud of. The “Oranzeria” (hothouse) for flowers included varieties of the type that were rare in Poland. The cucumbers were worthy of being displayed in an agricultural exhibition. In the fruit and the vegetables, and the plants all around, the maximum was achieved.

This farm served as a focal point of pure idealism, deep and meaningful idealism.

The first eleven members, that had gained prior expertise in the farm, have already gone to live in Eretz Israel. They write to their friends in Będzin about everything and don't conceal a thing. The personal thoughts of the pioneers in the farm are about their tomorrow in the homeland. They know the difficulties that they are liable to encounter, though for all that they are prepared for everything, whatever that may be…

Hebrew: M. H.

In the bowels of the earth

(Recollections from a tour in a coal mine)

by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (Jerusalem)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, second president of Israel, visited Poland at the beginning of 1929 as an envoy of the Histradrut Haovdim [Labor Union], in the light of a collection drive of K.P.I. (Kupat Poelei Eretz Yisrael) [Land of Israel Workers Fund]. With this aim he also visited in Zagłębie towns, and being in a coal mining region, Ben-Zvi asked to visit one of the mines. Exactly at the same time the mine workers in Zagłębie were on strike. Members of the “League for a Working Eretz Yisrael” in Będzin contacted the local activists of the Polish Labor party (P.P.S.), endeavoring to receive permission from them to visit in the “Klapes” mine in the Katowice region (Silesia), whose miners were not on strike. Ben-Zvi published [an article] in the Davar newspaper (November, 1929), under the heading “In the bowels of the earth” (Visit impressions). We hereby present the article with minor omissions – M.H.

I traveled from Będzin to Katowice accompanied by three friends, in order to visit in the coal mines. I had waited for this opportunity for some time. The visit to the mine involved formal impediments on behalf of the company. This time I was given the opportunity by a Polish friend Stańczyk, a member of the Sejm and leader of the mine workers in this region. Stańczyk came to greet me in a public meeting in Będzin, in the name of the P.P.S. and I requested that he assist me on the issue of a permit, and he gave me a letter for the professional unions' office in Katowice. This letter enabled me to receive the requested permit from the American company, the owners of the mine.

One of the long-time activists, who had in fact worked for 22 years in the mining business, and now – was the secretary of the professional unions came with to accompany us.

It is a complete town, full of factories and plants, warehouses and machines. – – – We were taken into special rooms, intended for the senior clerks, before they went down to their work places. The janitor brought a pair of underclothes with over garments, shoes and a special steel helmet. We changed all our clothes and I couldn't help laughing at the face of my friends, who in an instant had turned into “miners”. Yes I was amongst them. The suit was a means of protecting from the coal dust floating in the air in the mines and penetrating under clothes and underwear.

[Page 509]

We were given miners' staffs and special torches that were hermetically closed to light up the dark way. We were presented to the chief engineer, who was so kind as to accompany us the whole way. He previously showed us the coal storerooms in which blocks were placed after they were extracted. The coal is lifted out and classified and the blocks are loaded onto railcars, which go into the mine courtyard. The engineer went with us through all the departments of the factories and the machinery. Thousands of workers are employed in the factories, whose number is greater than the number of miners working in the mines themselves.

The mine, in which we visited, contains five layers of coal, and thick layers of earth several hundred meters in size separate between the layers. The main passageway is 80 to 100 meters deep, and the second – at a depth of 160 meters. I wanted to go down to a lower layer, however by chance the lower lifts were out of order and were being repaired.

Before going down the manager ordered that the visitors' book be brought and requested that we put in a special note: We had to declare, that in the event of a disaster, we renounced in our names and in the names of our descendants that there would no claim for compensation from the company. He added an explanation to comfort us, that there wasn't much chance of a disaster… of the million instances there were only three disasters, however it was customary, that anyone who went down was obliged to sign.

We couldn't refuse and so we signed. The descent into the mouth of the mine began. A few minutes later we reached the ground. The metal gate of the lift opened and we walked out into the mine's passageway. The passageway was quite wide, however low, in which railway tracks passed along for the transfer of electric railcars, leading to the work area. In the morning and evening railcars meant to be used for people pass along here, in which sit laborers going there and back to work. – – – The “Stayger” warned us not to lift our heads up and not to straighten up our backs, because the ceiling was low and a live electrical line ran above our heads, and a careless movement was liable to bring upon disaster in the electrical line.

In the place, where our small railcar reached the coal layer, the passageway widened three or four times in size, on both sides. It was noticeable, that here they were already dealing with the extraction of coal. From above and on both sides the passageway was supported by wooden and steel scaffolds. The engineer gave explanations: After finishing extracting the coal from the bed, the scaffolds are dropped and as much steel and wooden parts that they can manage are taken out, and from the pressure of the earth it sinks from above and fills up the layer cavity, and then they continue digging on a different side.

When the railcar reached the last stop, we got out; around us there were breathtaking chambers, which had previously contained the coal treasures. Now they had been emptied and only wooden steel pylons stood there in isolation, as silent monuments to the recent past.

Long and narrow passages branched out from the chambers, in which it was easy to become lost, were it not for the engineer, who had a precise map, and from time to time he looked at it, and by it directed our progress. These passages were not level, rather they had rises and falls. Half-open sheet metal pipes pass through the center, opened from above, in which blocks of coals pass. Under the pipes there was a cable in which there was electricity moving them back and forth, and from the movement the blocks moved, traveling and descending along the slope of the pipes, from the excavation points to the wide passageway, where laborers stood and loaded them on to the railcars.

We reached the excavation point and here an extraordinary sight was revealed to us. Semi-naked laborers were hewing with shovels, deepening the wall or the ceiling in silence. They showed us how the pneumatic machinery worked. With the aid of this compressor they drilled a deep hole, and after having moved away, the laborers as well, a distance of 20 meters, they lit the dynamite with the aid of an electric lighter. After a minute the sound of explosion was heard, and the chamber filled with smoke and a sulfur smell that was hard to take. To my astonishment the air in the passageway cleared within a number of seconds and we could already start returning to where the explosion occurred and look at the results. Huge blocks of coal rolled on the floor, and the miners only had to break them up into smaller pieces and load them into the pipe, in which they were taken to the railcars from above, as was previously described.

Here they work for 8 continuous hours, and so it was necessary to take care of various amenities for the use of the laborers, like clean air, which entered via special pipes from above. The laborers work as contractors and share the wages between them, whilst the simple laborers work on a daily basis. Their wages are low and their health poor, as a result of their work in the bowels of the earth. From my conversations it turns out that their union is weak, and most of the laborers work outside of the unions, and therefore they are unsuccessful in their struggle, in spite of their humble objectives, like raising their wages by 5%.

My visited in the depths of the ground lasted three hours. From the mines we went to the baths, where we washed off the dust, which had covered all our clothing.

This underground is the “Garden of Eden” of the simple proletariat, dealing in this most important and vital material for the operating all industry, and without which the railways and the plants would be silenced. The laborer in the coal mining industry is, is acknowledged, as a laborer with a capital L, father of the industrial proletariat from time immemorial.

I recall how I was envious of the time in the Diaspora when a simple proletariat existed. I had now seen the conquerors of Nature in action, of those living in darkness and gloom, as against those share lords earning millions every year.

I was interested to know, if there are Jews amongst the mine laborers, and so it seems: Amongst the 86,000 mine workers in Poland there isn't a single Jew…

[Page 510]

From Sosnowiec to Eretz Yisrael in 1909

by Baruch Priwer (Israel)[1]

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

As one of the active members of the “Bnei Zion” [Sons of Zion] youth movements in Sosnowiec, whose main purpose was to bring about the aliyah of its members to Eretz Yisrael, I left my birth town Sosnowiec 60 years ago, in 1909, of which my grandfather, Reb Lajb, and my father, Menachem Mendel (a produce merchant and a flour storekeeper in Sosnowiec), were amongst its founders. Without my parent's permission, like all the fathers of the Second Aliyah pioneers, I made aliyah to the land, that was considered at that time as a “land that devours its inhabitants”, and I was then only a youth, who had not yet reached seventeen years of age.

Two other youths from Sosnowiec joined up with me: Juda Sznajor[2] and Makower[3]. We traveled via Vienna and Trieste, and the three of us were the only pioneers on the ship, whose sights were set for Eretz Yisrael, apart from several elderly Jews, who were making aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in order to spend their final years in the Holy Land and to be brought, when the time came, for a Jewish burial in the land of our forefathers.

After several weeks of traveling in a dilapidated Italian freighter, we arrived safely in the port of Jaffe. The city of Tel Aviv didn't exist yet and only then, in 5669 – 1909, the first foundations were laid for its creation. On leaving the ship, we underwent difficult drawn out processing by the Turkish authorities, who demanded a “red paper” from us, that is to say – an entry permit into Eretz Yisrael. We didn't have a “red paper”, since we emigrated illegally, we had to pay bribes to be released by the gendarmes, and from there we went to the famous “hotel” in Jaffe, ran at the time by Chaim-Baruch, which served as a sort of “institution” for absorbing new immigrants.

I went on to Petach Tikwa, “Em Hamoshavot” [Mother of Settlements], and was an agricultural laborer, since working the land had always been my ideal, when I dreamed about this in the Diaspora. Since at the time there were no institutions, which took care of the new immigrant, I “made do” in a private rooming house, which served as a focal point for new immigrants and “old-timers” as one. The local residents took interest in me, received me warmly and guided me during my first stages of life in the country. However, it wasn't easy to find work in the moshava [farming community of private farms], since in the orchards, vineyards and the almond groves, only Arabs were employed, and a Jewish laborer had almost no place in the orchards and fields. The Jewish farmer preferred to employ cheap and exploited Arab laborers in his farm, who sufficed, because of their simple life style, with a minimum sustenance, a wage, which didn't enable a cultured person to survive.

The “Histadrut Haovdim” [Labor union] did not exist yet, however the laborers, who belonged to the two parties of “Poalei Zion” [Zionist workers] and “Hapoel Hatzair” [Young laborer] that founded “workers' committees”, that took care of the basic necessities of the laborers. At the initiative of these committees a workers clubhouse was founded in Petach Tikwa, which was also a cultural center and cultural activity was held together with the authors Aaron David Gordon, Josef Chaim Brenner, who was murdered by the Arabs in 1921, Jakob Rabinowicz and others.

Since I didn't find regular work in Petach Tikwa and I was for the most part unemployed, I went to the Kfar Saba, a moshava in the southern Sharon valley, in the hope, that there I would get along. In Kfar Saba, that today is a large city in Israel, thriving with life and abounding with work, there was a very small and scanty moshava with a few “buildings”, that were not suitable for human residence. Though this moshava – the only estate between Petach Tikwa and Hadera – was at the beginning of its foundation, and seemed a place, that in spite of all had beautiful scenery, and the desolation and the distance from any Jewish community, enchanted me. I became attached to the place and remained there for all the years of my life in Eretz Yisrael, till this very day, in spite of the many misfortunes, that I underwent in my first years, in particular in the First World War, during which Kfar Saba suffered a great deal.

I remember that once my parents in Sosnowiec sent me three rubles, in order to help me in my dire situation, during hard times, when my right hand was amputated in a severe work accident, whilst working in a well. I never asked my parents for financial help, even when at the time, I was really starving. On receiving the three rubles I was very excited, of course, because of the fostering relationship of my parents, however I didn't want to make use of them, though I certainly needed them. I was insulted, my honor was hurt from the monetary aid, that was sent to me, since I always wanted to manage by myself without parental support. I didn't send back the money, in order not to upset my dear father and mother, however I prepared a surprise for them: I bought a small barrel of finest, high quality “Carmel” wine, from the Rishon Lezion winery, and sent it as a present to my family in Sosnowiec. This deed made a great impression on the small Jewish Sosnowiec community and it was the topic of conversation of the day, which wasn't a trifle matter: a barrel of Pesach kosher wine from the Holy Land. And the Jewish town of Sosnowiec celebrated and rejoiced and drank “lechaim” [to life] and enjoyed the aroma of the choice wine, of which there was nothing like it ever seen and everyone greeted each other with a “Next Year in Jerusalem”. The wine from Eretz Yisrael warmed the hearts of the people.


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In 1920 I traveled to Sosnowiec, the town of my childhood, to visit my family that I hadn't seen for 11 years. Sosnowiec at the time was full of Zionist-public activities, in contrast to the period, when I made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael (1909). Zionist political movements from all streams and ideologies arose, youth organizations were founded, sports' organizations established, Zionist funds operated successfully, the “Hechalutz” organization prepared its members to life in the Eretz Yisrael. The agricultural farm in Sosnowiec became renown, which had been founded after the previous war (my relative, Hendel Priwer, transferred the large plot of land without payment for this purpose), and it grew prime vegetables and cultivated pretty flowers. The farm produce was widely sought after. The heart was uplifted in the presence of the Zionist idea, which attracted followers at all levels of the Jewish people in Sosnowiec.

I appeared in front of youths and talked with them openly about life in Eretz Yisrael, that they, indeed, were in principal not easy, but the tomorrow in Zion seemed good and safe for the Jewish people. Indeed, “nobody is prophet in his own country”, but I saw the spreading anti-Semitism in the new republic of independent Poland of the time, that renewed after the war; the Endekes [“Endecja” – ND – “Narodowa Demokracja” – “National Democratic Party”] with their abusive acts against the Jews, the disinheritance of their financial statuses and the boycotts (“swój do swego” [literally: keep together; corresponding to: “buy Polish from the Poles”]); the restrictions in the universities for Jewish students (“numerus clausus”); the tax system burdening the Jewish population and the pogroms here and there; the ceaseless hatred by the gentiles of the “eternal people” – I told my audience, that we have no future in foreign land and without Eretz Yisrael and the Hebrew culture there was no purpose to our life.

I preached aliyah, however unfortunately only a few of the youths from my town answered the voice calling “Make aliyah!” Most of them preferred to remain near the “fleshpot” without it occurring to them or imagining, that one day such a terrible tragedy would befall the Jewish people in the Diaspora, and that they would drown in a bloody deluge.

When visiting Sosnowiec I made preparations for the aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, for my two brothers, Chaim and Aron[4], who indeed made aliyah and settled and became part of the homeland and sacrificed their only sons in sanctification of the nation and the land.

The rest of my family: My martyred mother and sisters and brother, were killed together with all the Jewish people in the cruel Holocaust carried by the lowly, defiled murderers, slaughtered for no reason, only for being Jews, and I bitterly mourn and eulogize them.

The Hebrew-Polish Gymnasia “Yavne”

(named after Szymon Fürstenberg and his wife)

(A collection of reminiscences)

by Motek Hampel

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Dedicated to my teachers, tutors and classmates in “Yavne”, who completely drank from the “poisoned goblet”.

The cannons that had slashed through the world's skies during World War I had yet to be hushed, in 1919, with Poland under the German regime, at this critical time in the world, several Zionist activists in Będzin initiated the basis of an idea for a Jewish school, that had not existed in greater Jewish Będzin and Jewish Zagłębie, in particular. I remember that amongst the initiators, (and I was then a boy aged ten), were these esteemed Jews who devoted most of their time and money to public needs: Mojze Kalman Erlich, Salomon Gutman, Itzhak Wigodzki, the engineer Szymon Zamodzki, Berchiyahu Majtles, Berisz Ferger, brothers Hajm and Itzhak Szajn, Avraham Liwer, Nuta Londner and others that I don't remember, all of them of blessed memory (most of their children and descendants are located in Israel).

As mentioned, in these crazy times, when the population was not eating sufficiently and good clothing and quality shoes were luxuries, when various infectious diseases did not exclude any home, in spite of this period the “People of the Book” and “People of the World” were eager to strengthen Jewish ethics and spiritual realization for the young generation and their future.

The idea of founding a Jewish school captivated the educated residents of the city, engrossed in a national spirit, who were compelled to send their children to a Christian school (trade orientated), by the name of Szkola Handlowa, since there was no Jewish educational institution. The founding of a Jewish school was important – though not a trifling affair, and the implementation difficult, since from where would the large monetary capital be found that was necessary for this, a suitable building, that needed to be expansive, a teaching staff and so on, however, where there is a will there is a way.

The foundation of a secular Jewish school was received with total opposition amongst the religious parents, who educated their children in the traditional cheder, and if one of the “aristocratic” residents dared to send their child to a Polish school, he was persecuted in ultrareligious circles, and the Jewish pupils that appeared on the street in special uniform (colored cap with a shiny peak, long trousers, a jacket with a high, tight collar and gold buttons), they were received with angry looks and mocking cries.

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A committee was elected, that was entrusted with carrying out the mission, and in fact, it went into immediate action, and after quite an amount of work it was crowned with success. An apartment was found, that was more or less suitable, two stories, in a house belonging to Dovidl Zmigrod, in Kollotaja Street, opposite the town hall. In this extensive house, with several wings, there were, apart from many residents, the Mrs. Bojarska Jewish girl's school, the Hashomer Hatzair center, the Hakoach sport's union, the artists organization (Handwerkerverein [Craftsman Organization]), and if this wasn't enough, it also held the “famous” dance school, managed by Mrs. Majteles… of course, such that the large concentration of the aforementioned institutes in one building, the constant hubbub, the poor sanitary conditions, were an obstacle to the school.

The long-awaited school, which was given the name Yavne (in memory of the spiritual center of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Yochai, which existed after the destruction of the second Temple), came about at the beginning of the school year (September, 1917), dual language style school (teaching languages of Polish and Hebrew), founded by Dr. Mordechai Zew Broda from Lodz, who organized a union of Jewish national high schools in Poland (the secretary and life and soul was Dr. Arie Tratkower, the chairman of the Israeli management of the World Jewish Congress and lecturer on sociology and the professional chair of the university in Jerusalem).

Local teachers were called for, not necessarily qualified, and Dr. Noach Braun was made principal, was born in Galicia, a philologist, with a wide education, and was proficient in twelve languages. In 1925 Dr. Braun immigrated to Israel and was amongst those working in the Oriental Studies Institute in the university in Jerusalem (he died in 1960, several months before his death he still participated in a festive celebration of the Będzin Émigrés in Israel, when the Pinkas Bendin came out and gave an extraordinary speech in rich biblical language).

Whilst speaking of Dr. Braun, I wish to bring up something personal: It happened over fifty years ago. I was examined in my knowledge of the Hebrew language (I had previously studied in the Cheder Hametukan [standard religious elementary school] belonging to Rabbi Yoshua Rozneker) by the principal, Dr. Braun. After he saw from our conversation in Hebrew that I spoke fluently, he commended me and slapped me on the back as a sign of his approval and encouraged me to preserve on in studying Hebrew.

After Dr. Braun retired from the gymnasia in Będzin, and transferred to the gymnasia in Kielce, Dr. Fajwel Widerman took his place, and he was also from Galicia, with wide achievements in the Jewish educational field in Zagłębie. Dr. Widerman ran Yavne, also teaching us Latin, for five years and from 1923 till the outbreak of last war was principal of the girls' gymnasia in Sosnowiec, where he was also active in public life. He was fortunate and survived the Holocaust and later edited an interesting and voluminous book on the annihilation of the Jews in Sosnowiec and Zagłębie. The book was written in the Polish language and called Plowa Bestia (“The brown beast”) and came out in Munich. Dr. Noach Braun began translating this, however did failed to complete it, and in the meantime the author also passed away and the book never appeared in Hebrew, and hence he is not well known by many of the Zaglembian Émigrés in Israel.

When the gymnasia was founded there were only five departments, three preparatory classes, known as “Westempne”, and two senior classes, though in time, from year to year, more departments were added, till completion (1924). The enrolment in the gymnasia in its early years was not great, since many of the enlightened parents saw it as a sort of superior Cheder Metukan, where “lazy” subjects were taught: Religion, Bible, the history of the Jewish people, Land of Israel studies, Hebrew literature and other Jewish subjects, that did not have much “purpose” in the children's' future…

However, after several years, when the gymnasia was firmly established, it became better and better and many knocked on its doors and students from all the Zaglembian cities and even from nearby Upper Silesia flocked to it. The trouble was, that the gymnasia was unable to absorb many more students, because of the poor housing conditions the space available became smaller and more unsuitable. The question of accommodation was a great worry to the school management and its trustee committee, till a savior came, after a number of years, Szymon Fürstenberg, a tireless public activist and a generous philanthropist, who openhandedly supported many institutions in Będzin and elsewhere.

Zag512.jpg [22 KB] - Group of students
A group of students in the
“Yavne” School in 1924
Standing from the left: The teacher and educator Dr. Barasz, Wilszik
In the middle from the left: M. Hampel, Warmund, Laudon
Below: J. Sztark, Opuczynski

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The year 1924 was the first year of the gymnasia in which students in the eight grade – and they were a total of eight – first sat for final examinations, in order to receive a matriculation certificate, without which the gates of the university were locked. Since the Polish inspector of the local Zaglembian schools was not amongst the “Righteous Gentiles”, he utilized every means to fail our examinees. What did he do? He did not allow the examinations to take place (as was customary in every gymnasia) in the Yavne school, rather intentionally spread the eight students around Polish schools in Będzin and Sosnowiec, and they were examined together with the anti-Semitic Polish students. The cunning ruse did succeed, and out of the eight examinees, seven failed, as it were, and only one of us, my friend Aharon Domb (now living in Belgium) managed to receive this sought after certificate.

There was embarrassment amongst the school activists, who were worried – and with reason – about our fate, because of this disgraceful failure. Parents transferred their children from “Yavne” to a Polish school, being certain, that they would receive the matriculation certificate there. The number of students dropped dramatically, the deficit grew, and the school was headed towards closure.

In this critical situation parents of students, loyal to the school, were called to find a way out of this crisis, which was threatening the school's existence. An opinion was even raised that the gymnasia should be closed, since it wasn't viable, however the opposite opinion was heard: On the contrary, every spiritual and monetary effort should be made to save this cultural asset, so that it wouldn't collapse, heaven forbid.

Warm hearted and national spirited Jews were found, who immediately donated large sums of money to strengthen the school. The parents committee was extended and new activists were brought in, that took upon themselves the rehabilitation of the school in all fields. The kehila in Będzin and the town council promised their annual budget support from thereon.

A delegation, led by the then principal, Dr. Hirschberg (my German teacher) traveled to Warsaw, in order to speak with the Education Ministry regarding the fate of the gymnasia. It was explained to the delegation, that as long as, was located in the old building, which was not suited to its purpose, there was no reason to receive governmental rights, and anyway, future matriculation examinations for Yavne students would be held in other schools – and seemed doomed from the outset… The delegation returned under these depressing conditions, and gave their report of the events in the Education Ministry. After a great deal of discussions, it was decided the gymnasia must, whatever happens, erect its own building, in accordance with governmental directives.

Szymon Fürstenberg, noted above, on learning about the impending disaster to Yavne announced his willingness to build a special building for the gymnasia. On the basis of this promise, the school received governmental rights and the examinations took place, from then on, till the completion of the new building, in the old building – with a great deal of success, which clearly showed, that the gymnasia had a high educational standard over all those years.

Zag513.jpg [19 KB] - The Fürstenberg Gymnasia
The façade of the “Yavne” Gymnasia
(named after Fürstenberg)

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Zag514.jpg [16 KB] - Students from the Gymnasia
Students from the Gymnasia (1931)
with their teacher,
Professor Maimon in the center

Fürstenberg purchased a large plot in Sobieskiego Street and five years later an extensive building proudly arose with all the improvements, enhancements and equipment, that we would have been proud of, had it be located in Tel Aviv. Huge sums of money were invested in this grand building, and the benefactor did not spare anything, so that the work was carried out to perfection in all of its details and requirements. There were other donors who were eager to participate in the gymnasia building, however, Szymon Fürstenberg refused to receive their donations, gracefully refused them, saying that there was no need for partners and only he wanted to earn a place in the “next world”…

When the building was transferred to the trustees (1930), with its luxuries and many comforts, in line with the latest educational techniques (a flower garden, sports ovals, sports equipment, a swimming pool, gymnastics hall, laboratories, reading rooms, libraries and so on), the donor Szymon Fürstenberg determined a condition, that the gymnasia would be named after him and his wife. There was, in fact, strong opposition by parents to this condition, since they did not want to give up the fitting and historical name of Yavne, signifying Jewish spiritualism from earliest times, however for lack of choice, the new name was approved. I heard from someone close to the matter, that Fürstenberg demanded this not out of honor seeking, rather for pure personal reasons, and he would frequently explain to those who had been opposed to the name: “Since my only son and three daughters have disappointed me, in straying from the national spiritual values of the Jewish people and alienated themselves from them (Fürstenberg's children were completely assimilated – M. H.), for that reason I wish to receive spiritual contentment from Jewish children, in general, that they will fondly remember at some stage, that in the walls of my gymnasia they received the treasures of Jewish culture, wisdom and knowledge…”

Years passed and the gymnasia named after Fürstenberg and his wife, received full governmental rights, became renown not only in our region, but also in all the Galician area. The gymnasia, which was run in the thirties, till the war broke out, by Dr. Dawid Einhorn, extracted thousands of students and hundreds of graduates spread around Israel and throughout the world with an academic title, amongst whom can be found journalists, authors, lawyers, and quite a few are active in civic and social life, in the spiritual field and culture in the state of Israel.

Yes, the wish of the patron, Fürstenberg, came to be, and we, students of the gymnasia, that survived here and there, remember him fondly and praise and exemplify his important work.

Fate was cruel, and in the gymnasia, in which torah education had been created, the war now housed itself, in the form of the Nazi conquerors regime and from which they carried out the destruction of the communities in Zagłębie.


A number of words in memory of Alexander Zyskind Bornsztajn, may the Lord avenge his blood, my Hebrew teacher during the years that I studied in Yavne. All the knowledge acquired in childhood, all that I learnt from him, is kept in my memory. He was an intellectual with many virtues. He knew our language and literature in depth. On account of his mild and gentle character, some of the students used to taunt him, and more than once we saw him standing bewildered in front of the students, who belittled him, but he forgave them for their mischievousness. I was a constant visitor to his home (his wife was from the renown Berisz Ferger family in Będzin) and we worked together in the Tarbut organization to disseminate the Hebrew language through all the levels of our people. His daughter, Hanka, a charming girl, was active in Gordonia, and Hebrew was her mother tongue – we held much hope for her because of her talents and virtues, however she died a martyrs death with her parents.

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Zag515-1.jpg [6 KB] - Szymon Fürstenberg
Szymon Fürstenberg

At the end of this article – a word about Szymon Fürstenberg, the founder of the gymnasia, a wider biography is published in Pinkas Bendin (Pages 172-175). He was born in Opatow (in the Kielce district), where he worked as an auditor in companies and wrote “Proszenia”. At the beginning of the 20th century he settled in Będzin and worked as a clerk. During the First World War he opened a furniture shop, which were sold in installments. He succeeded in business and accumulated great wealth and even founded beer factories in Będzin and Zdunska Wola (near Łodź).

After the war he bought a metal product factory in Upper Silesia. Success smiled on him and over the years he achieved an important position in Polish industry and was one of the larger industrialists in the field of lead, which was even intended for export. In his factory there were more than one thousand Polish workers and he even employed pioneers from the “Borochov” kibbutz in Będzin and took care of them.

Notwithstanding his blooming businesses he dedicated himself to various public works, as an activist and outstanding philanthropist. He donated a great deal of money for public institutions and for the land of Israel. For years he was the head of the social support organization Dobroczynnosc [charity], Talmud Torah, Hakoach and so on. In the years 1927-1930 he served as the chairman of the Będzin city council and in the thirties – president of the Jewish community. He was a member of the national committee of the Agudat Shocharei Hauniversita Haivrit Beyerushalayim [Patrons Organization of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem] and a member of the extended Sochnut Hayehudit [Jewish Agency].

When the last war broke out he moved to Lemberg. In 1941 he returned to Poland and whilst living in Warsaw obtained a South American passport from Switzerland. He was sent to a detention camp for foreign residents in Germany, and he never returned. The foul murderers killed him. May his memory be blessed.

Zag515-2.jpg [16 KB] - The first reunion of "Yavne" students
Zag515-3.jpg [8 KB] - The first reunion of "Yavne"
Motek Hampel recollects reminisces of “Yavne”
Gymnasia at the first reunion of the students, that
took place in Tel Aviv (1959)
A medallion of the first reunion of the
“Yavne” gymnasia
(Tel Aviv, 1959)

  1. The writer of this article, Baruch Priwer, a native of Sosnowiec, was a well known personality amongst the elders in Eretz Yisrael and the Second Aliyah people, he was a very energetic activist in the town where he settled, Kfar Saba. In the above article our friend Priwer presents some of his recollections, from years ago. Amongst others, Gerszon Stawski writes about Baruch Priwer in his article in this book. Return
  2. Juda Sznajor, a native of Bedzin, on making aliyah to the country was accepted as a student in the “Betzalel” art school in Jerusalem, and after a number of years was the head of a department in this school and was a friend of Professor Boris Szac, the founder of “Betzalel”. In the nineteen twenties he lived in Haifa, was active in public life and for many years was chairman of the “Hadar Carmel” [suburb of Haifa] committee and did a great deal for the development of the place. He died in the nineteen fifties in Haifa. Return
  3. Makower, a native of Sosnowiec, came to the country, went to Jerusalem and there found work. In the First World War he volunteered to the “Jewish Legion” on the British side, for the emancipation of Eretz Yisrael which had been enslaved by the Turks. He died in tragic circumstances. Return
  4. Aron Priwer, a sculpture artist who is renown in Israel, to which we dedicate a short monograph, together with his picture and a reproduction from one of his fine sculptures. Return

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