During the upcoming summer school holidays, in addition to regular news, we would also like to offer somewhat different, lighter historical materials from the abundant collections of POLIN Museum and its partner institutions, especially from the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland (TSKŻ). We would like to start with a selection of articles published to mark the end of a school year (which this year is celebrated in Poland on this very day.) They were published in Yiddish in Folks Shtime periodical in the 1950’s – at a time when Jewish schools in Poland – in Legnica, Świdnica, Wałbrzych, Łódź and many other towns were flourishing, full of life and youth, and no one could have imagined that in less than twenty years, almost all of this would be gone, reduced to nothing more but a lifeless past.

The texts were selected and translated by Katarzyna Brodacka. The press photographs which we used come from the collections of the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland.

 

Legnica, 1952

For the past few days, the 7th-grade classroom of a public Jewish elementary school in Legnica resembled a garden. Children from lower grades brought flowers as a gift to their schoolmates, soon-to-be graduates. Guta Edelman, a fourteen year-old girl with beaming brown eyes, was among those who received flowers. According to the school headmaster, comrade Zajnwel Sztajner, Guta is absolutely determined to continue with her studies. She is the best student at our school: always ready to help, very friendly, well-liked in the 150-members Scouts Organisation at the school, where she is the student body president.

Marek Gelberg, Guta’s peer, a leader in studies and social work, wants to become an aeroplane construction engineer after he flew to Bulgaria last year to attend a young leaders’ reunion. Marek is going to a secondary technical school, which makes his father very happy. Marek’s father, previously a knitter, in the People’s Republic of Poland (Polish: Polska Republika Ludowa, PRL) works in Legnica as the chief engineer at a large knitting factory named after Hanka Sawicka.

Heniek Miller, Marek’s black-eyed peer, wants to continue his studies at the Secondary Technical Automotive School in a class which specialises in renovation and mechanisation. Other most accomplished graduates: Chana Altman, Ester Zylbersztajn, Abram Kapciak and Wolf Kalb also decided to continue their studies at secondary technical and vocational schools. This last pupil has a long story to tell: he is graduating from elementary school at the age of 18 – only because in 1946, when he was eleven years old, he was taken away from his parents and ended up in France. After overcoming many hurdles, his parents found him, and his teachers, Cyla Szerman, Edzia Jabłonkiewicz and Golda Buch, decided to undertake this pedagogical experiment. Wolf spent 4 years in a classroom with children younger than him, but now, he is going to a Secondary Technical Automotive School.

On the last day of school, Frajda Rajs, a pupil, emphasised the fact that nowadays, Jewish children can enjoy the sun, water and forests instead of sitting in dark, small rooms – as Sholem Aleichem’s child protagonists used to do. Her joy is shared by Motele Domb, a twelve year-old with dreamy-eyes and long plaits who is playing the piano. Basia Goldhar from 6th grade listens to her playing.

Folks Shtime, 1952, no. 98 (752), p. 6 – “Wielkie dni w żydowskiej szkole podstawowej w Legnicy”.

 

Świdnica, 1955

Here, in Świdnica, the last day of school was a very solemn occasion. Headmaster Bocian opened the farewell ceremony for graduates; he also made a speech in which he mentioned the school’s accomplishments. The chairman of the Parent Council cordially welcomed all the children, after which, Zajdman from 3rd grade, speaking on behalf of all the pupils, thanked all the teachers for their work, and the Parent Council – for its care and efforts. The best students were rewarded with books, and 6 upper secondary school graduates were handed their diplomas. Hanele Grynberg and Gutka Kerszenkorn were among the upper secondary school graduates. The official ceremony was followed by an extensive artistic programme. L., a Pupil [the text’s author – editor’s comment]

Folks Shtime, 1955, no. 112, supplement, p. 3. “List od korespondenta terenowego: Uroczyste zakończenie roku szkolnego.”

 

Bielawa, 1955

The editorial team’s commentary to a photograph of 3rd grade pupils of a Jewish school (posted above): “3rd grade children from the Jewish school in Bielawa sent us their photograph. However, they did not write anything about themselves. Since we have this photograph, could you write us a short letter? – the Editorial Team.”

 

Łódź, 1958

The solemn end-of-school day ceremony at the I. L. Perec School in Łódź was celebrated by the entire Jewish community of our town. The ceremony on June 20th was attended by teachers, students, parents and hundreds of Jewish inhabitants. The large hall of the Julian Tuwim’s Youth Centre was filled with 800 joyous attendees, both young and old.

The ceremony was opened by comrade Szaul Kirszenbaum, chairman of the Parent Council. On behalf of all the parents and of TSKŻ, he thanked all the teachers for their year-long efforts, and wished them a well-earned rest. His words met with a loud applause. Later, headmaster Blumenfeld gave a speech in which he summarised the achievements of the school year, which has just come to an end. He also mentioned difficulties related to repatriate children – 40 pupils in total were not promoted to the next grade, and 26 pupils will have to resit their exams.

Felek Szajnert from 8th grade spoke on behalf of all the students, expressing their gratitude towards teachers. After that, a group of students representing all grades approached the main stage and handed teachers bouquets of fresh cut flowers. As part of the artistic programme, a choir made up of 60 children sang Jewish folk songs. 1st grade children performed an adaptation of “On the meadow”, 2nd grade children – an adaptation of “Johnny and blueberries”, whereas 6th grade pupils performed a choral recitation. The ballet performed 2 dances: “Seven Swans” and “On Summer Holidays”. Pupils: Perlsztajn, Gomolińska, Gordon, Koziniec, Lederman and Szajnert recited Jewish poetry individually. The ceremony’s highlight was the performance of Chewel Buzgan and Rebeka Szyller, outstanding actors from our theatre, who have been invited by the school’s authorities. They recited poems of Perec Markisz, Lajb Olicki and Hadasa Rubin.

Folks Shtime, 1958, no. 99, p. 3.

 

Dzierżoniów, 1958

In Dzierżoniów, June 21st was a sunny day. Only tiny clouds were flowing across the clear-blue sky. The trees turned green. Children strolled along narrow streets, grabbing newly-bloomed, fragrant acacia flowers with their small hands.

The last day of school was very tense, but after working for the entire year, children will have a chance to rest during summer camps in the mountains and near the sea. Now, ordered in pairs, they are marching to the headquarters of the local division of TSKŻ, where at 9 AM, the ceremony will start. The building is already surrounded by the Jewish population. The organisers are still handling some last-minute preparations. The festive mood is disrupted by the high-pitched voice of Mrs B., who, standing in a corner by the stairs, is letting everyone know what she thinks of the fact that her daughter was not promoted to the next grade. In another corner, a young man is explaining how important it is to reward Jewish children with books. The best students, Icchak Jarczyn, Abramowicz, Spektor and Tajtelbaum, head out of the teacher’s room holding diplomas in their hands.

The main official guests at the ceremony are: comrade Fajwel Wajner, secretary of the local TSKŻ division, comrade Icchak Lurie, chairman of the Parent Council, and comrade Z. Owsik, the school’s director. After welcoming the attendees, they start to discuss problems that the school has been experiencing. Most pupils – in total there are 98 students in grades from 1 to 5 – are repatriate children. They arrived from a completely different environment, often in the second semester of the school year; they don’t speak neither Polish nor Yiddish. The description of difficulties was followed by an artistic programme. Jewish songs were sang, and Jewish poetry was recited.

After the ceremony had come to an end, children walking in lines approached the main stage and inundated it with flowers. The best student, a nice boy named Abramowicz, handed a basket of flowers to the gathered officials and thanked teachers for their immense effort on behalf of all the children.

Szulamit Wolpe, a teacher, has already experienced many such days throughout her long career as a pedagogue. But a feeling of joy appears on her face for the first time, when she mentions how grateful she is to the Polish authorities. This is the first year since her arrival to Poland when, after many years, she’s been granted a chance to teach children at a Jewish school again.

Folks Shtime, 1958, no. 100, p. 3. “Święto w państwowej szkole żydowskiej w Dzierżoniowie” – an article by J. Goldkorn

 

Łódź, 1959

In the evening of June 19th, over a 1000 people gathered at the Youth Centre in Łódź. You could see both mums and dads, the old and the young. Dozens of people had to stand for 3 hours – since that is how long the ceremony lasted – but no one was discouraged by that fact. Attendees with smiles on their face observed as the main stage filled with teachers, Parent Council representatives, the local board of TSKŻ as well as with students who were about to receive their upper secondary school graduation diplomas. TSKŻ’s Central Board was represented by comrade Michał Mirski. On the right-hand side, the attendees could see a quote from Yitskhok Leybush Peretz: “Future, you must belong to me”, whereas on the left-hand side, a quote [from Asnyk]: “Search for new, uncharted paths.”

The ceremony was opened by comrade Sz. Web, chairman of TSKŻ’s Łódź division, and headmaster Jakub Blumenfeld gave a speech. He reminded that on 19 November 1958, the school was granted a new, state-of-the-art building, which provided a chance to improve the level of teaching. It is better to study in sunny, spacious classes – noted the headmaster. Students are learning about mechanics, biology and physics in specialised laboratories. In addition, the new edifice provides better opportunities for after-school activities, such as ORT groups, a choir, a ballet group, a eurhythmics group, or a scout’s group. Pupils can run freely either up and down the wide corridors or in the sports field. Unfortunately, repatriate children from the USSR are posing problems for the school. 49 pupils will not be promoted to the next grade. The headmaster called on parents to introduce strict discipline and to make sure their children do their homework. After that, he read out a list with the names of several dozen students who were rewarded with books for outstanding academic achievements.

After that, comrade Mirski gave a speech. At first, we had 2 small rooms by Jaracza Street – as he reminded the attendees – later, the school moved to 49 Kilińskiego Street, but only now, a chance for progress has appeared. The school is fulfilling the principle of internationalism in real life, since Polish and Jewish teachers are cooperating with each other. At the end, Szaul Kirszenbaum spoke on behalf of the Parent Council.

Then, the time came for the most beautiful part of the ceremony – handing out diplomas to upper secondary school graduates. Besides a diploma, each graduate was also rewarded with a book and received wishes for success in the next stages of their life. Borys Mejler, a 9th grade student, bid farewell to his older schoolmates. Sabina Puterman cordially thanked teachers and parents on behalf of all the graduates. As she attended the I. L. Perec School since 1st grade, she told everyone about the early days of this educational institution. Her speech met with a loud applause. After that, flowers were handed to teachers and graduates. The following groups performed during the artistic programme: The school choir led by comrade Sylwia Samarow, a ballet led by Mrs Żencow, and a gymnastics group. Members of the theatre club performed parts of Sholem Aleichem’s works.

Folks Shtime, 1959, no. 98, p. 4. “Zakończenie roku szkolnego. ‘Szukajcie nowych nieodkrytych dróg’” – a reportage by Sz. Ajzenman.

 

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