The most famous Jewish educational institution in Poznań was Lamde Posna Talmudic School (16th century) founded by learned rabbis. One of its rectors was Izaak, Samuel Halewi’s son, who was famous for his recorded responses in which he objected to “usury”. There were also community-run religious schools. Students were attending batei ha-midrash which simultaneously served as synagogues. In response to the enlightenment movement from the beginning of the 19th century, the young Talmudic students from Poznań re-discovered the Hebrew language and they learned German. In 1812, they founded “Lesegesellschaft” (The Reading Society) and during the courses run by the Society, studied Lessing, Schiller, Rousseau, and Frederic the Great[1.1]. One of them was David Caro who studied Talmud in Poznań from 1800. He was an advocate of the Haskalah and the reform of Jewish educational system. He implemented new ideas in the school which he founded in 1816 where secular subjects were taught like in the Berlin “Freyschule” established in 1778[1.2].

In 1815, Akiva Eger was appointed the rabbi. His yeshiva became one of the most famous in Europe[1.3]. His students included Eliasz Gutmacher, the rabbi of Grodzisk Wielkopolski and Zvi Hersh Kalischer, the rabbi of Toruń. In spite of enlightenment movements popular in Poznań, Akiva rejected the reform of Judaism which led to conflicts within the Poznań community. In the course of time and after Akiva’s death, secular education was gradually becoming a part of the Jewish life.

The Lashon Limudim Association was established in 1890. It dealt with a promotion of the knowledge of Judaism. The Association was chaired by Moritz Silberberg and Salomon Mannes. On 1 September 1920, after World War I, the Polish language public school for Jewish children was opened. It was established on the initiative of the Jewish People’s Council[1.4]. Until August 1924, the Municipal Israeli Primary School was located at 11 Małe Garbary Street. It was soon moved to the building of the Jewish Community at 10 Szewska Street. There were two classrooms there located on the 2nd floor of the building and occupying the space of 25 and 30 square metres, respectively. The improper conditions led to the change of the school’s location. From 31 August 1932, it was located in a facility at 3 Noskowskiego Street, in the building owned by the Jewish Community. The public school was given the number XIV and was called Niemcewicz Primary School. It was developing dynamically. The number of students grew as children were transferred from private and municipal schools to the new institution. In the school year 1937/38, the institution had 269 students[1.5].

Initially, the school occupied only the first floor of the building. In 1935, the apartment on the ground floor was emptied and the school took it over (5 rooms). The Community leased these additional rooms to school on 1 April 1937.

The school, apart from didactic function, played also charity functions[1.6]. From autumn 1930, there was a day-care room for children from the poorest families. In winter, they were provided free meals there[1.7]. Franciszka Propst was the headmistress of the school. Other teachers included Berta Kantorowicz, Jadwiga Grunau and Hanna Mornelówna. There was also a school library there.

The Jewish Community did not succeed in obtaining a permission to open a high school until the outbreak of World War II. As a result, Jewish youth attended both public and private high schools. In the school year 1937/38, about 65 students, both male and female, attended high schools[1.8]. The most frequent choice of boys was the Berger High School and of girls, the Dąbrówka High School. The most popular private high school among the Jewish youth was a co-educational Schiller High School. In that school, lectures and classes were held in German.

In the middle of the 1930s, the Leon Kaftal Jewish School Society was established in Poznań. In 1937, the Society began attempts at the Poznań Regional Educational Department at founding a Jewish high school. One of the arguments was that there were about 100 students who would like to attend such school. The attempts at founding the high school failed.

During the entire mid-war period, a religious school complementing education in public and private schools was operating. There was also a Jewish kindergarten in the building at 5 Szewska Street. Also Jewish S. l. Perets Public Library was playing educational functions. The Library was registered on 26 August 1937, by the association of the same name. The Association was managed by a board chaired by Beniamin Goldberg[1.9]. Earlier, the same building at 32 Żydowska Street housed a reading room conducted by the Local Zionist Group founded in 1904.

The information on cultural life of the Poznań Jews became known once they made careers outside their native town. One of the representatives of Poznań Jewry known in artistic circles was Lilli Palmer. She was born in 1914, in a house on Fredro Street. Her real name is Lilli Peiser. She made a career in Hollywood. Also Ludwig Dessoir (Dessauer) (1810-1874) came from Poznań. He was regarded the best Shakespearean actor of the German stages in the 19th century.

Numerous famous Jewish authors contributed to the periodical Zdrój after the “Zdrój” poetical group and "Bunt" visual art group were founded in Poznań. They included Julian Tuwim from Łódź and Jan Stur (a pseudonym of Hersz Feingold) from Lviv.   

In the first years after regaining independence, two Jewish periodicals in German were published: Posener Jüdisches Zeitung  and  Mitteilungs-Blatt des Jüdischen Volksrats Posen. In Berlin, the immigrants from Poznań were publishing the periodical Posener Heimatblätter (later, Blätter des Verbandes Jüdischer Heimatvereine)[1.10]. In 1935, a weekly  Poyzener Shtime in Polish and in Yiddish was published for a short time. Very important were publishing initiatives of historians. The most important are the initiatives undertaken by the Historische Gesellschaft für die Provinz Posen which was founded in 1885. Its creator and a long-time secretary was a Poznań antiquary Adolf Warschauer

 

Bibliography:

  1. Kemlein S., Żydzi w wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 1815-1848, Poznań 2001
  2. Kowalski I., "Poznańska gmina żydowska w latach II Rzeczypospolitej" [in] Kronika Miasta Poznania, 1992, Nos 1-2.
  3. Lasman Noach, "Dzieciństwo poznańskiego Żyda" [in] Kronika Miasta Poznania, 2006, No 3.
  4. Pakuła Z., Siwe kamienie, Poznań 1998.
  5. Skupień A., "Miejska Izraelicka Szkoła Powszechna w Poznaniu (1919-1939)" [in] Kronika Miasta Poznania, 2006, No 3.

Translated by LIDEX

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Kemlein S., Żydzi w wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 1815-1848, Poznań 2001, p. 243.
  • [1.2] Fehrs J.H., Jüdische Erziehung und Jüdisches Schulwesen in Berlin, p. 34.
  • [1.3] Kemlein S., Żydzi w wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 1815-1848, Poznań 2001, p. 254.
  • [1.4] APP, Akta m. Poznania – sygn. 3204, k.72 i 80, Komisariat Naczelnej Rady Ludowej z dnia 2 maja 1919 r. do Magistratu Poznania i magistrat Miasta do Komisariatu Naczelnej Rady Ludowej z dnia 23 sierpnia 1919 r.
  • [1.5] Rocznik statystyczny m. Poznania 1937/38, Poznań 1939, Table 106.
  • [1.6] Kowalski I., "Poznańska gmina żydowska w latach II Rzeczypospolitej" [in] Kronika Miasta Poznania, 1992, Nos 1-2, p. 96.
  • [1.7] Pakuła Z., Siwe kamienie, Poznań 1998, pp. 152-153.
  • [1.8] Kowalski I., "Poznańska gmina żydowska w latach II Rzeczypospolitej" [in] Kronika Miasta Poznania, 1992, Nos 1-2, p. 97.
  • [1.9] Kowalski I., "Poznańska gmina żydowska w latach II Rzeczypospolitej" [in] Kronika Miasta Poznania, 1992, Nos 1-2, p. 97.
  • [1.10] Makowski K., Siła mitu, Poznań 2004, p.17.