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Page 69

Bialik's Visit To Our School: Late in November, 1930, on a cold, wintry day, the students and teachers were standing in the square in front of the Gymnasium, wrapped in overcoats and scarves, waiting for a guest from Eretz Yisrael to arrive: Chaim Nachman Bialik. This was his second visit (after seven years), and this time the brass band, the pride of the school, would receive him. When the band finished playing, it was time to welcome the visitor. An excited student stepped onto the stage and commenced: "I was choosed..." (bacharu oti), but the visitor immediately corrected him: "I was chosen" (bacharu bi), pointing out the mistake the embarrassed young man had made. After the welcoming speech, students recited poems by Bialik which they had learned by heart for the occasion.

Milka Rabinowitz (the daughter of literature teacher Urinowski) and Dr. Amalia (Vishnitzki) Klocznik remember to this very day how excited they were when they stood before the national poet, and recited his poems. Bialik replied, speaking beautiful Hebrew, but using the Ashkenazi (European) pronunciation, which grieved some of the students who were eager to hear the Sephardi (Eastern) pronunciation of Hebrew used in Eretz Yisrael. The Gymnasium alumni still remember Bialik's address: one former student reported that the address centered on the miracle of the revival of Hebrew; another thought it was about growing-up, and quoted a passage from Bialik's address: "Fruit grows on trees, but when it ripens it must break free".

The encounter with the poet made a powerful impression on student Jezernitzki (Shamir). He was already Prime Minister of Israel when he attended a meeting of former Gymnasium students to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Gymnasium. Addressing that gathering, he said: "What a festive day it was! We were elated! Our Poet had come from Tel-Aviv, and I think that he felt at home in our midst".

Self-Help: The Self-Help Organisation became very active in 1930, its crowning achievement being the low-priced cafeteria. I quote the publication "Koleinu" (Our Voice) of 1931: "The school has over a hundred poor students from small provincial towns. Out of these, sixty students get a decent, nourishing hot meal for 80 pence (a nominal sum), and the most needy pay nothing. The cafeteria was set up thanks to the Headmaster, Dr. Zemel, and Dr. Welger, who was in charge of 'Self-Help' and worked very hard to get the cafeteria started; these two were able to raise the necessary funds. The Gymnasium Committee built a special wing to house the cafeteria, obtained cooking utensils, and provided coal to keep the place warm in winter. To raise money in order to launch the project, the school orchestra (brass band) under conductor Shkolnikow was asked to perform: their two concerts were well attended, especially by the parents of students. The 'Self-Help' also ran a small store where stationery was sold, students could obtain loans or receive help in an emergency, and most importantly, additional coaching to help them with their studies".

The Story of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Bialystok find out more!

(c) Ya`acov Samid, 2003 Contact Ya`acov Samid