Yosef Okon : My memories in Siedlce (an unspoken speech)

Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano.

I shall not a carry laments nor raise Ghosts: Could this pair, Levi and Yosef begone? And Joshua, King of hope an tranquility, could not swoop away the dirt and be resurrected? And the old wise chaps, Weintraub and Aorbitz – could not their wit fend off demons? And this cedar of Gur, tremendous in Torah, Rabbi Israel Gotgeld, whose gait as spring water flowing slowly – was his spring clogged and his house demolished? No and No! Shedlice shell not be wiped out! It is still in front of us with all its ancient and elegant glory, and bestows a vision of its sons scattered from Eilat to Hanita.

An Elul morning, Trp”z (1927). Misty early autumn veil wrapped the heads of birch and oak. Gold domes and towers of the Houses of Prayers dipping dim humid air. From the old Bet Midrash a Shofar calls for repentance. Children are racing laden with backpacks and flocking to their various schools. It is the first day of school. Two groups of little ones gathered around in the Center hall at Kilinski street for the announcement of the opening of “Tarbut” school in Siedlce .

After a brief talk festive songs and dances broke out over the exterior, parents and youth swept into the turbulent circle, with Levi in the middle. The number of students is increasing daily. A special apartment is fixed with school furniture. Joshua is conducting the work; Levi – the Minister of Finance and propaganda; Fishel, long may he live, is in charge of the treasury – collecting tuition fees. Tuition – “who mentioned it?”. Tough competition with state schools and “Talmud Torah”, where learning is free, and people in Siedlce did not need the concept of “tuition fee”, antiquated and obsolete. The only source for the “Tarbut” school is contributions and donations.

18th of Elul – the school is approved by the Polish education authorities. The assimilated, proponents of “Fobsicna” took a beating. The school is holding a ball for Chol Hamoed Sukkot (small, but solely based on Hebrew). Everyone in the city says that Hebrew sounds are appealing to people. The Sukka is an artwork captivating all hearts. It is “B’reshit” Saturday night. Dr. Schleicher, now famous among the physicians of Greater Haifa, was the chairman of the Zionist Federation and honorary director of “Tarbut” school. He opened a Centennial Party – one hundred students at “Tarbut”- with the verse “”Who are these now flying as doves to chimneys “- and ended with Polish witticism.

It is the year TRP”T (1929) and the school has are 240 students in two rented buildings. It already has a reputation and revenues are more than usual. Still insufficient to cover the teachers’ salaries, though. The branch got into a burden of debts with no way out and an emergency meeting of the World Zionist movement was called for as both “Ha’Haluztz” and “Tarbut”  a reache rock bottom and all hope was lost – the credit with local banks was all used up,  annual campaign income was all eaten and gone, teachers had to be paid for six months already – where will help come from? Suddenly, Yasa’le has risen, his tiny eyes flashing: but the school will not close! Let us to turn … turn … Where shall we turn? The question stabbed everyone. We shall approach Greenbaum and he will get us a loan from public banks in Warsaw metropolitan area.

Indeed, this is an idea! We are all responsible! And immediately 4,000 gold debt bills were signed and sa delegation of three was elected: Levi, Fishel and the writer of these words.

TAMUZ Sun shot lances of fire on the capital. All living souls retired to Otwock forests. The streets are deserted and sweaty. We stand in front of Itzhak Grinboim’s house. We divided the subjects: a request, explaining the situation and the nature of our responsibilities and bills. Levi pulled the bell and entered. Greenboim appears in informal shirt: What happened! The first starts talking. Greenboim cuts him short: I understand, difficult situation, what can I do?

Levi: a loan from the bank. Fishel meantime spreads the bills on the desk.

Greenboim: such a large amount, how?

Levi: It is impossible for less. And he begins to recount to him the story of our budgets.

Greenboim: I understand, but … what do you think Popowski ? I will not be harmed?

Popowski: No!

Greenboim: And you Gotgeld , also advise to sign?

Levi: Sign! There is no choice!

Greenboim rolles up his sleeves, takes a large pen from his desk, and signs the bills one after the other. I stayed with my unspoken speech.