Dei'ah Vedibur - Information &

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Shevat 5766 - February 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

The Many Against the Few
Bais Yaakov — From a Tender Seedling to a Fruitful Tree

by Yehudit Golan

Part 3

Picture: Transit camp and new immigrant neighborhoods were common scenery throughout Israel. Members of the establishment circulated among the immigrants warning them threateningly that whoever sent their daughters to Beis Yaakov would immediately lose their jobs.

In the first years following the establishment of the state, Bais Yaakov was faced with tremendous opportunities and insurmountable difficulties. The schools were established one after the other for a population that doubled its size and at the same time, the small organization suffered incitement, slander and a bitter struggle against them by the "state" populations. On the front lines, stood the devoted teachers and principals backed by diligent public activists working non-stop: wandering around the world wearily collecting donations, traveling distances across the country to visit each small branch, working tirelessly night and day for their brainchild — chareidi education.

At the time of the establishment of the State, 2,000 boys and 2,000 girls were learning in the educational institutions of Agudas Yisroel. One of the miracles of the time was the establishment of the educational branches. The new government recognized these schools as its own educational stream at the time when it defined the other educational branches. The main and biggest among them was the general education, after which came the Histadrut branch whose members consisted of the workers' party (Mapai). The third was the branch of religious education "Mizrachi" (it was the second biggest in Jerusalem) and the fourth was the Agudah branch under which came the Bais Yaakov schools, "Chorev" and a number of Talmud Torahs.

"I remember," recounts Rav Hillel Lieberman zt'l, "that Ben Gurion told Rav Yitzchok Meir Levin: 'You won't be able to uphold your educational institutions alone. No institution could! Therefore it's important that you include another branch and I promise you that we won't interfere in your curriculum. You'll continue to teach as you've been teaching until today.' "

To what degree was his promise binding - that was seen over the course of time. However, after a period of time, the government fully supported each school of independent education that was built. The activists didn't delay and the enthusiastic building of schools throughout the country began.

The establishment of the State of Israel in 5708 opened the locked gates to masses of immigrants who had been waiting in displaced persons' camps in Cyprus or in their countries of residence. A big wave of immigration began coming from east and west and in the next few years, the population of the country doubled and even tripled - brothers who had come from afar.

Transit camps and immigrant neighborhoods were common scenery throughout the country. With the canvas huts, tin huts and tents that sprouted overnight, the schools started to be active among those who had come from near.

Collecting Money Abroad

With the waves of immigration, public activists, among them Rav Lieberman, began opening branches of schools in the immigrant neighborhoods, schools that would provide Jewish education alongside general studies. A look at what transpired in those years makes a deep impression: a small population, believing in its way, sending registrars, opening schools, bringing students and teachers — all this in order to in some way stop the terrible erosion that tore away most of the immigrants and distanced them from the life of Torah and mitzvos. The waves of secularism flooded the entire country.

Their activities encompassed the entire country from North to South and Rav Lieberman, as other public activists, was involved in it without rest. They went out on exhausting trips every week, visiting distant places some of which they previously didn't know the names of. Today they are branches, which are growing all the time. It wasn't enough to establish them; they had to be supported, strengthened and encouraged.

In order to found an unknown school, money was needed. Only after it was proven that the new school was functioning did it receive a governmental seal of approval and a budget. So it fell on the shoulders of the public activists to rent an apartment, whitewash it and prepare it for activity, to get basic furniture and to find teachers and a principal. Then they had to bring the children to start learning.

This required great resources that the Agudas Yisroel didn't possess. At one point, Rav Menachem Perush went to America and succeeded, in the name of Gedolei Yisroel, to amass a great deal of money that he transferred to Israel. This provided the oxygen flow to the newly established schools.

"I went to participate in the Agudas Yisroel convention," recalled Rav Menachem Perush. "On the way my father said to me that initially, we must open a school, and when it proves viable, afterwards the government supports it. For 500 dollars (a significant sum then), one can establish a school."

During the convention, the Rav of Kashoi, Rav Raphael Blum, got up and spoke vociferously against the State and the Government. Rabbi Porush reminisces: "I got up on the podium and said: `Why must we beat our chests for other people when we can save the children by establishing institutions of learning and then have the government maintain them?' Then and there we raised 25,000 dollars and at another assembly we reached the amount of 85,000 and later an additional 50,000 dollars (unimaginable amounts then). This was the foundation for building schools that were spread out across the country and later were the core of Independent Torah Education (Chinuch Atzmai)."

[Next installment: A Difficult Struggle]


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