Translation:The Education of Children in the Ghetto

The Education of Children in the Ghetto  (1943) 
by Cemach Feldstein, translated from Yiddish by Wikisource
Published in Geto yedies ("Ghetto News", Vilna Ghetto), March 21, 1943; Purim, 14 Adar Bet, 5703. Republished by David G. Roskies in YIVO-Bleter new serie, 3 (1997), 166-168 (available here). Translated by Reuven Levine; edited by Phyllis Sander.

As opposed to normal times, the ghetto creates many different conditions for various things. The ghetto initially makes for a special atmosphere and creates particular possibilities for achievement in the sphere of education. For example, there are, right now, during the spring and summer, opportune times for work in childhood instruction. Therefore, the problem of our youth's education is, at this time, especially relevant for us.

Education is dependent upon belief in the future. It requires time and perseverance. Education and ghetto seem to be, taken at first glance, two contradictions. Even so, the Jewish will for life and Jewish faith negate these differences, while creating possibilities in educational work during circumstances of a constant threat of the danger of warfare.

Education in the ghetto must be elevated by the highest humanistic ideals, never glancing aside at the surrounding nightmare. It must be dependent upon the hope for a brighter and better future. The children must be raised in the belief that a better future will arrive shortly. Their upbringing must be Jewish; that is, it must be in harmony with the Prophetic ethical world view. In addition, it is necessary to educate the youth in the spirit of General Humanism, but in our own national language and with our own powerfully developed will for national survival. It cannot be imagined that the Jewish nation and its special cultural spirit should disappear while, at the same time, other peoples and their national cultures are becoming stronger. Therefore, the feeling for human values and cultural self worthiness of the Jewish people in relation to other peoples must be implanted in our youth. Jewish history must fulfill a central place in our educational system.

In the conditions of the ghetto, Yiddish is the natural language of instruction. In addition, we must devote an important place for Hebrew as an educational tool because of the rich cultural treasure which Hebrew preserves for us and never ceases to create for us. This is true because of its historical continuity and also because, more importantly, Hebrew is the strongest and surest cultural bond for all the scattered parts of our people. The Bible is the best instrument for achieving this goal.

The ghetto is a distressed entity. Our ghetto administration must communalize the economy to a greater extent and even involve itself in the most intimate affairs of the individuals. Here is no place for liberal individualistic practice. Without a doubt, life after the war will continue in the direction of communal control. Jewish life will also proceed in that direction in the knowledge that the community stands above and comes before the individual. Instead of general vague phraseology, the youth must be tied to the Jewish community. Only in the Jewish community will our youth be satisfied and find soulful equilibrium and opportunities/possibilities from material and spiritual existence.

It is clear that in our school, there must reign, even by means of instruction in all of the subjects, the "work principle" and the children must become used to being independent from the very beginning. Besides that general principle, all of the children from age 14 must start to learn a trade and receive elementary instruction in gardening and agriculture. They must know how to use a hammer, a saw, or a sickle. In general, the emphasis must be on professional training. No less important is the strengthening of the Jewish will to live and for a feeling of responsibility for the Jewish community in its present situation.

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Translation:

This work is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license, which allows free use, distribution, and creation of derivatives, so long as the license is unchanged and clearly noted, and the original author is attributed.