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Fellow schoolmates, students of the illustrious institution where we had the honour to study in the days of our youth. Organising this reunion was a welcome initiative, and for this I thank Mr. Samid and all those who helped him. Perhaps there will be those who will say: Why indulge in nostalgia at this time? And to them I would reply: this is not just nostalgia. The absence of educational institutions in the Jewish Diaspora such as those in Bialystok, pains me. When I visit countries which have large Jewish communities and large numbers of young people, I am faced with a problem - how to present Eretz Yisrael to them, Israeli culture, the history of Israel? When I visit Jewish educational institutions, I realise that they are not the Hebrew Gymnasium that was in Bialystok. How can one bring it to them? How can one convey that same spirit, how can one bring teachers like that to the United States, to South America, to France, to Britain, and one can now say today, also to the Soviet Union? The Bialystok Hebrew Gymnasium was the crucible for Jewish youth which found its way to Eretz Yisrael. It had one thousand students, maybe more. The teachers were the cream of the Jewish intelligentsia. Most came from Galicia. The language was Hebrew, the homeland - Eretz (p.212) Yisrael. What was happening day by day in Eretz Yisrael was the centre of interest. As Shai Agnon said: "They were born by chance in Poland, but in body, spirit, and being, lived in Eretz Yisrael". We need institutions like these wherever there are Jews and Jewish youth. I remember Chaim Nachman Bialik's visit to the Gymnasium. What a celebration we had that day, a day of spiritual uplift. Our poet came to us from Tel-Aviv, he came from Eretz Yisrael, and I think that he felt at home with us. I spent only two years in Bialystok, I was privileged to study at the Gymnasium for just two years, and I remember the days and nights of those two years as if it were yesterday. What we do today, what we experience today, what we sense and feel today, was all imparted to us there - in Bialystok, where the Jewish spirit of the Hebrew Gymnasium reigned. Dear friends, our Gymnasium will not rise again. It has fallen and is no more, and we all cherish its memory with love and appreciation. My hope for the Jewish People in all its dispersion, in the Soviet Union, the United States, Europe, and Australia, is that educational institutions will arise in the Diaspora according to the formula of the Bialystok Hebrew Gymnasium. If this will happen, then there is no doubt that tens of thousands of conscientious Jews will come in a steady stream to Eretz Yisrael, and not as new immigrants. They will come home and create a warmer, better, more Jewish home for us!

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

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