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During the period of my studies at the gymnasium, the store-house of stimulation which formed my character and values was filled. I entered the gymnasium in 1921, two years after it was founded. During my eight years of study, I changed three buildings and many teachers. In the early years there was a large turnover of teachers, because it was not easy to find good ones with suitable knowledge and teaching skills. I remember the English teacher who taught Class 2. He was a businessman who had a good command of the English language, but had no aptitude for teaching. During the lessons, he used to walk between the desks muttering to himself doing business calculations... After some years, the staff stabilized, the good teachers stayed on at the institution, and the others left.

In the lower classes I was an average student, but my powers of absorption improved in the higher classes. There are those who achieve success in one moment: the event when I rose to greatness in the eyes of my friends and the teacher is etched in my memory. In one of the lessons, I succeeded in solving a complicated maths problem on the blackboard that all the other top students had difficulty with. From that moment I rose to fame, and continued to rise until I completed my studies at the gymnasium. I remember the Maths and Physics teacher (who later became the principal of the gymnasium) - David Rakowitzki (Racavi), who explained the study material well, and was a dedicated teacher. He fled from Poland, from the threat of the Soviet boot, and emigrated to Eretz after a difficult journey, where he arrived with nothing. Here, his students received him, and after a while he became the principal of Ironi 'A' High School in Tel-Aviv. I have favourable memories of Literature teacher Uri Orinowski (Ben-Or) who would become aroused during the lessons and sweep us along with his enthusiasm (he deposited the essays I wrote on Bialik and Mendele Mocher Sfarim in the gymnasium library). Orinowski did not only teach us to think profoundly, but also to derive pleasure from works of literature. It is true that I trained in engineering, but thanks to his influence, to this day I have a latent tendency to take up the writer's pen. I also remember A. S. Hershberg, who was superviser for the Hebrew subjects. When he put a question to me and was satisfied with the answer, he would pat me on the cheek and say: "Well done". Hershberg, historian, researcher, and author, wrote the "Bialystok Notebook" and other studies. He perished in the ghetto in 1943. For nights on end, over a period of several weeks, my friends and I prepared for the matriculation examinations. This intensive work bore fruit, and I completed the Gymnasium with distinction. I was forced to go abroad in order to continue with my studies, because in that year the Gymnasium still did not possess full state rights. I went to Brno in Czechoslovakia, in order to register at the German High Institute of Technology. The Institute's administration could not understand the nature of my Hebrew matriculation certificate, to which a notarised German translation had been attached. I sent a telegram to Bialystok and received confirmation that the Hebrew Gymnasium was under the authority of the Polish Ministry of Education, and only then were the authorities convinced that I possessed a State Matriculation Certificate... I was exempted from paying tuition fees during the first year thanks to my high grades in the matriculation certificate, and in the second academic year I received a similar exemption as the result of my academic achievements during the first year. Later, attitudes towards Jewish students in the German Institute of Technology changed under the influence of the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany, and I had to pay the full tuition fee (in 1933, the Institute stopped accepting Jewish students from Poland). In 1934 I completed my studies and returned to Bialystok. I decided to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael. For this I had to obtain exemption from being drafted to the army. It was not difficult (the law required the army to appoint those with higher education to be officers, and the heads of the Polish armed forces were not keen on having Jewish officers), but in spite of this I had to use various means in order to receive the exemption. And then another difficulty was placed before me: the restriction on immigration to Eretz Yisrael. The British Mandatory Authorities allocated a small number of certificates (immigration visas to Eretz) for the institutions of higher learning. Although I was already a qualified engineer, I sent the diploma which I had received after two years of study at the German Institute to the Board of the Haifa Technion, and asked to be accepted for the third academic year. The Board accepted my application and sent me a certificate. So it was that I emigrated to Eretz in 1935. My two brothers, who were students at the Gymnasium, emigrated after me, but the rest of my extended family remained in Bialystok and perished in the ghetto. Blessed be their memory.

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

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