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Yad Vashem The Story of the Jewish Community in Mir

The History of the Mir Community Before the Holocaust

Educational Institutions

  • Certificate belonging to the student Yitzhak Reznik at the Polish elementary school in Mir, 1937
  • Students at the Polish elementary school in Mir on a day trip to the forest
  • Members of the Mir Drama Circle, 1927. Front row, second from left – Simcha Reznik
  • Teachers and students at the Polish elementary school in Mir, c. 1938
  •  Students at the Polish elementary school in Mir. First row, right – Mara (Miriam) Gilmovski (Partisan and Hero of the Soviet Union); middle row, right – Pesia Szklar; left – Sonya Gelber
  • Teachers and students at the Jewish elementary school (Yiddishe Folks Shul) Mir, 1937. Farthest left (with the cane) – the Hebrew teacher Fikus
  • Members of the directorate and students at the Jewish elementary school (Yiddishe Folks Shul), Mir
  • Group of friends at the Polish elementary school, Mir, winter 1934. Front row, second from left – Aharon (Arl) Katzenelson
  • Students at the Jewish elementary school (Yiddishe Folks Shul) at a summer camp, c. 1932. In the center: the Hebrew teacher Fikus. First row, sitting farthest right – Zvi Katzenelson; fourth from right – his friend Moshe Rabinovitz
  • Group of teachers and students at the Jewish elementary school (Yiddishe Folks Shul) in Mir
  • At the Polish elementary school in Mir, which had Jewish and non-Jewish students. Front row, second from right – Raizel (Shoshana) Jurszan; third from right – Hanya Goldin; fifth from right – Freidel (Aliza) Reznik
  • Letter of thanks to Morris Ziskind, who visited Mir in 1937, signed at the Jewish elementary school (Yiddishe Folks Shul) in Mir. Morris Ziskind was a friend of David Danzig, born in Mir, that had emigrated to South Africa
  • Group of teachers and students at the Jewish elementary school (Yiddishe Folks Shul) in Mir , 1937, during the visit of Morris Ziskind (top row, fourth from right) on his way to a family visit in the town of his birth in Lithuania. Ziskind was a friend of David Danzig; he had been born in Mir and emigrated to South Africa
  • Group of teachers, activists and students at the Jewish elementary school (Yiddishe Folks Shul) in Mir, 1937.
  • Children at the school in Mir. Seated left – Ida (Yehudit) Shmushkevich, the daughter of Shmuel and Leah (née Rakovitz) Shmushkevich

The boys in the community studied in cheders and Talmud Torah institutions with four classes. The highest class learned Talmud, Rashi and Tosefot (the accepted way of teaching Talmud) in preparation for entering the yeshiva. In addition to the Mir Yeshiva was a "Yeshiva Ketana" (younger boys' yeshiva) in the town.

The Jewish philosopher and scribe Shlomo Maimon was sent at the age of seven to learn in the Mir cheder. His autobiography includes his experiences at the cheder:

"My 12-year-old brother was staying at the house of a well-known teacher named Yosel. He was a frightening figure for the boys; he would come down on the dedicated boys in the vicinity with unspeakable cruelty; he would hit them for the smallest transgression… the Jewish school was by most accounts a small booth full of smoke, with the students sitting half on the benches and half on the floor. The rabbi sat on the table, with a pot between his knees in which he placed tobacco for smelling… overseeing his camp. The "helpers," heads of the stalls, taught the pupils their studies, each one in his own corner, coming down on them with as much joy as the teacher himself… Here the students were imprisoned from morning until evening, with no free time except for Sabbath eves and the first of the month in the afternoon. As to the studies themselves, at least they learned Hebrew correctly”. Shlomo Maimon, Hayei Shlomo Maimon: Katuv Beydei Atzmo, pp.38-39

At the end of the 19th century, a girls' cheder was established by Malka Harabanit ("Malka Di Rebbitzin" – Malka the Rabbi's wife) in Mir. The girls' cheder taught the girls of the town to read and write, as well as some Bible studies and chapters of Psalms, but, for the main, good penmanship. Bruria Retner-Rosenblum, born in Mir, remembers her parents bringing her to Malka's cheder when she was three years old, where she joined 60 other girls.

In 1917, a Jewish-Nationalist school opened in Mir. Its budget was supported by fees, as well as incomings from the drama circle. A struggle broke out between the supporters of Hebrew and those of Yiddish regarding the content and language of instruction. The school also operated after WWI. In 1920, after stormy arguments, the school joined the "Shuelkult" educational system, and then that of "Zisha". Most of the school's activists and parents belonged to the Zionist-Socialist camp, and the battle between Hebrew and Yiddish ended with a compromise. The school also taught Jewish history, Pentateuch – biblical stories – and Hebrew. Mir also had a local Polish elementary school, where many Jewish students also learned since there was no fee.

This exhibition was made possible through the generous support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.

To learn more about the Claims Conference, click here.

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Foundation in Memory of Mir Jewry in Belarus