The History of the Mir Community Before the Holocaust
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.