Jewish Education in Plonsk Before WWII
In the interwar period, Plonsk had a diverse Jewish education system, including a large Jewish state school and a number of Hebrew schools. Most of the Jewish children studied in private cheders. A Hebrew kindergarten even operated for a year.
Plonsk had a private Hebrew school with four classes, established during WWI by the educator Yehoshua Halaf (Halof). In 1925, his younger brother Yitzhak opened the Hebrew "Askola Ivrit" School. The Halaf brothers and the other teachers taught Bible and Rabbinic literature, Hebrew, grammar and prayers. The oldest class also learned Mishna and Gemara. General education classes were conducted in Polish. Yitzhak Halaf wrote: "Our pupils also tried to speak Hebrew among themselves outside the school building. Those sent by their parents to buy household wares, stationery and so on, only went to the stores where the storeowner knew how to speak Hebrew. This was completely unforgettable, and its influence on the dissemination of the living Hebrew language in our city was considerable." A visitor from Eretz Israel in 1932 was surprised to discover groups of youth walking in the street speaking fluent Hebrew. He remarked to other residents that he felt as if he were in Eretz Israel.
In 1928, the Hebrew "Tarbut" School was opened, and 150 pupils registered there. It was financed by tuition fees, revenues from plays and balls, and donations. Its teachers were graduates of the Vilna teacher training college and they devoted their spare time to teaching Hebrew and cultural and Zionist activities in the city. Other teachers taught the general subjects, such as Polish and Polish history. The school principal, Shmuel Bornstein, was one of the founders of the first group of the "Hechalutz" union. Most of the students of the Halaf brothers went on to study at the "Tarbut" school, and although the Halaf brothers' schools closed in 1934, the "Askola Ivrit" School continued to run with teachers from the "Yavne" schools. Hundreds of students of the Halaf brothers emigrated to Eretz Israel, joined in 1937 by Yehoshua Halaf.
The "Hinuch Yeladim" School in Plonsk taught Hebrew and Judaism for free to the city's underprivileged children. They received a hot meal every day, and warm clothes bearing the school symbol in the winter. The school held balls and film shows in order to raise money to pay the teachers. Many people in the community as well as the American Jewish Plonsk Immigrants Association donated money to the school on a regular basis. This support helped send the children to summer camps in the countryside around Plonsk.
In the early 1920s, a Jewish primary school ("Shabatovka") opened, where hundreds of pupils, mostly girls, went to study. Plonsk also had a Beth Yaakov school for girls, with 150 pupils. Many Jewish pupils studied at the Polish Gymnasium (high school) in the city.