MOTL GILINSKI (February 8, 1899-1944)
Known by the name “Batke,” he was born in Old Sventsyan (Lith. Svencionys), Vilna region, into a poor home. His father was a house painter, and his mother helped run a small shop. He studied in religious primary school, later in the “Yevreiskoie nachal’noie uchilishche” (Jewish elementary school) and prepared to attend the Vilna teachers’ institute. During WWI he worked as a bookkeeper. In 1919 he became a teacher in the Duksht (Lith. Dūkštas) public school. Over the years 1921-1926, he studied at the Vilna Jewish Teachers’ Seminary. Already in his student years, he excelled in his organization abilities, his comradely relationship to the community, and his pedagogical talent. He administered the seminary students’ dormitory and the summer colonies. The seminary students thus crowned him with the title “Batke” (Father). After graduating from the seminary, he taught at Yisho (Jewish School Organization) schools in Shedlets (Siedlce) and Sventsyan. In the 1920s he was one of the educators in the Vilna Jewish scout organization “Di bin” (The bee). He took part in the production of Bin-status (Bee status), published by “Vilbig” (Vilna Educational Society) in 1926; and the Arbeter-program (Workers’ program) and Instruktsyes far vanderungen (Instructions for excursions) (Vilbig, 1927). In 1928-1929 he served on the editorial board of Bin-bletlekh (Bee leaves). He took the lead with hiking, trips, and scout camps. He wrote poems for scouts and published them in Binishe lider (Bee poems) (Vilna, 1932), and in Lider-heft (Poetry volume) of the Workmen’s Circle in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.). Together with Bin leaders Y. As and L. Ran, he wrote scenes and a play on “Bin” life in two acts, Oyfshtand in lager (Uprising in the camp) (Vilna, 1929). In 1928 he settled in Warsaw. He worked as a teacher in the Medem Sanatorium in Międzeszyn, near Warsaw. Aside from administering courses, he ran the gymnastics, play, hiking, and handicrafts programs. He was much beloved by teachers and students. In 1927 he took part in a conference for past students from the Vilna Jewish Teachers’ Seminary, and on that occasion presented a report concerning children’s recreation in the school and how it should be organized. He published a number of important treatises on pedagogical issues and the problem of children’s recreation in Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper), Vokhnshrift (Weekly writings), Kleyne folkstsaytung (Little people’s newspaper), and Shul-vegn (School ways), the monthly put out by Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization), Naye shul (New school) in Vilna-Warsaw, Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees) and Khaver (Comrade) in Vilna, and Kinderfraynd (Children’s friend) in Warsaw in which he also published poems and sketches, as well as in other pedagogical publications. He was also the author of a great number of children’s plays, monologues, and scenes which were staged not only at performances and celebrations at the Medem Sanatorium, but also at numerous Jewish schools in Warsaw, in the Polish provinces, and even in the Jewish schools abroad.
For three schools terms, 1933-1935, he was a free auditor in the education faculty at the free Polish university “Wszechnica” in Warsaw. He devoted himself to pedagogical research and youth psychology, and he was regular auditor at the seminars of Professor Fishl Shneurson. He became highly intrigued by the marionette theater for children. Among his books: Shturem (Storm) (Warsaw, 1935), which contained two plays celebrating the heroic “Rote Falken” (Red hawks) in Austria: Bay valishes keyver (At Valish’s grave) with Herszl Grynbaum, and Di shturem-fon (The storm flag), 47 pp.; Lyalkes (Puppets), a children’s operetta with music by Y. Trupyanski (Warsaw, 1936), 18 pp., second edition (Warsaw, 1937), 47 pp., subsequently included in the collection of composer Mikhl Gelbart’s Operetes (Operettas) (New York, 1949) for which he wrote his own music; with Professor Fishl Shneurson, he wrote Di kharakteryologye fun shlof-lebn bay kinder (The characterization of children’s sleeping life) (Warsaw, 1936), 16 pp.; and Shpil un farvaylung (Play and recreation) (Warsaw, 1938), 184 pp., together with fellow teachers Yisroel-Borekh Grundman and K. Vapner. He also translated Limpopo by Čukovskij (Warsaw, 1936), second edition (Warsaw, 1938), 16 pp.
In 1939 after the outbreak of WWII, he escaped with his wife Zisl Gutman to his hometown of Old Sventsyan. There, under Soviet control, he worked for a time as a teacher. When the city was taken by the Nazis, he worked as a house painter and was a member of the Jewish council. With the liquidation of the Sventsyan ghetto, he was sent to the Vilna ghetto. He was active there among the ghetto youth and one of the leaders of the Youth Club (for children over sixteen). Together with musician Y. Trupyanski, he was an evident presence at the Tu B’Shevat celebration, at which ghetto school children performed their operetta Lyalkes. During the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto in 1943, he was deported to Estonia and there he died.
Sources: “Frayndlekhe parodyes vegn batken” (Friendly parodies of Batke), in Lider-heft (fourth course of the Seminary) (Vilna, 1926); A yor arbet fun yidishn lerer-seminar in vilne (A year’s work at the Jewish Teachers’ Seminary in Vilna), report of 1926-1927 (Vilna, 1926), p. 59; Sh. Katsherginski, Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947), p. 184; Dr. M. Dvorzhetski (Mark Dvorzetsky), Yerusholayim delite in kamf un umkum (The Jerusalem of Lithuania in struggle and death) (Paris, 1948), see index; Lerer yisker-bukh (Remembrance volume for teachers) (New York, 1952-1954), pp. 93-96; Shmerke katsherginski-ondenk-bukh (Memory volume for Shmerke Katsherginski) (Buenos Aires, 1955), p. 106; Daniel Charney, A litvak in poyln (A Lithuanian Jew in Poland) (New York, 1955), pp. 86, 90; Y. Mlotek, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (March 1955); L. Ran, 25 yor yung vilne (Twenty-five years of Young Vilna) (New York, 1955); Y. Pat, Di lererin ester (Esther, the teacher) (Buenos Aires, 1956), pp. 468-69; A. Golomb, 50 yor yidishe dertsiung (Fifty years of Jewish education) (Rio de Janeiro, 1957), p. 146.
Zaynvl Diamant and Leyzer Ran