Thursday 6 August 2015


SOFYE (SOFIA) GUREVITSH (January 2, 1880-1942)
            Born in Minsk, Byelorussia, she graduated from high school in Vitebsk.  She was a teacher in a Russian state school for Jewish children in Nevel, Vitebsk region; later, she studied pedagogy and natural science in the course run by Peter Lesgaft in St. Petersburg.  After graduating, she took over the directorship in 1904 of a school for girls in Kovel, Polyesye for the “Khevre mefitse haskole” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]).  From 1905 she was in Vilna where she worked as a teacher in a school for the Chamah aid group (in the “Bilike heyzer” [Cheap houses]), and she directed the evening school at which they secretively began to teach with the students in Yiddish at that time.  Unhappy with the approach then dominant in educational institutions, she and Mrs. Antokolski in 1906 opened a private high school for girls, which was at that time an entirely new phenomenon in Vilna—thanks to their open spirit and broad scope.  Progressive intellectuals began to cluster around this high school.  During WWI, when the Russian authorities evacuated from Vilna, she departed for Russia, and as an authorized agent of OZE (Obschestvo zdravookhraneniia evreev—Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population), she founded in 1915-1916 a number of children’s homes for children of Jewish homeless in the cities of Ufa, Perm, and Chelyabinsk.  In 1916 she opened a school of her own in Poltava, Ukraine.  In 1918 she returned to Vilna.  She was for a time the director of the Jewish senior high school and of the Jewish teachers’ seminary (both institutions were using Yiddish as the language of instruction).  In 1920 she published in Di naye shul (The new school) in Vilna (issue no. 1-2 for January-February, no. 3-5 for March-May, and no. 7-8 for November-December) a precise program for instruction in the natural sciences at Jewish schools, and in 1923 there appeared in Bikher-velt (World of books) in Warsaw her investigation of the book on Geviksn (Plants) by Golomb and Botsh.  In 1922 she reorganized her private high school and introduced instruction in the Yiddish language into all eight classes in the school.  The Polish authorities later removed her from his school position, and in 1937 she departed for the Soviet Union.  In 1942 she became ill and was living alone; she died in Gorky (now, Nizhny Novgorod).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, pp. 556-57; Lerer-yizker-bukh (Teachers’ memory book) (New York, 1954), pp. 90-91.

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