Recollections of Isaiah Wassilevsky

Rebbe Wassilevsky wrote, among other works, The Hebrew Teacher (A Primer of the Hebrew Language), The Pupil’s Friend (part two of The Hebrew Teacher), The Jewish Nation - Its Life and Literature, Modern Hebrew Literature, and Chassidim.

By Saul Reece

"A very impressive sort of person, typical of that general of intellectuals. Ran his cheder locally, and finished up in Broughton. There was the usual chaos, as he attempted to teach all those noisy kids for some ridiculous fee... But he also made his own sort of centre for the promising lads." When he moved to Crumpsall, Wassilevsky had a magnificent Library in a very big old house, full of original editions of Hebrew and Yiddish books. He used the downstairs room for the cheder. There were perhaps 30-40 pupils in one class, who sat at desks and benches, and there were no girls, of course.

Wassilevsky took his pupils’ Zionism seriously and discussed with the boys "things that needed doing, like getting a Hebrew dictionary into print." His teaching followed "the normal routine, except that he put a lot of emphasis on modern Hebrew" and he tended away from teaching Jewish religious Law – "that wasn’t his line at all. He was a very strong Zionist, very strong... a fiery type..."

Wassilevsky was an impressive speaker who knew how to speak "to the right people in the right way." He was very much in demand for public meetings. Although he also spoke about going to Palestine someday, his wife became seriously ill and he had to abandon most of his plans.


Saul Reece (J275, Oral History Tapes, Manchester Jewish Museum)


By Saul Rosenberg

Wassilevsky’s after-school classes ran from Monday to Thursday, and also on Sunday mornings. They lasted for about an hour or an hour and a half. "We learnt how to daven, the alphabet, and about Jewish history, chumash, gemara." He taught in English and Hebrew, mostly about Zionism. Although he was "very strict and used the cane", he was also "a very intelligent man who explained things."


Saul Rosenberg (J209, Oral History Tapes, Manchester Jewish Museum)


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IMAGE AND DOCUMENT CREDITS: I Wassilevsky (© Manchester Jewish Museum), Wassilevsky's cheder (© Manchester Jewish Museum) Full reference: Sources.