In the meantime, troubles started to flare up in the Talmud Torah run by Mr Sive and headmaster Mr Blasovsky. Three of the teachers contacted the G&SPHC committee to complain about the conditions in the Talmud Torah and about their salaries (6.8.1941).
A different view of teacher Mr Sive to that of the admiration expressed earlier was given by one of his pupils, Rene Kleinman (Archie Sacks’s daughter).[i] She said the pupils disliked him, he used to hit and pinch the boys, and was a terrible teacher. Possibly their complaints had reached the ears of their parents. The committee decided that the Talmud Torah was not progressing to their satisfaction. They purchased new premises for it, and arranged for it to be discontinued as a branch of congregational activities and reorganised as an independent G&SP Talmud Torah with its own committee and constitution (20.1.1942). A meeting of the Talmud Torah committee was held to discuss doing so and a new independent Talmud Torah committee was elected. The services of the teachers who now fell under the Talmud Torah were dispensed with, they received two months’ notice and the Talmud Torah advertised for new teachers (18.2.1942) and sending a circular stating that the Talmud Torah undertook to teach all children up till barmitzvah.
Sive took exception to this paragraph, whose function it had been, and wrote to the Talmud Torah committee which strongly resented his letter. The committee replied that they had no intention of granting him an interview and he was at liberty to apply for the position of teacher once it was advertised.
Lacking a trade union, the teachers went to the Board of Jewish Education and the Hebrew Teachers’ Association. These bodies advised the congregation that until it had settled with the old teachers and paid a gratuity to Sive, no new teachers would apply for the posts and they placed an advertisement stating that before any teachers applied for a position at the G&SP Talmud Torah, they should first contact the Board and the Association.
The G&SPHC had no alternative but to agree – a school was of no use without teachers. It did not consider Sive to be entitled to a gratuity particularly in view of his threat to open a school in opposition to the Talmud Torah but in order to settle the matter amicably it awarded him a six-month gratuity on condition that he did not open such a school and demanded that the Hebrew Teachers’ Association withdraw its advertisement, which it did. The Association’s threat had achieved its purpose.
The committee also decided to charge a 10% levy on all seats, the money to go towards the Talmud Torah, but which would at the same time make congregation members automatically members of the Talmud Torah – with a vote, so that they could exert a certain degree of control over the school!
By 1943 the Talmud Torah had 103 students and offered Junior Certificate and Matric classes in Hebrew. The committee sent a letter of protest to Sive when he advertised that he was the founder of the Talmud Torah (28.2.1943). This seems to be rather petty. Although it was the Congregation who had founded the Talmud Torah and employed Sive, he had served as the first principal and initially the only member of staff.
[i] Personal communication, Rene Kleinman, 19.1.2018