Ex-kindergarten Teacher Writes to Her Former Pupil, Menachem Begin

A former Philadelphia resident, a kindergarten teacher 57 years ago in Brest-Litovsk, has exchanged letters with Israeli Premier Menachem Begin whom she remembers affectionately as one of her pupils.

In an exclusive story published this week by the Jewish Exponent, staff writer I.J. Blynn tells of the letter from Eva Pitlik to the Premier and Begin’s response. It was shortly after his election that Begin received the following letter:

“Dear Mr. Prime Minister, I am writing to ask if you can still remember being a little boy in my kindergarten class in Poland. I do affectionately remember teaching you and your classmates.

“In 1920,” the letter continued, “after the Allies forced the withdrawal of occupying German troops from what was Poland, I was a kindergarten teacher at the Hatchiya school in the middle of the city of Brest-Litovsk. This school was a progressive Hebrew school which taught exclusively in Hebrew…Menachem was approximately five years of age, a typical, bright, active child, always ready to learn….”

The letter writer is the wife of the late Dr. Samuel Pitlik, for many years, prior to his death in 1975, a professor of Hebrew language and literature at Gratz College. She closed by wishing Begin health and wisdom in guiding the destiny of Israel.

On July 4, the former student from Brest-Litovsk dispatched a letter to Mrs. Pitlik, written in Hebrew on the Prime Minister’s letterhead stationery.

BEGIN PLEASED WITH LETTER

“My Dear and Esteemed Teacher, I was greatly moved by your letter. I was very pleased to receive it; your blessing was dear to me. It seems as if it were only yesterday–I remember with love and affection my first teacher. The excellent education and devoted efforts that you invested in your students have guided me through life’s path from then until today. I hope that you are well and I thank you once again from the bottom of my heart that you saw fit to give me your blessing.”

“A really warm letter,” Mrs. Pitlik observed. “It had been 57 years. I wasn’t sure that he would remember, but when he was elected I sent him a little note and he sent me this letter. I was very proud.”

Mrs. Pitlik came to this country in 1921, traveling to Baltimore to marry her old-country teacher, Samuel Pitlik. In 1929 the couple moved to Philadelphia, where her husband earned his doctorate at Dropsle University and later joined the Gratz faculty. Now, living near one of her two sons in Needham, Mass., Mrs. Pitlik recalls that the future Israeli head of state was “an active little fellow, a nice kid.” She had been aware, over the years, of Begin and his career in Israel’s Knesset, but only upon his assumption of the Premier’s post did she write.

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