Aurora Israel covered a new documentary, “The Children of Sally Bein,” which highlights the work of Sally Bein. In 2020, the B’nai B’rith World Center and KKL-JNF honored Bein, Holocaust-era educator at the first German boarding school for Jewish children with special needs. The school was co-founded by B’nai B’rith in Germany.
Read (in Spanish) in Aurora Israel.
On January 22 of this year, the documentary film by Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman, “The Children of Sally Bein,”was exhibited at the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque, in which he addresses the great work of the prominent Judeo-German educator Sally Bein whose work transcended borders. Another story related to the Holocaust that impacts, moves and that now becomes notoriety.
Sally (Samuel) Bein was born in 1881 in the city of Hohensalza at the time Germany, today Poland. Between 1902 and 1906 she studied at the Moshé Mendelson Jewish Teacher Training Institute in Berlin, receiving as an elementary school teacher. Within the framework of his teaching activity he meets the educator Rebeca Lowenstein and both contract in 1907.
In 1908 and at just 27 years old, he began to run the “Jewish Educational Center for Children with Intellectual Disabilities.” It was a boarding school and school for Jewish children with intellectual disabilities and disabled people in other areas located in the town of Beelitz, near the city of Potsdam in Germany, promoted and erected jointly by the Jewish Community of Berlin and the largest Lodge of the B’nai B’rith organization. It was the only space of this kind for Jewish children.
Over the years, 400 children with disabilities were educated in this center from early age and until maturity, but the interesting thing to note is that in the aforementioned center they also studied fully normal children but that their parents for different reasons were not able to educate them and later other students who were not accepted in other establishments were incorporated, due to the existing limitation to the number of Jews who could study in these
Sally Bein was a genuine pioneer and revolutionary by amalgamating and inserting different groups under the same roof. This insertion was not reduced only to the space of the studios. In free time, students of all ages, genders and beyond their cognitive differences participated jointly in walks and entertainment promoted by the center. High school students were also part of the Macabi Berlin football team as well as in the chesss tournaments held at the Emanuel Lasker club in Berlin.
The pedagogical approach of Bein and his team of educators was unique throughout Germany and his resounding success made him an unquestionable world reference. Educators and doctors from all over Europe and from the Jewish community in the Land of Israel prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, arrived at the aforementioned educational center to internalize their approach and work systems. But above all, many of the students who suffered from acute disability and for whom there were no relevant pedagogical options in public education, were enabled to develop a normative life in different areas and
Bein didn’t forget his Jewish condition. Parallel to general studies and recreation, the center taught Jewish education and subjects such as the First Testament, Jewish and Hebrew tradition that aimed to strengthen the Jewish identity of the students. In the institute, Saturday was celebrated and observed, the Hebrew festivities and food was strictly Kasher. During the religious service on Saturdays, the students – even the most disabled – used to speak in public before the parishioners and address the biblical chapter of each week were read in the synagogues. It was an intelligent and daring variant that Bein promoted to develop the intellect of the students, give them confidence and security, given that at another juncture or framework they would not be encouraged to express themselves publicly. In 1910, when the synagogue of the area was closed, almost a hundred parishioners began to perform daily prayers in the premises of the Educational Center that Bein was directed.
With the arrival of Nazism to power, the situation of the center changes radically and between 1933 and 1942, Bein made enormous efforts to prevent its closure. Finally, in April 1942, the Nazis decided to put an end to it. Staff members as well as 30 students are sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Bein is aware that his fate is sealed and despite the fact that both he and his family had a visa to leave Germany and save their lives, just as Janusz Korczak decides to stay with his students and run his fate. On July 13, 1942, 748 Jews were sent to the east, including Sally Bein, his wife Rebecca, his youngest daughter Liza Clara as well as 47 All were killed in the Sobibor extermination camp.
After the war, in 1991 on the premises where the Educational Center operated, a secondary school was opened, which in 1997 was named Sally Bein.
Different tributes were justifiably paid to him, namely:
- In June 2020, the B’nai B’rith World Center and the National Land Fund of Israel inaugurated a souvenir plaque to his name in the Forest of the Martyrs.
- In 2022, the book “The Educational Center for Disabled Children of Sally Bein” by Ronny Meir Dotán was published. The volume is based on the study carried out by researchers Ronny Dotán and Tatiana Matanya Ruge. During its elaboration, they published for the first time the list of more than 400 students who studied at the aforementioned center, including two students who came from the Land of Israel during the British Mandate. The latter two, for their part, located relatives of the students residing in Israel and other parts of the world. These researchers also found photos of the work of the educational center of the 1920s.
- Based on the aforementioned volume and as noted at the beginning of this note, Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman made the documentary film “The Children of Sally Bein” sponsored by the World Zionist Organization and which was first exhibited in Israel in January 2023.