Vol. 13


Can’t I Go to School?

c. 1905; Slabodka, Kaunas, Lithuania

My great-grandmother Gittel Lipshits was a smart seven-year-old girl. Her mother was dead, and her father worked as a rabbi in America; therefore, Gittel lived with her uncle in the town of Slabodka, in the suburb of Kovno, in the country of Lithuania. Unfortunately there was a rule — a wicked, cruel rule — a rule that girls could not go to school.

How boring it must have been to spend every day at home helping your mother with chores. There were upsides though — no tests, no homework. It was like never-ending vacation. But Gittel was smart — and infuriated. Unlike most, she wanted to go to school — badly.

“I want to go to school!” Gittel whined to her uncle for the umpteenth time.

“I have said this already, Gittel. You can’t. Go find something to do,” her uncle replied.

Yet Gittel still thought she could find a way to go to school. She thought about it. And an idea came.

“Of course! Why didn’t I think of this before? The rabbi!” Gittel thought. Any regular seven-year-old going to the great adult rabbi would probably be terrified. What could happen? For all she knew (and she knew a lot), the rabbi would be busy. “What if, like everybody else, he’ll say no?” she thought bitterly. But she went.

And the rabbi thought about the situation. Gittel waited.

But soon the rabbi said, “How about this? You could become coal girl for the local schoolhouse. While you do your job, you can listen and learn. Does that sound good?”

“Brilliant!” Gittel sang. And so she became the coal girl.

Every day Gittel would walk to the one-room schoolhouse. Her job was to sit by the furnace and make the fire stay warm, and in between caring for the dancing flames she could lie back and listen to what the teacher would say. Gittel was glad she had gone to the amazing rabbi.

Later on, she was able to go to school and learn properly. She grew up to be a great woman.

This story is important to me because it reminds me of the phrase “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And if I’m stuck in a situation like my great-grandmother was, I’ll remember there’s always a solution and a way out.

Noa Temima Harris; New York, USA


This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


Photo below of Gittel, the smart seven-year-old who wanted to go to school, compliments of the author's family.

Photo of Gittel at the time this story took place


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