Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Establishment of Chess for the Blind in Israel

Credit: Davar, 21/6/1966, p. 5

Moshe Roytman refers us to an article in Davar (see above) about the person in the above photograph, Jacob Aizikowitz [Spelling changed from 'Itzkowitz -- see post of 21/2/15 above] -- from Haifa, who -- the article [in Hebrew] notes -- raised the number of blind players in Israel from six to 50, and was hoping to reach 100 (out of a total of 700 blind people in Israel at the time).

Another article noted by Roytman, substantiating what the original article says, are from Davar, 10/8/1962 [link in Hebrew] about the just-finished first blind chess championship in Haifa, noting it was organized by 'M. Aizikowitz' (presumably a typo) and, interestingly, explicitly notes some of the contestants were 'minorities' (i.e., Arabs). Incidentally, Roytman notes chess sets for the blind were first sold in Israel in 1961 in the first shop dedicated to accessories to the blind, as Davar of 25/6/1961 (p. 2) notes [link in Hebrew].

The article notes that, in the few years since he decided to dedicated himself to developing chess among the blind, he arranged simultaneous displays for the blind with Bleiman (then the Israeli junior champion), as well as Porat, Czerniak, Aloni and the Portugese player Durao, arranged a national championship to the blind, published studies, lessons, and problems (in cooperation with the Israeli problemist association) in publications for the blind, and so on.

An internet search found out something quite interesting about this man. Meir Shalev, the Israeli author, gave a recollection of his meeting with Prof. Dror Sade, the physicist [link in Hebrew], on the occassion of the recent Israeli 'Teacher's Day'.

Sade recalled that he had a teacher named Jacob Aizikowitz in Haifa as an elementary school student. He was a science teacher, but, for an entire year, only taught them about one plant -- the Mimosa Pudica. They grew the plant in school, took care of it, took field trips to see it in its natural habitat, etc., etc.

Sade, who was responsible for taking care of the plant in the evenings, noted that its leaves close differently during nighttime than during the day; Aizikowitz checked, found out this is a novel scientific discovery, and had it published in a scientific journal.

Naturally, notes Sade, he was fired at the end of the year -- for not teaching them the required syllabus. But he taught them something much more important, the love of investigation and discovery, Sade gives Aizikowitz credit for the fact that of the eight children in that 3rd grade in 1943, two became professors, three engineers, one a jurist, and the two girls in the class, teachers -- at the time practically the only way for a woman to gain higher education at all. This, it should be noted, was in an era when higher education was rare in the country, and even a high school diploma was uncommon.

While Sade or Shalev do not mention chess, it seems like a good bet -- based on the location (Haifa) and thoroughness of Aizikowitz's actions in both cases, that we are speaking of the same person.

No comments:

Post a Comment