An excerpt from Gerry Black, “The Right School in the Right Place: The History of the Stepney Jewish School, 1864—2013”

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The book from which the following is taken will also address the future of schooling in the United Kingdom, comprehensive schools, grammar schools, academies, free schools and faith schools. This excerpt details the events leading to the establishment of Stepney Jewish School in 1864.

In various books, articles and annual reports, references have been made to the establishment of the Stepney Jewish Schools (hereafter, Stepney Jewish School) as being in 1863, 1865, 1870 and 1872. In fact, the school opened on 22 August 1864, with five pupils, in what was a private house for 82 years. Until 1946, it educated pupils up to the age of fourteen, but in that year it transformed itself into a primary school, with pupils leaving at the age of eleven. Until then, the boys' and girls' schools occupied entirely separate premises, though in the same building, and since 1946 boys and girls have been taught together in the same classes.

It is now about to enter its 150th year of existence. This article will deal with the factors leading to its opening in Stepney in 1864, why it remained there until 1970, why it then moved to Ilford and its history since then.

Jewish religious education

As befits "the people of the book", Jewish religious education has always been at the heart of Judaism through the study of sacred texts and the teaching of traditional practices and beliefs. Such education in Jewish schools has never been state-funded but has always been paid for by the pupils' parents or by money raised by charitable donations. Many believe that Jewish schooling contains the key to the future of Judaism in the United Kingdom; that its evo lution here is itself an illustration of how the Jewish people have striven throughout their history to adjust themselves to whatsoever geographical region their destiny has brought them, and to integrate within it. Although integration was encouraged, neither the immigrant families themselves nor the Jewish leaders have sought complete assimilation. British Chief Rabbis have naturally always emphasized this education's importance. Nathan Marcus Adler (Chief Rabbi, 1845-90) said in 1874, "with [religious] educa tion, Judaism stands, without such education, it falls." Lord Jakobovits (Chief Rabbi, 1967-91) said that during the Jews' dispersal over the centuries, edu cation has been the principal instrument of Jewish defence. "Where others relied on prudent statecraft and military skill to preserve their integrity, Jews relied mainly on learning as the supreme condition of survival." When he assumed office, he promised to make Jewish education his top domestic pri ority.

Lord Sacks (Chief Rabbi, 1991-2013) has claimed that the Jewish people were the first to make education a religious command, and the first to create a compulsory universal system of schooling, eighteen centuries before Britain. "The Egyptians built pyramids, the Romans built empires, Jews built schools. They knew that to defend a country you need an army, to defend a civilization you need education. So the Jews became the people whose heroes were teachers, whose citadels were schools, and whose passion was

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