The Origins of the Jews’ Free School

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ON 13th September, 1814, 28th day of Ellul, there was held the most momentous meeting in the history of the Talmud Torah of the Great Synagogue, entitled in Hebrew yitffl wmm ttmp ?rtjrr mm Tl??m rmn. There were present Mr. Samuel Joseph, a vice-president who took the chair in the absence of the president Dr. Hart Myers, and also Joseph Cohen, Joshua Van Oven, A. Joseph and Walter Nathan.

The meeting was important for two reasons. Firstly it received a letter of resigna? tion from Dr. Hart Myers of the Presidency of the Talmud Torah. In flowery language, it paid tribute to "great services to this charity for a great number of years" and begged him "not to withdraw his protection and sanction from an institution he had so long cherished".2

The meeting next considered a report submitted by Joshua Van Oven which deserves to be quoted in extenso. "Your sub-committee having investigated the various minutes recorded by prior meetings together with the proposed regulations contained in the Circular Letter, recommend in addition to those passed May, 25th 1812, the adoption of the following resolutions : That the title of the Charity be altered to that of mm Tl?^m Wlf* "Jim mrm Free School for German Jews.3 That a school room be erected on the plan laid down by Mr. Lancaster for such a purpose".

"That a person from the class of German Jews who shall be competent to the task shall be appointed the master and who will have all necessary information respecting the arrangement and management of a Lancastrian School as may be procured from Mr. Lancaster or his assistants."

"On a vacancy occurring in the number of 21 boys in the foundation of the Talmud Torah the election to fill such vacancy shall be conducted according to the Laws hitherto observed on such occasion but only from a list previously made out of such scholars who from their attention and conduct in the Elementary School shall have merited being placed on such list. Some regulation shall hereafter be determined on to enable the Committee to promote meritorious lads from the Elementary School as Free Scholars for initiation in Gemarah, Chumash etc., in the upper school."

"Particular care shall be taken with respect to the religious management of the School, the reading lessons of which must consist of Prayers or extracts from Tanach with translations."

"Every subscriber shall have the privilege of recommending a certain number of boys in proportion to the sums subscribed according to such regulations as shall be made".

The writer wishes to express his thanks to Mr. Wilfred Samuel for much invaluable help on the historical background, and to Mr. Peter Quinn for the use of a photostat of the Rev. Solomon Hirschers "caution" against the Missionary schools.

The following abbreviations are used in the footnotes :

Adamson : J. W. Adamson, A Short History of Education (Cambridge, 1922).

M. : Manuscript Minute Book of the Talmud Torah, 1791-1818.

Roth : C. Roth, History of the Great Synagogue (London 1950).

Wolf, Essays : Lucien Wolf, Essays

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