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The Jews of England

By One of Themselves

Article II.

Dear Sir,

I promised in my last to speak of the Jewish national educational establishments for the poor, and it is on the defective method of conducting them that I shall treat in my present paper. First upon the list is the Jews’ Hospital at Mile End. That the manner of our conducting this establishment has long been considered inefficient by the best informed on such subjects is generally acknowledged; yet, year after year is suffered to pass by without any attempt at improvement.

As a clear proof of the disinclination of parents to place their children in the girls’ department of this establishment, I shall only state the fact that at the last two or three elections there have not been sufficient candidates to fill up the vacancies. The parents alleging that their children learn nothing and are sent out too young to be of any use. Children are admitted not younger than nine or older than eleven into the school. They must then be able to read Hebrew and English, and then, Oh, shame to the Jews who manage the institution, are placed under a Christian governess. These children are taught Hebrew, it is true; but who that is acquainted with the feelings of very young children can doubt that, next to the mother, the governess has the strongest influence over their religious feelings?

The girls leave the school at the age of fifteen, they are then too young to go to service, and they do not learn any trade at the institution. Moreover, few, if any of the girls acquire such habits as fit them to become useful domestic servants—but of this I shall speak more at large in a future paper.

The case with the boys is not much better. They are maintained in the institution till they attain the age of twenty-one, and are apprenticed to persons who work there. They have the choice of two trades, namely, shoemaking and cabinet-making.

These although useful trades are not suited to every boy, and when taught by inferior masters, as must be the case under the present regulations, afford but a small means of furnishing a respectable livelihood to men who have spent seven years in attaining them. It is well known that the Hospital rarely, if ever, sends out a tolerable scholar. It is true one or two gentlemen educated there have become excellent Hebraists; but their eminence is owing rather to their own exertions, than to the knowledge acquired in the establishment.

If competent Hebrew and English teachers were employed to teach those who manifest a desire to learn, teachers would be supplied for the schools and readers for the Synagogues, a great want would be supplied, and a reproach removed from the British Jews, namely, that they are obliged to look in other countries for readers; because men cannot be found in England capable of undertaking the duties of such situations. Boys might also be apprenticed out of the house to suitable trades, and a school of industry formed for the girls, where they might learn to become good servants, or be taught useful trades, while those who displayed superior ability might be sufficiently educated to supply vacancies in the public schools; not that there is occasion to employ Christians even now, as there are many respectable and well-educated Jewesses who would gladly accept respectable employments, and faithfully fulfill all their duties.

Of the Free School I shall say little, at present, as alterations are in progress, and it is useless to blame the past. It would therefore be invidious to complain of those things that the committee have promised to remedy, although I must say en passant that they are remarkably slow in redeeming their promise. The Orphan School has been conducted on the same principles as the others. Masters and mistresses have been expected to do the greatest amount of work for the least possible remuneration. All change for the better is delayed from time to time. But I have said enough at present to show you how national education is conducted here. In my next I shall speak of the condition of the Jews generally, and the causes of the great distress existing among the Jewish poor.

In conclusion it is but fair to state that the Rev. Dr. Adler is unwearied in his endeavours to improve the various establishments existing amongst us.