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The West Metropolitan Jewish School, 1845-1897

Curtis Cassell

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The West Metropolitan Jewish School 1845-18971 By Rabbi Curtis E. Cassell AT a meeting of the Council of Founders of the West London Synagogue of British Jews which was held on 25 March 1844, 'the necessity of affording education to the choristers and other poor children having been reported by Mr. Marks, a Committee was nominated consisting of Mr. Francis H. Goldsmid, Mr. David Henriques and Mr. Jacob L. Elkin to consider the matter, in conjunction with the Rev. Mr. Marks and Loewy'. This meeting reported to the Council on 23 December 1844 as follows : 'Your Committee think it needless to enlarge on the importance of the object in view or on its intimate connection with the purposes of the Synagogue, since they conceive that the Council was fully convinced of these things at the time when the Committee was appointed; they therefore proceed at once to point out the measures which appear to them expedient; the expense which these matters would probably occasion, and the means of obtaining the funds by which that expense may be defrayed. 'Your Committee have ascertained that many of the children of the poor belonging to this Congregation (much as they may stand in need of education) would be prevented from attending the proposed school, some by having been apprenticed to different trades, and others by the distances at which they reside. 'After making the necessary deductions on these accounts, it appears that about a dozen boys connected with the Congregation would be able and desirous to become pupils. 'Although the school is intended to be connected with this Synagogue, the Committee see no reason why its benefits should be confined to a single congregation; and they learn with pleasure the probability that members of other Synagogues would be anxious that their children should be admitted. cOn the whole it appears likely that in the first instance the number of pupils would be from fifteen to twenty. 'The Committee have considered the possibility of receiving girls as well as boys into the school; but as this would involve the necessity of a second room and a second teacher, they hesitate to propose what they fear that the funds obtainable in the outset might be insufficient to accomplish. If, however, a measure be postponed, which is less urgent than the establish? ment of a school for boys, only because the number of girls who would be likely immediately to attend appears to be smaller, the Committee trust that the postponement will be but short, and that, as has happened in many institutions of a similar character, practical experience of the usefulness of the intended school will rapidly obtain for it enlarged resources, which will in their turn enable its promoters to extend its utility. 'The Committee would suggest that in the beginning a room should be hired which they think might probably be obtained in the house of some individual connected with the Congrega? tion ; and that a good English teacher should be engaged to superintend the school four or five hours in the morning for five days in the week. 'The Rev. Mr. Marks and the Rev. Mr. Loewy are so impressed with the importance of the object in view that they would, so your Committee understand, undertake to attend gratuitously each on alternate days for one hour in the afternoon, in order to afford instruction in the principles of the Jewish religion, and in the Hebrew language. 'The rent of the school room your Committee compute at twenty five pounds; the salary of the English teacher at forty pounds ; and the cost of books and incidental expenses at twenty pounds per annum, making a total annual outlay of eighty five pounds. 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England 12 June 1957. 115</page><page sequence="2">116 THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL 'In order to meet a part of this outlay, the Committee of the "Ladies Charity" have communicated to your Committee their willingness to contribute ten pounds a year; your Committee trust that, limited as are the funds at the disposal of the Council, the importance of the purpose in view will be thought sufficient to justify a yearly grant of from twenty to thirty pounds; and even if this should unfortunately occasion a diminution of the sum hitherto allotted for casual relief your Committee believe that the change in the application of the money will cause it to work a greater amount of good. 'The rest of the income required for the purpose of the school your Committee would propose to raise by annual subscriptions, the contributors of which should form a separate society, and should elect a Committee, who, with the co-operation of the Wardens of the Synagogue, should undertake the management of the institution. 'However heavy and manifold may be the claims for charitable purposes on the resources of the Jewish community, your Committee entertain no doubt that the comparatively small sum required for the establishment of this new school may be easily obtained, because they are satisfied that a salutary conviction is rapidly gaining ground of the paramount utility of educational charities. To clothe the poor and to feed the hungry is to obey one of the most amiable impulses, and if the objects of bounty be rightly selected, is doubtless to do good, although in most instances of a very temporary kind. To bestow education on him who would otherwise be deprived of it, is at once to develop the higher faculties of a man, and often to give to the recipient, for himself and those who may be subsequently dependent upon him, food and raiment not for a week, not for a month, but for a lifetime.' It was resolved at this meeting (1) that it was expedient that a school be established in accordance with the report, (2) that a yearly sum of ?20 should be paid out of the funds of the Congregation towards the support of the school, and (3) that the report of the School Committee be laid annually before the Council. These two Minutes, apart from a further note in May 1845 stating that a grant of a dozen prayer books was made to the West Metropolitan Jewish School, and regular mention of an allocation of ?20 in the annual Balance Sheet, are the only references which we have found so far in the archives of the West London Synagogue. We have also a recollection of Dr. A. Loewy, who in an interview for the Jewish Chronicle of 5 February 1907, when asked whether he had not once a Jewish School attached to the Congregation, answered, 'Yes. It arose in this way. I undertook to teach the choristers the translation of Hebrew prayers and it was then suggested that it might be as well to establish a Jewish Day School for the instruction of the children of our congregation and the West End generally'. THE EARLY YEARS For the story of the West Metropolitan Jewish School, which as will be seen later on became the Jewish Middle Class School, and ended up as the Jewish High School for Girls, we have to rely on the contemporary Press, Jewish and general: the Jewish Chronicle, of course, The Voice of Jacob, the Jewish World, the Hebrew Observer, and the Cornhill Magazine. The Voice of Jacob reported on 11 April 1845 that a new school had been opened on Monday, the 7th of that month. The only names associated with it were those of the secession congregation calling itself the West London Synagogue of British Jews, the Hebrew department being confided to the two ministers of the Burton Street congregation, and although there had been correspondence between the Editor and Mr. F. D. Goldsmid, the Chairman, the former could not elicit from the latter any information as to what catechism, what Prayer Book, or what religious holidays were adopted by the school. The Editor, however, entertained 'the hope and expectation</page><page sequence="3">THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL 117 that Mr. Goldsmid and the other promoters of this new undertaking will find the occasion to publish that explicit programme which is due from them as honourable and religious men5. Meanwhile advertisements had appeared in the Jewish Chronicle to invite applications for the post of a teacher qualified to give a sound English education, whose attendance five hours daily Saturdays and Sundays excepted, was requested at a salary of ?45 per annum. The school was to admit boys from the age of six years onwards. Very soon after the opening in May 1845 a further advertisement appeared, this time for a Hebrew teacher who 'must be qualified to teach the language grammatically and according to the Portuguese pronunciation'. His attendance was requested for three hours a day during five days a week and the promised salary was ?40. The school from the outset surpassed the expectations of its founders. The number of pupils admitted in 1845 was 61, in 1846 24, and in the two following years 35 scholars each year. The need to establish a girls' school arose very early, and although the premises which were occupied in Little Queen Street, Lincolns Inn Fields, were far from satisfactory, the girls' school was opened on 17 August 1846. The support from members of the West London Synagogue and other congregations was also forthcoming and in May 1846 the Honorary Secretary, Mr. Jacob Elkin, could announce that ?220 had been collected in donations and a further ?88 in subscriptions. That this support came not only from the members of the one congregation was due to the fact that many of the pupils were children of parents who belonged to the City synagogues. To gain an impression of the work done in these early years we would like to quote from the report of the Committee which was published in 18471 : 'Considerable progress has been made by the pupils in nearly every branch of useful instruction, especially in Grammar, Mental Arithmetic, and in the knowledge of natural objects. A highly beneficial change has also taken place in the attendance of the pupils, which is now as punctual as can be desired; the discipline and order of the School are well maintained, and the reports of the masters, as well as the remarks entered from time to time in the "Visitors' Book", afford conclusive evidence of the general good conduct of the students, and of the attention which is directed to their moral training. 'After expressing their due appreciation of the devotion, the zeal, and the unwearied application with which the English Master, Mr. Brooke, performs his varied duties ; and also, their unqualified satisfaction with the success which has marked the exertions of the Hebrew Master, Dr. Kohnstamm (appointed in June last); the Committee give the following satisfactory account of the girls' school which was opened as recently as on 17 August last, under the management of Miss Topham and at present numbers 29 pupils. 'The pupils, with few exceptions, entered this school, unable to spell or read, and in the majority of instances knowing little more than the letters of the alphabet. In the course of a few weeks they were all enabled to read and spell easy lessons, and they are now considerably advanced in writing, arithmetic and in the elements of Grammar and Geography. The improvement in needle-work is equally gratifying. Instruction in Hebrew and Scriptural history is given twice a week by Dr. Kohnstamm, who reports considerable progress in these branches of study. The Committee refer with much pleasure to the entries made in the books of the Ladies' Committee, and of the Visiting Subscribers, who, without exception, bear testimony to the high qualifications of the Governess, and the progress of the pupils. 'The discipline of this School is perfect; and the appearance of the children, as regards cleanliness and personal neatness, is in the highest degree satisfactory. 1 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. Ill, No. 23, p. 211.</page><page sequence="4">118 THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL 'Thus the indefatigable exertions of a few men, among whom Mr. Jacob Elkin, the Treasurer and Honorary Secretary, who spares neither time nor labour to further the good cause, deserves particular mention, have done considerably more, in proportion, for the West Metropolitan Jewish Schools than large funds, grand examinations and high patronage for the Jews' Free School. It must also be remembered that the Western Girls' School, in Greek Street, owes its origin to the West Metropolitan Jewish Schools; and whatever might have been the cause of this rivalry, we are pleased with the effect. May they vie with each other in the promotion of so glorious a purpose?the mental cultivation of our people. 'As an act worthy of emulation by the ministers of the orthodox synagogues, we deem it proper to state that the Revs. D. W. Marks and A. Loewy, ministers of the West London Synagogue of British Jews, frequently visit the schools, examine the pupils, advise the teachers and altogether take an active and lively part in the management.' The great difBculty with which the school was faced was that of accommodation and although very shortly the Boys' Department moved to 256 High Holborn and the Girls' Department to 12 Little Queen Street, the latter in 1852 had to move again, this time to Lambs Conduit Street. The reports of these early years present a picture of thriving academic activity. Of more interest, however, is the origin of the pupils. Of 155 pupils in 1848, 70 had previously attended Christian schools, 62 several Jewish schools, 19 had not attended any school at all, and only 4 had entered at the age of six, the earliest period for entry. The school was not a charity school in the accepted sense and the early reports talk of the children themselves being subscribers, most of them contributing something towards the maintenance of the estabhshment. The Chairman, as the report reads, 'disliked the system of "ragged school" in which education is cast to the poor as we cast alms to the beggar', and throughout the existence of the school this principle as well as the fact that the 'principles of religion' which are taught are such as are agreed upon by the members of all synagogues and could not possibly give offence to any, is an ever recurring theme.1 But scholastic exercises were not the only value which the children derived from the school. In 1852 there is a report of an outing of between 70 and 80 boys and girls who were taken in three covered vans to Beulah Spa, Norwood at the expense of the Committee, and were treated to a roast beef dinner and a plentiful supply of tea and plum cake in the evening. That nothing should be wanting to complete their comfort, so we read, the children were nearly all taken to their own doors in the vans.2 In 1853 the pupils were entertained at a morning performance at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.3 In 1854 Brighton was selected for the annual excursion, the Committee taking advantage of the running of excursion trains to that place, and most of the children paying 1/-, some 6d., towards the expense. Lady de Rothschild gave ?5 and the rest was made up by subscriptions among the Committee. The Brighton railway officials provided cushioned 2nd class carriages although paid only for covered 3rd class carriages.4 In 1858 Gravesend was chosen, having been unanimously voted by the children themselves as the best place for the treat. The children evinced their independence of spirit and desired to pay for their own recreation by voluntarily subscribing a large sum towards their travelling expenses. Besides a self-supporting spirit which manifestiy 1 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. V, No. 39, p. 311. 2 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. VIII, No. 47, p. 371. 3 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. X, No. 34, p. 296. 4 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. X, No. 45, p. 386.</page><page sequence="5">THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL 119 pervades the school, so the report says, another feature designed to create and foster habits of regularity and frugal economy has been lately evoked by the organisation of a children's savings bank in which the smallest coin up to any amount in silver is eagerly deposited, and in many instances has grown already to very respectable sums and been cheerfully donated to the purchase of some useful article of dress or furniture at home. In 1873 Mr. Jacob Mocatta gave the pupils of the school a treat to the Crystal Palace in celebration of the marriage of his daughter, Miss Marian Mocatta, to Mr. H. G. Lousada.2 RED LION SQUARE The year 1853 saw a great and beneficial change in the school. For the first time both schools could be united when they moved to Red Lion Square in Holborn where they had acquired larger premises for a 21 years' lease. The report of this year gives a closer analysis of the pupils attending the school.3 130 belonged to the City synagogues, 100 to St. Albans and Maiden Lane synagogues, 60 to the West London and 2 to provincial synagogues. The report acknowledges the services which were rendered to the school by its Hebrew teacher, Dr. Kohnstamm, who had then retired from the school, Mr. Brooke, the head master, and Mrs. Gill, the governess of the girls' school. It also informs us that an infants' school had now been added, no Jewish infants' school existing so far in the Western part of the metropolis, and it gives a lengthy excerpt from the report of the Inspector of the British and Foreign Schools Society who recorded with satisfaction the progress made by the pupils. In the same year there appeared with a preface dated 4 May 1853, the book The British Jews by the Rev. John Mills. It mentions the West Metropolitan Jewish School and states as follows : 'This school belongs to the reformed synagogue but receives Jewish pupils from all congregations indiscriminately. After a complete alteration in plan it was opened a few days ago at 26 Red Lion Square. It has been modelled after the Birkbeck system?and in connection with Hebrew and sound Jewish religious instruction the children will be taught the branches of a real useful education. The premises are to contain 300 boys and 150 girls. Also a room for monitors, filled up as a museum, and containing a goodly collection of objects and paintings ?two excellent globes?models of the whole process of hand-loom weaving; all being the gifts of members of the Committee. Next to this is a gallery on an improved plan capable of holding with ease about 60 children in which mixed classes are to be given to boys and girls. And lastly, is a laboratory, filled up chiefly with apparatus belonging to Mr. Brooke, the head master, under whose management the institution bids fair to become a model Jewish school.' The move to Red Lion Square necessitated for the first time since the opening of the school a large fund-raising dinner. It was hoped that it would not be necessary to appeal to the public too often, but in fact such dinners were held in 1853, 1856, 1859, 1860, 1862, 1864, 1867, 1868, 1870, 1871, 1872, and 1874. The first and the subsequent dinners took place at Willis's Rooms, King Street, St. James. The list of stewards in each case was impressive and contained names not only of members of the West London Synagogue, but also in an ever increasing number prominent congregants of the city and 1 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. XII, No. 192, p. 285. 2 The Jewish World, 1 August 1873, p. 5. 3 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. IX, No. 15, p. 115.</page><page sequence="6">120 THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL western synagogues, as well as a good number of Christian gentlemen. The first dinner was presided over by Lord Goderich, M.P. and other M.P.s included Viscount Monck, Lord Dudley Stewart, Mr. Apsley Pellatt, Mr. W. Digby Seymour and, remarkably enough, listed as an M.P., Baron Lionel de Rothschild. Sir Anthony de Rothschild was also named among the stewards and so was Alderman David Salomons. The speeches made on these occasions were not only entertaining and instructive, but a perusal of them, as of speeches given at other dinners and prize givings, provide much information for the student of the contemporary scene. The Crimean War, the emancipation struggle, educational development, and untold other problems of the day are referred to, and many an interesting and amusing side-light is shown. In 1859, for instance, the President of the institution, Mr. Frederick D. Goldsmid, had this to say about Mr. Disraeli: 'Jewish enterprise had along with Anglo-Saxon perseverance penetrated into the backwoods of America and the wilds of Australia. Among the younger generation, he trusted, men would be found who in the Senate would shine with the lustre of a Disraeli, free however from his infirmities, which like a divine judgment, seemed to attack those who for the sake of worldly advantages forsake the religion of their fathers'.1 Those who are interested in the controversy over blood sports and its defence (in 1956) by an Honorary Officer of the United Synagogue, will be delighted to read that in 1856 Mr. Haywood, M.P., who presided over the dinner in that year, said that prejudice against the Jews was fast dying away. He would instance the popularity enjoyed by Baron M. de Rothschild among the farmers over whose grounds he was in the habit of hunting.2 From the speeches of the first dinner we learn details closely connected with the school. The main objects, of course, was to raise money for the new school-house which had incurred a deficit of ?500, and no less than ?1136 was raised on that occasion, a very considerable amount of money for those times. We also learn of an aspect of the school which was unique in Jewish institutions, in London at least, although the Jewish school in Manchester could pride itself on the same feature. It was the first Jewish school in London which accepted Christian children. This circumstance, so we learn at a later anniversary dinner, that of 1864, had occurred through an accident. The head master, Mr. Brooke, when he joined the school asked permission of the Committee to allow some of his former pupils to follow him to his new post, and to be instructed within the precincts of the establishment. The request was acceded to and sometime after the Government Minute was published and it was argued that where Government aid was granted no school should be excluded from this proposition. The speaker on that occasion, Mr. Frederick D. Mocatta, added that in following out this principle the ministers had not found the slightest difficulty or objection on the part of the parents. In fact, the adoption of such a course was invaluable because it assisted to rub away those prejudices which were found to exist among communities heretofore isolated. Not only was the relation between the school and its non-Jewish contemporaries excellent, but the relation between the West Metropolitan Jewish schools and other Jewish schools was on the most friendly of terms. Professor D. W. Marks in 1853 remarked that the Committee of the West Metropolitan School cannot but feel great satisfaction in acknowledging the support that they have received from the leading men 1 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. XVI, No. 225, p. 5. * Jewish Chronicle, Vol. XIII, No. 71, p. 562.</page><page sequence="7">THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL 121 of the other schools of London. ' We gratefully record our sense of the service rendered to us by the President of the Jews' Free School, Sir Anthony de Rothschild, from whom this evening a note was received expressing his deep sorrow that he was prevented from being present. We are likewise pleased to see the Treasurer of the Western Synagogue, Greek Street, Mr. Keeling, and many other gentlemen who take a lively interest. This is as it should be. We are not rivals in relation to our school establishment but we are fellow-labourers in the same sacred cause and we must be alike pleased and interested when we see each other make progress in that task in the completion of which we have a common benefit.' A further characteristic of these dinners in contra-distinction to other similar gatherings was the absence of the children who benefited from these efforts and who in those years only too often were paraded as show pieces at similar occasions. Finally, in 1862, a social revolution at such functions was introduced. For the first time the attendance of ladies was invited, thus, the report adds 'following the almost universal practice now adopted'. Of the educational result of the school we learn from the reports of the School Inspector and from the award of prizes from outside bodies. Thus in 1857 following the Examination in Drawing of the Society of Arts no less than 8 pupils received prizes. The Jewish Chronicle report adds 'For 8 children from so small a school to receive prizes is out of all proportion'. In 1864 Mr. Arnold1, the Government Inspector, stated that the boys had passed through their first examination in the revised code successfully, and that the girls' school had also undertaken successfully their examination and that the instruction was and had been far above the level required by the stewards. Not a child had failed. The inspector added T have often expressed my high opinion of Mrs. Gill's school. It is one of those which afford a good proof of the coincidences of the best advanced with the best elementary instruction. I have no girls' school in which the grammar is so good. I have none in which the reading is better'2. In the next year the same inspector says that the school has gained by the appointment of an assistant, the maintenance of order being thus rendered much easier. 'The reading from a newspaper by the boys at the top of the school is, I think, the best I have ever heard,' and of the girls he reports that the school continues to do as well as possible. 'I particularly noticed the mapping and the drawing both excellent. Six scholars have during the past year obtained prizes from the Department of Science and Arts. The total failure is not one per cent of the number presented.'3 And again in the year 1866 'this (the boys' school) is a very well taught school with two certificated teachers to some 50 boys. The failures in the examinations do not amount to one per cent of the whole number presented. The drawing is particularly good. At last year's examination at South Kensington, 28 of Mr. Brooke's scholars passed and 17 took prizes. As far as the girls' and infants' schools are concerned, the failures last year do not reach one per cent of the number presented and this year there is not a single failure in any subject. The teaching staff is very strong; Alice Levy, the pupil teacher, remains as an assitant teacher under Article 91. Here too the drawing is good'.4 Alice Levy was later to succeed Mrs. Gill as head mistress of the school. 1 Matthew Arnold, the poet. 2 Jewish Chronicle, No. 496, p. 5. 2 Jewish Chronicle, No. 542, p. 5. 4 Jewish Chronicle, No. 591, p. 1.</page><page sequence="8">122 THE WEST METROPOLITAN SCHOOL JEWISH Of the educational system employed at the school we are not quite certain. It is referred to at times as the Pestalozzian and then again as the Birkbeck system. Whatever it was its success seemed to be proved by the reports quoted. Nor was the school slow in experimenting with new ideas. In 1855 a beginning was made with adult education, Mr. Brooke, the head master, gave a lecture, or as he put it, a public lesson, on the human lungs on Saturday 24 February at seven o'clock precisely. Evening classes for ladies were inaugurated by Mrs. Gill, of whom the Chairman of the 1860 dinner remarked that to her exercises the high efficiency of the girls' school could be to a great measure attributed, 'as she possesses the rare quality of making herself obeyed and respected by the pupils without using severity'. Mrs. Gill was firm but not rigid, kept discipline without being pedantic, and was beloved by all her pupils.1 A report in the Jewish World of February 1875 states that 'corporal punishment is banned throughout the entire premises ; and yet it appeared to me that there existed no necessity to lay down any very strict injunction on this subject, for the lads and lasses are so well and so kindly affected towards their superiors, and these in their turn so recipro? cate their sentiments, that chastisement of any kind seems quite superfluous'. And the paper adds : 'Mrs. Gill is a highly intelligent and practical instructress with an affection for her duty that is perfectly charming; being a certificated teacher of many years standing, she is completely conversant with her duties, and engages in them with a determination and a devotion which cannot be surpassed'. Although no Minutes or other documents apart from a prospectus are extant we have an account of a visit to the school which took place in 1860 and which was published in the May number of the Cornhill Magazine ofthat year, which I quote it in full : LITTLE SCHOLARS 'In another old house, standing in a deserted old square near the City, there is a school which interested me as much as any of those I have come across?a school for little Jewish boys and girls. 'We find a tranquil roomy old house with light windows, looking out into the quiet square, with its ancient garden; a carved staircase; a little hall paved with black and white mosaic, whence two doors lead respectively to the Boys' and Girls' Schools. Presently, a little girl unlocks one of these doors and runs before us into the schoolroom?a long well lighted room, full of other little girls busy at their desks ; little Hebrew maidens with oriental faces, who look up at us as we come in. 'This is always rather an alarming moment; but Dr. .. . who knows the children, comes kindly to our help, and begins to tell us about the school. "It is an experiment," he says, "and one which has answered admirably well". Any children are admitted. Christians as well as Jews, and none came without paying something every week, 2d. or 3d. as they can afford, for many of them belong to the very poorest of the Jewish community. They receive a very high class of education (when I presently see what they are doing, and hear the questions they can answer, I begin to feel a very great deal of respect for these little bits of girls in pinafores, and for the people who are experimenting with them). "But the chief aim of the school is to teach them to help themselves, and to inculcate an honest self-dependence and independence." And indeed, as I look on them, I cannot but be struck with a certain air of respectability and uprightness among these little creatures, as they sit there, so self possessed, keen-eyed, well-mannered. 1 Jewish Chronicle, 6 July I860, p. 6,</page><page sequence="9">THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL 123 ' "Could you give them a parsing lesson ?" I asked the school-mistress, who shakes her head and says it is their day for arithmetic and she may not interrupt the order of their studies, but that they may answer any questions put to them. Quite little things, with their hair in curls, can tell you about tons and cwts. and how many horses it would take to draw a ton, if so many little girls went to one horse, and if a horse were added, or a horse taken away, or two-eighths of the little girls, or three-quarters of a horse, or one-sixth of a ton?until the room begins to spin breathlessly round and round, and I am left ever so far behind. 4 "Is avoirdupois an English word ?" Up goes a little hand with fingers working eagerly, and a pretty little creature, with long black hair and a necklace, cries out that it is French and means "have weight". 'Then the Doctor asks about early English history, and the little hands go up and they know all about it : and so they do about civilisation and Picts and Scots and dynasties and the early law-givers and colonization and reformation. ' "Who was Martin Luther ? Why did he leave the Catholic Church ? What are indul? gences ?" ' "You gave the Pope lots of money, and sir, he gave you dispensations." This from our little portress. ' "There was a little shrimp of a thing, with wonderful long-slit flashing eyes, who could answer anything almost, and whom the other girls accordingly brought forward in triumph from a back row. c "Give me an instance of a free country?" asks the tired questioner. ' "England, sir!" cry the little girls in a shout. ' "And now for a country which is not free?" ' "America!" cry two little voices; and then she adds "Because there are slaves, sir". "And France," says a third, "And we have seen the Emperor in the picture-shops". 'As I listen to them, I cannot help wishing that many of our little Christians were taught to be so independent and self-respecting in their dealings with grown-ups who came to look at them. One would fancy that servility was a sacred institution, we cling to it so fondly. We seem to expect an absurd amount of respect from our inferiors ; we are ready to pay back just as much to those above us in station ; and hence, I think, notwithstanding all the kindness of heart, all the well-meant and well-spent exertion we see in the world, there is often too great an inequality between those who teach and those who would learn ; those who give and those whose harder part is to receive. 'We were quite sorry at last, when the Doctor made a little bow and said, "Good morning, young ladies", quite politely to his pupils. It was too late to stop and talk to the little boys, down below, but we went for a minute into an inner room out of the large boys' school-room and there we found half a dozen large boys with their hats on their heads, sitting on their benches, reading the Psalms in Hebrew; and so we stood for some minutes before we came away, listening to David's words spoken in David's tongue, and ringing rather sadly in the boys' touching childish voices.' The ladies of the Committee played a special part in the school, and its fund raising efforts. So we are informed in 1859 that an anonymous lady had started a subscription of 5 gns conditional upon 19 other ladies subscribing a like amount, and that 10 ladies had already expressed their willingness to join the said list.1 We get a picture of the scope of the teaching from the reports of the various prize givings. That of 18682 mentions also that the annual examination was conducted not by the teachers only without supervision, but that several ladies and gentlemen of the school committee attended the school throughout the week which preceded that of the 1 Jewish Chronicle, Vol. XVI, No. 223, p. 1. 2 Jewish Chronicle, No. 696, p. 7,</page><page sequence="10">124 THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL Passover and rigidly examined every pupil in the following subjects : (1) Hebrew reading and grammar, translation from Heidenheim's Tephillah and from the Torah ; Biblical history and religious instruction. (2) English reading and grammar. (3) Arithmetic. (4) Geography and English History. (5) Writing and (6) Object lessons. The school very soon felt its activities restricted by the hard and fast line of education prescribed by the Government and it therefore decided in 1872 to withdraw from Government inspection and by that to forego the Government grant of ?400 per annum. Its financial support continued to come from the anniversary festivals and from appeals to the public. The festival of 1872 was voted by the Jewish Chronicle to be one of the most pleasant if not the most pleasant of the year's list of festivals.1 It took place under the Chairmanship of the then Mr. Arthur Cohen, M.A., who in his speech surveyed not only the progress of the institution but also mentioned some of the things which impeded its progress. Among these were not only the Government Regulations, but also the fact that the school had originally been connected with the Reform Synagogue, which fact had imparted to it in the eyes of many a somewhat peculiar character and impeded its progress. That this was true we can ascertain from the records of the Villareal School (for which reference I am indebted to Mr. Peter Quinn). In July 1870 the Minutes recorded that two girls, Esther Marcia and Sarah Cohen, should go to the Red Lion Square School for three months as scholars in order that the mistress might judge their capabilities. Three days later a special meeting was held when the same ladies who attended the meeting the preceding Tuesday were present. Arrangements were made for with? drawing Esther Marcia and Sarah Cohen from the school in Red Lion Square as it belonged to the Reform Synagogue and Haham Artom expressed great indignation at its having been selected by the ladies. They, however, were not aware at the time of their decision to which Synagogue it belonged. But to return to Mr. Cohen; he added that all grounds for this objection had utterly vanished. Only 6 of the present scholars belonged to the Reform Synagogue which some might think a misfortune; 20 were Christians and all must agree in regarding their presence as fortunate, while the rest belonged to various synagogues other than the one he had mentioned. To show that the sectarian objection had entirely disappeared he said that he had been instructed by Sir Moses Montefiore for the first time to present a donation, and it was a handsome one, in his name. Sir Moses did in fact donate 10 gns. that year to the school and two years later we learn that the Baroness Meyer de Rothschild and her daughter had made a donation of ?250 in memory of the late Baron Meyer Amschel de Rothschild. In 1877 the Rev. Dr. Hermann Adler paid a visit to the school and examined both departments. His report stated that he was much pleased with everything he had seen and heard ; so also said the Rev. A. L. Green after a visit to the school. JEWISH MIDDLE CLASS SCHOOL The 1870's saw considerable changes in the character of the school. In 1873 it was found that the building was too small for its needs and a special appeal for ?1500 was launched to the community. That year too, saw the retirement of the head master, Mr. Brooke and the appointment for the first time of a Jewish head master, Mr. David 1 Jewish Chronicle, No. 166, p. 132,</page><page sequence="11">THE WEST METROPOLITAN SCHOOL JEWISH 125 Isaacs, B.A., C.T. Mr. Isaacs was educated and trained at the Jews' Free School and particular stress was laid on the fact that he was an orthodox gentleman. The school had always been somewhat outside the range of a charity institution in the stricter meaning of the word. It deliberately tried to cater for the middle class while the other schools like the Borough and Stepney Schools were intended for the artisan or so-called working classes. In the age of the welfare state it is interesting to read what was said more than 80 years ago about the middle classes. 'This class deserves more sympathy than it receives. With the poor, who cannot or will not pay for the education of their children, there is almost unlimited sympathy. To such an extent it is carried that from pure benevolence large classes of the poor have been pauperized (for there is a distinction between poverty and pauperization) and indeed almost demoralized, for they have been led to imagine that no portion whatever of the duty or cost of educating their children falls on them. The cost they have tranquilly relegated to others?and they do not always second the labours of the teachers by insisting on the support of their authority, on the regularity of attendance and on the performance of home lessons. Heaven forbid that we should write a word or think a thought unkind to the poor, but still we cannot help feeling that it is a duty on the part of the so-called better classes to endeavour to educate the parents as well as the children of our poorer classes and foster amongst Jewish Englishmen that spirit of independence and self-reliance which is one of the noblest characteristics of our Anglo-Saxon brethren. And we cannot avoid a feeling of sympathy with the struggling classes of man who labour to maintain an independent position 'to keep up appearances' on slender incomes, to rear their children in refinement, to train them for a higher social atmosphere than themselves, and to give them such instruction as would render their fives less hard and trying for their children than it was for them.1 Tout ca change ... In the following year it was therefore decided that the school should be converted into a middle class school and after calling itself for a short while the West Metropolitan Jewish School for Middle Class Pupils it ultimately changed its title in 1878 to the Jewish Middle Class School. In 1877 we also learn of a new venture which in later years became a characteristic feature of the school : an advertisement in the Jewish Chronicle2 stated that young ladies desirous of passing the Oxford or Cambridge Examination with the object of becoming teachers may now join and receive the advantage of a class forming for that purpose. Ladies desirous of pursuing a high course of study could enter classes for English Literature, Botany, Algebra, Euclid, Latin, French, German, Hebrew, vocal or instru? mental music, and Harmony. This move was the outcome of the deliberations of a Committee of which we read in the Jewish World of July 1876 and which was composed of Baron Henry de Worms, the Revs. Professor Marks and A. L. Green, and Messrs. Israel Davis, M.A., A. G. Henriques, B. Kisch, M.A. and I. Seligman, to confer with Miss Goldsmid with respect to a considerable sum which that lady had proposed to give as an addition to the establishment of a training school for Jewish teachers. There were, of course, external reasons too which turned the attention of the Committee to new fields. The boys' school had of late been in decline, and in spite of the energy and successful teaching of the masters, could not be made to rise above 40 1 Jewish Chronicle, No. 270, p. 138. 2 Jewish Chronicle, No. 419, p. 14.</page><page sequence="12">126 THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL pupils or thereabouts and on 6 August 1880 it had to close down altogether. The approaching end of the lease of the building in Red Lion Square made it necessary to look for new premises. Serious consideration was given to a move to North London, particularly in view of the contemplated closing of Jews' College School and of the desire of the North London Synagogue to build a school on the site adjoining the synagogue. This was most enthusiastically received by some residents of Islington who wrote in approving terms to the press, but notifing came of it1. Ultimately in 1881 the school moved to Cheney Street, Bedford Square, where it was able to obtain suitable premises through the magnificent donation of Miss Isabel Goldsmid, the daughter of F. D. Goldsmid, the Founder of the school, who had volunteered to defray the entire cost of erecting a commodious school building for girls and we are informed that the cost exceeded ?8000. The confidence which Miss Goldsmid put in the scholastic progress was amply justified for we read in 1882 that &lt;cup to the present time there has been no failure either of student teachers or pupils presented at the College of Preceptors, Cambridge Local, Trinity College, and Cambridge Higher examinations for women".2 This year also saw a resumption of the evening lectures whose subjects were wide and varied and we would only mention the lecture of Mr. Raphael Meldola on Electricity and Electric Lighting, on which occasion Mr. Marcus M. Adler, M.A., was in the chair. JEWISH HIGH SCHOOL FOR GIRLS In other respects the removal of the school to Cheney Street, however, did not have the desired results, although the denominational impediment no longer existed and only the oldest inhabitants alive remembered the original connection with the West London Synagogue; the school now counted among its committee members the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Hermann Adler who presided over the prize giving in 1889, the Rev. Simeon Singer, the Rev. D. Fay and Mr. Herbert Bentwich, and others, and Dr. Gaster was a frequent lecturer at the school and even two members of the Christian faith had joined the committee as early as 1885. A further change took place in the character of the school when in 18833 the President, Sir Saul Samuel, K.C.M.G., pointed out that having regard to the high class of education given to the pupils it would be fit and proper that this important fact should be distinctly indicated in the name of the school, and he therefore suggested that the establishment should for the future be called the Jewish High Class School for Girls, which name it officially adopted. Although in 1885 the school was privileged in being visited by a member of the Royal Family, Princess Louise, what reports are available speak continuously of the falling off of numbers of pupils attending. No blame for this could be attached to the change in the direction of the school. In 1888 Mrs. Gill who had been with the school since its earliest days, laid down the burden on account of advancing years, and Miss Alice Levy, herself once a pupil at the West Metropolitan School and a pupil teacher who had been the head teacher at Mrs. Gill's side for so many years, succeeded to the position of head mistress and Miss Agnes Muller was promoted to the post of head teacher. All the reports which we have of these ladies and their work are in the most glowing of terms. But in spite of extensive advertising (at least one advertisement and at times two appeared week by week in the Jewish Chronicle as well as in the Jewish World, support for the school, as far as numbers 1 Jewish Chronicle, No. 537, p. 5. 2 Jewish Chronicle, No. 671, p. 11. 3 Jewish Chronicle, No. 746, p. 5.</page><page sequence="13">THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL 127 were concerned, was not forthcoming. Very little is heard about the work of the school in these last years, apart from extensive reports of the evening lectures for adults or an occasional bit of gossip in that gossip paper the Jewish Society of 1890 where the columnist describes in detail the dresses worn by Miss Flora Goldsmid, Miss Emma Goldsmid and the young Misses Goldsmid at the distribution of prizes. Finally in 1897 the inevitable end came. The school, equipped to accommodate 200 scholars, so we read in its obituary notice, had for the last years of its existence seldom exceeded a normal attend? ance of 80. The comparative want of success must be contributed to the broad fact that while Jews had in late years removed from the area of Gower Street to the West, South West and North West, High Schools for girls had sprung up in all parts of London and the Jewish middle classes had freely availed themselves of accommodation nearer home. 'It will be remembered,' so the article in the Jewish Chronicle1 continues, 'that Jews' College School had to be discontinued when Jews ceased to reside in the city. What was an educational necessity in 1845 is no longer in the altered circumstances of the community'. Still the step decided upon after the most patient deliberation must be a source of keen regret to those who had witnessed the excellent educational results achieved at Cheney Street, and at the closing prize giving of the school on Thursday 8 July 1897, the Chairman, Mr. F. D. Mocatta echoed the same sentiments2. The teaching staff, he said, has always been recognised as very superior, and the capabilities and devotion of Miss Alice Levy, the head mistress and Miss Muller, and the teaching staff generally, are worthy of all praise. 'Unfortunately, however, the residents of the neighbourhood never fully appreciated the high status of, and the great advantages conferred by, the school. The attendance which for the first half of its existence was little more than 50 pupils in the later half increased to an average of 80. But it was only during a few months that it rose to an average of 90 which was less than half the number for which the school was erected. Since it was established as a middle class high school, fees could not be collected as is usual for charitably started primary schools and the result was that every year there was a deficit of many hundreds of pounds which was made good by the munificence of the President, Miss Goldsmid, who, had there been the slightest hope of ultimate success, would have continued to do so still?so dearly is she attached to the school. The Committee, however, after trying every possible means to excite interest resolved that the time had come when the school should no longer carry on an artificial existence and they at length came to the conclusion that it must be closed.' A correspondent who signs himself'Nil Desperandum'3 suggests that the momentary loss of the school arises from the circumstances that Jewish families have not made the West Central their quarter for several years past. T feel confident,' so he writes, 'that a school carried on in the same excellent manner and centred between West Hampstead and Kilburn would readily find support. In fact it would be considered a boon by the inhabitants, for it would be difficult to find a school for girls where there exists such a sound moral tone unnecessary now (owing to the existence of religion classes) for girls to learn their religion in school. But I consider that no better means can be found to instil true Jewish feeling into our daughters than the daily intercourse with teachers and 1 30 April 1897, p. 15. 2 Jewish Chronicle, 16 July 1897, p. 15. 8 Jewish Chronicle, 23 July 1897, p. 8.</page><page sequence="14">THE WEST METROPOLITAN JEWISH SCHOOL pupils of their own faith. I trust that further consideration may yet be given to the final closing of the only Jewish High School for Girls'. That, however, was not to be and 'Nil Desperandum' had to despair. The final kindness of Miss Isabel Goldsmid who had for so long been connected with the object of this paper was published in 1911 in her will, by which she bestowed an annuity of ?100 to both Miss Alice Levy and Miss Agnes Muller.</page></plain_text>