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The articles in this issue have been divided upinto the following categories







The Third Session of the Congress:
Babylonian Jewry Research Students:

Was the year 1839 a turning point in Children’s Education in the Baghdad and Aden Jewish communities?

Similar and dissimilar aspects in Jewish Education in the Baghdad and Aden communities From Mid-19th Century to Mid-20th Century

Bracha Cohen-Josef

1839 was supposed to be a turning point in Aden and Iraq in general, and within their Jewish communities, in particular.
Aden was conquered on this year by Britain, which turned it into an international port, opened it to the world, and permitting the penetration of modern influences. With the British occupation the low-class rank (d’ems) of the Jews was abolished and the Jews became fully eligible citizens.
Throughout the Ottoman Empire and within it Iraq, the Ottoman rule continued via the Wallis. On this year - 1839 (and later on the years 1856 and 1876), the Ottoman rulers published the judicial, socio-economic and military reforms called the tanzimat. These were published, inter-alia, to prove to Europe the sincerity and good intentions of the Ottoman government. These reforms increased the equality between Muslims and non-Muslims and enabled non-Muslims (the milets) to be incorporated into the administrative and public system. The greatest achievement of the reform initiators was in the field of the Muslim and Jewish education. This period created, in the field of religious Jewish education and in the field of general Jewish education, different conditions, which enabled the continuation and further development of a religious Jewish education system, and the founding of a general Jewish education system.

How did the Jews of Iraq and Eden use these opportunities?
The Jews of Baghdad wisely took advantage of the reforms and started founding modern schools in the 1860s (in 1864 and practically since the 1830s, the Traditional Religious Education underwent extensive improvements, by founding a multi-level, extensive organizational structure in the form of “the public heder (room)” or “Midrash Talmud Torah”).
The Jews of Aden did not respond, for a very long period, to the “window of opportunity” opened to them with the British Occupation and kept running just a Traditional Education system till the first decade of the 20th century (1911).
This is a 50-year gap in the founding of a modern education system between the two communities. A similar gap (approximately 40 years) existed in the founding of a girls’ education system between the two communities. In the Baghdad community the girls began studying in organized schools in the 1890s (1893) while the Aden community girls began studying in the late 1920s (1928).
Several external and internal inhibiting factors in the Aden community, on the one hand, and external and internal accelerating factors in the Baghdad community, on the other hand, contributed to this situation.

Let’s start with external factors in the two communities: The British Rule of Aden did not feel it had a role encouraging education among the local population. Rather, it left this task to the initiative of private or religious factors. On the other hand, in the Baghdad community, most of the Ottoman rulers’ influence was on education. Under the advanced Walli Madhat Pasha rule of Baghdad (1869-1872) the Muslim education system in general, and the new modern AIU-run Jewish School in particular, expanded and grew stronger. The “Young Turks” revolution (1908) also promoted the development of the Muslim and Jewish school networks throughout Iraq.

We now continue with internal factors in the two communities: During the 19th century there existed within the leaders and most of the people in the Aden community traditional thought patterns that sought to preserve the current lifestyle. At the head of the community stood for decades a conservative and aggressive leadership, the family of Rabbi Menahem Moshe (Misa). The head of the family and of the community, president Benin, did not permit, either due to conservatism or due to fear of losing his firm stature, change in various areas, and particularly not in education. The president did not take note of the criticism against the degenerated traditional education – neither criticism coming from visitors nor criticism coming from some of the community members – that were on a low key. In consequence, the Jews of Aden remained with no modern education throughout the 19th century. On the all-powerful and wealthy president Benin says writer Mahalel from Aden in his book “Between Aden and Yemen”: “the president rules the Aden community unrestrained, his word like a King’s word and his leadership an army general’s leadership, he screams and shouts and overcomes his opponents”. Therefore it is clear that any proposal for change, and particularly in Education, brought by external factors such as various envoys visiting Aden, was thrown out - since “A tradition should be preserved and be sacred to the entire community”. Therefore it is not surprising that under these circumstances of total control no significant oppositional forces rose to challenge the authority of the Misa family. Faint criticism of the Educational system in the Jewish community of Aden, if spoken by internal Jewish factors, was low key and flatly rejected by the leadership. This factor joined another internal factor – the low tendency of the Aden community towards change and their reserved manners. And so adds writer Mahalel of his people “tied up in their traditions which isolate them in life. They refrain from change in their prayer, commerce and work”.

On the other hand, in the Baghdad community there were many voices calling for change in the Education domain, both among the community’s members and among its leaders. The words of traveler Wolf Shore in his essay “The Plays of Life” indicate the community members’ openness: “Another thing I found in the Jews of Baghdad: The tolerance because even if they grasp traditionalism with all their might, they do not persecute nor hate the man whose thoughts have risen higher then their thoughts”.
This community expressed openness and acceptance to opening a modern school, and the AIU was even asked to help run such a type of school. At the leadership of this community stood several rabbis possessing overwhelming influence shaping the spiritual

world of its sons. These saw the flaws in the traditional education, sought to improve the education state and even encouraged the studies at the AIU School. Important rabbis such as Rabbi Abdallah Someh (1813-1889) and Rabbi Joseph Haim (1835-1909), saw no contradiction between religious education and modern education, and did not perceive in this education a threat to their religious status or the rank of religion in the community.

As a result of these differences between the two communities, most of the Jewish public in the Aden community remained, despite the many opportunities opened to it, lacking in modern education, a fact that contributed to the non-promotion of Jews in the socioeconomic field; However the socioeconomic status of the Baghdad Jews was immensely improved due to their modern education and the study of European languages. This advanced education brought the integration of many of the Jews into public and administrative positions in the Ottoman Empire, and with the British Occupation turned them into an intermediary between the British rule and the Muslim population. As Wolf Shore says: “this school opened the eyes of many of the Jews to see and grasp the great benefit for every educated man who speaks the languages and sciences essential in our times, and therefore here they send their boys happily to listen in studies and learn a good lesson in the mentioned school […] because there exist already in Baghdad many young people who had knowledge in the language of France and in various sciences”.

The Jews of Iraq had the sense to understand that the way to untangle themselves from the traditional Jewish professions and improve their status, is by means of acquiring modern education, sciences, languages, professional training, while keeping the connection to Jewish tradition and culture.




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