How to Teach Mosaic Religion in Public Schools? The Dilemmas Facing Galician Jews in the Period of Autonomy (1867–1918)


Source: Journal of Jewish Education, 86:4, 375-399 


This article investigates the genesis of a new model of religious education in the history of Jews using as an example Jews in Galicia during its autonomous period (1867–1918). At that time, it became necessary to organize instruction in Mosaic religion in public schools. No relevant experience had been previously acquired, and the vast majority of Galician Jews sent their children to cheders, where the curriculum was dominated by religious education that spanned several years and was conducted every day.

There were relevant questions on how to fit the very rich curriculum of Jewish religion into only two hours a week of religion classes in public schools, the person(s) who would organize the timetable and curriculum for this new subject, and who would teach Jewish children their religion. Moreover, it had to be decided how the instruction should be organized; there were even more important issues to consider,namely those of textbooks for the new subject and of the role of Hebrew in the religion lessons. All of these problems are discussed in this article.

The multifaceted and complex process of shaping instruction in Jewish religion in public schools against the background of sociocultural changes in Galicia in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century is presented. The description of this process was based on hitherto unknown printed sources and archive records.


Updated: Feb. 18, 2021