<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
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An Alliance school for Monastir

The Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion to a new history.

In 1894 Samuel Levy, editor of Salonika´s Sephardic Journal La Epoca newspaper, and a Mr. Matalon traveled to Monastir to report on the state of the Jewish schools there. Their reports marked the beginning of plans to found a French-Jewish Alliance Israélite Universelle school in the town.

A call for sacrifice

Levy and Matalon were not initially sympathetic to the Monastir community. For Levy, Monastir´s Talmud Torah school was a place where "the children vegetate in ignorance and filth."

Matalon could be equally hard. He saw the 148 children of the modern school struggle to learn in a dilapidated building. Yet at a meeting with community leaders he lectured to the Monastirlis in French, and was callous enough to preach sacrifice.

Help yourselves and the Alliance will help you, I told the young people on the school board who understood French. The Central Committee will not come to your aid except insofar as you have made all possible and imaginable sacrifices on your own behalf.

"Monastir interested me greatly"

Despite this antipathy, both men came to see some surprising truths about the Monastir Jews. By 1894, segments of the Monastirli community had been adopting Western education and culture for 30 years, and Levy and Matalon found much of the community open to modern education.

Levy wrote that the Monastirlis, far from being opposed to the secular education of the Alliance, "are absolutely disposed to avail themselves of its benefits."

Matalon found the Monastir rabbi "young, tolerant, and easy going" and familiar with French and Greek. Both also learned that the Jews attended a variety of non-Jewish schools, and that many Monastirlis spoke Turkish, Greek, and Bulgarian in addition to Judeo-Spanish.

Matalon closed his letter to the Alliance with a plea for Monastir.

On a final note, I want to let you know that the Community of Monastir interested me greatly both because of its spirit of tolerance and by its good will toward our school. The good you will do them will not be wasted, I hope; it is certainly the equal of those Communities which have long been familiar with your generosity. Our fellow Jews are not asking for free schooling, but it is only right that we come to their aid by giving them the means to better themselves little by little.


<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.

Last Century of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
by Mark Cohen

LIST PRICE: $34.95


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