Alliance school for Monastir
Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion
to a new history.
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.
call for sacrifice
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
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
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.
interested me greatly"
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.
wrote that the Monastirlis, far from being opposed to
the secular education of the Alliance, "are absolutely
disposed to avail themselves of its benefits."
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.
closed his letter to the Alliance with a plea for Monastir.
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.