By Jeffrey Haus

Historians have more often than not characterised nineteenth-century French Jewry as principally wanting to assimilate, or, a minimum of, passively accommodating to assimilation, with simply the main conventional Jews rejecting the trimmings of French tradition. during the lens of Jewish fundamental and rabbinical schooling, writer Jeffrey Haus exhibits that even built-in French Jews sought to set limits on assimilation and struggled to maintain a feeling of Jewish specialty in France. demanding situations of Equality argues that Jewish leaders couched their perspectives in phrases that the govt. may comprehend and settle for, portraying a Judaism in step with the target of cultural and political unification of the French kingdom. while, their academic actions asserted the life of distinctively Jewish cultural house.

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Additional resources for Challenges of Equality: Judaism, State, and Education in Nineteenth-Century France

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With the passage of the Guizot school law in 1833, the French government called for a stronger, more uniform local commitment to primary education. The new law, however, did not necessarily shower benefits upon Jewish schools. Local authorities continued to control educational funding decisions, yet remained reluctant to support separate schools for a small, politically weak segment of the population. In this context, the demands of utility and equality collided: the Jews deserved equal treatment under the law, but only insofar as that equality proved useful.

65 Existing French public schools did not provide adequate religious instruction to Jewish children. The regeneration of Jews through moral education therefore required specifically Jewish institutions. Acceptance of Judaism’s specific educational mission had generated significant local financial support in Metz, which was admittedly among the more prosperous Jewish communities in France. Metz’s Jews had supplied much of the funding, assisted by the local chapter of the non-sectarian Société pour l’Encouragement de l’Instruction Primaire.

Several of the communal school’s Jewish students, they noted, had won academic prizes and had even received municipal aid toward their expenses at the école supérieure. ”34 The council’s understanding of utility thus trumped Jewish claims for fairness. Indeed, for the Sarrebourg council, the most equitable course of action was also the most sensible and efficient. The fairness argument rang hollow elsewhere within the local administration. The Comité Communal d’Instruction Primaire of Sarrebourg, which supervised primary education in the town, also rejected the Jewish petition.

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