WHERE AND WHAT HAVE JEWISH GIRLS OF VILNIUS STUDIED IN THE XIX CENTURY?

 

The most important distinction between Jewish girls’ and boys’ education — girls’ education has been more informal. According to well-established images of the distribution of gender, for women it was enough to read in the Yiddish language. The most popular text to read was the Bible with commentary. Women should have been able to read the books of prayers in Yiddish, which had to be said on Friday evening, lighting a candle. In traditional Jewish community, high literacy rate of women has been achieved without formal institutions and structures. Big changes have started in Jewish community in the nineteenth century.

Affluent people from the Jewish community were in search of grooms for their daughters, they gave priority to young people who have acquired a modern, secular education, that knew Polish and Russian languages, with academic degrees. Secular school graduates girls were allowed to do a career outside the Jewish community, escaping the zone of stability. Such incentives have encouraged more and more Jews to acquire a modern, secular education. Some girls had the opportunity to acquire secular education by their parents hiring teachers. Such an education is called “household” (домашнее воспитание).

Proper education were opening more opportunities for the girl to marry a wealthy man, even raise parents’ reputation. Over time, education was needed to acquire a profession. He was educated in public schools have gained the girls were able to pursue an independent professional activity — to become a teacher, dentist, pharmacist assistants, midwives. Girls that acquired education in public schools could pursue an independent professional activity — to become a teacher, dentist, pharmacist assistants, midwives. The first school, where girls studied secular objects was built in Vilnius. In 1831 Shevel Perel (Шевель Перель) has established the first secular school for Jews in the Russian Empire. The school was in Vilnius, 374 possession (Vokiečių Street 26), in the Miller house where the cultural and recreational life of the city was. The school set up a separate boys and girls sections. In 1850 the school was reorganized into three classes of school for  girls. This lasted until 1867. The other secular school of two classes was founded in Vilnius by the teacher Lev Germayze (Лев Гермайзе) in 1841. In 1850 only girls were taught in this school. There were 45 of them. Teachers Aaron Gitels (Aрон Гиттельс) and Shreyber Abraham (Абрам Шрейбер) set up a school of two classes in Vilnius. In 1851 there were 30 girls studying there.  

However, the most popular were the Sevel Perel pension for girls (closed educational institution. 794 Jewish girls have completed the pension in 1831—1849. Sevel Perel (1800—1867) was a teacher at the Vilnius State boys school, he gathered together the most qualified teaching staff, was teaching girls as well. Girls 'education he made as „family” business. Perel’s daughter Flora was teaching there as well, granddaughter and niece Rosa Gitlia, escaping from Kuibyshev’s, from physical abuse from her husband. The education in that school lasted for three years. Girls were taught Yiddish, German and Russian languages, arithmetic, religion, geography, history and drawing. Here's how the school curriculum looked like in 1853.

Training Plan in Shevel Perel girls private pension in 1853

Courses taught Lessons per week during the school year
  First academic year Second academic year Third academic year Fourth academic year
Religion - 2 2 2
Russian language - 4 4 4
Geography - 3 3 3
History - - 2 2
Arithmetic 1 2 2 2
Yiddish language 2 2 2 2
German language 2 4 4 4
Penmanship 2 2 2 2
Drawing - 2 2 2

 

When completing studies the girls had an opportunity to take an exam for gaining home teachers qualification. However, they could continue their educational activities only in Jewish families or Jewish maintained schools.

In the nineteenth century, in fourth—sixth decades, the secular subjects by different faiths girls were studied separately. It was known from the 1856 request from Kaunas Jewish community to allow their daughters to study in Mary Siavcillo (Мария Сявцилло) private pension for girls. The Ministry of People’s Education have decided that Jewish girls were able to study there only in separate rooms and separately from the Christian girls. The education lasted for four years and pupil's retention costed 40 roubles a year. In 1857 Panevežys Jewish community have also asked for permission to set up a boarding school where girls could learn secular things. However, permission was not granted.

In 1858—1860, a new turn in Jews secular education system began to emerge when the People’s Ministry of Education began to consider the issue of secondary schools for girls throughout the Russian empire and establishing opportunities to study for the nobility and the townspeople girls together.

The regulations of public high schools for girls were preparing for two years by the People’s Ministry of Education. The Initiative of establishment was taken by the agency of Empress Maria, and in 1858 19 of April, the first school for girls in the Russian Empire was established. This fact was immediately appreciated by the Vilnius general governor Vladimir Nazimov, who applied for high educational institution for women near the Empress Maria agency asking to send regulations governing the training processes in gymnasiums. The first gymnasiums for girls were partly funded by the government and the main welfare burden thrust upon noblemen and citizens. Vilnius general governor Vladimir Nazimov proposed setting up schools for girls in Vilnius, Kaunas and Grodno. However, the local nobility communities refused to support the idea of the government.

In the middle of 1858 in Sejmik of Vilnius, Kaunas and Grodno it was agreed to collect funds for the daughters of the nobility for studying in private pensions. Meanwhile, the Jewish community was more and more estimating the importance of secular education for women, enthusiastically supported the high school establishment plans. In 1860, there were 350 girls studying in the three pensions of Vilnius, while in the other nine pensions — 360 girls. In 1859 Vilnius Jewish community have decided to give 1,000 roubles retention for the gymnasium, Kaunas Jewish community — 500 roubles, Raseiniai — 30 roubles, Jurbarkas — 10 roubles. But when Nazimov realised the negative perceptions of Jewish ethno-religious groups, he refused to take Jewish girls to gymnasium, the first schools for girls were left without funding. The tricky financial situation was solved by Empress Maria agency and in 1860 on 1 January, the first public gymnasiums for girls were established in Vilnius, Kaunas and Grodno. By the way, the local Jews community appealed against the decision of government to the Empress Maria agency and obtained the permission for their daughters to be educated in public gymnasiums.

After the 1863—1864 revolt, the government of Russian empire started using the national education policy. First of all, the government sought to remove the influence on the girls’ education by the persons of Polish origin. The private pensions owned by the following persons were closed, Polish language was removed from the high school curriculum, Polish descent people could not teach in the public sector. There weren't any sustainable opinions on transformation and its utilization in nation’s politics on Jewish girls secular education system. Imperial bureaucracy considered Jewish people as most alien ethno-cultural group, and the government was least concerned about Jewish education. On the other hand, local officials did not have the common provisions that the State Jewish girls' education could help in changing the representatives of values of this group. In the opinion of Vilnius Regional Education Inspector from Kaunas province, Nicholas Novikov, Jews, that completed public gymnasiums and perfectly learned Russian language, still will not become Russian (еврейки, окончившие государственные гимназии и выучившие русский язык, все равно не станут русскими). Meanwhile, Alexander Tumanov, manager of the General Governor Office in Vilnius, that saw a rapidly growing number of Jews in public schools, was convinced that educated Jews are bringing new living arrangements, customs to their families and in this way are internally reproving their tribe (воспитанные в гимназиях еврейки внесут всемьи новый порядок, новые обычаи и так изнутри будет преобразовано еврейское племя).

In the absence of a clear position, so local officials had not taken the initiative to reorganize its Jewish girls education system. For example, this happened because of teaching religion in public schools for Jewish girls. The number of students in those schools was growing rapidly, so parents and rabbis were approaching to the education agency asking to teach Jewish religion, not only Christian. These Vilnius, Kaunas, Grodno, Minsk and Mogilev gymnasiums parents’ requests have been addressed to Empress Maria agencies, which in 1869 took decision that allowed high schools to teach Jewish religion, but only in Russian language. However, this solution was not acceptable to the Jewish community, so the community refused to cover the Jewish religion lessons’ cost with the fees collected from parents.

At a time when the Empress Maria agency was investigating the question of Jewish religion teaching in the schools for girls, Vilnius Education Districts officials were considering whether the Jews can have separate girls' schools. The Jewish community led to raise this issue. It should be remembered that after the uprising in 1863­1864, Jews had a right to have a private girls’ pensions, even if the Russian language was taught. However, in these schools religion was taught in German, not Russian language. Therefore Jews, unlike Polish or Lithuanian origin teachers, were able to regulate girls’ education process in the pension by creating an proper educational atmosphere. This privilege was taken by the Jewish community. In 1868—1869 the community made a number of requests for the establishment of the private pensions in Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevežys and Siauliai. It was then that Vilnius Educational Distric’s (VED) management began separately discuss the issue of Jewish girls’ school. In 1869 25 January, the VED patron Pompey Batyushkov (Помпей Батюшков) requested for the teachers of regional gymnasiums to answer the question — whether it is necessary and useful to allow the establishment of a separate private Jewish girls’ schools, although Jewish girls can attend public schools.

Thus, in this regard, school administrators and teachers, as well as local officials, did not have the same, strong and unambiguous provisions. The VED patron himself took an intermediate position: he allowed private Jewish girls' pensions (only primary school level) to set up in those areas where there were no opportunity to establish a Jewish primary school and girls shifts to general primary school. So in the nineteenth century, at the end of the sixties in the so-called North West Region the Jewish girls' educational system was finally formed.

Free primary education Jewish girls could get in the girls shifts near the Jewish State elementary schools (женские смены при народных еврейских училищах), to prepare for the gymnasium — private pensions, and to get secondary education in the public school for girls. The education in Jewish schools for girls were organized by new — in 1863 10 November programs, approved by Vilnius educational district's patron. In schools made of one, two, three or four classes Jewish girls studied religion, Russian, German and French languages, history, geography, calligraphy, drawing and painting. When finished, Jewish girls had to learn to speak, read and write perfectly in Russian, German and French, have book-keeping basics, know the basic ancient and medieval history events, to know the basic nature objects in Europe and Asia. The most important things were Russian, French and German languages. Learning arithmetic, history and geography curricula had minor attention. The school also taught needlework, singing and dancing.

In 1886 there were three private girls’ pensions. Since 1867 a pension of four classes had Wolf Kagan (Вульф Каган), and from 1877 a pension of three classes had Noah Funt (Ной Фунт), since 1885 a pension of two classes was established, maintained by Leo Slosberg (Лев Шлосберг). In 1897, the first general census of the population of the Russian Empire showed that the Jews education was quite high: there were 58.8 per cent of educated Jews in Vilnius, Jewish women — 39.5 per cent, correspondingly in Kaunas — 56.5 and 35.4 per cent, Panevežys — 51.3 and 36.7 per cent, Šiauliai — 43.7 per cent and 32.1 per cent. However, in the province of Vilnius only 0.5 percent Jews and 0.6 percent of Jewish women had higher than primary education, in Kaunas — 0.4 and 0.3 per cent.

However, the Jewish community saw the need to actively use the law that existed in the Russian Empire in 1873. According to which women that acquired secondary or higher education were able to reside to the stability area together with their husbands and children. This was probably the main reason why the North West Jewish community promoted girls' secular education. Eventually Jewish girls made one—third and sometimes — almost half of pupils in the gymnasiums. For example, in the state gymnasium of Empress Maria in 1874, the Jewish girls made 38.9 per cent of the total number of pupils, in 1883 — 39.9 per cent. In Kaunas Empress Mariastate girls gymnasium 56.9 and 58.8 percent.

It should be noted that in 1893 The Ministry of Education began to limit the number of Jew students studying at the public high schools. Therefore, the Ministry of Education departments in Vilnius Empress Maria State school for girls (Виленское мариинское высшее женское училище) a small number of Jews could get an education: In 1893 only 2.5 per cent of Jewish girls were studying here. While in the other Empress Maria girls gymnasium — 37.3 per cent of Jews, in Kaunas Empress Maria state girls gymnasium — 43.6 per cent, in Šiauliai — 47.9 per cent. The process of learning in state gymnasiums for girls were only partly comparable to boys gymnasiums. In the gymnasiums for girls there were not taught Latin and Greek, physics and cosmography. In addition, in girls’ gymnasiums there were less subjects provided weekly than in boys gymnasiums.

In boys’ gymnasiums, 104 lessons were given to French and German languages, history and geography during the year, in girls’ gymnasiums — 97. For natural sciences in boys’ gymnasiums 37 lessons were given, in girls’ — 33. In addition, only in 1906—1907 the school curriculums were aligned in the Ministry of Education and Empress Maria girls’ school departments. However, the difference between boys and girls secondary education continued to be different. Girls from Jewish gymnasiums actively participated in the events of year 1905. Especially active were girls from Siauliai gymnasiums, which took part in joint demonstrations and meetings of the city. The Ministry of Education even passed a resolution to close gymnasium. However, with the efforts of the local community, girls’ gymnasium in Siauliai was not closed. Jewish girls from Kaunas gymnasium have also actively expressed their position: they spoke out against the pogroms occurred and refused to participate in the mandatory dance classes.

At the same time, the pupils and their parents were actively providing requirements for the Vilnius Educational district — to allow for all students with different nationalities or confessions to learn in those gymnasiums. To teach Polish, Lithuanian and Yiddish languages, history of these nations, to allow for teachers with different nationalities teach there.

After 1905, Russian imperial government was forced to make concessions in the education policy. Polish and Lithuanian languages were introduced into the secondary school curriculum, they allowed to teach the Christian and Jewish religion. But most importantly, the Jewish people received the right to establish private gymnasiums and pro—gymnasiums for boys and girls. For Lithuanian and Polish origin people such rights were not given. Jewish community took the advantage of such possibility, were actively establishing private gymnasiums and pro-gymnasiums. Jewish girls could continue learning in public gymnasiums for girls where they often made 30—50 per cent of all pupils. For example, in the Kaunas Empress Maria gymnasium for girls, in 1907 there were 42.9 per cent of Jewish girls, in 1909 — 52.5 per cent, In 1912. — 47.3 per cent. The lower number of Jewish girls was in Vilnius Empress Maria gymnasium for girls, where in 1907 the Jewish girls made 21.5 per cent of all the pupils, in 1909 — 13.5 per cent, in 1912. — 10.4 per cent.

As in Vilnius there were two public schools for girls, where Jewish girls could learn, so the number of pupils were shared. In addition, the biggest number of Jewish girls gymnasiums and pro-gymnasiums were in Vilnius. In 1905—1914 there was a private gymnasium for Jewish girls with the state gymnasium’s rights (at that time only one private gymnasium for the Jewish girls were in Grodno) and six private pro-gymnasiums. Meanwhile, Kaunas and Panevežys had only one pro-gymnasium. In Panevežys, the pro-gymnasium of four classes had Mina Rubinstein (Мина Рубинштейн), the student of Vilnius Empress Maria gymnasium for girls (completed in 1882). In 1907, a private pro-gymnasium for girls in Lida were established by Esfir Cypkina (Эсфирь Цыпкина), she graduated Vilnius Empress Maria girls gymnasium in 1891.