by Jason Lever
Posted on Sun, 01 Dec 2013 17:02:57 GMT
A JFS boy
Most Jewish children had to be accommodated in schools run by the local school boards or by Christian denominations, often in a hostile climate (ref: Brook; Osborne). Yet, Solomon was among approximately 6,000 Jewish pupils educated in six Jewish schools, in his case the Jews’ Free School (JFS). This was before JFS followed its Jewish families out of the East End to north-west London, first to Camden and later to Kingsbury.
Solomon’s schooling probably ended at 14, though with English not the main language at home, he may have taken advantage of the Russo-Jewish Committee’s free adult classes in English. These were described by the Daily Chronicle in 1908 as ‘ghetto evening schools, the schools where the adult Russian and German Jews… clutch at their last hope of knowledge’ (ref: Black G).
What is certain is that he was essentially self-taught through his teens and twenties while he took up the family trade of cabinet-making. This probably included the “University of the Ghetto”, as the reading room of the Whitechapel Public Library and Free Art Gallery (1892) was known, because of the way Jewish working people spent time there educating themselves.
The Library even employed Yiddish speaking assistants in the early 1900s (ref: Nurse), though during the decade before its closure in 2005, its shelves ‘groaned with titles in Bengali, Urdu, Gujarati and Somali’ (ref: Hall), displacing the preponderance of the Yiddish volumes of Solomon’s time.
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