Diversity – an opportunity or a failure? Jewish schools in the Second Republic of Poland

Różnorodność - szansa czy porażka? Szkoły żydowskie w II Rzeczypospolitej - wykład
Opis zdjęcia: W środku zdjęcia kobieta w okularach, która mówi do publiczności siedzącej przed nią, fot. D. Matloch / Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich

What was the idea of a „Jewish national school” after 1918? Did the schooling system aim to prepare young Jews for a life in Poland or Palestine, or perhaps groom them to be “citizens of the world”? A lecture on diversity within the Jewish education system in interwar Poland to be delivered by Anna Szyba, an expert on culture and translator.

9 May (Thursday), 6PM, free admission

The school system in the Second Republic of Poland allowed Jewish children to attend both public and private schools with Polish, Hebrew or Yiddish as the language of instruction. Following the rebirth of the independent Polish state, there were hundreds of new private schools founded by Jews. The vision of a school system for this particular minority was far from homogenous, due to both lack of a satisfactory offer for Jewish children within the public education system, and a vibrant political life.

There was a consensus with regard to the necessity of establishing a “Jewish national school,” but there were as many ideas of what it should be like as there were Jews in Poland. What was the native language of Jewish children? What was their tradition and culture? Were schools supposed to prepare them to be citizens of Poland, Palestine, or perhaps “citizens of the world”? What was the role of religion within such a school? These are merely some of the questions that social and political activists had to face while striving to establish a modern Jewish school.

A diversity within the Jewish education system in the interwar Poland offers us an opportunity to ponder over the role of schooling in bolstering or rejecting one’s identity and culture. It also allows us to seek answers to the question posed by Jewish politicians in the 1930s: was the lack of one homogenous system of Jewish schools an opportunity for or a failure of the Jewish minority in Poland?

Anna Szyba is an expert on culture, translator from Yiddish, coach at the Forum of Dialogue Between the Nations, and a doctoral candidate at the Freien Universität Berlin. Her research involves the analysis of the impact of “new pedagogy” on educational methods employed at the schools within the Central Jewish School Organization (TSISHO) in the interwar period.


Lecture will be delivered in Polish.

The event accompanies the exhibition In King Matt’s Poland. The 100th Anniversary of Regaining Independence.