Until the 19th century many of the Corfiot Jewish families did not have the means to provide proper education for their children. At most, they were offered some religious education. By 1906 two community schools for girls and boys were in operation, the expenses for general instruction being covered by the government and those for Hebrew by the community, the rabbi himself conducting the advanced class in this subject. At that time so many families were enrolling their children that the education inspector had to intervene and ask them “to moderate their enthusiasm”. The children of the well-to-do class attended the public high school and some private schools.
According to the testimony of Nata Gattegno-Osmo, in the 1930s the 5th Primary School, housed in the Talmud Torah building, provided Jewish elementary education, with both Greek and Hebrew used as a language of instruction. Most of Corfu’s Jewish children were its pupils. On Sundays, when the Christian teachers had the day off, classes were conducted in Hebrew only.
Subjects included Greek language and writing, Hebrew language and writing in the Rashi script as well as grammar. Halacha (religion) was also taught, together with piyyutim (short liturgical poems, mainly in the Greek Corfiot dialect), psalms and the perassot of the week. Modern Hebrew, poetry and theatre were also taught.
Jewish children were loved by their Christian teachers. When the few survivors from the Nazi concentration camps returned to Corfu, the teachers were waiting to meet their former pupils in the port.
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