Jewish education in Timișoara certainly began with the establishment of the first families in the city in the seventeenth century, by establishing kindergartens (heder) and religious schools (ieşivot), even if we have no written evidence of their existence. In the 18th century, educational institutions are well organized, but retain a religious character.
In 1917, on the initiative of Dr. Alexander Marmorek and with the support of the Hatikva Society, the first Jewish kindergarten was established, in which Hebrew was taught as a secular language. He was a bacteriologist, who was sent to Timișoara as a military doctor. Motivated by the Zionist ideal, Marmorek was committed to creating an education that would prepare students for secular careers. In 1918, the first Israeli primary school was founded in the Josephine district under the leadership of Leopold Fleischer, later the second Israeli primary school was opened in the Fabric district, where, from 1927, Zoltán Székely (1883-1946) was principal.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the danger of complete assimilation, through which identity characteristics are annihilated, but also the repeated outbursts of anti-Semitism arouse in many Jews from Timișoara the desire to found higher schools with a secular education, supplemented by Hebrew and religion.
On November 20, 1918, the communities in the city elected a curator who submitted an application for approval for the creation of an Israeli high school. The president was the lawyer Dr. Adolf Vértes, the leader of the Citadel community.
On November 4, 1919, on the basis of only an oral authorization, the Israelite Confessional High School began its activity for 650 pupils, 401 boys and 249 girls, of whom 70 were non-Jewish children, with a co-education system and the Hungarian language of instruction. The enthusiasm is huge, the atmosphere being pioneering. There are no suitable premises, there is a lack of furniture, teaching materials and much more. Classes are distributed in spaces located in buildings located in different neighborhoods of Timișoara, for example, in rooms in Lloyd's Palace, in the festive hall of the Citadel Community, in the building of the Polytechnic Institute, in rooms provided by other schools, which, benevolently, also gives up blackboards and benches.
The school curriculum is the state one, with 2-3 hours of religion and the history of the Jews in addition. On January 2, 1920, is issued the authorization no. 23527-1919 by the Resort of Cults and Instruction within the Directing Council for Transylvania, Banat and the Hungarian Lands, Cluj. "Pursuant to the provisions of law XXX of 1883, the decisions of the Grand National Assembly of December 1, 1918 in Alba Iulia, presenting on the occasion of my visit to Timisoara on September 28, 1919 the deputy of the Israelite Religious Communities in Timisoara, I took note of the establishment Israeli denominational high school in addition to the following conditions…”.
Among the conditions, the most difficult was the obligation to adopt Romanian as the language of instruction, because the vast majority of teachers and students did not master it. The approach of high school management was pragmatic. In 1923, the Romanian language became the language of compulsory teaching and co-education was abandoned. The high school comprises three schools: the Boys' Theoretical High School, the Higher School of Commerce (often called "Commercial High School") and the Girls' Gymnasium.
In 1923, an own building was built, built from own funds, from collections and donations, Mihai Eminescu Boulevard. The architect is Gideon Neubauer, and the architect Jakab Klein supervises the works. In 1928, another floor was added to the building, where the Commercial High School would operate, and the Boys' High School and the Girls' Gymnasium were installed on the ground floor. In the same year, due to the influx of students from the surrounding localities, the boys' boarding school for 60 students was built.
High schools in the years 1940-1944
On August 29, 1940, the decree of the Gigurtu government limited the access of Jewish students to secondary schools and universities to 6%, and in state elementary schools Jewish students were to be received only within the places available after enrolling Christian students. Jews are excluded from vocational education. The decree law of October 11, 1940, excluded all Jewish teachers and students from state and private schools. Courses continue, but schools are no longer allowed to issue state-recognized diplomas. The high school building is requisitioned, as is the boarding school. In 1942, the building became the headquarters of the Timișoara Police Quaestors.
The end of Jewish education in Timișoara
After August 23, 1944, anti-Jewish legislative measures are repealed and high schools regain their right to issue diplomas. Special exam sessions are organized for Jewish students who were unable to take exams between 1940-1944 (Voitec Law).
The excellent academic level of the graduates of the institution explains the fact that many of them have become personalities in different professions, working, creating and being useful wherever they have settled. Scientists, researchers, university professors in various disciplines, writers, poets, journalists, doctors, engineers, accountants, they have proven the assimilation of vast knowledge, an impeccable moral attitude and the habit of cohabitation in multicultural societies.
The high schools ceased their activity in 1948 as a result of the education reform, through which the private and confessional schools were abolished. Jewish education continued until 1958 in the form of a state school with Yiddish as the language of instruction.
The tenderness and gratitude of former students found in their stories about the Israelite High School far outweigh the nostalgia of graduates of other schools. It is not difficult to understand. In a world that had gone mad, in a system in which humanistic values had collapsed, high schools were an oasis of culture and moral integrity for Jewish youth. By proposing an example of dignity and trust in man and humanity, transmitting authentic values throughout their existence, Israeli high schools have become an important chapter in the historiography of the city and, especially, of the Jews of Timișoara.
Short presentation based on the study “Israelite High Schools in Timișoara. Between memory and history”, by Getta Neumann (see LINK)