The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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Ottoman Attitudes toward the Modernization of Jewish Education · 21

the military with physicians and surgeons. Even the new schools for boys
ages 10 to 15 were intended primarily to prepare boys for the military
schools or for service in the state bureaucracy. The second phase began in
the 1860s with the establishment of secular elementary schools intended
for the public at large, for both Muslims and non-Muslims. This was
codified in 1869 by the Maarif-i Umumiye Nizamnamesi (Regulation of
Public Education) intended to develop a general secular public education
system, in addition to the existing Muslim religious educational system,
the schools of the religious minorities, and the foreign schools. It was the
first time in Ottoman history that the state assumed responsibility for
public education, which until then was almost exclusively the preserve of
the religious establishment. Among other things, the 1869 regulation was
also intended to bring under closer government supervision the schools
of the non-Muslim communities, as well as the foreign schools that had
proliferated throughout the empire. But for lack of an effective supervi-
sory capacity, the last goal remained largely a dead letter.^16
During the first phase of Ottoman educational reform, although the
Ottoman government sought to recruit students from all religious com-
munities for their state schools, Muslim and Jewish students were par-
ticularly prized because of their perceived greater loyalty to the state.^17
The government was particularly interested in Jewish enrollments in the
Imperial Medical School (Tıbhane-i Âmire) established in 1827. We know
of at least one Jewish student who graduated from the school as early as

  1. To encourage the enrollment of Jews, in 1847 the sultan ordered that
    the school employ a rabbi to lead daily religious services; that a special
    kitchen be set up where Jewish dietary laws could be observed; and that
    Jewish students be allowed special leave every week to observe the Sab-
    bath at their homes. In 1847, 15 Jews attended the medical school together
    with some 300 Turks, 40 Greeks, and 29 Armenians. In the following year,
    there were 24 Jewish students, and their numbers continued to increase.
    The school’s director at that time was Dr. Sigmund Spitzer.^18
    Jewish students were also encouraged to enroll in the prestigious
    Imperial Lycée of Galatasaray when it was opened in 1868. Again, ar-
    rangements were made to meet the religious requirements of the Jewish
    students as well as those of Muslims and Christians. Thirty-four Jews
    were among the 341 students enrolled in the first year. The Jews thus
    constituted 10 percent of the school’s student population, which was ap-
    proximately twice their relative share of about 5 percent of the capital’s

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