Sofia (May. 24)
Under the new regime the Jews, while emancipating themselves, have been anxious to preserve their Jewish character intact. The organization of Bulgarian Jewry is exemplary. All communities, large or small, possess their synagogue and their school. Every community is administered by a communal council, composed of the synagogue and the school committees, which are elected by the body of ratepayers, under the direct control of an official of the Ministry of Justice.
The communal councils are elected for a period of three years, and they in turn elect the Central Consistory of the Bulgarian Jews, which represents Bulgarian Jewry in its relations with the authorities and with Jewish institutions abroad. An executive committee chosen from among its members is in permanent session at Sofia. The present head of the Consistory is Colonel A. Tadjer (retired list), who has the confidence of the Government circles and is held in high esteem by the entire Jewish population.
Working side by side with the Consistory, there is the Department of Education, which, presided over by a member of the Executive of the Consistory, concerns itself with all that has to do with the management of the Jewish schools in Bulgaria.
There are at present 40 schools, 10 of which are kindergartens, 23 primary and 7 advanced primary schools, so-called pro-grammar schools. The Department of Education employs an inspector, who visits all the Jewish schools in Bulgaria. A uniform curriculum has been drawn up for all these schools, a thing unknown in the schools of any other community in the East.
Formerly, Hebrew school books were ordered abroad, but recently an attempt has been made to have books printed here for the use of the schools, under the supervision of the Department of Education. A little book on Jewish History is in the course of preparation. Dr. S. Marcus, professor at the Sofia High School, has been entrusted with its composition.
A stubborn campaign has been carried on here, with a view to the adoption of Hebrew as the medium of instruction. The communities of Sofia, Philippopolis and Tatar-Pazardjik have adopted it, but the others have declined to follow suit. Still, Hebrew occupies an important place in instruction, due chiefly to the teachers of Palestine. As the engagement of foreign teachers proved too costly, the Consistory established a special course of pedagogy for training native teachers of Hebrew, and about twenty young teachers have been trained, but with limited acquirements.
Generally speaking, the instruction given at the Bulgarian schools is very sound, and the Jewish schools follow (Continued on Page 4)
strictly the program of the Government schools. After passing through the Communal schools, the Jewish children are admitted to the Bulgarian grammar schools. The Jewish schools teach only Hebrew and Bulgarian-no foreign language, and it is perhaps for that reason that many Jewish families send their children to foreign or ecclesiastically governed schools. A great deal of attention is paid in the Jewish Communal schools to the teaching of the Hebrew language and of Jewish History, but religious instruction is neglected, and the new generation is taught in a spirit which has little sympathy for tradition.
The upkeep of the Jewish schools in Bulgaria costs nearly 7 millions levas a year (more than Â£10,000).
In the matter of religion proper, the Jewish communities in Bulgaria are divided into three main districts, each administered by a religious tribunal (Beth Din). The seats of these tribunals are at Sofia, Roustchouk and Philippopolis. It is the duty of the head of each tribunal, the Av-Beth-Din, to visit regularly the communities of his district.
Six or seven years ago, the Sofia community, wishing to have at its head a fully-qualified Rabbi, sent at its own expense to the Rabbinical Seminary at Breslau a young man who had studied at the Law School, but had no knowledge of Jewish subjects and had not given any time to studying the Bible and the Talmud. After concluding his studies at the Seminary, he was appointed Rabbi to the Sofia Community. Soon after, he decided to introduce certain radical reforms into the marriage customs, and this led to a very embittered controversy in the press. The entire Rabbinical body stood out against the reforms, and the journal “El Judio” started a vigorous campaign against the young Rabbi.
In addition to the three religious tribunals, there is in Bulgaria a kind of religious court of appeal, composed of the members of the three tribunals, meeting at Sofia at fixed intervals and on certain special occasions.
There is a preacher permanently attached to the Consistory, which sends him out on preaching tour in all the Bulgarian communities. The present incumbent is Dr. Semah Rabbiner, a fine orator, who has held his office for the past ten years.
Judeo-Spanish, which was the dominant language among the Jews when the Bulgarian principality was first formed, has been steadily losing ground; the rising generation understands and speaks it a little, but it is no longer reads it. The masses speak a Judeo-Spanish patois which might with greater accuracy be termed Judeo-Bulgarian.