Swiss Scholar Upheld Jewish Orphans’ Rights

An unpublished letter regarding the education of Jewish children written in 1799 by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, famous Swiss pedagogue and founder of modern educational theory, has just come to light in a book on “Swiss Spiritual Traditions,” published in Zurich.

Condemning the tendency in Christian schools of that period to convert to Christianity Jewish children which came under the school’s influence, the letter outlines the great educator’s ideas on the education of Jewish orphans in his school, and is addressed to the supervising clergyman who had written to Pestalozzi requesting that the institution’s Jewish children be christened.

“I must disagree with you, my dear Heinrich,” writes Pestalozzi, “when you are so inconsiderate as to ask that I convert to Christianity these poor Jewish orphans. In this you are lacking insight. In matters of one’s belief neither compulsion nor force should be used. For centuries Christianity has been taught. Still, what contradictions there are when it comes to apply principles of Christianity to Jews! For, Christianity sinks low and loses its purity and greatness whenever it is face to face with Jew-hatred. The only good I desire to inculcate is true love of man, and if you want to help me you must rid yourself of that basest of all feelings—hatred of the Jew.”

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