Considerable controversy has been roused in Jewish quarters here over a report appearing in the Government organ, Reichspost, on a speech delivered at a meeting of the Jewish People’s Party of Austria by ex-Deputy Robert Stricker, leader of the party, on the recent action of the government in ordering segregation of Jewish pupils in separate Jewish classes.
“Speaking at a meeting of the Jewish People’s Party held at the Hotel Continental,” said the Reichspost, “the Zionist leader, Engineer Stricker, said that the Austrian government is reorganizing the educational system on religious-national lines. This tendency consistently leads to a separation of the pupils along religious and national lines.
“We national Jews,” he stated, “not only recognize the right of the German-Christian majority of the state to educate their children on religious-national lines but we, as citizens with equal rights, demand the same principle of education for our children.
“The parallel classes are not anti-Semitic,” he said, “but they are mistaken, insofar as merely dividing Jews and Christians in separate rooms does not guarantee the Jews religious-national education. We demand of the government that it should provide for the religious-national teaching of our youth as it does for the German-Christian youth. We demand of the government that establishment of a public State-aided Jewish school system, in which our children, under Jewish teachers, will be trained as loyal Jews and loyal Austrians. We demand Jewish schools!”
Ex-Deputy Stricker went on to criticize those Jews who have not learnt from the past, and are trying to stem the irresistible tide of the development, according to the Reichspost, and complained of the Jewish habit of protesting.
Herr Stricker informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the version appearing in the Reichspost was not altogether correct on this point. What he actually said in this connection, is as follows:
“Jewish protests very often fail in their effect if they are confined to the refusal to accept existing conditions, and put forward no positive proposals aimed at changing these conditions, particularly so in the case of the Jewish school and education system.
“We see that there is considerable agreement between the attitude of the Zionists and the orthodox Jews. Only the Zionists fail to realize that the parallel classes, which they, incomprehensibly, regard as a defamation of Jewish children, are not, indeed, the fulfilment of their demand, but a preparation for that fulfillment. Neither Rome nor Jerusalem were built in a day. If the inter-confessional school, which means the mixed confessional school, is prejudicial to all the religious communities, then it helps the confessional schools of each confession to obtain their right.”
BEYOND TREATY DEMANDS
Dr. Desider Friedmann, president of the Vienna Jewish community, informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Herr Stricker’s demand goes far beyond what is contemplated in the minorities clauses of the peace treaty. Article 68 of the peace treaty provides in respect of the public educational system that in those towns and districts in which there is a considerable number of people who speak another language, who live there as Austrian citizens, the Austrian government is to arrange for facilities which will guarantee that the children of these Austrian citizens should obtain their education in the schools in their own language. This provision applies to lingual minorities, such as the Czech minority in Vienna, and does not, therefore, apply to the Jews.
The second paragraph of Article 68 of the peace treaty requires that in towns and districts where there are a considerable number of Austrian citizens who belong to a minority by race, religion or language, the government is to assure to these minorities a proportionate part out of all contributions that are made for educational, religious or welfare purposes, out of State, municipal or other public budgets.
The demand of the National Jews, he said, was therefore always directed hitherto towards establishing an independent school system, in accordance with the wishes of the parents, and securing for it appropriate contributions from the public funds.
The incorporation of the Jewish school in the state educational system is neither demanded nor desired. The state which is built on the Christian-German state conception, does not, in the opinion of those who stand for a Jewish school, possess the qualification for establishing a Jewish school system under its own aegis, he said.
It is the Jewish minority that is exclusively required to satisfy this need of Jewish education, independently, and within its own sphere of activity. To give effect to Stricker’s proposal would mean that in addition to State-Christian schools, there would be State-Jewish schools, which would be equally subject to direction by state bodies in the Christian-German spirit, Dr. Friedmann said.
Dr. Max Lenk, the secretary-general of the Union of Austrian Jews, declared that on the basis of its experiences, and its estimate of the present general situation, the union continues to stand by its previous policy of resisting all efforts at segregation, whether they come from the Jewish or the non-Jewish side.
“The union will not succumb,” he said, “to the mentality created by the new race anti-Semitism, nor is it going to give itself up to the illusion that a national minority regime will in any way make the Jewish situation easier. We are convinced of the contrary. Realizing our responsibiity to the coming generation, the union regards it as its primary duty to pursue that policy which least prejudices the Jewish position. It stands, therefore, emphatically against the demand made by the Jewish nationals for a separation of Jewish pupils in national-religious schools maintained by the state, a demand which is contrary to the desire of the overwhelming majority of Jews rooted into the soil of Austria, and is also designed to destroy the unanimity of the declaration made by the Vienna Jewish community against the religious parallel classes in the public schools.”
Aaron Afia, who lived at Salonica, was an assistant to Daniel ben Perahyah in the translation from the Spanish into Hebrew of Abraham Zacuto’s Almanac.