Around the Jewish World Danish Jewish School Celebrates 200th Anniversary in Copenhagen

A Danish Jewish school celebrated its bicentennial with a royal touch. Queen Margrethe II and the Danish ministers of education and integration took part Sept. 1 in the Caroline School’s 200th anniversary celebration.

The school was established in 1805 by a Jewish newspaperman, L. Nathansen, who was a friend of King Frederik VI. Nathansen felt that children from poor Jewish families in Denmark should study the Danish language and math and acquire vocational training to become good burghers and rise above their parents’ poverty and misery.

Donating some of the funds himself, Nathansen established his school in central Copenhagen, with the king’s permission.

Education at the school was free of charge. Copenhagen’s well-off Jews could afford to send their children to other schools, but for Jewish boys from poor families, what was known at the time as the Mosaisk Drengeskole — or the Mosaic Boys School — was the only place to learn the skills needed to succeed in Danish society. Two years later, a school was established for poor Jewish girls.

The girls school also was established with the help of the crown, and Frederik VI permitted the institution to be named after his daughter, Princess Caroline. The princess visited the Caroline School and donated a painting of herself that was exhibited at the recent bicentennial celebration.

The two schools continued to teach Jewish children from poor families even after Denmark passed a royal decree in 1814 granting full rights and citizenship to Jews born in the country.

The two schools merged by the turn of the 19th century, becoming The Caroline School for Boys and Girls of the Mosaic Faith.

The Danish Jewish community prospered during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the school started charging fees for tuition, a nominal amount that even new Jewish immigrants to Denmark could afford to pay. By the end of the 1930s, most Jewish children in Copenhagen attended the school.

The school continued to educate Jewish children after the Nazi occupation of Denmark, in 1940. When the Germans tried to arrest Danish Jews teaching at the school in October 1943, the school was forced to close its doors for one and a half years.

The school reopened in August 1945, following liberation. With the establishment of the State of Israel three years later, the curriculum changed. Danish language and culture continued to be taught, but classes on Zionism and Jewish learning were introduced as well — and graduates have a high rate of aliyah to Israel.

Currently, some 220 pupils attend the school’s nine grades.

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