Alliance Schools in Iraq
The Alliance Israelite Universelle (Kol Yisrael Haverim), is a Paris-based international Jewish organization founded in 1860 to promote the idea of Jewish self-defense and self-sufficiency through education and professional development. The motto of the organization is the Jewish Rabbinic injunction: “All Jews bear responsibility for one another”. Its first Alliance elementary school for boys that opened in Baghdad toward the end of 1864, did not pass totally without opposition. The religious hierarchy opposed the move bitterly, and the traditional teachers of Torah in the various Istadhs, partly no doubt, out of fear for the sources of their livelihood, called the school teachers “heretics".
The school for boys was reopened in 1872 and was latter known as the “Albert
Sassoon” (*). The language of instruction was French and the curriculum included biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish and English, history, geography, arithmetic, physics and chemistry.
In 1893, the first Alliance elementary school for girls was opened in Baghdad, known as Laura Kadoorie, in a building donated by a former Baghdad Alliance graduate, Sir Eliezer Kadoorie (1867-1944), a philanthropist, living in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
By 1913, the Alliance opened schools in other Jewish centers in Iraq. It was only after the British occupation of Iraq in 1917, that the number of the languages taught at Jewish schools was reduced to four (Arabic, Hebrew, French and English), as there was no need for Turkish.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish communities of Baghdad started building their own modern schools for both boys and girls, and the role of Alliance school became less crucial in the education of Iraqi Jewish children. most of them attended these schools founded and administered by the local Jewish community. In addition to these schools, Jewish boys and girls enrolled in government schools, either
because of their proximity to the place of residence, or because they charged no fee.
(*) Sir Albert Sassoon (1818-1896) born in Baghdad and died at Brighton, England, was a British-Indian philanthropist and merchant. He erected in Baghdad the school of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, presenting to the Jewish community free of all encumbrances.