Focus Questions

Does this photograph remind you of similar ones you might have been in?

Which part of the photograph do you notice most? What does it tell you about the children?

Why do you think this picture was taken? (Tip!  Look at the wording above and below the photograph)

Have you noticed...That the photograph is called ‘The Raw Material’? What do you think the photo taken a year later of the same students might be called? ‘The_________ Product’ Click to reveal answer

The other photograph is called ‘The Finished Product’ because the school was proud of the education it provided to the children and how they were able to develop the children’s’ British identity.

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JFS The Raw Material

JFS The Raw Material

This photograph was taken in 1908 at the Jews Free School

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The Object

Object name:  JFS The Raw Material
Date: 1908
Catalogue number:  E 1991.96
Material(s): Photograph
On display in the Jewish Museum? Yes

  • This photograph was taken of a class of Jewish boys during their first term at the Jews Free School.
  • Look closely at the caption at the bottom of the photograph.  These children come from countries including Russia and Romania therefore they did not speak English but they usually spoke Yiddish, a language that many Jewish people from Eastern Europe spoke.
  • Look at the photograph of the boys.  There are no girls in this class but by 1908 there were girls going to JFS.  The girls and boys were kept separate and learnt very different things.
  • Look at what the boys are wearing.  They are all dressed quite smartly even though the school was in one of the poorest parts of London and these children were probably very poor themselves.
Photograph of the class of boys at the end of the school year

Photograph of the class of boys at the end of the school year


The Story

JFS Then
When this photograph was taken the majority of the children attending the Jews Free School in Bell Lane Whitechapel were mostly new immigrants from Eastern Europe. The ‘Raw Material’ (the boys on arrival at the school) probably didn’t speak English at home preferring to speak Yiddish. JFS was very proud of developing their students’ English identity to ensure that they were then able to integrate well into the broader British community
JFS was founded in 1732 and opened its doors in Spitalfields in 1817.  JFS expanded as the Jewish population of East London grew. By 1900, it was known as the largest school in the Europe.
The school played a key role in anglicising the young immigrants of the East End.  It encouraged its pupils to identify with their new country, its traditions and history. Hebrew and religious studies were part of the curriculum, but speaking Yiddish was strongly discouraged. Children were not to forget that they were Jews, but they were now English Jews.

JFS is now a mixed comprehensive catering for 2000 pupils aged eleven to eighteen.  The current school was built in 2002 and is based in Kenton.

In the past JFS was set up to anglicise the immigrant community.   Now that the majority of British Jewish teenagers are 3rd or even 4th generation immigrants this is not a high priority.   The schools’ website states:

’At JFS we are committed to the development of students who achieve academic excellence; who have a strong sense of identity with Judaism and Israel; are thoughtful, tolerant, responsible and caring.’

JFS Alumni
JFS's alumni include the novelist Israel Zangwill,; Professor Selig Brodetsky, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and of the Hebrew University; Harry Sacher, philanthropist, close friend and supporter of Chaim Weitzmann, and director of Marks & Spencer.  Former students also fought for the British Army during the First and Second World Wars.

Digital Takeaway

Download this PDF about how to survey your class.