Annie Landau’s memory to be honored next week in a Jerusalem conference.
Yad Ben Zvi’s Institute of Research on the Land of Israel will be holding an international conference on June 9-10 marking the 160th Anniversary of the Evelina de Rothschild School. The conference will be co-sponsored by the The Melton Centre for Jewish Education of The Hebrew University, The Tel Aviv University and The Jewish National Fund.
At the beginning of the conference next Monday, Yad Ben Tzvi will open an exhibit on the life of one of the Rothschild school’s most renowned teachers, Annie Landau. The exhibit will last all summer.
Annie Landau (1873 – 1945) began her career in education at the Westminster Jews’ Free School in London. There she taught Eastern European immigrants the skills they needed to secure employment and to integrate into their new environment. The school was located in a new building, designed to provide adequate heat in winter and fresh air in summer. Children arrived ready to learn—clean, neat, and orderly.
Mrs. Landau left London for Israel in 1899. There she went to work teaching English at the famous Evelina de Rothschild School in Jerusalem.
When she began there were no blackboards and an insufficient number of desks and chairs for the pupils. She was deeply disappointed by the poor management of the school and shocked by the hopelessness and poverty of the pupils and their families. One year later, the 27-year-old Landau was appointed headmistress of the school
She aspired to instill the girls of Jerusalem with new values to propel them to self-improvement and contribute to the well being of their families, their city and the Jewish people.
Landau possessed both the skills and convictions needed to realize her dream. She came to Jerusalem furnished with the latest teaching methods, understood the critical importance of building an “esprit de corps” among her teachers, and recognized the need to build alliances with both parents as well as local and foreign supporters of the school.
There Landau developed a unique management style which did not tolerate insubordination, but was based on a deep love for her pupils. She believed that by working as a team with her teachers and supporters, including the graduates of the school, she could modernize it, the city, and the Jewish homeland.
Landau worked tirelessly at her task for 45 years, while combating malaria, cholera, smallpox, superstition, violent nationalism, and the devastation of two world wars. In the late 1930s she welcomed refugee girls who knew neither Hebrew nor English and gave them the love and resources that they needed to succeed. Through it all she built bridges to all the communities in Jerusalem, using her talent as a gracious hostess in order to bring people together.
This is why she was affectionately known as the Queen of Jerusalem.
After her death in 1945 Sir Herbert Samuel, first High Commissioner of Jerusalem, wrote: “In a community much troubled by divisions—racial, religious, political—she made her house a meeting-place for all…As an educationist she won a great reputation especially for her success in developing in her pupils those qualities of character without which the acquirement of knowledge is of little avail.”
Evelina de Rothschild’s father assumed the sponsorship for the first school for girls in Jerusalem in 1854 and renamed it for his late daughter. Located in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, today the Evelina de Rothschild School is a Girls Religious Public Elementary and High School. Today the school is still considered one of Jerusalem’s most prestigious girls’ academies and it draws students from all over the city.
Yad Ben Zvi, also known as the Ben-Zvi Institute, is a research institute and publishing house located in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood named for Israeli president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It was established to continue the Zionist, educational and cultural activities of Israel’s second president and is housed in his home and offices.