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Annie Edith Landau

1873 – 1945

by Orit Navot

Hannah Judith (Annie Edith) Landau was born on March 20, 1873, in London, where her father, Marcus Israel (Mordecai, 1837–1913), worked as a clerk for the Jewish community. Annie’s mother, Chaja Kohn (b. Bavaria, Germany 1853–d. 1923), was his second wife. He had five children by his first marriage and during the forty years of his marriage to Chaja a further thirteen were born. Of these, Annie was the eldest. Her parents were of the opinion that girls should receive as fine an education as boys, but there was no sufficiently good school for religious girls in London. Thus, at the recommendation of her mother’s uncle, Moses Weisknopf, she was sent to the Orthodox Samson Raphael Hirsch School in Frankfurt am Main, where her teacher was Mendel Hirsch (1833–1900), the son of Samson Raphael (1808–1888). Returning to London, she studied at Greystoke College, a teacher training institution. After completing her studies there in 1892, she took up a teaching position at the Jews Free School, which she held until 1898. In 1899, at the recommendation of Claude Montefiore, a governor of the school who was also the chairman of the Anglo-Jewish Association, she was sent to Jerusalem to teach English and serve as assistant principal at the Association’s Evelina de Rothschild School for Girls. A year later she became its principal.

The arrival of Annie Landau in Erez Israel at the end of the nineteenth century, as an emissary of British Jewry, aroused high hopes among the local community, who looked forward to assistance in the area of education, in particular. Her long residence in Jerusalem contributed greatly to strengthening the intellectual content of Israel society, since she established new standards both in educational methods and in cultural and ethical content, while at the same time setting an example of polite and civilized behavior.

At the time of her arrival there was rivalry between the Alliance Israélite Universelle and the local, German and British organizations as to which of them would have prime influence on the cultural climate that was developing within the Jewish community in Erez Israel. In 1892, the Anglo-Jewish Association, which sought to influence education in Jerusalem, took over a girls’ school first established in 1854. In 1867, when Baron Lionel de Rothschild became its patron, it had been named after his daughter Evelina, who had died a year earlier. The baron continued to fund the school at the rate of £800 a year even after its overall management became the responsibility of the A.J.A., who appointed Miss Landau, as she was always referred to, to head it.

At the Evelina de Rothschild School Landau sought to provide poor girls with both a Jewish and a general education, from kindergarten through elementary school and through high school. Immediately upon taking up her position, she introduced English and Hebrew as languages of instruction, in place of French, and by 1901 the school was entirely bilingual. At first she encountered opposition from rabbinical authorities as well as from some of the parents; the Ashkenazi community boycotted families that sent their daughters to the school and denied them monetary allocations from the halukah. Physical education, for example, seemed to them a waste of time. Only the personal example she set of orthodoxy and a profound connection to Judaism finally broke down the barrier between her and the Old Yishuv, whose opposition lessened from year to year. The number of pupils at the school rose steadily, reaching five hundred and seventy-five in 1913; many candidates had to be rejected solely for lack of space.

The school curriculum included all the subjects the pupils would eventually need to know when they graduated: Torah and domestic science, languages, sewing and classical literature, singing, dancing and art. Pupils successfully passed the British school-leaving examinations. Those that studied in the Commercial Stream became expert in shorthand, typing, accounting and bookkeeping. Much sought after by employers, they later became the backbone of the administration in Mandatory government offices and at the Hebrew University. The school also operated a sewing center which provided those who worked there with an income. Over half of the pupils received a free meal every day.

The school she headed became known as “Miss Landau’s” and its pupils were referred to as “Miss Landau’s girls.” They admired her and were proud of being her pupils, while she, for her part, saw in them a bright future for education and civil service in the country.

Miss Landau was also intent on inculcating the social graces: she insisted on clear and proper diction and the acquisition of skills such as presiding over tea parties—for which the weekly ones at her own home were famous. Among the dignitaries who visited the school were Sir Herbert Samuel (1870–1963), the High Commissioner; Rabbi Isaac Halevy Herzog, then Chief Rabbi of Ireland (1888–1959); the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Dr. Joseph Hertz (1872–1946) and his wife; and Lord Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer (1867–1932), Samuel’s successor as High Commissioner.

Landau’s excellent relations with the Ottoman authorities led to the school’s exemption from taxes or customs duty. As a member of the Red Cross during World War I, she collaborated with Dr. Moshe Wallach (1866–1957), the head of the Sha’arei Zedek Hospital, in organizing a hospital for victims of cholera in a mission building in the Kerem Avraham quarter, and helped run the institution.

In addition, she invested effort in easing the measures imposed by Jemal Pasha but in 1915 she was exiled as a British citizen to Alexandria, where she opened a school for the daughters of the émigrés. In February 1918 a special permit from General Edmund Allenby enabled her to return to Jerusalem. Her friend Sir Eli Kadouri provided her with a huge sum of money to purchase ten tons of food and clothing for the families of her pupils, who were suffering from starvation.

As a member of Jerusalem’s educated elite, Landau had a considerable influence on the city’s cultural and social life. Her home was a focal point of social life in the city and she hosted numerous lavish parties and receptions, such as one for Sir Ronald Storrs on his arrival in Jerusalem. Her guests included Zionist leaders such as Menahem Ussishkin, authors such as S. Y. Agnon, Yehuda Ya’ari and Yizhak Shenhar, doctors and lawyers, such as Dr. Aryeh Feigenbaum, Dr. Naphtali Weitz and Advocate Shalom Horowitz. As an Orthodox Jew of British origin she was able to establish contacts not only with the Mandatory officials but also with Jewish dignitaries and the Mufti of Jerusalem. Herself profoundly charitable, she was successful in eliciting charity from others.

She was also close to Agudat Israel circles because of her own orthodoxy. This rare combination of broad education, culture, religious observance and the unusual link between Samson Raphael Hirsch and Claude Montefiore, was a very helpful one in the socially divided climate of Jerusalem at the time. Landau was on friendly terms with Rabbi Hayyim Sonnenfeld and Dr. Moshe Wallach, on the one hand, but also had deep respect for Zionism. According to Sir Ronald Storrs (1881–1955), she was more Jewish than Zionist and scrupulous in her observance of the mitzvot. Independent and courageous, she was a model of a woman’s ability to advance her own interests and those of the institutions with which she was involved.

Landau served as head of the Jewish Girl Scouts and was a member of numerous bodies, which included the Society for Social Welfare, the Union of Kindergarten Teachers, the Government Council for Higher Education and the Erez Israel branch of the International Council of Jewish Women. She was also the AJA’s representative in Jerusalem.

In 1904 Landau was appointed an M.B.E. and on the occasion of the silver jubilee of King George V in 1935 she was awarded a silver medal for her fruitful work in education. On her sixtieth birthday her pupils mounted an impressive celebration that included a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a concert of orchestral and choral music, ballet and folk dances.

Annie Landau never retired. She died on January 23, 1945 and was buried on the Mount of Olives. Still remembered with great affection and admiration by those of her former pupils who have survived, she has become part of the “legend of Jerusalem.”

Bibliography

Hyamson, Albert Montefiore. The British Consulate in Jerusalem in Relation to the Jews of Palestine: 1833–1914. London: 1941; Sacks, Oliver. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. New York: 2001; Storr, Ronald. Orientations. London: 1939.

How to cite this page

Navot, Orit. "Annie Edith Landau." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 27, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/landau-annie-edith>.

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