JUEDISCHE FREISCHULE (Ger.; "Jewish Free School"), private school for poor children, founded in Berlin in 1778 by Isaac Daniel *Itzig and David *Friedlaender, who were influenced by Moses Mendelssohn's ideas on education. Adjoining the school was a printing shop whose returns were to contribute to the maintenance of the school. The subjects taught comprised writing, arithmetic, accountancy, drawing, reading in German and French, and geography. Biblical Hebrew was taught only to a very limited extent, the greatest amount of time being given to commercial courses. In 1779 Friedlaender published a reader for his pupils – one of the first of its kind to be used in German Jewish schools – containing excerpts from German and Hebrew literature, the latter in German translations by Mendelssohn. Some Christians were included on the teaching staff. During the first few years there were about 80 pupils. After ten years, however, about 500 pupils had graduated from the school. Following the death of I.D. Itzig in 1806, Lazarus *Bendavid was appointed principal. He was prompted by ideological and practical considerations to accept Christian pupils, whose number increased, in the course of time, to one-third of the total. The Freischule thus became the first interdenominational school in Germany. Of the 80 pupils attending the school, in 1817, 40 were educated free of charge, and 16 were Christians. At the time of the reaction following the Napoleonic wars, the Prussian government forbade Christian children to attend Jewish schools; consequently, all non-Jewish pupils had to leave the school in 1819. In the same year the number of Jewish pupils decreased to 50 and by 1825 the school had to be closed.
In the 48 years of its existence the Freischule educated about 1,000 students, a majority of whom later took an active part in the Reform movement. The school, which had always advocated modern teaching methods, served as a model for similar schools such as the Samsonschule in *Wolfenbuettel and the Philanthropin in Frankfurt.
M. Eliav, Ha-Hinnukh ha-Yehudi be-Germanyah (1961), 71–79. add. bibliography: I. Lohmann, Ḥevrat Ḥinukh Ne'arim (2001).