The Society for the Spread Education among Jews and the new schools
The Jewish community of St. Petersburg limited its activity to the creation of traditional communal institutes. In 1863, the Petersburg-based Society for the Spread of Education among Jews (OPE) was established on the initiative of Evzel Gunzburg and A. Brodsky (the leader of the Odessa community). The objective of the Society was to create a new system of Jewish education which would combine secular European knowledge with traditional Jewish scholarship. The Society financed the publication of new textbooks for Jewish schools, and the Jewish studies on which these textbooks were based, and covered the cost of books and subscriptions to periodicals for the libraries of new Jewish schools. Subsequently, the society created a teacher training system for new Jewish schools.
The first such school for boys was opened in St. Petersburg in 1864 under the guidance of OPE member Lazar Berman. Even the most conservative and uneducated parts of the community understood the necessity for Russian language and secular education. Soon after the school for boys was opened, a group of retired Jewish soldiers in St. Petersburg petitioned Evzel Gunzburg for assistance in opening a similar school for girls. The soldiers were eager for their daughters to learn Russian, German and arithmetic in order to succeed in life. Shortly after that, two such schools for girls were opened. They were run by Berman's wife and daughter.
The petition of Gunzburg and Brodsky for establishment of OPE