Hebrew word for Jewish elementary school where boys, ages four to bar mitzvah, learned the basics of Judaism.

In most communities, a single melamed conducted classes at his house for all pupils at the same time in the same room. The poorest of the poor did not pay tuition.

As a rule, a melamed’s job came with built-in poverty. To supplement his paltry community-paid wages, he had to have another source of income, usually private tutoring or some peddling. Most of his students, in turn, combined study with work to help their parents.

Tradition demanded mandatory enrollment, so no man in a Jewish community remained illiterate in Hebrew. Yiddish was spoken at home, and the local language, or languages, if needed, came through interaction with the local non-Jewish population.

Also spelled Kheder.

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