Place and agency for education, particularly of children. The word “school” is not mentioned in the OT and only once in the NT where the reference is to a Greek school (Acts 19:9). Until the exile in Babylon (586 B.C.), the education of children was like the of all ancient peoples: it was centered in the home. The main concern of the Jewish people was for religious education in the home.
A new stage in Jewish education came about due to the catastrophe of the Babylonian exile when the upper classes of Judea were transported to Babylon. The exiles assembled on the Sabbath for prayer and worship. As time went by, buildings were erected where the people could meet. These little gatherings were the origin of the synagogue, which ultimately became the centered of Jewish religious life after the exile. In the synagogue the scribes taught the law to the people. Children were not taught in the synagogue until much later times. The father was responsible for transmitting what he had learned to his children.
The attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes to eradicate Judaism by force brought about the fierce nationalistic revolt of the Maccabees [Jewish patriots] in 168 B.C. the Jews who had remained faithful learned a lesson. They saw that they needed schools for the young as well as adult classes for their fathers. Simon ben Shetah, the leader of the Pharisees, founded schools for boys of 16 and 17 to promote the study of the Scriptures. A century later, as an inevitable consequence, private schools for younger children appeared. After the destruction of Herod’s temple by Titus in A.D. 70 and the disappearance of the Jewish state after the revolt of Bar-Kochab in A.D. 135, public instruction was instituted for all children.