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State of Jewish Education Today, Lamenting History - J.

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Some parts of the Jewish community hear constant news about the state of Jewish education in the country today. “grumble grumble, they all leave after the B’nai Mitzvah and it’s all the parents’ fault! “grumble grumble, we have to spend more money on day schools. Otherwise, you risk losing the next generation to assimilation!”grumble grumbleIf they do not learn to defend Shabbo, they will marry or, worse, become anti-Israel! ”

Nothing new under the sun.

Since the beginning of this paper, there has been no shortage of reporters, teachers, parents, community leaders (and no doubt others) bemoaning the imperfections and shortcomings of Jewish education across our nation and region. was.

“The Problem of Jewish Education in America,” read the simple, straight-forward headline of the July 1, 1927 issue, one of a 168-word article by the Director of Education of Temple Emanu-El, the publisher of this publication at the time. It was on top. A brief article provided some numerical analysis. Half a million or half a million people have no education in Judaism at all. ’ and then suddenly concluded with: In so many communities their Jewish education is sadly neglected. ”

A year later, Michael M. Zalchin of the Jewish Education Society wrote in the August 17, 1928 issue, “Jewish educational efforts cannot be allowed to remain in the chaotic and disorderly conditions we see today. ” writes. The big problem, he thought, was that Jewish education at that time had already begun to consolidate around the synagogue. Rather than leaving each congregation in charge of the religious education of its members’ children, he believed there should be a large communal religious school open to all. Bad luck for Zarchin. The congregational model continues to dominate nearly a century later.

During the Great Depression and World War II, the story of Jewish education slowed down in our archives. However, in the 1950s, with suburban synagogue life booming, various Jewish education groups constantly proclaimed “Jewish Education Week” or “Jewish Education Month” to send children to their religion. I was “calling my parents”. school.

An editorial of September 17, 1954 wrote in support of one such call: Let’s hope that the “Call to Jewish Parents” will respond and achieve the intended and constructive results. ”

Obviously, it wasn’t. It seems that these calls were ignored for years as similar pleas were filed year after year.

By the 1970s, full-blown panic and despair had set in regarding Jewish education. So, on April 30, 1971, about 40 college students broke into the offices of the San Francisco Jewish Welfare Federation (which changed its name to the Jewish Community Federation a few years later) to seek better support and funding for local Jewish education. I requested. The members called themselves the Jewish Educational Union. David Biale, then 22 years old and in his senior year at UC Berkeley, is a professor of Jewish history at UC Davis. said it was the “front organization” of Radical Jewish League.

A group of young Bay Area Jews who participated in a sit-in for Jewish education in 1972
A group of young Bay Area Jews who participated in a Jewish education sit-in in 1972 pretended to be “chalutzim” at UC Berkeley in the ’70s. Standing (left to right): Elaine Schluckman, David de Nora, Mercy Linkoff, David Lichtenstein, Ernie Druck, Jack Morgenstein,
Buddy Timberg, Judy Timberg, Saul Osachie. Sitting/kneeling (left to right): David Biale, Jane Rubin, Milli Gold, Bradley Burston, Ken Bob, and the Timberg family dog.

Biale was one of the activists who planned and carried out the disruptive yet peaceful event that lasted from 11:30 am Friday to 9:00 pm Saturday. The “Jewish Liberation Union” made headlines in the RJU’s newspaper, the Jewish Radical. Although the newspaper did not report on the sit-in at the time, the action attracted local television and media coverage. Among them was Rabbi Wolf Kerman, leader of the conservative movement. “He happened to be in town and had heard about our initiative…and wanted to celebrate the Sabbath with us,” recalled one of the activists. “He made it clear that there was a part of the so-called ‘Jewish organization’ that not only did not oppose our actions, but wholeheartedly endorsed and supported them.”

A few months later, in a letter to the editor of the November 12, 1971 issue, he criticized the federation for inadequate support for education. “There is no question that Jewish education in San Francisco and its suburbs is in a dire state,” declared the letter’s writer.

A year later, in an editorial of December 22, 1972, a senior American Jewish Commissioner wrote about what would happen to Jewish youth if misery continued: They are allowed to grow up without a solid Jewish education. Despite decades of constant talk about Jewish education, the editorial sadly but surely declares:

“Jewish Education Fails: American Jews Have No Clear Picture,” is the headline of an April 7, 1978 JTA article. In it, one scholar declared that “the current turmoil in Jewish education is unique in Jewish history” and that, like many Jews before him, things were I’m sure it’s much worse than

This problem continued rapidly in the 1980s. The November 8, 1985 headline read, “Experts Warn of Weaknesses in American Jewish Education.” His formula for solving the problem included specific and innovative bullet points such as “making the home more Jewish” and “providing regular and sustained Jewish education.” I was.

On the front page of the November 16, 1990 issue, the JTA headline read, “Two Years of Jewish Education Research Faces Review.” The reporter writes candidly about the study, which “has come to the conclusion that what everyone already knows is that the Jewish education system is in trouble and needs more funding.” (Of course, the research already cost $1 million.)

we could continue. Similar complaints are still heard throughout the Jewish world in recent years. Remember that next time you hear it. There is nothing new under the sun.