The Second World War and Jewish Education in America: The Fall and Rise of Orthodoxy

Download 0.71 Mb.
Date conversion15.02.2016
Size0.71 Mb.
1   ...   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12

One view frequently enunciated is that Day Schools will change communities, that large numbers of American Jews will become observant of halacha through their child's exposure to Torah Judaism from the ages of five to twelve years old. This is naive, unfounded, and simply a pipe dream. It demonstrates a condescending attitude towards other forces within the religious segment of the Jewish Establishment and ignores the sociological and psychological reasons for the present lack of mass orthodoxy in Judaism and indeed in all Western religions.
. . . In short,, there are two major handicaps faced by day school educators: the children leave the school too soon; and even while they are in school, community and parental control of the curriculum make the dosage of Yiddishkeit weaker than would be necessary to offset changes. 29
Parents, represented by a school's chairman of the board or president, and Judaic teachers, represented by the principal or rosh yeshivah, are often locked in a struggle over school policy. More often than not, the laymen win because they control the instruments of power. There is therefore the great irony that whilst the Second World War spurred on the growth of day schools, it also thereby exacerbated a broader struggle between the secular lay leadership- and those Jewish educators whose primary roots were in the yeshivah world. It was a consistent, and even logical, reflection of the long-term historical struggle between haskalah and halachah--secular Enlightenment versus traditional Judaism.
The dissonance between different types of schools within the broader configuration of Orthodox education was another direct result of the traditional yeshivah's growth after the Second World War. Rabbi Meir Belsky, Rosh Yeshivah of the Yeshiva of the South, Memphis, Tenn., has stated that "a growing hostility between the day school and the mesivta high school is discernable; reminiscent of the early hostility between.the day school and the community, with the same language being used." The mesivtas or high school divisions of traditional yeshivahs, were seen by the day schools as too religious (frum), intensive, isolated, isolating and elitist, with the insinuation that "the mesivta gives the day school a bad image!", writes Rabbi Belsky in "The Day Schools in the U.S.: Another View" (1977). He outlines "two images of, and visions for, the yeshiva high school . . . that . . . are incompatible and irreconcilable. The claim to espouse both, speak for both, represent both, is one of those unhappy illusions that Jews have a propensity for." 30 Hence the polarization of two broad groups of schools: those more "modern", uncomfortable with a "yeshivah" image; and those more traditional yeshivahs embarrassed by having to be classified together with other "day schools".
The traditional yeshivahs themselves were also victims of unique dissonant configurations of education. William Helmreich has classified the quarter million strong American "Orthodox community" as:

1. The Ultra Orthodox;

2. The Modern Orthodox;

3. The Strictly Orthodox.

Amongst the "Ultra Orthodox" he places the Hasidic communities, such as Lubavitch, Satmar and other Hasidic groups of Polish and Hungarian origin. "They do not as a rule attend secular college and most are engaged in trades or business. Their social interaction with outsiders is minimal." On the other end of this communal "continuum" are the "Modern Orthodox" who "tend to send their children to coed, ideologically liberal yeshivas at both the elementary and high school levels, and attend synagogues which have a more modern and formal service." As a rule they prefer to send their children to secular college after high school. The third group, which Helmreich arbitrarily labels as "Strictly Orthodox", falls somewhere between the Ultra Orthodox and the Modern Orthodox....... It is from this group that the advanced yeshivas..... draw most of their students, faculty, and administrators. 31
As Helmreich stresses, since there is a "continuum" between all three groups, ("A highly complex system of norms exists within these sub communities that establishes the category to which an individual is assigned by others, and criteria for making that decision vary greatly from individual to individual. A good many persons have been reared with involvement in more than one community"); and since it is also true that the children of the "Strictly Orthodox" are sent primarily to "more Orthodox yeshivas, usually all-boys or all-girls schools" 32, the diverse backgrounds, often of one family, create situations of potential dissonance within the "Strictly Orthodox" educational configuration.
In the chapter "Preparing for Life Outside of the Yeshiva" in Helmreich's book, we see the clash, or dissonance, between college attendance, and the primacy of religious study. Various solutions arose to solve this dissonance. Some yeshivahs allowed their students to attend college in the evenings. After the Second World War a large, and very vocal, group of yeshivahs arose that banned outright any college attendance by its students. At the forefront of this group stood Rabbi Aharon Kotler and his Lakewood Yeshivah with all its "branches". These yeshivahs were against college "because it detracts from involvement in talmudic study. The yeshiva believes that true Torah study requires total immersion, and that anything extraneous will dilute the quality of such study." 33
However, other yeshivahs have adopted a different solution to the inherent dissonance between college studies and Torah learning. Yeshivahs such as Torah Vodaath, Chaim Berlin, Ner Isarel, Chofetz Chaim, and at one point even the Mirrer Yeshivah, allowed their students to enroll at colleges concurrently. The basic rationale was that "college can be justified on the grounds that it will help the student to become financially self-supporting." As Helmreich accurately illustrates:
. . . The yeshivas draw upon numerous sources in the Bible and Talmud which view secular and pre-professional study as permissible only when necessary for one's livelihood. There is nonetheless, considerable variation in emphasis and approach to the issue among the different rosh yeshivas. Thus, Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum of the Mirrer Yeshiva stated unequivocally, "The whole idea of college is terrible", while Rabbi Yaakov Ruderman took a more moderate position, saying "College gives a person parnoseh (a livelihood)." 34
Traditional yeshivahs, day schools, Orthodox Jews of every ilk, and any Jewish family in America concerned or involved with Jewish education of any sort--all had to face the inescapable reality of dissonant configurations of education. It was the Second World War that fanned the flames of Jewish education in America. Day schools, yeshivahs, and communities flourished, and a powerful communal debate commenced about how to educate and what to teach. The freedom of America allowed each group or school to achieve its own "consonant" and "complementary" modus vivendi. The broader questions remained unresolved.
The Influence and Contribution of Orthodox Education
There has been a crisis in education--both amongst Jews and society at large. Time magazine dedicated its June 16, 1980 cover story to the "multifaceted crisis of America's public schools". Noting that violence keeps making headlines, test scores keep dropping, a fifth of all Americans are functionally illiterate, and teachers are blamed for much of the trouble, the dean of Stanford University's School of Education is quoted as saying: "For the first time, it is conceivable to envision the dismantling of universal, public, compulsory education as it has been pioneered in America." 35 For Jews, as for all Americans, this crisis has contributed to a reassessment of prevailing assumptions. It has also been an important factor in the growth of day schools and yeshivahs. The question thus arises: What has been the contribution and influence of the largely Orthodox-oriented institutions to the Jewish community and society at large?
The answer is that for the Jewish community in particular, Orthodox educational institutions have created an alternative to the prevailing state of confusion, and even chaos. For American society at large, there is first of all, the direct and indirect influence of those Jewish citizens who have been imbued with what they have been taught. Secondly, there is the example set forth by the institutions to anyone searching for answers to the predicament of public education. Robert Ulich, in his Preface to Three Thousand Years of Educational Wisdom (1954), has written that: "We are fumbling around in education because we know so little about the future and do not bother to know enough about the past." His book "is an attempt to help in the rebuilding of the lost contact between the surface and depth of civilization . . . it is an attempt at general education . . . placing ideas of general human significance behind the often chopped up and atomistic activities of life." 36
How does Ulich hope to achieve such an aim? By returning to the primary sources. He provides selections from the "Great Documents" of the past in the hope of connecting present civilization with its "wellsprings". One of his primary "wellsprings" is the Judaic tradition: "Judaism is not only in itself one of the greatest expressions of mankind's religious spirit; from it also two other great world religions have derived their faith, namely the Christian and the Moslem." Ulich observes that Judaism is that kind of religion in which the practical and the theoretical elements are so closely fused, that "instruction was not, as it often is with us, a matter of individual promotion, but a sacred duty." 37 He cites the Bible, the Babylonian Talmud, Maimonides, and Moses Hayyim Luzzatto (1707-1747), as providing clear-cut and profound educational advice. All of these sources remain primary curriculum content in yeshivahs and day schools.
This would mean a very clear-cut "return to the basics". Lawrence Cremin has noted that it was Thomas Jefferson who stated in 1816: "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day." However, Cremin notes that a century and a half later "we are less naive, perhaps, about the powers of popular enlightenment . . . . For popular education may not have guaranteed men freedom--Nazi Germany,after all, was one of the most literate nations in history." 38 Even though 'Cremin retains his personal faith in popular education, it is significant that he uses the case of Nazi Germany as an example of a highly literate nation that sank to the lowest level of barbarity. Education must create more than literacy and general enlightenment to achieve humanity. There is something more "fundamental" and "basic" that must be achieved: ethical and moral standards.
There has been some fresh talk in the academic community about the place and purpose of moral education in American education. Douglas Sloan has edited a work on Education and Values (1979) wherein the debate concerning moral education is widened by a variety of authors. In his Preface, Sloan writes that there is a need for the "university of the future" to take hold of "the connections between knowledge and human values". This applies to all elements of the American educational configuration. For Sloan, "It is not a question of values or no values, of morality or no morality, but of which values, which morality?" He holds forth Emerson's criterion by which every educational method and educational system should be judged for adequacy: "Not to accept degrading views". Sloan believes that there is "much in our education and in our sanctioned, orthodox views of the world--the various determinisms, environmentalisms, behaviorisms, scientisms--that degrade the human being, they seek to simplify the human problems, and thus, they reduce the human potential to something other and lower than itself." 39 What is needed as a remedy is a greater attention to the connection between knowledge and values. Clearly, there remains much that Jewish education can contribute.
Sloan subscribes to Jacques Ellul's notion that the central problem of Western civilization is "the betrayal of reason by rationalism". Reason has been "truncated" and "reduced" into narrow scientific and technological boundaries, divorced from religion, ethics, and metaphysical beliefs. There is a need for a "thorough transformation of our present conceptions of knowledge and knowing", because there is an "intellectual, moral, and spiritual vacuum" that is allowing "black-magic educators" to fill the present emptiness. Sloan cites the pathetic example of the "tragedy of the People's Temple in Guyana", where hundreds of people followed a false savior to their doom. 40 How much more so is there a need for a greater linkage between moral and general education in the wake of the Second World War!
Indeed, as Sloan reports in "The Teaching of Ethics in the American Undergraduate Curriculum, 1876-1976": "World War II helped touch off a renewed surge of interest in the movement" of "general education". In other words, "general education" as the formation of "ethical discernment and capacity for action must extend throughout all education and all of life." However, the launching of Sputnik in 1957 renewed the march of scientific and technological interests. Thus, natural science, one of the branches of knowledge, was reinforced in its general acceptance during this century "as the one and only valid mode of knowledge". 41
Russell Kirk, writing in the Modern Age (Winter, 1978) on "The Necessity of Dogmas in Schooling", is more specific than Sloan. Kirk defines "dogma" as "a settled opinion: a principle, maxim, or tenet firmly established . . . received an authority--as opposed to one based on personal experience." He says that "dogma" is derived from a Greek root meaning "that which seems good". Kirk admits that "nowadays no word seems to frighten schoolteachers more than this word 'dogma'. 'We're not propagandists!' a representative teacher of the social sciences may exclaim indignantly, on hearing the suggestion that they ought to try to impart to their pupils some notions of moral worth and social obligation." Teachers hold that their responsibility is to "present the facts". As Kirk wryly observes:
Children must make up their own minds upon questions of order in the soul and order in the commonwealth. Would you prefer to be the burglar, or the burgled, Johnny? Look at the "facts" and make up your mind; develop your own "value--preferences". One trouble with such a concept of "objectivity" is that, in the short run at least, it may seem distinctly more pleasant to burgle than to be burgled. 42
Kirk states that a dogma is not a "value--preference", but rather "a firm conviction, received on authority." He stresses that any society lives by dogmas because private or public action must be founded upon certainties. He maintains that dogmas "grow out of the ineluctable necessity for a core of common belief, in church, in state. Private judgement, unattached to dogmas, is insufficient for the moral order or the social order." This is the main problem with "teaching about values", it can be interpreted as a personal preference. A primary resource for time-honored dogmas is religion, as Kirk says he prefers "proverbs", such as "Thou shalt not commit adultery", "Thou shalt not bear false witness", "Thou shalt not steal", to the "clever paradoxes" of the men of science. Kirk is dismayed by the diminishing of religious schools "or by their virtual absorption into the climate of opinion (or of non-opinion) which prevails in the public schools". In short, Kirk concludes: "I subscribe, however unfashionably, to the dogma that two and two make four, and to the dogma that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. In our time, the fear of dogma is the ruin of wisdom." 43
Some Orthodox leaders have been very explicit about the need for greater moral education in public schools. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, has urged that "a simple, brief, non-denominational prayer" be introduced to be recited by children at the beginning of each day, "affirming their belief and trust in God". Rabbi Schneerson maintains that "sincere, honest words . . . . will go far in inspiring children to live up to the standards set by the Bible." In an address, which was largely directed at President Reagan following the attempt on his life, Rabbi Schneerson sought to stress that: "Education is not, as some suppose, the mere acquisition of skills and knowledge. More importantly, it is the inculcation of ethics and morals with which to equip children to be decent and productive citizens. An amoral, value-free education can lead to an egocentric, self-centered lifestyle, resulting in a dangerous indifference to one's obligations to society." 44 It is a great irony of history that a Hasidic Rebbe who was brought to America by the tides of the Second World War should urge Americans to pursue moral education.
Rabbi Schneerson maintains that the role of the Presidency, no matter who holds office, is "to strengthen the basis of our very existence. That basis is stated on every dollar bill printed in the U.S.A., and is the foundation upon which this country was born--'In God We Trust'." He openly states that "in the U.S. the state is responsible for the education of its citizens. It is thus the responsibility, and indeed privilege, of the public school system to instill in their charges the knowledge that God is not only the Creator of the World, but a Being in Whom we trust. It is this knowledge which is the foundation for a life of productivity and decency." 45 To what extent this message was heard by the President or members of government is difficult to know. What remains on the record is stated by D. Goldberg in The Rebbe: Changing the Tide of Education (1982):
Over the course of several years, representatives of the Rebbe in various cities had made close contact with high-placed members of State and Federal governments and legislatures. These Lubavitcher emissaries felt that the Rebbe's emphasis on education can be of great benefit for the wider public of the United States and, indeed, the world. As a result, the U.S. House of Representatives declared that year as a national "Year of Education". But the emissaries still felt that something more permanent and far-reaching could truly realize the enormous potential of this theme for the American people. The following year (1978), both the House of Representatives and Senate passed a resolution naming the Rebbe's birthday as "Education Day, U.S.A.", an annual national event. 46
The rise of Orthodoxy in post-war America, has therefore meant that American society at large was bound to receive the "feed back" from that growth. Though most Orthodox leaders have continued to urge the teaching of ethics from conventional sources, there have been some interesting alternatives proposed by primarily non-Orthodox circles. One method has been the advocation of "Holocaust Studies" in public schools. Henry Friedlander, in "Toward a Methodology of Teaching about the Holocaust" (1979), presents arguments on "why, how, and to whom the Holocaust ought to be taught". He proposes that one reason, "is to understand the present"; another, "is to understand man and his society". This requires a study of "the intellectual milieu that made genocide possible", as well as "the causes, the limitations, and the dynamics of anti-Semitism." Other approaches include investigations of: "how the impulse to persecute or exterminate is generated"; the social and psychological roots of twentieth-century unreason; and technology and mass murder. A final reason for teaching the Holocaust, says Friedlander, "is that its lessons can help us teach civic virtue." 47
However, teaching history does not always translate into good moral education. There are inherent difficulties in deriving "civic virtues" from "Holocaust Studies". Whereas the Bible, and conventional morality, can be transmitted on a universal basis, why should a general student audience pay heed to one ethnic group's calamity? Interestingly, Friedlander says:"I do not mean that the Holocaust should simply be used to teach conventional patriotism and accepted moral values." His notion of what can be learnt however, is not the same as the notions of Sloan and Kirk, and Orthodox leaders such as Rabbi Schneerson. Friedlander has other things in mind: ". . . Its lessons must be used to demonstrate the need for what the Germans have called Zivilcourage. We need to teach the importance of responsible citizenship and mature iconoclasm." 48
The derivation of "civic virtues" from the events of the European tragedy need not take the shape of "Holocaust Studies" in schools. The day schools, and yeshivahs themselves are the living memorials to a spirit that refused to be broken. They strive for a healthy view of the world not based on the events of a single historical event. If educators were to study the role of moral education in yeshivahs and day schools they would find a broader and richer resource for moral education in general. To disembody an event from history and present it as an abject lesson in morality, or amorality, is a lot more difficult than looking at a mature system of moral education that helped a people survive and what it can teach humanity.
Writing in 1953, Marvin Fox enunciated a much publicized set of guidelines of what Orthodox day schools could contribute to American education. "Day Schools and the American Educational Pattern" originated with an address to a PTA convention of day school parents and educators by Fox, then a professor of philosophy at Ohio State University. It was first published in the Jewish Parent magazine (September 1953), and has subsequently been reprinted in Gartner's Jewish Education in America (1969), Torah Umesorah's Hebrew Day School Education (1970), and studied in Schiff's The Jewish Day School in America (1966). It contains five basic observations and proposals:

1. The strength of the day schools lies not in their similarities to other schools, but in their differences. He urges day schools to "abandon unnecessary aping of other schools", because in fact, the degree to which they will develop "their own special genius is the degree to which they will be genuinely significant for all education in America".

2. The day schools must announce their opposition to "scientific naturalism" and to "value-free education". They must candidly and explicitly announce their commitment to a particular set of values rooted in Jewish tradition. By presenting an alternative they "can help to avert the dangers of the kind of intellectual totalitarianism" of naturalism "glorified by the name of Dewey".

3. Day schools should take pride in, and encourage, "high intellectual values and intellectual achievements" which are a part of Judaism.

4. Democracy has been distorted to mean "freedom from authority", consequently discipline is viewed as a "reactionary attitude". However, "Judaism has never seen any difficulty in reconciling human equality with reverence for authority". The day schools are "obligated to stand openly against the exaggerated notions of freedom from authority which endangers our young people".

5. The day schools should be seen as important bulwarks against the "terrible moral confusions of our time". It is "through the medium of the sacred writings in their broadest scope" that the Jewish schools seek to deliberately endow their students with "moral knowledge and, even more, to develop in them moral sensitivity". There should be "training of the spirit as well as the mind" which is "a truth all educators would do well to learn from the experience of Jewish educational institutions". 49

Schiff classifies the above as "potential effects", or a "potential force vis-a-vis the general American educational scene." The "actual effects" however, "cannot be measured in quantative terms". It is however safe to assume that there is an indirect influence. Schiff states that yeshivah education has shown that young children can master a foreign language, cope with a dual program of study, and be exposed to greater abstract and creative thinking much earlier than is generally assumed. In the "realm of educational philosophy" yeshivahs have shown the importance of "a sound core of values", and the need for an "intimate environment" for good learning to take place. Schiff stresses that "whatever influence the day school may have upon the general scene it is only secondary and incidental to its major purpose and function. The real vital impact of this institution is upon the Jewish community." 50
Orthodoxy's success in establishing educational institutions had far-reaching effects. Marshall Sklare in his classic sociological study: Jewish Identity on the Suburban Frontier: A Study of Group Survival in the Open Society (1979), records that "the growth of Orthodox day schools succeeded in placing the question of Jewish education high on the agenda of the Jewish community, necessitating a response by the Conservative movement." As Sklare makes clear, the Conservative movement was torn between the undeniable "superior knowledge of Jewish culture and of the Hebrew language achieved by day-school students", and, support for public schooling. To avoid a reliance on Orthodox schools, there was a need to establish all-day schools that could train "future leaders" of the movement, hence the birth of the "Solomon Schechter schools". There was the curious theory that "while the supplementary school would educate the children of the Conservative masses, the Conservative day schools would educate future leaders, both lay and rabbinic for the Conservative movement." 51
Marvin Fox has acknowledged that the Orthodox "Hebrew Day School" is the means of "insuring the Jewish integrity" of Jewish children "who are fully part of the American environment." In an address, published in The Jewish Parent (October 1964): "Character Training in the Face of Environmental Pressures", he says that in the day school movement "an incredibly powerful and indescribably sacred instrument for the preservation and elaboration of the highest Jewish values" has been created. It is because "our society has moved to a point in its history where the values which sustained it in the past are no longer operative and where new values are not yet clearly forthcoming" that the "prime objective of intensive Jewish education" must be "the development of moral qualities". Fox maintains that society's veneration of "material wealth and technical skill has resulted in moral obtuseness and insensitivity". The bitter truth is that "virtues such as love and honesty, kindness and charity, modesty, humility and self-effacement are no longer appreciated or sought after." 52
The influence and contribution of Jewish Orthodox education, as viewed by Jewish and non-Jewish scholars and educators alike, must revolve primarily around the place and purpose of moral education. No matter what the means, whether it be home, community, school, or place of worship, there remains a real and constant need for moral education as people look for direction and guidance. Even in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the ancient traditions of Judaism and its teachings have meaning for humanity.
1 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. x-xi; 17.

2 Ibid., pp. 45-51.

3 Ibid., pp. 302-304.

4 Ibid., pp. 1-2.

5 Pilch, "From the Early Forties to the Mid-Sixties", p. 165.

6 Schiff, The Jewish Day School, pp. 115-118.

7 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 94-125.

8 bid., p. 56.

9 Schiff, The Jewish Day School, p. 48.

10 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, p. 308.

11 Norman Podhoretz, Making It (New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1967) pp. xiv; 7-9.

12 Ibid., pp. 19-20.

13 Ibid., pp. 29-30.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 307-308.

17 Ibid., p. 309.

18 Joseph Kaminetsky and Alexander S. Gross, "Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz." in Men of the Spirit, ed. Leo Jung, (New York: Kymson Publishing Company, 1964), pp. 563-564.

19 Samuel C. Feuerstein, "Torah Umesorah 1944-1969: A Quarter of a Century", in Hebrew Day School Education: An Overview, ed. Joseph Kaminetsky, (New York: Torah Umesorah, 1970), pp. 71-72.

20 Nisson Wolpin, "The Community Kollel: Reaching Out With Torah", The Jewish Observer, October 1979, p. 19.

2l Sklare, America's Jews, p. 170.

22 Ibid.

23 Schiff, The Jewish Day School, pp. 74-83.

24 Ibid., pp. 87-88

25 Ibid., pp. 103-105.

26 Cremin, Public Education, p. 31

27 Ibid., p. 32.

28 Milton Himmelfarb, "Reflection on the Jewish Day School", in Jewish Education in the United States, ed. Lloyd P. Gartner, pp. 214-224.

29 Elchonon Oberstein, "A Postscript: Community Controlled Day Schools: The Way Things Are", The Jewish Observer, January 1977, pp. 7-8.

30 Meir Belsky, "The Day School in the U.S.: Another View", The Jewish Observer, January 1977, pp. 5-7.

31 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 52-54.

32 Ibid., pp. 54-55.

33 Ibid., pp. 219-221.

34 Ibid., pp. 226; 220-221.

35 "Help! Teacher Can't Teach", Time, June 16, 1980, p. 54.

36 Robert Ulich, ed., Three Thousand Years of Educational Wisdom: Selections from Great Documents (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954. Thirteenth Printing, 1979), p. v.

37 Ibid., pp. 643-644

38 Lawrence A. Cremin, "Forward", in Crusade Against Ignorance: Thomas Jefferson on Education, ed. Gordon C. Lee, (New York: Teachers College Press, 1961. Seventh Printing 1976).

39 Douglas Sloan, ed., Education and Values (New York: Teachers College Press, 1980), pp. 1-4.

40 Ibid., pp. 4-5.

41 Ibid., pp. 191-254.

42 Russel Kirk, "The Necessity of Dogmas in Schooling", Modern Age: A Quarterly Review, Winter 1978, pp. 2-3.

43 Ibid., pp. 4-7.

44 Rivkin and Goldberg, The Rebbe, pp. 225-228.

45 Ibid., pp. 233-236.

46 Ibid., p. 88.

47 Henry Friedlander, "Toward a Methodology of Teaching about the Holocaust", in Education and Values, ed. Douglas Sloan, pp. 123-146.

48 Ibid.

49 Marvin Fox, "Day Schools and the American Educational Pattern", in Hebrew Day School Education: An Overview, ed. Joseph Kaminetsky, pp. 78-85.

50 Schiff, The Jewish Day School, pp. 135-140.

51 Marshall Sklare and Joseph Greenblum, Jewish Identity on the Suburban Frontier: A Study of Group Survival in the Open Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. Second Edition), pp. 342-343.

52 Marvin Fox, "Character Training in the Face of Environmental Pressures", in Building Jewish Ethical Character, eds. Joseph Kaminetsky and Murray I. Friedman (New York: Torah Umesorah, 1975), pp. 92-98.



Conclusions are never easy, but they are always satisfying. It is undeniable that the Second World War has a central place in the history of Jewish education in modern America. As satisfying as this conclusion may be, it is not easy to define and explain why that is true. What makes matters more complicated is that historians and educationists are generally rooted in one field and often cannot perceive the direct connection between history and its impact on educational policy. On the other hand, the Jewish scholars of the Talmud, then and now, did not treat history, education, and Judaism as diverse fields. For them the Torah encompassed everything. Thus, whereas the "Holocaust" has become a source of consternation and bitterness in the general world, Orthodox Jewry seems to have placed it in a perspective that has not caused alienation.
In a recent work, On Equal Terms: Jews in America 1881-l981, (1982), Lucy S. Davidowicz has written that "the soil out of which the new Orthodoxy grew had been brought from Eastern Europe after the Second World War by survivors of the Holocaust, mostly, though not exclusively, Hasidim. Having outlived the gas chambers of the Third Reich and the Gulag of the Soviet Union, they brought to the United States their traditions, their learning, and above all their passion for Judaism. They built yeshivot and day schools with sacrificial effort. They shamed the established American Orthodox and Conservative institutions by their passion and, by example, vitalized them." 1
What motivated the men who led the rise of the "new" --but very old-- Orthodox? How did they view a world of "gas chambers" and "gulags"? Where did they find the vision and sense of purpose to rebuild in America? And, how did they translate their view of events into meaningful educational policies?
These questions should surely bother the general observer, as well as the serious student of Jewish education. The facts are irrefutable but interpretations, as always, differ. The observer is obliged to reach into his own "world" and interpret things according to his own history and education. Often an observer in one discipline will simply lack the information that exists within another field that would allow for a fuller and more satisfying conclusion.
As a historian, Lucy S. Davidowicz points to some poignant results of the war and its significance for American Jewry. In On Equal Terms she writes that "as we look back over the span of the century, the mass migration of the East European Jews to America that began in 1881 signified a providential course for the later survival of Ashkenazic Jewry". It was the war and Germany's seizure of Europe that "shifted the center of Jewish institutional life from Europe to America". Furthermore she points out that after the destruction of the East European Jews, America's Jews had to provide for themselves. She thus records the proliferation of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues and the number of families affiliated with each: "The synagogue became, as it had been through the Jewish millennial past, the prime vehicle of Jewish continuity." This was because of a "remarkable rise in religiosity" that "characterized postwar America, no doubt a consequence of the war experience." 2
The Arab-Israeli, Six-Day, War of June 1967 is seen by Davidowicz as changing the course of Jewish history. In response to greater international anti-Semitism there was a new assertiveness. It was in the post Six-Day War era that the extent of Orthodoxy's new-found life manifested itself:
1   ...   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page