In the face of, or perhaps to some extent because of, discomfort and sickness and an alien environment, they delved all the more deeply into the "Sea of the Talmud" and its commentaries, which became a substitute for their lost families and homes. Study of the Torah also became their sole source of hope for the future. . . .
Their unflagging spirit and enthusiasm became a source of awe and wonder to all who saw the Yeshiva at study. Their faith in eventual redemption was perhaps best illustrated by the words of a Niggun (melody), sung hours on end during one Simhat Torah (festival). While dancing with the Torah scrolls in-their hands, they sang in Yiddish:..... (here we are driven out; And there we may not enter; Tell us, dear Father . . . How long can this go on?)” 28
It went on for several years, and the yeshivah had to rely on its own resources and creative spirit to exist. For example, in the face of the shortage of texts, the yeshivah resorted to printing Rabbinic works. Close to one hundred titles in Rabbinic scholarship were reprinted in Shanghai. The printing of one Talmudic tractate was followed by the entire Talmud (except for one title), Bible and commentaries, Maimonides' works, and classics of Jewish ethics and philosophy:
The first offset volume was the Tractate Gittin, a run of 250 copies being made during May 1942. The completion of this first Tractate, marking a milestone in the history of Jewish printing in the Far East, became a cause of public celebration in the Russian-Jewish Club, which was attended by dignitaries of the Ashkenazi community. Such an event would hardly have been dreamed of even a year before. One Polish non-observant journalist who witnessed this scene, remarked that one who did not witness the Amshenover Rebbe and Yeshiva students dance at receiving this marvelous gift, has never seen true Jewish joy and felt the secret of the Jew's eternity. 29
The striving to remain eternal, given even only a modicum of freedom, soon came to the surface wherever Jewish communities dedicated to the higher ideals of Jewish education were found. So too, a nucleus of individuals became a source of wonderment as they followed their destiny from Lithuania to America, via China. The uniqueness of the Mirrer Yeshiva is that while individual leaders in America gave direction to groups of followers that arose, it served as an example of an entire "community of scholars" who had continued to study during the war years. They provided a model for others to emulate, and even envy. When the yeshivah reestablished itself as a unit in Brooklyn:
The sight of men in their thirties and forties studying full time was an inspiration for younger students, who viewed them as culture heroes from a world known to them only from stories told by their teachers or parents. 30
Rabbi Shraga Moshe Kalmanowitz, son of Rabbi Avrohom Kalmanowitz, and an heir to his father's position, has given Helmreich a "vivid portrayal" of how the yeshivah was set up in America:
Today people have contact with the outside world. In China we were isolated and this was good because it strengthened our commitment. As a result we were able to preserve our ruach (spirit). Since we were many, American boys had to adapt to us and little by little they did. You know, of course, that it was unheard of in America that boys learned after marriage. But we did it, as did others. Those who came had real dedication. 31
The Mirrer Yeshiva's contribution to Torah learning whilst Europe burned remains incalculable. Its ardent pursuit of the most intense form of Jewish education in a world at war remains a key to understanding the great expansion of Orthodox education in America in the post-1945 era.
The demise f Telz and its yeshivah in Lithuania is recorded by Isaac Lewin in "These Will I Remember!": Biographies of Leaders of Religious Jewry in Europe who Perished During the Years 1939-1945, Volume 1, (1956). The entry of the Germans into Lithuania, following their attack on their erstwhile allies the Soviets in June 1941, unleashed a torrent of savage anti-Semitism. In the latter half of 1941, local residents attacked the Jews of Telz. The Lithuanian anti-Semites need not have feared any rebuke from the Nazis. They wrecked and destroyed Jewish property and slaughtered many Jews.
The worst day was the killing on the twentieth of Tamuz 5741 (1941), when with exceeding cruelty all the Jews of Telz were savagely killed with indescribable afflictions and tortures. Amongst the killed was the Rabbi of the town who was also the Rosh Hayeshivah, Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch, together with the members of his family and students. The only members of the Rabbi's family who survived were his brother, Rabbi Eliahu Meir Bloch (1895-1955), and his brother-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz, who had left Lithuania almost a year earlier. After wandering across Russia and Japan, they reached secure shores in America. On 28 October, 1941, together with a nucleus of their students and several other young men, they established the Telshe Yeshiva of Cleveland. This school of Jewish learning was to become one of the largest Torah institutions in America. 32
The opening of the Telz, or Telshe, Yeshiva of Cleveland by Rabbis E. M. Bloch and C. M. Katz, was part of a repeated pattern, notes Rothkoff. Yeshivahs conducted in the traditional fashion were opened by those who reached America's shores. In Cleveland, Telz under the tutelage of Rabbis Bloch and Katz retained the "Telz method" of Talmudical analysis, stressing "precise inductive reasoning". Rabbi Eliezer Silver was soon traveling to raise funds for Telz. After a visit to the Telz Yeshiva in 1946, Rabbi Silver published a statement of support revealing his happiness that at last America was home to "Yavneh and its sages":
My soul rejoices and my heart is elated every time I visit the holy Telz Yeshivah in Cleveland. It is rapidly becoming one of the leading American yeshivot, by virtue of both its large student body and the high level of its curriculum. The illustrious name of Telz has been restored on these shores. From day to day the school grows stronger to the joy of all those who esteem Torah and "fear of the Lord". 33
The men who "engineered" the remarkable transplantation of Telz from Lithuania to America were a rare breed. In 1940, when the Russians occupied Lithuania, the Telz Yeshiva was subjected to relentless persecution. The yeshivah was forced to close, and Rabbis E. M. Bloch and Katz set out to find a new sanctuary for Telz. By the time the Nazis moved into Lithuania, the two rabbis were well on their way to America, crossing the Pacific. They had come to realize that to bring their yeshivah over from Europe had become impossible. They would have to start from the beginning all over again. Keller, in "He Brought Telshe to Cleveland", describes this realization: "From that time on, they acted as men possessed. Although they had no idea of the fate of their own families (Reb Elya Meir's wife and four children, Reb Mottel's wife and ten children), their working hours were devoted exclusively to reestablishing the yeshivah." 34
A location far from New York was deliberately chosen. Rabbi Bloch announced that the yeshivah would relocate in a Jewish community which needed strengthening, and which suited the "spirit of the yeshivah" better than metropolitan New York. When objections were raised, Rabbi Bloch is reported to have replied: "When one recognizes God's 'hashgachah (Providence) in all that occurs, he realizes that when people are impelled to leave a place because of impending danger, this is not flight but a signal of a mission on which they are being dispatched. We are not only refugees! We were sent by the Almighty to replant the Yeshivah of Telshe in America." In the span of forty years the yeshivah grew to become one of the world's "great Torah centers and stands as a living monument to the dedication and vision" of Rabbi E. M. Bloch and Rabbi C. M. Katz. 35
A first-hand account of the impact Telz had on American-born youth is recounted by Rabbi Dov Keller, Rosh Yeshivah of a Telz "branch" in Chicago.. He recalls that the original student body consisted of a few students that had escaped from Europe and some Americans sent from Baltimore. "The Americans had no idea of what Telshe signified. They were even novices in the learning of Gemara and the two Roshei Yeshiva had to literally introduce them to advanced Torah study." The rabbis lived and ate in the yeshivah, educating their students in the broadest possible manner. This was in spite of the personal losses they had suffered.
The spirit of that time is captured in the lecture notes of Rabbi Bloch, when upon receiving confirmation of the fate of Telz in Lithuania, he wrote in 1945:
I am not able to concentrate (on this writing) as I should, for that which I feared has reached me--the terrible news of the death of..... at the hands of the cursed German murderers.......... I feel that I can never come to peace (with myself) without the toil of Torah... without fulfilling the sacred duty which now falls upon the survivors. Having learned of my awful tragedy, my first call of duty must be laboring in Torah. I am indentured in the service of my people . . . of what importance are the woes of the individual when compared to the duties of the Klal (Community)? 36
The spirit contained in Rabbi Bloch's words was carried forth into the future and touched all elements of the Orthodox educational configuration in America. An example of this direct inter-action is the influence of the yeshivah leaders on the day school movement. The later Rosh Yeshivah of Telz, Rabbi M. Gifter addressed a Torah Umesorah National Planning Conference on the function of Torah education (chinuch) in modern times, reported in June, 1964. Rabbi Gifter typifies the zeal of the yeshivah founders when he declares that: "The function of Torah chinuch is the creation of a society where Torah will not merely be one of a vast number of human interests but rather a society where all human interest, all human endeavor centers in and emanates from Torah.” 37
Rabbi Gifter stresses that in an age of specialization there is a need to implant into the young minds and hearts of Day School children the dream of becoming a "Torah specialist". He asks: "How many of them dream of becoming a Chofetz Chaim, a Reb Chaim Brisker, a Reb Mayer Simchah, a Chazon Ish?" All these were illustrious sages of recent times whose rise to prominence was in great part due to their "laboring" in Torah studies. He concludes:
Much indeed has been achieved. . . . But with the great change that has been wrought we have not yet brought this generation to Sinai. . . .
The challenge of Torah chinuch (education) is that "we come close to the mountain" and that we take our children with us to see and hear what our forefathers saw and heard. We must become witness to the great Reality of Emunah (faith), with renewed intensive efforts in consolidating positions already won, and in the continued conquest of new horizons for Torah. 38
Thus, the challenges that the survivors of Lithuanian Telz, who were also the founders of American Telz, presented to American Jewry were thrust forward into the broader arenas of Jewish education. From its "fall" in Europe, it demanded a "rise" in America. The efforts to revive Torah education amongst the masses of American Jewry became the powerful and broad challenge of a handful of survivors. They demanded that their survival create a better and broader Jewish education in America.
New York Re-Newed
In 1189 the Jews of York, in England, decided to take their own lives rather than submit to the frenzied mobs of the Third Crusade. The cry of the Jew-killers was "Kill a Jew and save your soul!" The Jews of York preferred to suffer salvation on their own terms. One hundred years later, in the autumn of 1290, the Jews of England were expelled by King Edward I. 39
It was an irony of history that in the New World, the "new" York was to become haven to the largest single concentration of Jews in the world. When mass immigration was cut off by the U.S. government in 1925, over 4,500,000 Jews were already resident in America. New York was the first port of entry for most, and the majority settled in the metropolitan area of New York City. They struggled to re-new their lives, often at the expense of their commitment to Jewish education and hence to Judaism. America was different, they claimed; tradition was part of the Old World. This type of "renewal" was in fact a calamitous "fall" for and from the time-honoured Jewish way of life.
The "Most Savage Crusade" of modern history, from 1939 to 1945, came as a horrible shock to American Jewry. The vulnerability of Jews to destruction brought the realization that ultimately no Jews were safe anywhere in the world. The new wave of refugees who came to America after the war brought not only concentration-camp numbers tattooed on their skin, but a will to re-new their lives. Many tragically forsook their faith saying: "There is no God." Others were determined to re-new the ways they had known in Europe. New York's Jewish life was to be re-newed once more, along more Orthodox lines. Jewish education in America was directly influenced by these trends. M. Sherer, writing on "25 Years: A New Jewish World" (1979), remarks that the survivors that came to America, in spite of their physical scars, were nevertheless strong enough in spirit to revitalize other Jews.
Thus, maintains Sherer, two factors were the chief causes that brought about the much desired "spiritual revolution" in America: Firstly, the saving of a number of great Torah scholars; and secondly, the arrival of the survivors from the enormous destruction in Europe. In 1941, upon his arrival in New York, Rabbi Aharon Kotler declared "Torah has a future in America". Together with other leading scholars who had found refuge in America during that period, a message came forth: America is not "extra-territorial" when it comes to Torah education and practice. 40
There was initial success, as recorded by several histories of Jewish education. For example, Gartner writes that a significant feature of the day school movement was the rise of not only yeshivah high schools, but of yeshivahs for advanced students. "Most of them were founded by refugee rabbinic scholars during and after World War II. The curriculum was exclusively talmudic, and the general outlook was transplanted from nineteenth-century Eastern Europe." Thousands of young men "mostly of American birth" entered into the yeshivah world's regimen of Talmud study. 41
Not only were new institutions founded but existing institutions were subjected to change. One of the oldest yeshivahs in New York was the yeshivah section of Yeshiva University. Rothkoff, in Bernard Revel (1972), writes that as the Nazi menace grew, Revel realized that Yeshiva University's responsibilities to European Jewry were increasing. "The school now had to be prepared to accept refugee students and faculty." By 1939, time was running out as Revel frantically sought to bring as many survivors to America. Among those aided by Revel were Rabbis Joseph Arnest and Samuel Volk, both of whom assumed leading positions at Yeshiva University in 1939. Other famous rabbinical leaders who were brought to America with Revel's aid were Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer (1882-1980), who subsequently founded his own yeshivah in Washington Heights, N.Y.C.,. and Rabbi Mendel Zaks, who was the head of the Radin Yeshiva founded by his father-in law the Chofetz Chaim (Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan). 42
The figure of Rabbi Joseph Breuer extended the notion of renewal. He was not satisfied with renewing extant institutions. His notions of Jewish education were part of a broader notion of community, or kehillah, that had existed amongst Orthodox Jews in Germany. Bodenheimer has written that Rabbi Breuer's vision of kehillah required that it serve all the needs of its membership. "Synagogue, yeshivah, girl's school, . . . charity funds . . . . adult education, . . . general attitude toward life--everything was part of the classic kehillah structure, so it had to be incorporated into K'hal Adas Yeshurun" established in Washington Heights, Manhattan. 43
Other well known yeshivahs in the New York area experienced renewed vitality during the war years. The Mesivta Torah Vodaath Yeshiva extended an invitation to the newly arrived head of the Kamenitz Yeshivah, Rabbi Reuvain Grozovsky (1896-1958), to become its own Rosh Yeshivah. From 1935 to 1944, Rabbi Shlomo Heiman had served as head of Torah Vodaath. During these years the yeshivah "entered a period of significant growth and expansion", notes Helmreich. Rabbi Heiman had served as head of the famous Baranowicz Yeshivah in Poland. In America, he attempted to maintain the high standards of Baranowicz. "His goal was to elevate the American yeshiva bochur (student) to the point where he was a serious student of the Talmud, not simply a young man acquiring a basic education." Thus, many graduates entered the rabbinate and careers in Jewish education, "but an even greater number became lay leaders of the Jewish community, professionals in other areas, and businessmen." 44 The void left by Rabbi Heiman's death in 1944, was filled by Rabbi Grozovsky's arrival.
Rabbi Reuvain Grozovsky was the son-in-law of the famous Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz (1870-1941). They had visited America in 1929 to collect funds for their yeshivah. It was a difficult mission, and the challenge of American life was not an unknown factor to Rabbi Grozovsky when he came to America in 1941. Following the outbreak of the war Rabbi Grozovsky eluded both Nazi and communist forces, following the trusted route across the Pacific to raise funds and secure affidavits for his students. He landed in Seattle, Washington on May 2, 1941, and proceeded quickly to New York, joining Rabbi Aharon Kotler and Rabbi Avrohom Kalmanowitz in rescue work through the Vaad Hatzolah (Rescue Committee). Wolpin reports that it was an ongoing struggle which involved fund-raising, lobbying, and clandestine transferring of funds. In addition, Rabbi Grozovsky managed to save some 110 members of the Kamenitz Yeshivah community. At Torah Vodaath, from 1944 onwards, "a new generation of Torah scholars became exposed to his shiurim (lectures)." 45 He infused the yeshivah with great life and enthusiasm. At the height of the war Torah education was witnessing renewal.
The influence of Rabbi Grozovsky extended beyond the yeshivah he headed. He was at the helm of the American Council of Torah Sages of the Agudath Israel, and chairman of Torah Umesorah's Rabbinical Advisory Council. The efforts to renew Orthodox life in New York extended outwards, towards for example, the establishment of day schools. At a founding ceremony of such a school in Providence, Rhode Island, he stated:
What role does a Rosh Yeshivah have at the establishment of a kindergarten? Doesn't he have other things on his mind? But that isn't the case. There's a longstanding rule in the Torah, that saving lives assumes a higher priority over everything else. Without Torah study, the children of this community are being buried alive. . . . Thus, the item of foremost priority on my agenda is to be here and ascertain that these children will indeed live. 46
The same spirit of dynamism and sense of urgency was to be found in other established yeshivahs in the New York area. The Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem (MTJ) and Yeshivah Rabbi Jacob Joseph (RJJ), experienced an unusual surge in the desire for advanced Talmudical studies. Helmreich records that RJJ had in fact had an elementary school since 1899. It was only in the late 1940s and early 1950s that it developed into an important advanced yeshivah, producing hundreds of rabbis and community leaders. It was also an important feeder school for the Lakewood Yeshivah established by Rabbi Kotler in 1943. Helmreich connects the rise of advanced studies with the sense of vibrancy brought by those who rebuilt the yeshivahs in America. It was a "Weltanschauung that challenged and ultimately overcame the prevailing trend toward compromise with secular American values that existed in the Orthodox camp." 47
The Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem was in operation as an advanced yeshivah by the early 1930s. In 1938 it appointed Rabbi Moses Feinstein as its head, "who is probably the foremost halachic (legal) authority" of recent times, "and whose decisions are crucial for hundreds of thousands of Jews". When asked about the significance of the post-war period in Jewish education, Rabbi Feinstein observed: "When the great people started arriving . . . the people began to see that there was a different type of learning, not the sort they had thought of earlier. . . . They began to see that one can become great from such study." 48
In a tribute to Rabbi Yitzchok (Isaac) Hutner (1904 - 1980), "HaGaon Rav Yitzchok Hutner" (1980/81), Pinchos Stolper has written that as Torah institutions and communities in Europe went up in flames, Rabbi Hutner as head of the Yeshivah Rabbi Chaim Berlin in New York, realized that Jewish survival was dependent upon the creation of American born Torah personalities. "To accomplish this required a force that could motivate young students to make a qualitative jump in their commitment and lifestyle in a relatively short period of time." Stolper concludes that Rabbi Hutner succeeded to influence his students by concentrating all his talents on the students' talents. "The key to this success was the intensive relationship he developed with individuals and his 'campaign' to convince as many students as possible that they could indeed become Gedolei Yisrael (scholars). The number of individuals with whom he developed and retained a close and intimate relationship is astounding. Each of these diverse individuals felt that he was a ben yochid, the only son of the Rosh Yeshiva. 49
Thus, those Torah educators already in America, joined together with newly arrived personalities, to create a cadre of Jewish educators and leaders who would in turn transform the face of Orthodox Jewish life and education in America.
1 M. Friedlander, transl., Moses Maimonides: The Guide for the Perplexed (New York: Dover Publications, 1956), pp. xv-xvi
2 William B. Helmreich, The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry (New York: The Free Press, 1982), pp. 17; xi
3 Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1962), pp. 106-113; 133
4 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, p. 26.
5 Ibid., pp. 32-33; 314
6 Yisroel Mayer Kirzner, "By the Writing Desk of the Master: Reflections on Pachad Yitzchok: Igaros Ukesavim", The Jewish Observer, December 1981, p. 10.
7 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, p. 34
8 Bullock, Hitler, pp. 633-634; 640.
9 Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, p. 213
10 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 37-38; 301.
11 Rothkiff, The Silver Era, p. 195.
12 Ibid., p. 204
13 Shaul Kagan, "From Kletzk to Lakewood", in The Torah World: A Treasury of Biographical Sketches, ed. Nisson Wolpin (New York: Mesorah Publications, 1982), p. 194.
14 Rothkoff, The Silver Era, pp. 298-299.
15 Aharon Surasky, Marbitzei Torah Umussar (New York: Sentry Press, 1977), p. 251.
16 Rothkoff, The Silver Era, pp. 289.
17 Agudath Israel, The Struggle and the Splendor, pp. 87-88.
18 Kagan, "From Kletzk to Lakewood", p. 185
19 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 266: 378.
20 Kagan, "From Kletzk to Lakewood", pp. 191-192; 193.
21 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 43-44.
22 Yaakov Yosef Reinman, "Remembering Reb Shneur Kotler", The Jewish Observer, October 1982, pp. 4-7
23 David Kranzler, Japanese, Nazis & Jews: The Jewish Refugee Community of Shanghai, 1938-1945 (New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1976), pp. 19-24.
24 Ibid., p. 348
25 Ibid., pp. 450; 431.
26 Chaim Shapiro, "The Last of His Kind", in The Torah World, ed. N. Wolpin, pp.242-243.
27 Kranzler, Japanese, Nazis & Jews, pp. 467-468.
28 Ibid., pp. 432-433.
29 Ibid., p. 434.
30 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, p. 303.
32 Isaac Lewin, ed., "These Will I Remember!" Biographies of Leaders of Religious Jewry in Europe who Perished During the Years 1939-1945, Yiddish original: Eilah Azkerah (New York: Research Institute of Religious Jewry, 1956), p. 33.
33 Rothkoff, The Silver Era, pp. 273-274.
34 Chaim Dov Keller, "He Brought Telshe to Cleveland", in The Torah World, ed., N. Wolpin, p. 265.
35 Ibid., pp. 265-266.
36 Ibid., pp. 266-267.
37 Mordecai Gifter, "The Function of Torah Chincuh in Our Generation", in Hebrew Day School Education: An Overview, ed., Joseph Kaminetsky (New York: Torah Umesorah, 1970), p.18.
38 Ibid., pp. 23-24.
39 Grayzel, History of the Jews, pp. 341-344; 356-357.
40 Moshe Sherer, "25 Yor: A Neie Idishe Velt", Yiddish original in Dos Yiddishe Vort, June 1979, pp. 3-4.
41 Gartner, Jewish Education, p. 30.
42 Rothkoff, Bernard Revel, pp. 210-211.
43 Ernst J. Bodenheimer, with Nosson Scherman, "The Rav of Frankfurt, U.S.A.", in The Torah World, ed., N. Wolpin, p. 227.
44 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 29-30.
45 Nison Wolpin, ed., "From Kamenitz to America", in The Torah World, p. 212.
46 Ibid., p. 219.
47 Helmreich, World of the Yeshiva, pp. 360; 46.
48 Ibid., pp. 30-31; 301.
49 Pinchas Stolper, "HaGaon Rav Yitzchok Hutner", in Jewish Life, Winter 1980-81.
REBBES, HASIDIM, AND AUTHENTIC KEHILLAHS
Topics of Interest
Configurations of Education
Boro Park: An Inter-linking of Configurations
The Lubavitch Experience
Configurations of Education
Lawrence Cremin, in Public Education (1976), calls for an awareness of the multiplicity of institutions that educate. He defines education as "the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, evoke, or acquire knowledge, attitudes, skills, values or sensibilities, as well as any learning that results from the effort, direct or indirect, intended or unintended." 1 He intends this definition to project beyond the schools and colleges to the "multiplicity of individuals and institutions that educate--parents, peers, siblings, and friends, as well as families, churches, synagogues, libraries, museums, summer camps, benevolent societies, agricultural fairs, settlement houses, factories, radio stations, and television networks. 2
In tracing the historiography of the "configuration of education", in Traditions of American Education (1976), Cremin notes the tendency of educative institutions at particular times and places to relate to one another. Each of the institutions within a given configuration interacts with the others and with the larger society that sustains it and that is in turn affected by it. Cremin goes further, that beyond the individual institutions of education, "a new problematics for the history of education must concern itself with clusters, or constellations, or configurations of related institutions." 3
The history of Jewish education is of interest in this regard. By looking at the configuration of education that arose amongst Orthodox Jewish circles in America, with its stress on community, we see the very notion of "configuration" come to life. Indeed, Cremin states that at a general level, the phenomenon of the educational configuration is illuminated by the study of communities, "of the various ways in which communities educate so as to perpetuate themselves and of the relationships among the several educative institutions involved in the process." Cremin concedes that the "quickest approach to these phenomena is through secondary analysis of extant community studies." 4 We shall therefore refer to several community studies of Orthodox Jewish communities that gained prominence after the Second World War. This will enable us to observe the internal workings of their "configurations" as well as the external influences to which they were subjected.
In "The Metropolitan Experience: 1876-1976" Cremin points out that nineteenth century New York had already developed a complex educational configuration. By the 1930s, New York City was "of a size that virtually no one could grasp, conceive, or comprehend the whole. There were more Italians in New York City than in Rome, more Irish than in Dublin, more blacks than in any African city, and more Jews than in any other city of the world." Cremin concludes that for all intents and purposes, a person experienced New York through one or another of its neighborhoods or its ethnic or religious communities.
Thus Cremin arrives at what he calls "subconfigurations of education". For, in twentieth century New York, the power of "subconfigurations of education" had increased. Here, Cremin cites the example of the Lower East Side with its large Jewish population, where a Jewish person could grow up within a network of institutions that was referred to as "the New York Kehillah (the Hebrew word ‘kehillah’ means 'community') and have little to do with the outside world until going to the public library, or taking a job, or being drafted into the army, and if one didn't go to the library, or worked in an all-Jewish factory, or managed to avoid military service, one could live one's entire life in the kehillah aware of external influences only as intrusions. 5
We have already studied the establishment and difficulties of the New York Kehillah experiment of 1908-1922. We have shown that it was not an inviolable entity, often with the deliberate connivance of its purported leaders and its educators. The configurations of the broader "open society" had increased in potency. The "subconfiguration" of the New York Kehillah was subject to the power of the larger clusters, or constellations, or configurations" of education in twentieth century America.
In "Toward an Ecology of Education" Cremin notes that the relationships among the institutions that constitute a configuration may be:
1. Political: There may be overlapping lines of support;
2. Pedagogical: Substantial influence extending from one institution to another;
3. Personal: There may be decisive personal influence deriving from the same people moving as teachers or students through more than one institution.
"Such has always been the case with the configurations of education maintained by small sectarian communities like . . . the Hasidic Jews. . . . 6
There are several observations to be made. Firstly, we see that the notion of a "configuration of education" is directly applied to "Hasidic Jews". Their "subconfiguration" is itself a unique "configuration". We therefore see that the term "subconfiguration" is relative to a larger configuration but is a legitimate configuration in its own right. Secondly, Hasidic Jews are referred to as having a configuration that is based on personal relationships within it. Whereas the Jews of the Lower East Side had a "subconfiguration" that did not survive the test of time following the First World War, the Hasidic configurations following the Second World War survived and grew. This is an ironic, though certainly unintended, observation by Cremin. The question therefore arises: Why did the Hasidic Jews succeed whereas others failed?
It is incredible that prior to 1945 there were no large-scale Hasidic communities, let alone
configurations, in America. The war and its aftermath brought the Hasidic communities as recognizable entities to America. Writing for National Geographic on the Hasidic community of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y., H. Arden describes "The Pious Ones" as obeying the commandments (mitzvahs) "with a devotion so vibrant that the tablets of the law might have been carried down by Moses to Lee Avenue this very morning". He notes: