J.D.B. News Letter

(By our Johonnesburg Correspoudent)

The main problem of Hebrew education in South Africa is the same as that in any other country in the Diaspora. Here, like in other countries, the leaders of the Jewish community have been grappling with the problem and have convened a conference on Hebrew education for August 26 and 27.

A. M. Abrahams, president of the South African Zionist Federation, S. Raphaelsy, president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, J. L. Landau, chairman,and D. Mierowsky, secretary, of the organizing committee, were the signatories to a manifesto convening the conference.

The problems with which the organization to be established will have to occupy itself include: (a) The utter indifference of the Jewish masses towards Hebrew education and their poor conception of the same; (b) the preoccupation of Jewish children through an overburdened curriculum, generally supplemented by additional subjects such as music, dancing, drill, sports, etc.; (c) the deplorable lack of trained teachers; (d) the lack of text-books; (e) the absence of any co-ordinate organization throughout the country; (f) the irregular attendance at school.

The manifesto read:

“Throughout the centuries, the greatest factor in the life of the Jewish people has been Education–the dissemination of knowledge. Ever since the time when political Jerusalem gave place to cultural Jamnia, the one aim of our nation-an aim pursued with an intense passion–has been for knowledge, for the education of the masses.

“Throughout the ages our social structure has been based not upon wordly possession, but upon mental and moral attainments. We have justly prided ourselves upon being known as “a people of the book.”

“In this consideration it must be borne in mind that the greatest concern of the Jewish people has ever been the education of the child. In all their wanderings, wherever even a handful of Jewish people have set foot, they have established seats of learning–Chadorim, Batei-Midrash and Yeshibahs. Even the poorest Jew living in an isolated, remote spot, has not failed to provide for the education of his children.

“This intense passion for learning abated during the nineteenth century under the influence of Jewish social and political emancipation; but has been revived and intensified by our National Movement. It is due to this revival that the Hebrew tongue, for centuries hardly more than a silent symbol of an ancient race has taken lifc, has been born again-a living organ of a new, a vrile generation. Jewish literature, Jewish art, Jewish music have all shared in this remarkable movement; every sphere of Jewish life in Eretz Israel and in the Diaspora shows progress, solid and gratifying under the stimulus of this great revival.

“Of all the changes wrought in Jewish life, the most radical and at the same time, the most wonderful, is that affecting Jewish education Not only in the land of our ancestors, where Hebrew is the spoken languages of the masses, but in each and every country of the Diaspora is there to be found today a network of schools where Hebrew is the medium of instruction.

“Today the Hebrew tongue is used as freely, throughout the world, by thousands of young men and women as was ever done in the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The great educational activity in Eretz Israel. reaching its pinnacle in the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, has borne fruit and is gradnally, yet decidedly, influencing the Jewries of the whole world.

“We in South Africa, from the time we first stepped on the soil of this subcontinent, have made every possible endeavor to provide for the education of our children in the Hebrew tongue, with a knowledge of our lore and traditions.

“Unifortunately all our efforts, hitherto have been desultory, spasmodic, non-systematic and as a natural consequence. wanting in that efficiency that spells success.

“The time has now come for a change to be effected. All our efforts. the several activities of our various bodies must be co-ordinated, their sphere enlarged, their operations brought up to the minute–so that the education of the Jewish child in the Hebrew tongue in our religion. and traditions. will take its rightful place in line with the methods of the most advanced nations.

“The conference to be held at Blomefontein on the 26th and 27th. Angust next, will mark a new era in the history of our community in South Africa. It is specifically intended to inaugurate a new epech in the progress of our educational activities. No one imbued with a keen desire for the future weliare of Judaisim in this country can fail to realize the importance of the step now being taken.

“We. therefore, in supreme trust and confidence. call upon all interested in Jewish education. to come forward and by their valued help ensure to the conference the success it so truly deserves. The cause is great-the cause of our children. our community, of the whole of South African Jewry–let us not fail it.”

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