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Building Up of Jewish Background in Growing Generation is Urged at Jewish Education Council’s Nation

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The building up of a Jewish background in the growing Jewish generation is the concern of all Jewish communities, speakers pointed out at the opening session of the Fifth Annual Conference of the National Council for Jewish Education held at the Central Jewish Institute Camps here today. Delegates, experts in Jewish education and directors of important institutions in various cities of the country were in attendance.

The first session was given over to reports on studies and research of Jewish educational problems in a number of Jewish cities. Dr. Alexander M. Dushkin of Chicago presided at this session. The surveys presented traced the problem of Jewish education during the past five years in Omaha, Buffalo, Montreal, Boston, Detroit, Camden, Wilmington and Scranton, and Trenton. The surveys were delivered by Dr. Dushkin, on Omaha; Louis Hurwich, director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Boston, on Buffalo and Montreal; Dr. Leo L. Honor, director of the College of Jewish Studies of Chicago, on Boston; and Ben Rosen, director, Associated Talmud Torahs of Philadelphia, on Detroit and other cities.

EDUCATION COMMUNITY RESPONSIBILITY

It was the consensus of opinion in these reports that in an increasing measure the responsibility for promoting the educational program is becoming a community responsibility rather than the function of individual synagogues or special groups within the community. This factor, the speakers stated, has resulted not alone in securing greater funds for the development of this work but it has made communities more “education-minded” and it has tended to break down the great indifference to Jewish education.

INDIFFERENCE NOTED

One of the greatest drawbacks to the development of Jewish education in this country, it was declared, was the indifference of parents towards having their children attend Jewish schools. This indifference, the speakers announced, is particularly devastating in its effect in breaking up the Jewish home in America. The surveys also pointed out that in the number of cities investigated there are from 30% to 60% of the children in those communities who are receiving a Jewish education.

JEWISH HISTORY INQUIRY

The second session held in the afternoon was devoted to reports on “Jewish History Inquiry.” A. P. Schoolman, Executive Director of the Central Jewish Institute and Camps, presided. Dr. Julius B. Maller, director of Educational Research on the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, submitted a report on “Testing the Knowledge of Jewish History.” This study, Dr. Maller stated, is based on tests given to 5,000 Jewish children whose ages range from 9 to 16 in Jewish schools in New York, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other large cities throughout the United States. The study revealed that the children tested knew about one-third of what they learned. Dr. Maller reported that this is slightly lower than what was found in the secular schools. He also found that knowledge did not always increase with length of stay in schools.

RESULTS OF TEST

On the whole the children, according to Dr. Maller, seemed to be better able to repeat facts than to interpret events in Jewish history. This is probably due to the fact, he pointed out, that insufficient time is given to instruction in Jewish religious schools, and further that insufficient emphasis is placed on the idea of continuity in the instruction of Jewish history. Dr. Maller also discovered an interesting sex difference in that boys scored higher than girls, age for age and grade for grade.

Dr. Emanuel Garoran, educational director of the Department of Synagogue School Extension of Cincinnati, spoke on “Recent Tendencies in the Teaching of History.” He said that one of the most important problems confronting those who are interested in the teaching of Jewish history is that of finding out what ought to be taught.

CITES WORK OF MEMBERS

Rabbi Jacob B. Pollak, secretary of the National Council for Jewish Education, reported on Educational Contributions made by the members of the Council and Bureaus with which members of the Council are connected. This report revealed the great variety of educational activities in which the members have been engaged. Among those especially cited were: Dr. Julius B. Maller and Rabbi Pollak for the publication of a series of objective Jewish History Tests; Dr. Jacob S. Golub for the publication of a text book for the Junior High Schools; and Ben Edidin for the publication of a Jewish child home library.

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