Teaching is not among the best paid professions in America. Teaching Hebrew is definitely among the underpaid professions.
Twelve hundred Hebrew teachers in New York alone were compelled to declare a stoppage yesterday because their salaries average less than $70.00 a month. The majority of them having families to support, they are compelled to live on starvation wages, and even those are not paid on time.
“When there is no bread there is no learning,” says the Hebrew proverb. One cannot teach on an empty stomach. The stoppage of the Hebrew teachers will therefore be viewed sympathetically by many.
The purpose of the stoppage is not only to obtain an increase in wages but also generally to improve the working conditions of the teachers in the Hebrew schools and Talmud Torahs in New York. Most of the teachers in these institutions are compelled to take lengthy, payless vacations. Others are forced to wipe off debts due them in salaries, despite the meagreness of these salaries.
To normalize once and for all the conditions of the Hebrew teachers in New York is the purpose of yesterday’s action. To remove the irregularities in the relations between the teachers and the institutions by which they are employed, is its aim.
PARENTS AND CHILDREN
The Hebrew School in America is a semi-communal institution. Attendance is not compulsory. Parents must have a real interest in giving their children a Hebrew education before they decide to send them to a Hebrew school.
The stoppage proclaimed yesterday will therefore provoke great interest among those parents who would like to see their children receive a Hebrew education in addition to the general education they get in the public schools. As for the children themselves, the stoppageâ€”if it is permitted to lastâ€”is only likely to cool their interest in their Hebrew studies, as in most cases they are indifferent to these studies anyway.
The Hebrew Education Association, it seems to me, is the institution which should therefore take a hand in the situation, and see to it that the demands of the teachers are in one way or another settled. The stoppage must not be permitted to drag as it would have a demoralizing influence on the hundreds of children affected.
YIDDISH BETTER OFF
The stoppage in the Hebrew schools should not be confused with the situation in the Yiddish schools in New York. The Yiddish schools here, most of which are under the supervision of the Arbeiter Ring, are conducting their work normally, with no complaints on the part of the teachers.
The average salary of a teacher in a Yiddish school is $150.00 a month. Compared with this average, the salary of the Hebrew teacher is far below the minimum. It is no wonder that the situation has reached a point where the Hebrew teachers had to resort to a stoppage.