Friedsam Foundation Gives $1,000,000 for Extension of Jewish Education in New York

The Friedsam Foundation has made a $1,000,000 grant for improvement and extension of Jewish religious education in New York City, it was announced today by Supreme Court Justice Samuel I. Rosenman, president of the newly-formed Jewish Education Committee of New York, at a press luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel attended by John S. Burke, president of the foundation.

The committee, with Dr. Alexander M. Dushkin as executive director, will use the funds to finance a far-reaching program, including coordination of educational supervision in the committee, financial support for higher standard schools, organization of model or experimental schools, scholarship grants for poor children, home study groups, establishment of a central library of Jewish religious education, certification of teachers and preparation of new text books and other material.

Mr. Burke, who is head of B. Altman & Co., declared that in making the grant from the fund created by the will of Col. Michael Friedsam, president of Altman’s who died in 1931, the trustees of the foundation were giving concrete expression to Col. Friedsam’s great concern for the welfare of children. “To many of us the religious education of youth has always seemed a matter of primary importance, ” Mr. Burke said. “The events and trends of today have made it a first essential.”

Justice Rosenman, stressing the community-wide significance of the gift at a time of general reawakening of religious interest, declared that never before had the youth of all faiths stood in such need of a firm foundation of religious teaching with which to face life. On behalf of the community and particularly those of the Jewish faith he thanked the foundation’s board of trustees for initiating the project and paid tribute to Col. Friedsam for the generosity and public spirit which made the gift possible.

The committee, which will administer the fund, represents a merger of several existing religious educational agencies and will seek to work with all types of religious schools, planning its activities in consultation with representatives rabbis, teachers and laymen, Justice Rosenman said.

Officers, besides Justice Rosenman and Dr. Dushkin, are Harry Liebovitz and Mrs. Gabriel Hamburger, vice-presidents; Dr. Maurice B. Hexter, secretary, and Lewis L. Srauss, treasurer. The board of directors includes Isaac Allen, Mark Eisner, Jonah J. Goldstein, Frederick F. Greenman, Herbert W. Haldenstein, Henry S. Hendricks, Dr. Solomon Lowenstein, James Marshall, Louis J. Moss, Samuel Rottenberg, Bernard Semel, Bernard L. Shientag, Isaac Siegel, Alan M. Stroock, Edward M.M. Warburg, Frank L. Weil and Joseph Willen.

The gift and formation of the committee have been under consideration for some time Justice Rosenman Said. An informal committee representing all religious groups within the Jewish faith was constituted under his sponsorship about four years ago to make an extended survey of the entire field of religious education among Jewish youth in New York and to develop a comprehensive survey.

“The survey disclosed,” he continued, “that about 25 percent of the Jewish school age population regularly attend religious schools at any one time although more than 70 percent receive such instruction at some time during their school years and an additional group study under tutors in their homes. There are 476 institutions listed as schools for Jewish religious education in the city.

“This constitutes quite a religious instructional system in itself, and several efforts have been made in the past to correlate and coordinate their work into a community program that would raise educational standards and extend opportunities for religious education to children for whom no provision is made at present.

“The committee which made the study recommended that the several organizations with this common objective be merged into the new Jewish Education Committee of New York. That plan has now been adopted. The Jewish Education Association will be absorbed by the end of 1940; the Bureau of Jewish Education will turn over its administrative and supervisory functions and devote itself principally to the education of adolescent youth; and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropic Societies will transmit to the new committee on a graduated percentage schedule the funds which it has allocated annually to the five institutions affiliated with it. The new committee will have full discretion as to the future use of these subsidies.

“In its effort to bring the Jewish religious schools as a group to higher educational standards, the new committee will seek first to make available supervision and guidance to the many small schools which desire such help. The program contemplates also close collaboration and financial support for some of the higher standard schools so that they may serve as models for other institutions. Another effort in this same field will be to encourage the teachers’ institutes to organize model or experimental schools and classes and if necessary to establish subsidiary agencies to undertake such work.

“Financial assistance will be extended to the most deserving schools in the form of scholarship grants for children of poorer families and in direct grants to make possible experimental projects in religious education, to develop new instruction forms and to improve teaching methods. A new and developing field for religious education is the home study group and the committee proposes to devote itself to developing methods for the organization and conduct of group religious teaching in the children’s homes.”

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