NEW YORK (May. 14)
The American Association for Jewish Education today adopted a resolution at the closing session of its two-day annual conference unanimously supporting Federal Government proposals to extend government aid to public education but opposing the extension of such aid to private and religious schools.
The conference also adopted long-term plans to meet the nation-wide shortage of Hebrew school teachers and a program to intensify adult education in this country. Philip W. Lown of Boston, president of the Association, reported that despite the organization’s efforts to improve employment conditions and encourage teacher recruitment and training, American Jewry faces a critical shortage of teachers for the 600,000 children attending Jewish day and part-time schools.
“The prospects are that the shortage will grow increasingly grave in the years ahead, Mr. Lown warned. “To begin to meet the shortage we would have to inject the teaching system with approximately 500 teachers a year.” But the annual crop of teacher college graduates was only little more than 100, of whom one-half remained in the field up to five years, while 75 percent dropped out after five years, leaving an annual addition to the teaching force of 25 to 30. The situation was further affected by mortality and retirement.
The teacher shortage, grave in major metropolitan Jewish centers, was still more severe in the substantial number of cities and towns with Jewish populations of 4,000 or less, Mr. Lown reported. Teachers were reluctant to take Jobs in such communities where chances of advancement were reduced, he said. Part of the gap was being filled by the Association’s Teacher Exchange Program, through which almost 100 teachers will be brought to the United States from Israel this year for two-year service periods.
“While we welcome the infusion of Israeli teachers into our system, ” Mr. Lown commented, “Six million Jews in the United States should not only be able to meet their own meeds but provide teaching personnel for other Jewish communities in the Diaspora.” He outlined the following program to help meet the teacher shortage:
1. The establishment of a major foundation for scholarships for young men and young women at Hebrew teachers’ colleges; 2. A campaign to interest, and train, Jewish public school teachers in Jewish education; 3. Use of audio-visual materials, particularly closed circuit TV, enabling a number of classes to listen to one teacher simultaneously; 4. Over all Jewish community planning so that denominational facilities, teachers, and even pupils are pooled.
Reviewing the problems facing Jewish education in the United States, Mr. Isaac Toubin, executive director of the Association, declared that the family approach to Jewish learning had to be revived if Jewish education was to have any effective and lasting significance. A situation had developed where “instead of the parent having sufficient knowledge to exercise an influence upon the child, it is the child, out of his meager learning, who is today exercising a Jewish influence on the parent.”
It was not only essential to expand adolescent Jewish education on the high school level but to intensify the Jewish education of the adult. Mr. Toubin reported that he had discussed this proposal with ten major national Jewish organizations engaged in adult education and, as a result, it was recommended that a National Council for Jewish Education be established to organize adult Jewish education institutes throughout the United States.
At an earlier session the question of such aid had been discussed with opposing views being expressed by Dr. Leo Pfeffer, director of the American Jewish Congress’ Commission on Law and Social Action, and New York University Education Professor William W. Brickman, who is also chairman of the Commission on Education of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Dr. Brickman had told the Association that he favored Federal and State aid to parochial schools as long as it did not involve any “unjust unreasonable control. ” But Dr. Pfeffer saw this stand as reflecting “a willingness to barter the freedom of Jewish education for the fleshpots of Federal funds.”
The conference elected Mr. Philip W. Lown as president, and Mr. Samuel H. Daroff, Philadelphia, as chairman of the board.