Conference of Educators Gets Program for Secondary Jewish Education

A four-point program to improve Jewish secondary school education and increase the number of students enrolled in Jewish high schools in the United States was outlined at the 35th annual conference of the National Council for Jewish Education which opened here today.

Dr. Samuel H. Dinsky, educational consultant of the Jewish Education Committee of New York, told 300 Jewish educators and education leaders from all over the United States that there are 43,000 students in Jewish secondary schools in America today, constituting 7.7 percent of the total Jewish school enrollment of an estimated 554,000 elementary and high school students.

“This figure is indicative of the significant gain in the field of secondary Jewish education during the last half century, since the first Hebrew high school was founded in 1912 in New York City, ” Dr. Dinsky declared at the opening session of the four-day conference. He said that the 43,000 Jewish high school students are distributed among three types of secondary schools; one-day, 47.4 percent; week-day afternoon, 40 percent; and all-day Jewish schools, 12,6 percent.

This indicated that “the largest number of Jewish high school students is participating in the least intensive religious education program, while the smallest number is enrolled in the most intensive program,” Dr. Dinsky noted. He proposed:

1. Secondary Jewish education should be made primary in the interests and values of the American Jewish community.

2. The one-day secondary Jewish school program be increased to two or three days.

3. Attention should be focused on a secondary Jewish teacher program in the Hebrew teacher colleges of the United States to provide a core of professionally trained teachers for the secondary Jewish education programs.

4. A national commission for Jewish Education should be established to plan and implement an organized and sustained program of promoting, coordinating and raising the standards of secondary Jewish education in the United States.

Elijah Bortniker, executive director of the Jewish Education Association of Essex County, New Jersey, emphasized that the “boy or girl who quits the Jewish elementary school at about the age of 13 ceases his or her Jewish learning. Any further acquisition of Jewish knowledge, Jewish understanding or appreciation of Jewish values is too accidental and spotty to amount to anything substantial,” he said, adding that it was essential for a “reasonable fraction” of the total Jewish school population to continue the high school level “in order to give meaning to the elementary Jewish school as well. Without such continuation our entire educational program may well be questioned.”

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