ATLANTIC CITY (May. 24)
More than 13,000 teachers are employed in Jewish educational institutions in the United States, and at least 1,000 teachers are needed annually for new positions and replacements, it was reported at the four-day 38th annual conference of the National Council for Jewish Education, the overall professional organization of Jewish educators in this country, held at Breakers Hotel here.
“The annual shortage of hundreds of teachers in Jewish elementary, secondary and higher schools of learning is a threat to the very existence of the several Jewish school systems in the United States,” the report said. More than 500 delegates are attending the conference which is closing today. Dr. Elazar Coelman of Philadelphia, dean of Gratz College, was elected at today’s session to a second term as president of the organization.
The conference today adopted a resolution urging amendment of federal income tax laws to permit parents of children attending fulltime religious schools to deduct from their taxable income a portion of funds spent for tuition to such schools. The resolution stressed that such an arrangement would not infringe on the principle of church-state separation, but “would ease the present unfair burden of double taxation on such parents at relatively little cost to the federal treasury.”
In another resolution, the delegates urged the Jewish federations and welfare funds “to provide adequate support for communal Hebrew schools through central community agencies for Jewish education” and to provide adequate facilities for such schools “to meet the needs arising from changing conditions in the Jewish community, particularly from the current mobility of the Jewish population.”
The delegates also urged the American Association for Jewish Education to organize the communal Hebrew schools of the United States and Canada “into a national federation to advance and strengthen the communal school movement.” The resolution also urged the AAJE to conduct a nationwide survey to obtain all the facts pertaining to the development, achievements, problems and potentialities of the communal school for the advancement of Jewish education.
In another resolution, the educators called on parents to exercise close supervision on television viewing by their children for the benefit of Jewish study. The resolution urged parents to trim drastically the amount of viewing by their children of certain programs “both on grounds that the time could be much more usefully spent on their homework assignments, both general and Jewish, and because this television material is spiritually and culturally debasing.”
JEWISH COMMUNITY URGED TO CREATE $5,000,000 FUND FOR EDUCATION
Dr. Samuel Dinin, vice-chancellor of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, addressing the conference, proposed that the organized Jewish community create a fund of $5,000,000 to be used solely to strengthen Jewish education in the United States, particularly in the recruiting of young people for careers in Jewish education.
“The Jewish teaching profession is in danger of becoming a vanishing profession,” Dr. Dinin told the 500 educators. He said changes in Jewish education had brought about part-time and pupil-teachers who lacked adequate training. He also said that, as in public education, there was a shortage of teachers even for full-time teaching jobs in Jewish education because young Jews preferred careers in science and research.
“If it were not for the exchange teachers from Israel and for the hundreds of Israelis residing in the United States, the Jewish schools would indeed be in a bad way,” he stated. “But most of the Israelis are here for but a few years time and cannot be counted upon as a permanent source of supply for teacher personnel.”
“What is required,” he continued, “is a special fund of $5,000,000, similar to the fund established by the Ford Foundation, to be used to recruit young people to careers in Jewish education through the provision of scholarships to high school and college students; to provide incentive grants and grants in aid to encourage schools and communities to raise salaries, to provide pensions and health insurance and other fringe benefits to give the Jewish teacher salaries and conditions of work similar at least to those of the public school teacher in his community.”
EDUCATORS URGED TO CORRECT DISTORTED VIEWS HELD BY YOUNG U.S. JEWS
Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfield, director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Jewish Agency in New York, urged the Jewish educators to seek to correct the “inadequate and sometimes distorted” ideas held by young American Jews. He told the delegates that such ideas constituted “a caricature of Israel and its meaning for American Jewry.”
He said it was not uncommon to find American Jewish youth who have attended Jewish schools speaking of supporting “poor Jews” in Israel and of Hebrew as simply a subject required for preparation for Bar Mitzvah. He said it was a reflection on the Jewish organizations working on behalf of Israel and Jewish education that they had failed to “convey to the rising generation in the United States the dream of Israel reborn and the significance of modern Hebrew men of letters and scholars, not only for Israel, but for American Jewry as well.”
Dr. Alexander M. Dushkin, professor emeritus of the Hebrew University and former executive vice-president of the Jewish Education Committee of New York City, differed with the prevailing view that Jewish education in the United States now had not improved over the past 50 years.
Dr. Judah Pilch of New York, director of the National Curriculum Research Institute and chairman of the project, reported that a chair had been established in the Institute of Contemporary Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University under sponsorship by the National Council for Jewish Education through an Alexander M. Dushkin Fellowship.
Yitzhak Harkavy, the newly appointed director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, told the Jewish educators that the unity of the Jewish people and the continuity of Israel were the indispensable concepts for Jewish education. He urged American Jewish educators to view their long-range objectives in terms of these concepts.