Yeshiva U. Gets $1,250,000 to Establish Hebrew Teachers College

A pioneering four year college with experimental approaches designed to meet a critical shortage of qualified teachers in Jewish education will be established by Yeshiva University, it was announced today by Dr. Samuel Belkin, president. The new college is being made possible by a gift of $1,250,000 from philanthropist Jakob Michael, in memory of his late wife, Erna Sondheimer Michael, herself a noted philanthropist.

In praising Mr. Michael for his “generous and purposeful contribution to the future of Jewish children and therefore to the Jewish community,” Dr. Belkin said the Erna Michael College of Hebraic Studies will offer “a distinct departure from the current programs of Jewish teacher education in the United States.” As the first all-day American college to provide liberal arts and professional as well as Jewish studies, the new schools unusually broad curriculum will qualify its students for a Bachelor of Arts degree.

The tuition-free college’s other innovations include a full year of study in Israel for all students during their junior year, on-the-job laboratory experiences, summer sessions in Jewish educational camps, an intensive guidance program designed to counteract the trend toward “depersonalization” in American schools for teacher education, and utilization of audio-visual and other new communications techniques.

The Erna Michael College of Hebraic Studies is being developed, Dr. Belkin said, in response to a crisis stemming from a vast increase in the number of students seeking Jewish education and a concurrent failure of teacher training institutions to supply sufficient qualified graduates. He said less than half of the 800 teachers required by Jewish schools each year enter the Jewish education field. And many of those who do, he added, lack adequate preparation as scholars and teachers.

“The tremendous need is not only for more teachers, but for better ones,” Dr. Belkin said. “In the mid-sixties about 600,000 children attend formal Jewish schools,” he went on. “This represents about half of all school-age Jewish children, and we owe them the best education we can provide.”

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