Rabbi Sandrow, Reversing Former Position, Urges State Aid for Hebrew Day Schools

A leading Conservative rabbi declared today that “with pain in my heart and a total reversal of a stand I have taken for the greater part of my career, I urge that we accept state aid for our (Hebrew) day schools.” The remark, by Rabbi Edward T. Sandrow, past president of the New York Board of Rabbis and spiritual leader of Temple Beth El, Cedarhurst, N.Y., was made in the course of an address at a midwinter conference of Jewish educators here, sponsored jointly by the Educators Assembly and the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish education. Rabbi Sandrow said he was forced to reverse his position on state aid to private schools because the Jewish community has not given sufficient support to Jewish education. He told his audience that the present system of congregational afternoon schools in which students get no more than six hours a week of instruction is not adequate. “If we imagine we can teach a youngster Hebrew conversation in an environment where Hebrew is foreign, we tilt against windmills,” he said. He called on the educators “to push for the establishment of more day schools and to urge more of our children in afternoon schools to transfer to day schools.” He also proposed the development of “a network of post-elementary schools and afternoon high schools with a minimum of six to eight hours, using goals and materials that go beyond mere reading of dry and dusty history books and biblical tracts, but stress the very lifestyle of the Jew in America.”

Rabbi Sandrow urged “rabbis and principals of congregational schools to return to the classroom, particularly after the third year of congregational schooling, for religious and moral teaching.” Rabbi Sandrow said that talk of Federation assuming greater fiscal responsibilities for Jewish education is on the agenda of many communities. But he cautioned Jewish communities not to he “lulled into the notion that money alone will reconstruct our communities, motivate our parents, break down the present sense of alienation, create better schools and viable curricula.” He warned that “Federation as the sole panacea is also an illusion, even if Federation could financially support the educational complex.” The Conservative leader claimed that except for a small number of students who attend congregational schools or Hebrew summer camps or who have spent time in Israel, “most grow up to maturity almost totally devoid of Jewish knowledge.” Referring to the theme of the midwinter conference, “The Future Curriculum of the Jewish School,” he said, “It is inconceivable that after almost 25 years, with all the changes in the world, with increased alienation of our youth, with the establishment of the State of Israel, our curriculum remains the same.” He observed that “The Hebrew courses we try to give in a six-hour-a-week school simply cannot prepare an average child for a Conservative synagogue service or for Bible study.”

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