JOHANNESBURG (Aug. 2)
The newly elected president of the South African Board of Jewish Education has challenged a proposal made at the annual plenary meeting of the World Conference of Jewish Organizations in Geneva last month that COJO should become the agency responsible for stimulating Jewish education in countries outside of Israel.
Louis Sachs, speaking at the 16th national Jewish education convention here, also took exception to a statement made by Louis A. Pincus, chairman of the World Zionist Organization Executive in Jerusalem, that Jewish education in South Africa was disintegrating. Pincus made his proposal for COJO taking responsibility for Jewish education globally, as well as his criticism of South African Jewish education at the plenary meeting on July 9.
However, David K. Mann, chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, who was a COJO plenary delegate, told the meeting that Pincus had been inaccurately reported. Mann said that when Pincus used the word “disintegrating,” he had meant to refer only to the financial crisis of Jewish education in South Africa. Mann noted that a crisis conference had been held on the problem last year.
Mann added that Pincus had attended that conference, convened Jointly by the Board of Deputies, the Zionist Federation and the Board of Jewish Education and that the world Zionist leader had helped to persuade various organizations to make funds available to help Jewish education.
Sachs said he doubted COJO would succeed in the proposed global education proposal where the Jewish Agency itself had made “so little headway.” He said he felt that Jewish education in the diaspora would not get the stimulation it required until it was handled by the Israel Education department and not by COJO or the Jewish Agency. He added he felt that the trouble with Jewish education in the diaspora was that it was not based on the centrality of Israel in modern Jewish life. He asserted that Hebrew teachers in the United States regarded the centrality of Jewish life as being in New York and not in Israel, a view he said applied also to Jewish schools he had visited in Britain and other countries.
The Board of Jewish Education in South Africa has stressed orientation towards Israel from the start. He added that Israel was an integral part of local Jewish day school curricula and that the education board conducted study ulpanim to Israel annually for pupils of the schools.
Sachs also declared that a Jewish Agency survey had shown that South African Jewry was among the top diaspora communities in its work for Jewish education. He said 11,900 of an estimated 23,000 Jewish children in South Africa between the ages of five and 17 received some form of Jewish education, which he said was a higher percentage than in most other non-Israel communities. He added that of those 11,900, nearly 7000 currently were attending Jewish day schools. He said plans were being made to expand the day school system, adding that one million rand ($1,26 million) would be the goal of the forthcoming education fund campaign for which Gideon Hausner, a Knesset member, was coming to start this month for the board of education.