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Conclave Seeks Ways to End Crisis in Jewish Education

Jewish educators and Zionist leaders warned here yesterday that Jewish education in Canada was facing a crisis and urged a reordering of priorities as an assurance against its further erosion. The warning and suggestion was mounted at the first national conference on Jewish education attended by some 140 delegates from cities across the country at the Zionist Center here.

Rosa Finestone, chairman of the organizing committee of the National Conference on Jewish Education and conference chairman, described the conclave as “a first step towards a coordinated effort by the Canadian Jewish community to provide facilities for those parents who seek to give their children a Jewish education,” and expressed the hope that the conference would be the beginning of greater accomplishments in the field of Jewish education.

Philip G. Givens, Q.C., MPP and president of the Canadian Zionist Federation, declared that “our Jewish educational system is in a crisis” and expressed the hope that the delegates would “not only discuss…but listen to each other.” In spite of the divergent views of the delegates the success of the conference was “vital for our children and for the continued viability of the community,” he said. In a similar vein, Sidney M. Harris, Q.C., and Canadian Jewish Congress vice-president, stressed the need “to convince parents that they must not deprive their children of the heritage that is rightfully theirs.”

Dr. Leon Kronitz, executive vice-president of the CZF, a noted educator from Montreal and the keynote speaker at the conference, expressed skepticism that Jewish organizations on a world, national and local level were actually giving Jewish education the number one priority it deserved. The question was no longer whether Jewish education was important, but the manner in which the Jewish community fulfilled its obligations, he noted. “If we are to continue educating our children in the 70s as we did 50-60-70 years ago, then in my view we are not fulfilling our obligations,” Dr. Kronitz declared.

He emphasized that the curriculum of Jewish schools must be based on three general elements: a knowledge of the people of Israel, a knowledge of the land of Israel, and a knowledge of the language of Israel and the Jewish people. The conference, which ends tonight, is focussing on national standards for Jewish education, teacher training and recruitment, parental attitudes, curriculum and funding.

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