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Rabbi and Jewish Educator Calls for Reordering Priorities

A leading figure in Jewish education is calling for a restructuring of priorities in the American Jewish community and is urging that a substantial allocation of communal resources be redirected to Jewish education.

In remarks prepared for delivery tomorrow to some 700 teachers from the U.S. and Canada attending the second Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education, Rabbi Irving Rosenbaum, president of the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, III., also criticizes “the willingness of the American Jewish community to accept a less than excellent general standard for Jewish education.”

Rosenbaum added that not only must present educational institutions be strengthened, but new educational experiences must be encouraged. “Education is never limited just to the classroom, but is a continual ongoing process. We must begin to utilize all our resources and possibilities. The Jewish community must investigate such programs as summer camps and family education.”

Rosenbaum is to deliver his remarks in a “davar Torah” (lesson in the law) given as the keynote address at the conference which opened yesterday and concludes Sunday. The topic of his remarks “T’shuva” (Hebrew for repentance), will be delivered as apropos to the timing of the conference, just prior to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosenbaum cited the 12th Century Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, who wrote that repentance is only proven when the circumstance allowing wrongdoing is avoided.

“The American Jewish community must decide if it is merely going to continue self-righteous breast-beating, or if it will really, literally, put its money where its mouth is–in this case, Jewish education.” The problems in Jewish education are not just those of the classroom. Rosenbaum asserted as well that “the Jewish community must make it both worthwhile and attractive for our best minds to want to make their lives and livelihoods in the Jewish community. The role of the Jewish educator must receive both the wage and the respect commensurate to such roles outside the Jewish community.”

The conference will honor the memory of Shraga Philip Arian who died in 1972 at the age of 44. He had served as principal of the religious school of Temple Israel of Albany, N.Y., and was known as an empathetic and innovative educator. Arian was widely regarded among Jewish educators as an activist who regarded students as his primary responsibility. The memorial statement issued by the conference remembers Arian as “a teacher and inspiration….Shraga…fulfilled the vision of a vital, total Jewish education for which this second Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education strives.”

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