Focus on Issues New Program to Boost Jewish Education in the Diaspora

“Jerusalem Fellowships,” an educational project which its creators believe will have major and sustained impact on Jewish education in the diaspora, was launched here this week at a ceremony at the World Zionist Organization headquarters.

“This program embodies the obligation of the State of Israel to the spiritual survival of the diaspora,” said Prof. Nathan Rothenstreich, the leading Israeli philosopher and savant. “It is the profound responsibility towards Jewish society that motivated our bank,” said Ernst Japhet, chairman of Bank Leumi, which has put up the initial $1 million to fund the bold venture.

Jerusalem Fellowships will get under way at the start of the 1982-83 academic year. Ten promising young Jewish educators from diaspora countries will come to Jerusalem with their families to embark on three-year intensive, individually tailored courses designed to mould them into top leaders and administrators in the fields of Jewish education and teacher-training.

WILL BE ENCOURAGED IN FIELDS OF INTEREST

Each of them will be taken under the personal tutelage of ranking Israeli academics in various scholarly and pedogogic disciplines. They will have access to, and benefit from, all of Israel’s universities, teacher-training colleges, research centers and some yeshivot. Each of them will be encouraged to deepen his/her knowledge and expertise in the field of his/her particular interest — while at the same time broadening their horizons to encompass studies in other areas.

For instance, explained Prof. Seymour Fox, head of the Hebrew University School of Education, a diaspora educator whose penchant is for Talmud will be given every opportunity, at the highest academic levels, to enrich his knowledge in this field, while also being exposed to such pedagogic essentials as child psychology, administration, and Israel-related studies.

The result (hopefully) at the end of the three-years will be a fully rounded Jewish educator qualified to take his/her place in the forefront of Jewish education back home.

The one requirement — beyond basic suitability and promise, which will be meticulously examined by an admission panel — will be the Fellow’s undertaking to give at least the next five years of his life to Jewish education in his home country. After that, he is welcome to return to Israel as a permanent oleh — and would certainly be pounced on by educational institutions here.

INITIAL IDEA WAS DULZIN’S

The initial idea, Fox told the inauguration ceremony, was that of Leon Dulzin, the WZO chairman, who for years has warned world Jewry of the desperate need to improve educational opportunities offered to its next generation. Dulzin himself reiterated his dire warnings at the ceremony. “Only 42 percent of Western European Jewish children today receive any form of Jewish education whatsoever, and intermarriage rates are soaring …”

One fundamental fault, Dulzin continued, was the almost total lack of serious, high-level Jewish teacher-training. And it was this lack that the Jerusalem Fellowships program would seek to supply, at least to some extent.

The program begins with 10 fellows, but within three years — if all goes according to plan — there will be 30 (all on three-year individual courses), and the aim is to maintain this level.

Candidates will need to have academic degrees (preferably doctorates) or equivalent rabbinical qualifications in order to be considered by the admission panel chaired by Rothenstreich. The savant envisaged the Fellowship program itself as “akin to a doctorate program” with its stress on specialization and on individual tuition.

NEW ERA FOR JEWISH EDUCATION

One overall stress that Rothenstreich underscored was the stress on Israel as a powerhouse of Jewish culture and scholarship whose task and purpose must be to assist the diaspora in spiritual matters.

Dulzin praised Bank Leumi for its “vision.” He said reaction among Jewish communities to the Fellowship scheme had been uniformly favorable and enthusiastic. “A new era, a new source of energy for Jewish education” was how the WZO chairman described the project.

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