Parochial Schools in New York Face Liquidation, Rabbi’s Survey Shows
“The Jewish community as a whole, though there must be exceptions or else the Yeshivah College would never have gotten as far as it did even in the dedication of a part of its contemplated structure, is not in favor of parochial schools,” states an editorial by Rabbi Gerson B. Levi, editor, in the “Reform Advocate” of Chicago. “The Jew in America to whom the public schools are open without let or hindrance sees the immense possibilities of the public school system. He has the feeling that if prejudices are in any measure to be worn down by education, he ought not to do anything that would weaken or cripple the public school system. There is an attitude of mind that they must have who while they are taxed for the maintenance of the public schools must voluntarily tax themselves in addition, for the support of the secular schools that they have set up and joined on to the church bodies. The expected tendency of such people is to fight to keep the taxation for public school purposes as low as they possibly can. It would be interesting to make a survey of the taxes levied for school purposes in communities where the parochial system is not in vogue and compare them with those levied in communities where the parochial system is urged and where it has been established. And we are of a mind in advance of any such survey to risk the statement that the public schools are treated in very niggardly fashion in the latter communities. Jews do not feel that they ought to do anything to endanger the public school system.
“And then we have a feeling that some subjects can be taught as well in the public schools as they can be taught in the parochial schools. And surely we have the feeling that it is useless to argue that certain subjects can be taught better in the parochial schools just because of the atmosphere around the whole institution. Chemistry is dependent on the adequacy of the teaching staff and on the completeness of laboratory equipment and not on the fact that the teachers wear little caps on their heads while they are explaining chemical formulae. Where the difference might be is that under the parochial system of secular studies it might happen that certain subjects will not be taught at all, or if taught, will be taught only by halves. It is conceivable that in a Catholic parochial school, the philosophies that came after the scholastic period-or what modern philosophy calls the scholastic period-will not be taught at all. That section of philosophic thinking will be dealt with as if it were non-existent. Jews cannot think that way at all. Jews will study modern philosophy though they may have their choice of acceptance or non-acceptance. The schedule of studies will be, if the parochial Jewish school is working efficiently, parallel with the studies in the public schools. There is then no way of throwing any “religious” spirit about the teaching of physics or of chemistry or of biology.
“Then we ask why the duplication? Why should any small body run competition with the body of citizens. There was a time in the development of the theory of temple building when we made the venture of competing with the public at large when we planned temples. It was thought that temple should not be built without having as an adjunct a swimming pool and other such things. These things were supposed by some miraculous fashion to be feeders to the Temple. They were not. Any salesman could have foretold that. The way to sell stoves is not talk about trousers. The way to talk religion is not by way of the swimming pool, at least necessarily. And temples, these days, have learned the lesson, though they know that there is a complete development of the soul and the body, recognize that they cannot compete with the public in the erection of swimming pools. Any form of competition like this would draw away funds from causes that no one else will attend to and waste them on causes that all are willing to attend to. The cause of Jewish education in this country is neglected enough. The amount of money for the support of congregations and schools is little enough. We ought to be jealous about the using of the money and not spend any of it for purposes that would be taken care of without our particular section of the Jewish community,” the editorial states.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.