Abraham Stern, Pioneer In Jewish Education


Abraham Stern, a career educator who served in various positions at Yeshiva University for four decades, died July 18 after a long illness. He was 78.

Dr. Stern, a Monsey resident, was a pioneer in informal Jewish education, developing Shabbaton programs and educational visits to Israel to teach about Jewish tradition.Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, called Dr. Stern “a selfless giant” and “the master teacher of informal Jewish education” in a eulogy at the Community Synagogue in Monsey. “He really was the enabler of a generation of leadership that saw the key to the future as serious Jewish education, both in terms of Jewish knowledge and Jewish experience. He promoted education as text and context.

“He had too much respect for Torah to feel it should be ‘sold,’” Joel said. “He felt it should be shared, in environments that were ideal, but never unbalanced. His YU Summer in Israel and Europe programs modeled birthright before birthright. Travel in Israel for him was not an Israel trip, but a Jewish journey.”

Birthright israel is a six-year-old program, co-sponsored by the Israeli government and overseas philanthropists, that brings college-age students to Israel for 10-day-long peer group visits.

Dr. Stern, a native of the Bronx, attended Yeshiva College and YU’s Teacher’s Institute. Later he received his master’s degree from the university’s School of Education and Community Administration, now known as the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and his Ph.D. from New York University.

After working as executive director of Mizrachi Youth of America and youth director of the Talmud Torah of Flatbush, he joined Yeshiva University in 1950 as a psychiatric social worker-educator and associate professor. He became director of the Community Service Division’s Youth Bureau, and director of the now-defunct Center for Continuing Education, where he established several programs, including the Rabbinic-Medical Institute and the Wall Street Institute on Business Ethics.

In 1985 he became a full-time faculty member at the Wurzweiler School, and retired in 1991.

Dr. Stern, who had a specialty in the use of social group work methods in the treatment of asthmatic children, was the author of several books and publications, including “Asthma and Emotion” (Gardner Press, 1981).

During his career he served as a senior lecturer at the Bar-Ilan University School of Social Work, and as consultant to the New York State Rehabilitation Hospital.

Dr. Stern was buried in Israel.

He is survived by his wife, Malka; five daughters, Rifkie Lamm, Debbie Berko, Judith Becker, Sharon Richter and Faygie Borvick; and several grandchildren.