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Deficiencies in American Jewish Education Discussed in Jerusalem

August 15, 1962
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The deficiencies in Jewish education in the United States and in other countries outside of Israel, and the importance of increasing the number of Jewish all-day schools in the United States were discussed here today at the six-day World Conference on Jewish education. Community responsibility for Jewish youth education was also one of the subjects discussed at today’s session.

The discussions today developed following charges voiced last night that Jewish education in the United States was being conducted “in vacuum.” The charges were made by Benjamin M. Kahn of Washington, D. C., national director of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations. He said that most Jewish students on American college campuses, if they had any Jewish schooling at all, are “products of an educational system that functions almost completely outside the home and in a context generally irrelevant to the problems and structure of Jewish community life.”

Rabbi Kahn, who spent 22 years in campus work, told the delegates: “Jewish education by itself was not the answer to motivating youth toward creative Jewish life, as the content of education is irrelevant to the problems of the Jewish community, thus making Jewish education a sterile proposition.”

The discussions conducted on college studies were the first effort by the different Jewish communities to bring out on an international scale the problems of Jewish youth on the campus. There are 250,000 Jewish students in American colleges and at least 150,000 in other free world countries outside of Israel. The consensus of the reports from campuses in other countries was similar to that from the United States.

Discussions on teacher training, headed by Dr. Samuel Blumenfield of New York and Isaac Goss of South Africa, brought out a picture showing that there was no hope of achieving any sizable increase in teacher recruitment until the Jewish communities elevated the economic and professional status of school teachers. The educators recommended the establishment of a teachers’ institute with funds from Israel and other Jewish communities. The institute would acquaint scholars with pedagogical problems outside Israel and prepare Israeli teachers for positions abroad.

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