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Educators Challenge Assumption That Jewish Tradition Can Answer All Problems

October 24, 1969
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A Jewish educator has challenged the assumption that Jewish tradition provides “precise and specific answers to contemporary problems.” Walter I. Ackerman, professor of education and dean of the Hebrew Teachers College and College of Judaica at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, said “the search for ‘relevance,’ aside from its mercurial character which makes long range planning for schools virtually impossible, can distort the meaning of Judaism and impose connotations never before intended.”

Prof. Ackerman expressed his views in an article titled “Jewish Education–For What?” which appears in the 70th annual edition of the American Jewish Year Book, a joint publication of the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Publication Society of America. The Year Book was released at the opening session here of the AJCommittee’s National Executive Board by Bertram H. Gold, executive vice president.

Prof. Ackerman maintains in his article that Jewish schools in American can supply guidelines for moral conduct. In his view, however, “it would be far more honest and efficacious for a teacher to admit that on a specific problem Judaism, in its classic formulation, has nothing to say, rather than attempt to force a position which is easily recognized as nothing more than an intellectual gymnastic.”

In the Year Book’s annual demographic review, Alvin Chenkin, of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, reported that the Jewish population of the United States in 1968 was estimated at 5,869,000. Of 4,019,000 Jews in Europe, 2,594,000 were in the Soviet Union. France has the second largest Jewish population with 535,000 and Britain was third with 410,000 Jews. The world’s Jewish population was placed at 13,786,000 with 2,436,000 in Israel.

A major Roman Catholic center for training Christian educators is sponsoring a series of eight lectures on “Judaeo-Christian Studies” in cooperation with the inter-religious affairs department of the AJCommittee, it was announced here. An AJCommittee spokesman said it was the first time in the history of Jewish – Christian relations in America that a Catholic institution of top rank was sponsoring lectures by Jewish scholars on Judaism and Jews.

The co-sponsor of the series is the Pope Pins XII Religious Education Center, the American branch of the International Lumen Vitae Catechetical movement in Brussels, Belgium. The program will feature lectures by prominent Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jewish scholars and thinkers. It is intended to implement the Vatican Council’s Declaration on Non-Christian Religions promulgated by Pope Paul VI in October, 1965 which repudiated anti-Semitism and encouraged the development of “mutual understanding” among Christians and Jews. John Cardinal Dearden. Archbishop of Detroit, and president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, has endorsed the lecture program.

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