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Jewish Education Problems Discussed at World Parley of Educators

August 3, 1964
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Jewish communal, religious and educational leaders attending a World Conference on Jewish Education, which opened here today, established at the opening session that a critical lack of qualified teachers is thwarting the advancement of Jewish education in communities outside Israel.

The need for an accelerated teacher recruitment and training program was stressed in an address by Professor Alexander M. Dushkin of the Hebrew University and in statements by education experts who are participating here in plans to initiate a World Council on Jewish Education to deal with major problems of Jewish education.

Dr. Joseph Lookstein, of New York, acting president of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, and coordinator for the presidium that is organizing the Council, said that a “minimum force” of 5,000 trained Jewish teachers is essential to fill present-day needs. This was also emphasized in a report on a survey of teacher training and recruitment throughout the world conducted by Prof. Dushkin.

In the United States alone, where the shortage of Jewish teachers is not as critical as in many other lands, Dr. Dushkin found that less than half of the estimated 1,200 teaching posts vacant each year are filled by trained personnel and many schools “are compelled to appoint as teachers anyone who knows a little Hebrew, however unqualified and incapable, frequently with disastrous effects on children.”


The survey disclosed that 8,500 teachers occupy 19,000 Jewish teaching posts in the United States, most of them doubling up at all-day and afternoon schools, and that the turnover among them is about 15 per cent a year.

To compensate for this loss, Dr. Dushkin reported, 11 Jewish teacher training institutes are graduating only about 150 students annually, not all of whom remain in the Jewish teaching profession. An additional 500 teachers are recruited each year from rabbinical seminaries, from among Israelis temporarily residing in the United States and from other sources.

“The teacher shortage is even more acute in continental Europe where less than 25 per cent of the children attend Jewish schools,” Dr. Dushkin said. He found an “urgent need” for more schools and classes in France where the Jewish population has jumped substantially in recent years as a result of Jewish emigration from North Africa.

The yearly attrition is about one-fifth of the 1,800 teachers in continental Europe and Great Britain, while teacher training schools are turning out only about 30 qualified graduates a year, Dr. Dushkin noted. He described the teacher shortage as the “central problem of Jewish education today” and stressed the need to raise the status of the profession to a level equivalent with other teaching groups.

Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, in the opening address at the assembly, attributed to Jewish education “the Jewish role in continuity and survival.” “Neither the impact of anti-Semitism nor the stress on Jewish philanthropy, important as they are, have the primacy of Jewish education in determining the future of Jewish life,” he declared.

The delegates opened the debate this afternoon with a plan for the structure of the World Council on Jewish Education. Discussion focused largely on a proposed site for the council’s headquarters.

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