THE COMMUNITY JEWISH DAY SCHOOL: A NEW EXPERIENCE IN JEWISH EDUCATION

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1993

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The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the origins and development of the Community Jewish Day School in America, a new form of education for the American Jewish community. It was different from earlier, single-ideological day schools that had emerged in the early part of the twentieth century. This dissertation describes the emergence of this new form of education by looking at three different cities at three different times. What has emerged from this research is that by 1946 Philadelphia presented its Jewish community with a four-pronged configuration necessary to build a community Jewish day school. First, there existed a strong desire to intensively educate their children outside the home in an institution that could integrate both General and Judaic studies. Second, there was also present an ability to pay for private education and a sufficient population ready to leave the public school for a period of time. Third, Philadelphia in 1946 also provided a comfortable host environment in which Christian neighbors were doing similar things for their children. Fourth, the families who came forward were representative of varied Jewish religious backgrounds requiring this welcoming environment and a pluralistic setting. The traditional, single ideological school was not suitable -- the diversity of the first families demanded a respect for Jewish heterogeneity. Again in 1972 and in 1982, the demographics, cultural and religious needs, economic resources and hospitable environment merged. Numbers, a strong commitment, ability to pay and a comfortable host environment were all present. The dissertation traces the development of this unique trans-ideological institution by relating it to the major changes that have occurred within the American Jewish community, the world Jewish scene and in American society. The dissertation presents the Community Jewish Day School by placing it within the events and trends in the larger historical and social environment of the American Jewish community. The study further suggests that this form of education, in fact, is a reflection of the much larger pluralistic society of mid-twentieth century America.

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