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November 15, 1985 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-11-15

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, November 15, 1985

. . . But for other children, it's like being held prisoner two afternoons each week.

what some of the holidays are. We
have to teach them things as basic
as that. I think one generation after
the war simply became too assimi-
lated. Over recent years, it may
have even been fashionable to drop
certain practices in the home." As
Rabbi Sam Schafler, superintendent
of Chicago's Board of Jewish Educa-
tion aptly put it, Our crisis is no
longer whether Johnny can read He-
brew, but whether Johnny has any
Jewishness at all."
Hence, Hebrew schools across
the country have expanded their
scope, and since the '60s have in-
creasingly become known as "reli-
gious" schools. Students are taught
everything their parents were
taught, plus a fundamental under-
standing of Judaism and the Jewish
experience. Overnight camps, Shab-
bat activities, Jewish art experiences
and holiday teachings are as prime a
directive in today's religious schools
as teaching Torah. In other words,
the Jewish upbringing of children
has shifted ,from home to school,
thus paralleling the child-rearing
phenomenon in secular society.
But are the religious schools
capable of discharging their addi-
tional responsibilities? The answer:
a qualified no.
It's true, Jewish education is ex-
panding. However, as Chana Reich,
teacher at Chicago's Cong. Emanuel

said, "I read one study that declared,
`Jewish education has become a mile
wide and an inch deep.' ". Butting up
against the trend of assimilation and
the shift from home to school is a
concomitant decline in the quality of
supplementary Jewish educators and
Today, supplementary Jewish
education is not a profession, it's an
activity. Religious schools are today
virtually devoid of men, despite cen-
turies of their traditional contribu-
tions to the endeavor. Their disap-
pearance is due as much to low eco-
nomic appeal as a diminished re-
spect for the job. Most of the women,
although well-intentioned and caring
people, are simply not trained,
licensed or certified. And most of
them are in fact working in their
spare time in a job akin to mother-
hood to earn a little extra money.
Sources at the Jewish Education
Service of North America (JESNA)
in New York estimate that only ten
percent of America's 8,000 or so
supplementary Jewish educators are
even certified. Indeed, Rabbi Stewart
Kellman, executive director of the
Agency for Jewish Education of the
Greater East Bay (Northern Califor-
nia), declares, "I don't even think a
profession exists here. The criteria
that normally defines any profession
are simply absent when one talks of
supplemental religious school

teachers. Of course, this doesn't in-
clude the principals, who can be
classified as professionals and who
are trying to do a good job with what
they have."
Sara Kaplan, a religious school
principal in Baltimore, admits, "I
have them here, but a teacher who
is truly a teacher is really hard to
come by. But that I mean someone
trained in both Judaism and pedag-
ogy." And Kellman adds that it may
be time to "change our myth and ac-
cept the fact that those in
supplementary Jewish education are
not in a full-time profession, but
rather in a part-time career, and go
on from there."
Detroit, however, is in a position
to leap far ahead of the nation. -The
United Hebrew Schools, which serv-
ice about 15-20 percent of Detroit's
Jewish education students, employs
a unionized staff of approximately 60
teachers, "nearly all of whom are
either licensed, certified or working
on it," according to UHS superinten-
dent Rabbi Gerald Teller. "In fact,
our union contract requires licensing
or certification for tenure."
In contrast, independent reli-
gious schools, responsible for slightly
more than half of the student body,
employ a staff more closely resem-
bling the national reality. (While the
overwhelming majority of Detroit's

Continued on next page

The Jewish
upbringing of
children has shifted
from the home to the
school and religious
schools don't seem
capable of
discharging that


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