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September 29, 1989 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-29

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Education In Crisis

Continued from Page 9






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ways: Jewish education is not
a valued career. Most Jewish
educators are not seen or
treated as leaders in their
6. This overall situation af-
fects the level of senior educa-
tional personnel in several,
somewhat paradoxical ways:
Because of the acute shortage
of talented personnel, ascent
to upper level positions in
Jewish education can be quite
rapid and remuneration fair-
ly decent. However, many
observers contend that this
has brought individuals into
administrative and super-
visory positions without
adequate training and exper-
ience. Hence, the quality of
senior level personnel is not
assured, and incentives for
their professional growth are
not strong. The fact that
senior personnel are relative-
ly well paid compared with
teachers widens the psycho-
logical distance between the
two groups and encourages
the best teachers to seek ad-
ministrative positions, even
when their real talent lies in
Within this generally
gloomy picture there are a
number of bright spots.
Where sufficent resources
have been invested, recruit-
ment and training programs
have been successful in at-
tracting quality candidates.
A number of local institu-
tional and communal initia-
tives have uncovered new
pools from which to draw per-
sonnel, pioneered new train-
ing models, and sought to ad-
dress fundamental issues
such as salaries and benefits.
Several communities have
succeeded in upgrading stan-
dards by providing incentives
for professional development
and/or tying funding to
teacher certification.
A new factor in the current
equation is the increasing in-
terest and investment in in-
formal Jewish education,
especially by Jewish com-
munity centers. This opens
up new possibilities for fund-
ing, for broadening the base
of support for Jewish educa-
tion, and for creating full-time
positions in settings other
than day schools.

Roots of The Crisis
Before considering strate-
gies of response to this situa-
tion, we should examine why
it has developed. At lease four
factors appear to be involved:
1. The structural configura-
tion of Jewish education
undermines the development
of a profession. Jewish educa-
tion is highly fragmented in
sponsorship. Schools are
generally ideologically linked
and often part of synagogues.
lb° many schools are small
and poorly funded. Available
personnel may not match up

with the ideological sponsor-
ship of the institution, caus-
ing tensions between faculty,
administration, students and
parents. Communal support
for synagogue-based educa-
tion has been slow and
meager. It has been difficult
to create full-time positions
which would necessitate
crossing institutional lines.
2. Education and teaching
in general have become prob-
lematic professions in
American society. Most of the
problems besetting general
education beset Jewish edu-
cation in heightened form.
Neither in the general nor the
Jewish spheres is education
treated as a highly regarded or
rewarding profession.
3. The Jewish community
has displayed ambivalence
about its educational system.

Jewish education
is not a valued
career. Most
Jewish educators
arecnot seen or
treated as leaders
in their

Although more than four out
of five Jewish parents want
their children to receive some
type of Jewish education,
many are unwilling to invest
the time, energy and re-
sources to make that educa-
tion substantive and mean-
ingful. The suspicion exists
that some American Jews
fear that Jewish education
which is "too good" might
threaten the successful ad-
justment of themselves and
their children to American
society. As a result, neither
parents nor the community
have been prepared to make
the sustained investment in
Jewish education which
would be required to really
come to grips with the per-
sonnel crisis.
4. Finally, educators them-
selves bear part of the blame.
Generally, they have lacked
and often derided the skill s in
marketing and community
organization which are
necessary to create a reservoir
of support within the com-
munity. Their own tendencies
to elitism and deprecation of
the less knowledgeable have
sometimes "turned off" po-
tential allies. Hence, a body of
effective lay and professional
advocates for Jewish educa-
tion has been slow to develop.

Strategies Of Response
It is clear that the develop-
ment of a cadre of Jewish
educational leaders in North
America is one element in an
overall strategy to address
the crisis of personnel in

Continued on Page 18

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