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Jewish Education

By Norma Joseph, Concordia University

Sociological surveys show that in this century, especially in America, more Jews have spent time in specifically Jewish educational institutions than for any previous era for which we have documentation. American Jewish history, then, is distinguished by the development of an exceptional institutional approach to education. Founded in part on modern notions of democracy and American approaches to public education, Jewish schools were created for all Jewis, even women. This democratization, activated by educational trends in Europe, created a unique form of Judaism. Not only were the elite to be learned, not only were men to be scholars, but all Jews, including female Jews, needed schooling. Many American Jews came to believe that one could not be a good Jew without some form of Jewish education. Learning about the heritage became a way of participating in it.

The variations in educational institutions reflect political divisions amongst contemporary Jews. It is noteworth that this development emerged in the Orthodox community and grew so well in teh Maericanization process amongst all the various ectors. Yet, despite fierce ideological disputes, the commitment to education as a form of survival strategy has not wavered. In fact, it is stronger than ever. Solutions to fears of assimilation focus on outreach educational plans. Thus, looking towards future developments must take into consideration this new form of "being and doing Jewish." This paper will attempt to survey some of the trends, innovations, gender implications and future potential in the ever growing world of Jewish education.

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