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Jewish Education in England, 1944-1988

Between Integration and Separation

David Mendelsson

Today, the dominant model for Jewish education is the community-wide, technologically advanced day school, where the Judaic subjects are taught by professional educators using student-friendly, interactive methodologies. Not so long ago, however, most Jewish education consisted of rote repetition of prayers and biblical passages and their translation into awkward English by teachers with no formal pedagogic training, in classes – often located in synagogue basements – held on Sunday or once a week after ‘ordinary’ school.
This book explains the radical reconfiguring of Jewish education in England in historical and sociocultural terms. It explores the transformations that took place in every aspect of Jewish education: curriculum, religious/ideological orientation, school format (afternoon classes vs day schools), funding (private vs state), and more. The author shows that this dramatic transition directly reflects both changes in the socioeconomic profile and self-identity of Anglo-Jewry as well as demographic and cultural changes in British society in general. Tracking the shift from integration to separation, this book maps the effect of competing societal, personal and communal agendas, pedagogic paradigms, and pragmatic constraints on the rise of the Jewish day school in England.


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Chapter 2Ideologies and Jewish Day Schools 63


Chapter 2 Ideologies and Jewish Day Schools This chapter will explore the divergent religious and pedagogic orientations of the various organizations that provided day-school and part-time Jewish education, and the degree to which these disparate ideologies precluded cooperation between the groups. The Jewish Secondary Schools Movement Though most of Anglo-Jewry was unfavourably disposed toward Jewish day schools, some strictly Orthodox Jews saw in them the most appropriate instrument for educating future generations in their responsibilities as both Jews and British citizens. In 1953, there were seven primary and five second- ary Jewish day schools operating in the London area. Of these, only three were not strictly Orthodox: two large state-aided primary schools (Stepney Jewish and the Solomon Wolfson), and the earliest Zionist day school in Britain, Hillel House School, also a primary school. The remainder were mostly af filiated with the Jewish Secondary School Movement ( JSSM). The JSSM was founded by Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld (1912–84), who had inherited the responsibility for these schools and the Adath Yisroel synagogue in Stoke Newington from his father, Rabbi Victor (Avigdor) Schonfeld, who immigrated from Hungary in 1909. The Adath Yisroel synagogue was established to counter the ‘milk and water Orthodoxy’ of Chief Rabbis Nathan Marcus Adler (held of fice 1845–90) and his son Hermann Adler (1891–1911), both of whom were seen as lenient on key 64 Chapter 2 religious matters such as shechita (ritual slaughter).1 The Adath Yisroel evolved into a separate community with its own arrangements for sol-...

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