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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 5Communal Support for Day-School Education 195


Chapter 5 Communal Support for Day-School Education Armed with an understanding of the growing parental acceptance of day- school education, let us now take a closer look at the concomitant commu- nal dynamics. Which groups and individuals in the community promoted the day schools, and which opposed them? Where was day-school education situated in terms of the broader Anglo-Jewish agenda? Was the day-school movement’s growth planned, or spontaneous and ad hoc? And how were communal resources marshalled to build and maintain these expensive institutions? This chapter will explore the community’s response to the increased demand for day-school education. The Chief Rabbi’s educational programme Immanuel Jakobovits was elected Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth1 in 1966 following the retirement of Rabbi Israel Brodie. Jakobovits was born in Koenigsberg in 1921, and brought to London by Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld some fifteen years later. After graduating from one of Schonfeld’s day schools in Stamford Hill, Jakobovits entered Queen Mary’s College, London to read science. At his father’s behest, Jakobovits left the university to study at Jews’ College and Etz Chaim Yeshiva. After 1 This is the of ficial title. The Chief Rabbi is not formally the head of the Reform, Liberal or haredi communities, though informally, he is often perceived as religious spokesperson for Anglo-Jewry in its entirety. 196 Chapter 5 receiving rabbinical ordination, he served as minister at the Brondesbury Synagogue in NW London and then at New Cross Synagogue, also in London. In 1946, he was...

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