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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 6Jewish Education in Multicultural England 223


Chapter 6 Jewish Education in Multicultural England This chapter will explore how socio-cultural developments in British soci- ety in the 1970s and 1980s impacted Anglo-Jewish education. England was becoming a multicultural, multi-ethnic society. This was not simply a matter of its changing demographic profile. Indeed, at the beginning of the 1990s, ‘visible ethnic minorities’ made up little more than 6 per cent of the overall population, though the concentration of ethnic populations in specific areas was far higher. For example, in Greater London, Leices- ter, and Wolverhampton, ethnic minorities comprised 20 per cent of the population, whereas in East Anglia, and the north and south west, they constituted less than 4 per cent.1 Perhaps more importantly, multicultur- alism also entailed a weakening of the hitherto quite monolithic cultural system, and its replacement by a plurality of identities and cultures. These changes were in turn ref lected in Britain’s state educational system, and af fected Anglo-Jewish education as well. Legislation Through the first half of the 1980s, the Department of Education and Sci- ence (DES) was badly managed, under-funded and dispute-ridden. Kenneth Baker, a new minister brought to the helm of the DES in the hope that 1 Census 1991, quoted in C. Cook and J. Stevenson, British History from 1945 (London: Longman, 1996), 160; Social Trends 1994 [Central Statistical Of fice], quoted in Marwick, British Society, 458. 224 Chapter 6 he might turn the tide, implemented a series of education reforms that, taken together, comprised the most serious body of...

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