On November 3, 2019, Dr. Gil Graff, Head of the Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) in Los Angeles, will be visiting our class. Aside from his role as an educational leader, Dr. Graff is a world expert on the history of Jewish education.
Dr. Graff will provide our students with a vast historical overview for Jewish education thereby providing the students with a deep understanding of how and why we have arrived at our current state of Jewish education in contemporary America.
Of course, the question often arises: “Why is knowing this history important?”
My question is, “How could it not be important?”
Today, there is often a deep ignorance of history in almost every sphere of American life. College students often have trouble placing in historical time and context the American Civil War, or the Vietnam War, or the moment when women were given the right to vote, or when Jim Crow laws ended. Ignorance of our history is, in a word, dangerous. Moreover, it can be debilitating to our understanding of how we decide to move forward as a nation.
So, too, with Jewish education. As educators, we must understand the historical and social contexts of how Jewish education started, grew, and evolved within the democratic revolution of American history. How did it differ from what transpired before the Emancipation in Europe? What was the genesis for Jewish education when Jews landed at Ellis Island, or Galveston, Texas? How and why has the curriculum and venue for Jewish education evolved over time? And, based upon this history, what ought Jewish education look like for our contemporary youth, and, for that matter, our adults?
The answers to these questions, and others, are informed by a clear view of history, knowing from whence we came and thereby helping us to determine where we must go.
Thank you to Dr. Graff for providing the necessary history and insights to guide our work.