Page 178 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
158
Another major contributor to the literature on the history
of Jewish education is the veteran educator, Zvi Scharfstein. T h e
name Scharfstein conjures up associations beyond those o f a
historian, for there is hardly a phase of Jewish education to which
he has not made valuable contributions as text-book writer,
essayist, editor and publisher. Indeed, generations of students
of Hebrew schools in America and in other countries have asso-
ciated his name with practically every stage of their Jewish
education from elementary grades on, by virtue of his prolific
authorship of textbooks, readers, dictionaries, periodic publica-
tions, and educational aids and materials for more than a half
century. For the purpose of this paper reference w ill be made
only to his latest magnum opus, the five-volume
T o ld o t ha-
H in u k h be-YIsrael b i-D o ro t ha -A h ron im ,
a major contribution to
the history of Jewish education in modern times.
Dr. Scharfstein undertook in the days of World War II the
prodigious task of collecting, recording, interpreting and evalu-
ating the fortunes and misfortunes of Jewish education over a
period o f about one hundred and fifty years. As he became
painfully aware of the oncoming third
H u rb a n ,
the destruction
of European Jewry, he felt impelled to gather whatever docu-
ments, scattered writings and living testimonies on Jewish educa-
tion that could be salvaged from the holocaust. His labors are
more than a contribution to the history of education; they also
serve as a monument to a Jewish community and culture deci-
mated by Nazi brutality and Communist ideology.
One would be hard put to name a scholar and writer better
qualified than Zvi Scharfstein for such a challenging enterprise.
Dr. Scharfstein has been blessed with a life span that covers
about a half of the period treated in the
T o ld o t ha -H inu kh be-
Y israel,
during which he was an active participant and contribu-
tor to Jewish education, first in Russia and then in America, the
two largest Jewish communities in the modern Disapora. He has
also maintained close contacts with educationists in Europe, Asia,
Latin America and Israel where he visited at regular intervals and
published his books in recent years. Scharfstein’s
T o ld o t ha
-
H in u k h
is more than the labor of a seasoned scholar and master-
ful Hebrew writer. Following upon the destruction of major
centers of Jewish life and culture, his works constitute a precious
legacy of a chronicler and commentator who was witness to a
Jewish world that has passed away. Scharfstein’s generation was
also close enough to his immediate forebears to sense their anguish
at the disintegration of the tradition of intensive Jewish educa-
tion follow ing the French Revolution and the rise of Haskalah.
Five volumes on education do not lend themselves w ithin the
limitations of the present paper to a consideration of the variety