Page 119 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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og raph ica l//
Was Spring in the Land’,
the Kessel Prize in Mexico for
Gedole Hinnukh be-Ammenu,
entitled in English
Great Hebrew Edu­
cators in the Last Centuries',
the Education Prize o f the Tel-Aviv-
Ja ffa Municipality for
Toledoth ha-Hinnukh be-Yisrael or History of
Jewish Education in Modern Times
in fou r volumes. O ther honors
included the honorary presidency o f the Hebrew Camps Massad
and the chairmanship o f the National Board o f License o f the
American Association for Jewish Education. From 1917 to 1957
he was professor o f Jewish education and Hebrew literature at
the Teachers Institute o f the Jewish Theological Seminary of
America, and from 1957 to his death in 1972 he held the rank o f
professor emeritus — the most solid evidence for his status as an
academician and, indeed , as America’s foremost Hebrew educa­
to r and teacher in the first ha lf o f the twentieth century. T hu s far
the second half o f this century has not brough t to the fore an edu ­
cational figure and symbol like him, no r does it appear likely to
possess the intellectual vigor and creative verve to do so. All
considered, Scharfstein may, in fact, come to be seen as the man
who was the free world’s foremost practicing Hebrew teacher
du r ing the last seven decades.
Accounts and evaluations o f Scharfstein’s work usually deal
with his writings on Jewish education, his uncomprom ising stand
on the Hebrew language in the Jewish school, and his status as a
Hebrew writer. But because he was my teacher at the Teachers
Institu te and later a colleague in the field and a personal friend , I
feel free to offer a somewhat d ifferen t assessment.
I find his work revolving around four interre lated centers o f
interest. The first is the Jewish school’s curriculum and me thod ­
ology. The second is Jewish educational historiography. The
th ird is Hebrew lexicography, biography, and the essay. The
fou rth is Jewish ethics and those “m inor ethics” called good man­
Scharfstein’s major contribution to the American Jewish
school’s curriculum and teaching practice appears in the two
Darkhe Limmud Leshonenu
Methods of Teaching Hebrew
(1940), and
Darkhe Limmud ha-TaNaKh
Methods of Teaching the
(1934; sec. rev. ed., 1951). Scharfstein, it must be said, was