Page 120 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
not, fundamentally, a philosopher o f Jewish education .2 S tand­
ing as he did in the age-old stream o f Jewish
educational
traditionalism, he never seems to have questioned education’s
subordinate role as a service agency o f Jewish beliefs, customs,
and institutions.3 His educational programs, therefo re , reflect
the adoption o f this common assumption about the na tu re o f
education, an assumption whose validity is the chief concern o f
educational philosophy as such. Within the limitations which this
reservation imposes, Scharfstein’s books make a real contribution
to the improvement o f Jewish educational practice on the ele­
mentary and secondary levels. To this day, indeed , these two texts
are eminently useful because o f the ir general approach and
specific, practical suggestions. T he bibliographies adduced are
now dated. Yet young Hebrew teachers whom I in troduced to the
Scharfstein works as recently as 1980/81 still found in them much
o f value. They freely acknowledged tha t Hebrew teacher educa­
tion courses they had taken in the ir community left them with
serious deficiencies because Scharfstein had not been re fe r red to,
let alone studied.
Scharfstein’s streng th lay in the analysis o f various and conflict­
ing methods o f teaching proposed in cu r ren t literature and in his
ability to extract the re from some advanced innovations which he
rega rded as app rop r ia te for progressively inclined Jewish
teachers. This he did without adop ting all tha t was advertised as
“progressive,” w ithout announc ing as Copernican revolution
every passing bit o f irresponsible bravura, without claiming huge
and lasting successes for ephemeral styles and fashions in class­
room activities.
His was an educational eclecticism, a form o f what Theodo re
Brameld in
Patterns of Education Philosophy
discusses un d e r
“Essentialism.” This is an educational pa ttern which inserts ele-
2 In
Yesodothhu-Hinnukhha-Yehudiba-America
(Foundations o f Jewish Education
in America) which he edited (New York, 1946), his own paper deals with the
place o f Hebrew inJewish education, not with educational philosophy. For the
Sefer ha-Yovel
(Jubilee Volume) o f the Hebrew Teachers Union, also edited by
Scharfstein (1944), he wrote nothing under the rubric o f educational founda­
tions. His paper, instead, reviews 50 years o f American Jewish education and
remarks, sadly, on its steady weakening.
3 See Meir Ben-Horin, “Education as Religion” in
Shivcim — Essays and Studies in
Honor of Ira Eisenstein,
ed. by Ronald A. Brauner (Philadelphia, 1977), pp.
197-210.