Page 166 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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158
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
EARLY HISTORY
T h e s to ry o f th e te x tb o o k as a n e d u c a t io n a l too l p a ra l le ls th e
d e v e lo pm e n t o f th e Jew ish c om m u n i ty a n d Jew ish e d u c a t io n
in Am e r ic a . U n t i l th e e a r ly tw e n t ie th c e n tu ry , E u r o p e was th e
c e n te r o f J ew ish life a n d p o p u la t io n d en s ity . R abb is a n d te a c h ­
e rs , book s a n d r i tu a l ob jec ts w e re m a in ly im p o r t e d f rom a b r o a d
to m e e t th e n e e d s o f A m e r ic a n Jew ry . As la te as 1916, th e A m e r ­
ican Jew ish e d u c a to r S am son B e n d e r ly n o te d th a t “w h ile c o n ­
s id e ra b le e f f o r t was s p e n t in th e las t 25 y ea rs o n th e e la b o r a t io n
o f th e te x tb o o k . . . fo r th e J ew ish schoo l, p rac tica l ly m o s t o f
th em w e re p r o d u c e d o n th e o th e r s ide o f th e g lob e w h e re A m e r ­
ican c o n d i t io n s a r e who lly u n k n o w n .”4 Yet J ew ish e d u c a t io n was
k n ow n in A m e r ic a lo n g b e fo re . S h e a r i th Is ra e l , th e f irs t c o n ­
g r e g a t io n in Am e r ic a , v iew ed th e e d u c a t io n o f Jew ish y o u th
as p a r t o f th e c o n g r e g a t io n a l o b lig a tio n , since th e c o n c e p t o f
a f r e e , n o n s e c ta r ia n , pub lic schoo l sys tem d id n o t y e t ex is t. T h e
c o n g r e g a t io n a l schoo l t a u g h t H e b rew , S p an ish , E ng lish , r e a d in g
a n d w r it ing . T h e r e w e re few p r im e r s , so se lec tion s fo r a d u l ts
w e re u s e d by c h i ld r e n o f all ages . O ra l m a s te ry was th e p r e ­
d o m in a n t m e th o d o f in s t ru c t io n . T o o v e rcom e th e lack o f a p ­
p r o p r ia t e w r i t te n m a te r ia ls th e s la te b o a r d was u s e d by th e
te a c h e r a n d s h a r e d by th e s tu d e n ts .
T h e few H e b rew tex ts th a t w e re ava ilab le w e re n o t d e s ig n e d
fo r y o u n g p e o p le , a n d w e re p r e p a r e d fo r th e n o n -Jew ish
c h u r c h -g o e r ; th e re lig io u s am o n g th e co lon is ts w e re fam i l ia r
w ith H e b rew as th e la n g u a g e o f th e B ible. T h e y a p p e a r e d in
th e fo rm o f H e b rew g ram m a r s , lex icons a n d d ic t io n a r ie s . In
1735, J u d a h M on is , a J ew w ho c o n v e r te d to C h r is t ia n i ty in o r d e r
to se c u re a p o s it io n as a te a c h e r o f th e H e b rew la n g u a g e a t
H a rv a rd Co llege , w ro te
A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue
w h ich
h e so ld f rom h is h om e in C am b r id g e . F o r y ea rs it was th e s t a n d ­
a r d ac ad em ic te x t in u n iv e rs i t ie s a n d c h u r c h schoo ls w h e re H e ­
b rew a p p e a r e d in th e c u r r ic u lu m .5
T h e f i r s t b o o k w r i t te n by a J ew fo r th e p u rp o s e o f te a c h in g
J ew ish y o u th was
Selections of the Father for Use of His Children
4.
Benderly, Samson, “Elements in the Solution of the Problem,”
The Jewish
Teacher,
vol. I, no. I, January 1916.
5. Rosenbach, A.S.W., “Early American Jewish Schoolbooks,”
Eighty Ninth An­
nual Report,
The Hebrew Sunday School Society, Philadelphia, PA, 1927,
p. 18.