Page 168 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

Basic HTML Version

160
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Lady Katie Magnus. It appeared in 1890 and was used as a
text in the high school grades, university classes and adult ed­
ucation settings for many years.8
In addition to the publication o f works o f scholarship, the
JPS set forth as one o f its aims the education o f the coming
generation through books. Towards this end it has produced
quality children’s story books which are a staple in classrooms,
synagogues and community libraries as well as in English-
speaking Jewish homes throughout the world. The various titles
have earned recognition from Jewish and non-Jewish sources
attesting to their importance in furthering the understanding
o f Judaism. The
Covenant Books fo r Young People
was an early
series o f biographies o f Jewish heroes which provided a glimpse
into the world o f extraordinary Jews who played a significant
part in history. Today, similar titles are part o f the JPS
Young
Biography Series.
An American child’s understanding o f the Hol­
ocaust is greatly enhanced by
Hannah Szenes: A Song of Light
or
Anne Frank: Life in Hiding,
both o f which focus on the drama
inherent in human aspirations. Other titles, outside the series,
like
The Castle on Hester Street,
about the immigrant experience
in America,
The Secret of the Sabbath Fish,
a retelling o f a Jewish
folktale, and
A Torah is Written,
describing the precision involved
in transcribing the Sefer Torah, bring an understanding o f Jew­
ish culture to American youth. These books are not promoted
as traditional instructional aids but nevertheless go a long way
to supplement the instruction.
A watershed in American Jewish history was the mass immi­
gration o f East European Jewry, which began in the 1880s and
lasted for more than a quarter century. For the newcomer, the
strange milieu shifted the entire burden o f Jewish education
from the home to the formal educational institution. In addi­
tion, education o f the young took on a new dimension; it became
supplemental to American public school education.
Hebrew became a distant second or sometimes third language
for Jewish youngsters who, in addition to the language spoken
at home, had to master English. As early as the 1870s Isaac
Mayer Wise, leader o f the Reform Movement, noted the need
8. Sarna, Jonathan D., “The Jewish Publication Society,”
Jewish Book Annual,
vol. 45, 1987-88, p. 50.