Page 173 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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HESSEL / TEXTBOOKS IN JEWISH EDUCATION
1 6 5
Gaon of Vilna,
with an initial run o f 10,000 copies, was the first
title in an English language series for young people o f bio­
graphies o f O rthodox Jewish scholars. The series did not appear
in textbook forma t bu t is widely used in the classrooms.
COMMERCIAL PUBLISHERS
In the twentieth century, Jewish commercial houses began
publishing texts for the Jewish school and today there are a
num ber o f firms tha t specialize in the field. The producers o f
these titles include a variety o f professionals in the p repara tion
process. Recent catalogs clearly reflect the inpu t o f educational
consultants who suggest app rop ria te usage o f the materials.
The largest p roduce r o f Jewish textbooks is Behrman House,
founded in 1920 by Louis Behrman. His son, Jacob, now pres­
ident, has led it to its prem ier place. Behrman was sensitive
to new situations in the late forties and early fifties, when the
suburbs were growing and the synagogue loomed ever larger
as the instrum en t o f Jewish life. The continuous role o f the
synagogue in ou r history was underscored in the textbook
The
Story of the Synagogue
(1953). This title was app rop ria te for the
more liberal approach, while ano ther series,
The Story of theJew­
ish People,
written in consonance with traditional Judaism , was
issued in 1956.
A few years af te r the establishment o f the State o f Israel,
a virtual library o f materials on the subject became available.
T h e Holocaust was introduced in the school curriculum and
many Jewish youngsters shared the pain o f the victims in Bea
S tadtler’s
The Holocaust
(1975). In the next decade, Jewish iden­
tity and historical continuity were emphasized and Behrman
House responded with its
Introduction to Jewish History
series
(1981). T h e use o f concepts to teach history, heroes to teach
values and stories to convey morality was stressed in the
Basic
Judaism
series for grades 4 th rough 7. This three-volume series
features full color illustrations, photographs and original ar t
work. Each level provides a Student Activity Book and T eache r’s
Guide together with duplicating masters.
A relatively new Jewish textbook publishing firm, T o rah Aura
Productions, has emerged in California in the past decade. Joel
Lurie Grishaver, its founder, sees the textbook as a basis for
teachers to work from and not as a replacement for a well