"Your children, will they be yours?" : educational strategies for Jewish survival, the Central Jewish Institute, 1916-1944 / Miriam Heller Stern.
This dissertation analyzes the evolution of a Progressive Era Jewish school center, New York's Central Jewish Institute (CJI, 1916-1944), as a historical case study of the achievements, challenges and unforeseen consequences of reinventing education as a strategy for Jewish continuity. In the wake of mass Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century and the rise of an Americanized, socially mobile generation of young Jews, CJI's founders hoped that their Dewey-inspired school center could become the model vehicle for synthesizing American and Jewish values, thus ensuring Jewish spiritual survival in America. To that end, CJI introduced progressive curricular and pedagogical reform, as well as a variety of experiential educational programs outside the classroom including Camp Cejwin, which became one of the pioneer Jewish educational summer camps. The original blueprint for CJI by Isaac Berkson, which promised an educational solution to the age-old fears of declining Jewish life, has effectively become its history. This study expands and revises the historical record through an analysis of a wide array of primary sources not previously studied, including archival documents and oral histories.The updated story of CH reveals new perspectives on the convergent trends of American Jewish revival and education reform by demonstrating that ultimately, no matter how compelling the institutional mission was, social forces more powerful than an institution or its leaders' vision (e.g., the ethnicization of Jewish group identity, religious diversity, social mobility, economic constraints and competing educational ideologies) deeply impacted the transition from theory to practice, sometimes in surprising ways. As the opposing trends of tradition and modernity, religion and secularism, universalism and particularism, and private and public interest shaped American Jewish life, so too did these trends shape Jewish education reform.
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