Jewish education and Jewish culture in the Russian empire, 1880-1914 / Steven G. Rappaport
Includes bibliographical references (p. 302-314)
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This dissertation uses newly available Russian archival sources to reinterpret the process social and cultural change among Russian Jews through the prism of primary school reform on the local level. Since all sectors of Jewish society took interest in educational reform, it serves as a particularly fruitful vantage point from which to view broader changes in Jewish life. Although the traditional Jewish school, the heder, remained central, by World War I Jewish educational activists had established over 1,000 modernized Jewish schools. Together with their Russian counterparts, these schools provided several years of instruction to nearly a quarter of all Jewish school-age children. The dissertation suggests three major conclusions that seek to alter the prevailing understanding of Russian Jewry. First, the dramatic expansion of new types of Jewish schooling after 1880 was driven by the desires of ordinary Jews for improvements in their socioeconomic positions, and by the efforts of local educational activists, rather than by the initiative of Jewish intellectual and philanthropic elites striving to impose modernization from above. Second, this broad acceptance of the new schools by ordinary Jews suggests the need for a more fluid understanding of the relationship between notions of “traditional” and “modern.” Ordinary Russian Jews were neither as resistant to change, nor as steadfastly devoted to traditional ways as previous work has implied. Furthermore the unselfconsciousness of the process of accommodation among ordinary Jews suggests the need to give more weight to the role of non-ideological factors in cultural change. Third, in a period when nationalist ideologies that stressed separation and sought political or cultural autonomy took hold among Jewish intellectuals, the new schools reflect the widespread embrace of an ethos much more reflective of earlier liberal notions of Haskalah —the quest for educational, social, and religious reform in order bring Jews more fully into Russian society. By closely analyzing the active processes of educational reform, the dissertation offers a people-centered cultural and social history of the late-imperial period that complicates and refines the existing intellectual and political interpretations of this crucial time and place in modern Jewish history.
Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
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