Beyond the Melt­ing Pot: Jew­ish Life and Learn­ing at the Turn of the Century

Dr. Alvin I. Schiff
  • Review
By – August 24, 2011
This out­stand­ing col­lec­tion of essays by pio­neer­ing edu­ca­tor Alvin I. Schiff were main­ly writ­ten dur­ing the last three decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry. These were the years of great change and growth in Jew­ish edu­ca­tion in North Amer­i­ca, as the baby boomer pop­u­la­tion matured and edu­cat­ed their chil­dren. Jew­ish day schools and Jew­ish camp­ing con­tin­ued their ascen­dan­cy as pri­ma­ry vehi­cles for edu­cat­ing the new gen­er­a­tion, while con­gre­ga­tion­al schools were con­stant­ly being reimag­ined. To read his thoughts now is almost like read­ing a his­to­ry of Jew­ish edu­ca­tion from that peri­od.

As we come to the end of the first decade of the 21st cen­tu­ry, it is clear that many of the issues and con­cerns that inspired Schiff s atten­tion are as rel­e­vant today as they were when Schiff first wrote about them. Dr. Schiff was one of his generation’s most impor­tant thinkers and at the cen­ter of every seri­ous debate about Jew­ish edu­ca­tion. His influ­ence car­ried far beyond the streets of Man­hat­tan or the City of New York. In this com­pi­la­tion of his writ­ings, the stu­dent of Jew­ish edu­ca­tion or the prac­ti­tion­er in the field will gain new insights and under­stand­ings of the issues fac­ing Jew­ish edu­ca­tion between 1970 and 2000, when these essays were writ­ten, and today. Thought­ful read­ers will take the wis­dom from these essays and apply it as they build a stronger Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty for the 21st cen­tu­ry and the gen­er­a­tions to come.
Paul A. Flexn­er, Ed.D., is an Instruc­tor in Edu­ca­tion­al Psy­chol­o­gy at Geor­gia State Uni­ver­si­ty, a vet­er­an of 35 years as a Jew­ish edu­ca­tor and a mem­ber of the Board of Direc­tors of the Jew­ish Book Council.

Discussion Questions