Pas­sion­ate Pio­neers: The Sto­ry of Yid­dish Sec­u­lar Edu­ca­tion in North Amer­i­ca, 1910 – 1960

Fra­dle Pomer­antz Frei­den­re­ich; Jonathan Sar­na, fwd.
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011
While much is known about after­noon Hebrew schools” in the Unit­ed States and Cana­da, Fra­dle Pomer­antz Frei­den­re­ich opens our eyes by chron­i­cling the rise and decline of Yid­dish schools and camps of all ide­olo­gies. By includ­ing a CD with fif­teen sum­mer camp songs in Yid­dish, this book has a joy­ful sound track. The one thou­sand Yid­dish schools, or shuln, that thrived from 1910 – 1960 ranged in ide­ol­o­gy from reli­gious to avowed­ly sec­u­lar, from a Labor Zion­ist stance to a focus on the arts and lit­er­a­ture. At least one school offered class­es in black his­to­ry along­side class­es in Jew­ish his­to­ry. Yid­dish sec­u­lar sum­mer camps also flour­ished in the 1920s and 1930s, pro­mot­ing cul­tur­al con­ti­nu­ity and moral devel­op­ment in the out of doors. This book will be espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing to Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and to pro­po­nents of Hebrew lan­guage char­ter schools in our era who are inter­est­ed in see­ing how sec­u­lar and pub­lic-spon­sored Yid­dish schools thrived. Young Jews were taught to affirm ele­ments of Jew­ish tra­di­tion that were in har­mo­ny with Jew­ish life in Amer­i­ca.” Regret­tably, we all know how the sto­ry ends; but did we know, for exam­ple, that at Camp Boiberik in upstate New York, most camp com­mu­ni­ca­tions came in Yid­dish until the 1940s, when only 47% of the par­ents request­ed Yid­dish com­mu­ni­ca­tions? And who knew that by 1961, all of the par­ents were ask­ing for Eng­lish com­mu­ni­ca­tions? With so many pho­tographs and images, this hefty book is a plea­sure to read for aca­d­e­mics and for gen­er­al read­ers as it brings the Yid­dish shuln and camps to life. Appen­dix, bib­li­og­ra­phy, CD with fif­teen Yid­dish camp songs and lyrics, glos­sary, index, includ­ing exten­sive list­ings of shuln.
Judd Kruger Lev­ingston, Ph.D. and rab­bi, serves as Direc­tor of Jew­ish Stud­ies at Jack M. Bar­rack Hebrew Acad­e­my in the Philadel­phia area. Lev­ingston is the author of Sow­ing the Seeds of Char­ac­ter: The Moral Edu­ca­tion of Ado­les­cents in Pub­lic and Pri­vate Schools (Praeger, 2009).

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