The Women Who Recon­struct­ed Amer­i­can Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion, 1910 – 1965

Car­ol K. Ingall, ed.
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

This remark­able col­lec­tion of edu­ca­tion­al por­traits depicts the lives of eleven women with an inde­fati­ga­ble dri­ve to teach young peo­ple and emerg­ing pro­fes­sion­als to per­pet­u­ate the Hebrew lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture, Jew­ish art, Jew­ish music, and Jew­ish reli­gious rit­u­als. In Chap­ter 1, read­ers meet Ethel Feine­man and Grace Wein­er, who worked with young women in Jew­ish set­tle­ment hous­es, pro­vid­ing job train­ing, instruc­tion in per­son­al care, and a Jew­ish edu­ca­tion that instilled a sense of pride and an abil­i­ty to anchor a Jew­ish home with hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions, spe­cial foods, and a sense of com­mu­ni­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty. Lib­bie L. Braver­man, intro­duced in Chap­ter 4, taught reli­gious school, insist­ing that the arts, dra­ma, and music were indis­pens­able, bring­ing Jew­ish his­to­ry to life through shows and pageants. 

Sadie Rose Weil­er­stein, intro­duced in Chap­ter 6, invent­ed the beloved thumb-sized lit­tle boy named K’tonton who appeared in sev­er­al books, embody­ing Amer­i­can Jew­ish aspi­ra­tions for Israel and attend­ing syn­a­gogue like a good Amer­i­can who was con­fi­dent and com­fort­able in his faith. The final chap­ter, writ­ten by Dr. Ingall, depicts Sylvia Etten­berg, a woman who was instru­men­tal in found­ing Camp Ramah in Wis­con­sin and the Proz­dor high school pro­gram at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary of Amer­i­ca. Like many of the women por­trayed in the book, her admirable per­sis­tence, her ded­i­ca­tion to the cause, her involve­ment with teacher train­ing, and her abil­i­ty to mod­i­fy her expec­ta­tions in lean times com­bine to make her a role mod­el for all of us. Indeed this book is for all of us with an inter­est in edu­ca­tion, whether we are male or female, sea­soned or novice, vol­un­teer or pro­fes­sion­al. Index.

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).

Discussion Questions