Jewish education


Jewish education ( he, חינוך, ''Chinuch'') is the transmission of the tenets, principles, and religious laws of . Known as the "", Jews value education, and the value of education is strongly embedded in . Judaism places a heavy emphasis on , from the early days of studying the .


Jewish education has been valued since the birth of . is lauded for instructing his offspring in ways. One of the basic duties of Jewish parents is to provide for the instruction of their children as set forth in the first paragraph of the prayer: “Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9). Additionally, children are advised to seek the instruction of their parents: "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and he will declare unto thee, thine elders, and they will tell thee" (Deut. 32:7). The also contains many verses related to education: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your mind retain my commandments; For they will bestow on you length of days, years of life and well-being“ (Prov. 3:1-2). Elementary school learning was regarded as compulsory by as early as 75 BCE and in 64 CE. The education of older boys and men in a goes back to the period. The importance of education is stressed in the , which states that children should begin school at six. The rabbis stated that they should not be beaten with a stick or cane, that older students should help those who were younger, and that children should not be kept from their lessons by other duties. According to Judah ben Tema, “At five years the age is reached for studying , at ten for studying the Mishnah, at thirteen for fulfilling the mitzvoth, at fifteen for studying Talmud” (Avot 5:21). Mikra refers to the , Mishnah refers to the complementary (the concise and precise laws dictating how the written Torah's commandments are achieved) and Talmud refers to comprehension of the oral and written law's unity and contemplation of the laws. The term "Talmud" used here is a method of study and is not to be confused by the by the same name. In keeping with this tradition, Jews established their own schools or hired private tutors for their children until the end of the 18th century. Schools were housed in annexes or separate buildings close to the synagogue. (in his Meshech Chochma) observes that God's statement "[Abraham is blessed because] he will instruct his children and his house after him to follow in God's ways to perform righteousness and justice" (Genesis 18:19) is an implicit ''mitzvah'' to teach Judaism. said that the study of the Torah is excellent when combined with , worldly occupation, for toil in them both keeps sin out of one’s mind; But [study of the] Torah which is not combined with a worldly occupation, in the end comes to be neglected and becomes the cause of sin.

Formal Jewish education

Sex segregation

in education has traditionally been the norm. As of 2012, education in the Haredi community was strictly segregated by sex. The education for boys was primarily focused on the study of Jewish scriptures, such as the and , while girls obtained studies both in Jewish education as well as broader secular.

Primary schooling

The Talmud (Tractate Bava Bathra 21a) attributes the institution of formal Jewish education to the first century sage . Prior to this, parents taught their children informally. Ben Gamla instituted schools in every town and made education compulsory from the age of 6 or 7. The Talmud attaches great importance to the "''Tinokot shel beth Rabban''" (the children [who study] at the Rabbi's house), stating that the world continues to exist for their learning and that even for the rebuilding of the , classes are not to be interrupted (Tractate Shabbat 119b).

The yeshiva


In and Talmudic times young men were attached to a ' (court of Jewish law), where they sat in three rows and progressed as their fellow students were elevated to sit on the court. After the formal court system was abolished, ' became the main places for Torah study. The Talmud itself was composed largely in the ''yeshivot'' of and in , and the leading sages of the generation taught there. Until the 19th century, young men generally studied under the local , who was allocated funds by the Jewish community to maintain a number of students. The masters and the rabbi both founded centralised ''yeshivot''; see .

Modern yeshivas

Yeshivot have remained of central importance in the to this day; see . Presently, there are numerous yeshivot - particularly in the US and Israel, but, in general, wherever there is an established Orthodox community. In the 20th century, (Israeli Religious Zionist) and yeshivot were also founded. In all of these communities, yeshiva study is common, with young men (and women in a ') spending several years post high school . In the / Hasidic communities, this study often spans decades; see . have yeshivot also, although these are intended (almost entirely) for Rabbinic preparation. similarly depart from the traditional.

Secular education emphasis

In the 21st century, critics in both the United States and Israel have protested that (some) Haredi and Hasidic yeshivas are teaching religious studies to the exclusion of secular subjects such as mathematics and science. This Haredi aversion to secular studies manifests differently in Israel and outside Israel. In America, some yeshivas of Haredi (), but non-Hasidic () identity, offer state-compliant secular education curriculums. For example, runs a "NYS Board of Regents certified High School" with a contemporary curriculum "in compliance with the latest standards." American Hasidic yeshivas, however, from elementary to high school levels, have a long history of shying away from all but the most rudimentary exposure to secular studies. For example, when several decades ago Rabbi of the was met with intensified calls for higher-level secular education from Hasidic parents of Bobov-affiliated yeshivas, Halberstam rejected their pleas and stated that on principle he would not compromise "even if it means that I will have no more than one student." Critics such as have worked to promote the adoption of national or state standards on secular subjects by such yeshivas. The educational philosophy of Hasidic and most non-Hasidic Haredi yeshivas in Israel is largely similar to that of their American counterparts, i.e. opposed to secular studies, no path to attaining a . As of 2017, percentage of Haredi girls taking matriculation exams was 51% (up from 31% a decade prior; however, for boys it was only 14% (down from 16%), since Orthodox yeshivot mostly ignore core subjects. About 8 percent of Haredi students pass the exam. , professor emeritus of education at the , and winner of the 2006 notes: “More and more Israeli students don’t have any foundation of knowledge, any basics — not in math, not in English, not in general...things have to change." Some Israelis who have been educated in Haredi yeshivas have established Leaving for Change (LFC), an organization seeking to sue the government for alleged failure to enforce Israel's law for compulsory education. There is a similar organization in America called YAFFED ().

Jewish schools

The phenomenon of the is of relatively common origin. Until the 19th and 20th century, boys attended the ' (literally "room," since it was in the synagogue, which historically was a building with a being the only room) or , where they were taught by a '' tinokos'' (children's teacher). The first Jewish developed in , largely in response to the higher emphasis in general on secular studies. In the past, an apprenticeship was sufficient to learn a profession, or alternatively several years in a could prepare one adequately for . Rabbis who pioneered Jewish day schools included , whose ' in served as a model for numerous similar institutions. Jews have also been disproportionately engaged in the building of academic institutions of education and in promoting teaching as a professional career. Three of the past four presidents of the have been Jews: starting with , her successor , all the way to current AFT president, . Today, there are over 750 day schools in the United States and 205,000 students in those schools. Beyond those students, hundreds of thousands (~250,000) of Jewish children attend supplementary religious, , and congregational schools.

Girls' education

It was also in the 19th and early 20th century, with the advent of public education for all, that an emphasis was first placed on . Before this, particularly in Eastern Europe, girls received their Jewish and Hebrew education at home, and were often illiterate in Hebrew. In the 19th century, public education was made compulsory in most of Europe, and in order to maintain educational control over the Jewish children, Jewish schools became a reality. It was as a result of the initiative of , that the first Jewish girls' school opened in in 1918. Girls in the United States at this time were often educated at public schools together with boys, and they received their Jewish education through programs at synagogues and Sunday schools, because Jewish day schools were less common. In the Jewish society, women were not allowed to participate in most synagogue prayer, and they only allowed to engage in communal prayer. During the nineteenth century, women could only read Yiddish. Parents should have sent their sons to the primary school, so that their sons could have learned the Hebrew language and the Torah text. Some wealthier parents even employed private tutors for their sons at home. However, some girls in the wealth family may be given the opportunity to learn Jewish vernacular and Hebrew as well. Many girls remained illiterate during the old times. Women stayed home with their family or worked jobs such as maids and seamstresses. After the World War II began, more and more women were used as spies, couriers, nurses, and some even became soldiers. Until the end of World War II, women had transformed into Jewish studies research and teaching in the twenty-first century. The balance of women and men made great strides in equality in Jewish schools.

Informal Jewish education

Youth groups

Recent['] studies estimate a population of 650,000 Jewish middle and high school students.['] Most of these attend Jewish youth groups or participate in activities funded by Jewish youth organizations . Many of these are s. The various organizations differ in political ideology, , and leadership structure, although they all tend to be characterized by a focus on youth . The Conservative movement has USY - . The Modern Orthodox movement has . is a non-denominational group, though most Jews associate it with the Reform movement. The , known as NFTY, is the organized youth movement of Reform Judaism in North America. Funded and supported by the , NFTY exists to supplement and support Reform youth groups at the synagogue level. About 750 local youth groups affiliate themselves with the organization, comprising over 8,500 youth members.

Summer camps

Jewish summer camps are a tool for creating ties with a particular denomination of Judaism and/or orientation to Israel. Camps are sponsored by the Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform movement, by Jewish community centers, and by Zionist movements such as , , , and . Over 70,000 campers participate in over 150 non-profit Jewish s, especially in the . In addition, the estimates that these camps are staffed by over 8,500 Jewish college-aged counselors. American-style Jewish summer camps can also be found in other countries, such as in . Outside the United States, similar camps are generally organized by various philanthropic organizations and local Jewish youth movements. The network, affiliated with runs camps in North America where youngsters experience traditional ' observance, study and observe the laws of . The runs the largest Jewish camping system in the world, the URJ Camp & Israel Programs. They operate 13 summer camps across North America, including a sports specialty camp, teen leadership institute and programs for youth with special needs, as well as a number of Israel travel programs. Participants in these programs observe ', engage in programming about Jewish values and history, and partake in typical summer camp activities including athletics, creative arts and color war.

Student organizations

Much informal Jewish education is organized on university campuses. This is often supported by national organizations, such as (United States) or the (United Kingdom), or by international organizations such as the and the . The in partnership with The , manages the Sinai Scholars Society, an integrated fellowship program for college campus students comprising Torah study, social activities, and national networking opportunities.

Drama-based education

One of the earliest examples of drama-based Jewish education is the theatrical works of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto ( 1707-1746, b. Italy), who wrote plays with multiple characters on Jewish themes. While the use of such plays was probably rare in traditional Jewish education, the Etz Chaim school of Jerusalem reportedly staged plays in the 1930s. One such play put 's general on trial for his various crimes. The students and faculty played the roles of judge, advocates and a jury, all based on Biblical and Talmudic research. In the 20th century and the present, drama is being further developed as an educational tool. Programs such as Jewish Crossroads by Shlomo Horwitz provide educational theater in schools and synagogues in various English-speaking countries. The Lookstein Center at , a think tank geared to Jewish educators in the Diaspora, lists many drama-related programs on their website for use of teachers in the classroom.

Sports-based education

Sports is another vehicle to connect Jewish youth to Judaism and Israel. Bring It In - Israel offers a sports volunteering program in Israel that cultivates a cadre of young leaders who return to their communities to promote interest in Israel and Judaism. The perceived role of sports as a historical avenue was crucial for Jewish people to overcome social, religious and cultural obstacles toward their participation in secular society (especially in Europe and the United States).



The World of the Jewish Youth Movement
' by Daniel Rose - on movements and informal education

External links

American Jewish University

NewCAJE: Re-Imaging Jewish Education for the 21st Century

The Lookstein Center for Jewish Education
of Bar-Ilan University whose purpose is to keep the story of Soviet Jewry alive
Shalom Hartman Institute

The Jewish Teacher Project

The Jewish Education Project
{{DEFAULTSORT:Jewish Education Jewish youth organizations