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Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-497

Scope and Content Note

The Bureau of Jewish Education contains correspondence, curriculum, meeting minutes, personnel records, programmatic materials, grant applications, audio-visual materials, pamphlets, event information, books, media, news clippings, scrapbooks and financial records detailing the growth of the organization through 90 years of service. Many records relate to the activities of a myriad of schools, synagogues and organizations such as United Hebrew Schools and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Materials related to BJE-sponsored initiatives and programs, such as Project Shalom (a volunteer initiative for teenagers), curriculum for Hebrew schools and teacher training materials underscore the changes that occurred in the organization over the course of several decades of service.

For additional information, please see the Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-120.

Dates

  • undated, 1919-2009

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Historical Note

In 1916, Morris Waldman, superintendent of the Boston Federated Jewish Charities (now the Combined Jewish Philanthropies) determined that there was a need for Federation support for Jewish education in the community. In May 1917, the Federation invited Louis Hurwich, an educator from Indianapolis, to conduct a survey of Jewish schools in Boston. Hurwich's study identified 1,529 students enrolled in Talmudi Torah (Hebrew) Schools, while another 1,800 were enrolled in Sunday (Reform) Schools. The study recommended several action steps to alleviate burdens on the schools, in particular the Hebrew Schools, which suffered from poor facilities, unqualified teachers, and a lack of funding. Based on Hurwich's report, in 1918 the Federation granted $20,000 to the Hebrew Schools and $10,000 to the Sunday Schools, a move that was virtually unprecedented. In October 1917, Hurwich organized the twelve Hebrew Schools in Boston under the Associated Boston Hebrew Schools. In return, the schools elected Hurwich as their first superintendent. In tandem with the Associated Boston Hebrew Schools, the Hebrew Teachers Training School was established in April 1918 and focused on training qualified Hebrew teachers for Jewish schools.

Meanwhile, the thirteen Sunday schools also organized under the Bureau of Jewish Religious Schools with Rabbi Hyman Solomon as superintendent and Rabbi H.H. Rubenovitz as its first president. In 1919, the organization also established its own training program for Sunday school teachers, which was conducted in English. When Rabbi Solomon decided to return to the rabbinate in 1920, the two organizations merged to form the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE). Although the BJE was not the first centralized Jewish education organization in the country, it was the first to receive support from its local Federation.

The goals of the BJE, as found in the original constitution, were "to promote Jewish Education in the city of Boston and its vicinity; to render financial and moral aid to affiliated schools; standardize, co-ordinate and supervise such affiliated schools; maintain a Jewish Teacher-Training School; increase the Jewish Educational resources of the community; make scientific studies of the problem of Jewish education in all its communal phases." Under its management were 24 Hebrew Schools, 13 Sunday Schools, and two teacher training programs. A year later, Hurwich reorganized the Hebrew Teacher Training Program into Hebrew Teachers College, helmed by Dr. Nissan Touroff as Dean.

Prior to Hurwich's arrival in Boston and the Federation's support of Jewish education, Hebrew teachers had established their own association - the Hebrew Teachers Association - in 1912. Its creation was followed ten years later by the Principals Association (est. 1922). These associations and Hebrew Teachers College played vital roles in ensuring BJE's success in the community. In 1923, with assistance from this partnership, the BJE was able to create and implement a standardized, five day a week Hebrew language curriculum for schools. Hurwich was a proponent of Ivrit B'Ivrit, which promoted Hebrew fluency and comprehension in Jewish school curriculum. The BJE only hired teachers and principals from the Hebrew Teachers Association and Principals Association, which were responsible for setting professional standards. For its part, the BJE set salary scales that were standardized throughout the Jewish schools in Boston.

Also in 1923, Dr. Touroff established the high school program, Prozdor, at Hebrew Teachers College. In 1929, the BJE introduced standardized achievement tests in the Hebrew Schools for grades two through five. Much depended on the students' tests results. Admission to Prozdor was granted only to students with the highest test scores, and those students' teachers were rewarded with promotions and salary increases. Prozdor remained exclusive through the 1950s, as interested students had to graduate from a five-day a week school in order to be eligible. Students from a three-day a week school were required to take extra coursework prior to consideration.

Hurwich retired from the BJE in 1947, and was succeeded by Dr. Benjamin J. Shevach, who shared Hurwich's philosophy on Jewish education. Hurwich's retirement from the BJE also coincided with his retirement from Hebrew Teachers College, of which he was Dean since 1932. This event provided an opportunity for Hebrew Teachers College to separate from the BJE, although both organizations were still entirely funded by the Federation. However, the College remained an integral part of the Jewish education system in Boston, sustaining Prozdor and training future teachers.

Dr. Shevach strengthened cooperation between the United Hebrew Schools (UHS), an organization founded in 1945 with lay leadership to promote intensive Jewish education; the Hebrew Teachers and Principals Association (the two separate entities merged in 1948 to form one organization); and the BJE. The UHS worked closely with the BJE to ensure the Jewish education curriculum in the city of Boston was similar to the curriculum taught in the suburbs. The organization also developed a Code of Practice to help govern professional qualifications for teachers and principals, as well as developed standards of achievement and personnel relations.

As with other Jewish institutions, BJE was affected by the demographic shift to the suburbs and had to adjust accordingly. Suburban Jewish families favored three-day a week schools and, with the opening of new synagogues, moved towards synagogue-affiliated schools. At least half of the children enrolled in Jewish education programs were in Sunday Schools. Although there were more schools opening than closing (19 closed during this period) 30 of the 34 new schools were affiliated with synagogues. The BJE adapted to these changes by standardizing a three-day a week curriculum in 1950 and adding 21 suburban towns to its service list in 1954. By the 1960s, urban Jewish schools were on the decline, with nine schools closing and day schools like Maimonides and Solomon Schechter moving to, or opening in, the suburbs. It was also during this decade that Reform congregations moved away from confirmations to the more traditional Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, which added further strain to BJE's resources. A surge in demand for qualified Hebrew teachers mixed with a shortage of applicants led many schools to hire outside of BJE's system. Conservative synagogues also began to adopt the Melton Curriculum, which was developed by the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Eventually, the Federation mandated a study of the BJE to identify issues and provide recommendations to resolve them.

The 1973 Report of the Study Committee determined that the BJE needed to shift from a supervisory to service-oriented organization. The BJE would work in partnership with elementary afternoon schools, day and secondary schools, and informal programs of Jewish education on curriculum development, consultation, evaluation, and teacher recruitment and training. The new changes in BJE's mission prompted a change in BJE leadership, as Dr. Shevach retired and Louis Newman was hired as executive director. The amended Constitution (1976) reflects those changes, stating that the BJE is an organization that would: 1) promote the cause of Jewish religious education in the community at large, 2) encourage cooperative effort among, and close relationship with, agencies for Jewish education, 3) encourage communal responsibility for Jewish educational endeavors, 4) continue a close relationship with the Hebrew Teachers College, 5) Cooperate with agencies in the field of intensive Jewish education and specifically with the United Hebrew Schools of Metropolitan Boston, and 6) advance standards of communal and professional service in the field of Jewish Education.

In the early 1980s, Louis Newman left his position as executive director and the Board hired Dr. Daniel Margolis, who had been with the BJE as an educational consultant. Once again, the focus of Jewish education was shifting, this time towards the field of family education. CJP's Task Force on Supplementary Jewish Education, which provided grants to synagogues for their Jewish Family Education programs, was established. The BJE was responsible for administering the grants, as well as consulting with schools and synagogues and evaluating their programs. The focus remained on family education through the 1990s to the closure of the BJE in 2009. In 1993, CJP, in partnership with Jewish community centers and synagogues, developed Sh'arim/Gateways to Jewish Living: The Jewish Family Educator Initiative. The purpose of the Initiative, and the ensuing Commission on Jewish Continuity, was to strengthen Jewish families in the community. Synagogues hired full-time family educators to coordinate programs, and most family educators were trained through a two-year Family Education Training Program at Hebrew College. BJE continued to consult with congregations on educational requirements.

Although BJE's primary goal was educating Jewish children, there were opportunities for adults, as well. From the 1930s through the 1990s, the BJE also offered adult learning courses on Jewish history, culture, and Hebrew, although during the later half of the 20th century classes were geared towards professional development opportunities. Through the 1970s to 2000s, the BJE developed and implemented numerous programs in the Jewish community. Some of these programs included JERAC (Jewish Educational Resource and Advisory Center), which provided teachers and schools with the tools and support necessary to develop and implement curriculum; Project Shalom, a volunteer program for teens that ran from the 1970s to 1980s; the Early Childhood Israel Project, developed in conjunction with CJP's Boston-Haifa connection that paired 18 Boston area preschools with preschools in Haifa; TeenAde, a program that placed teens in paid positions as classroom assistants in congregational or community schools; Havayah, a program that enabled teens to go to either Israel or Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, providing leadership and educational opportunities around issues of Jewish identity and culture; Renaissance Educator Initiative, which created full-time Jewish educator positions and trained educators to not only teach, but undertake administrative and programmatic responsibilities; Youth Educator Initiative (YESOD), which provided a venue to professionalize informal Jewish education programs and strengthen the congregational youth agenda.

References

  1. Materials in the collection.
  2. "Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Boston," Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Boston. August 30, 2010 (http://www.bje.org/)
  3. Sarna, Jonathan D. and Ellen Smith. The Jews of Boston. Boston: Combined Jewish Philanthropies, 1995
  4. Solomon, Barbara Miller. Pioneers in Service: The History of the Associated Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. Boston: Associated Jewish Philanthropies, 1956

Chronology

1912
Hebrew Teachers Association is founded.
1916
Morris Waldman of Boston Federated Charities determines a need for Federation support of Jewish education.
May 1917
Louis Hurwich arrives in Boston to conduct a survey of Jewish schools.
October 1917
Under the guidance of Louis Hurwich, Hebrew schools in Boston organize under the Associated Boston Hebrew Schools.
1918
The Federation awards $20,000 to Boston's Hebrew Schools and $10,000 to the Sunday Schools.
April 1918
Hebrew Teachers Training School is established.
circa 1919
Sunday schools organize under the Bureau of Jewish Religious Schools.
Training program for Sunday School teachers is established.
1920
Bureau of Jewish Education is established from the merging of Associated Boston Hebrew Schools and Bureau of Jewish Religious Schools.
Hurwich is named Executive Director.
1921
Hebrew Teachers College is founded by Hurwich, reorganized from the Hebrew Teachers Training School. Dr. Nissan Touroff is named Dean.
1922
Principals Association is founded.
1923
BJE creates and implements a standardized, five day a week curriculum.
Dr. Touroff establishes Prozdor, a high school program at Hebrew Teachers College.
1929
BJE introduces standardized achievement tests.
1932
Hurwich named Dean of Hebrew Teachers College.
1945
United Hebrew Schools is founded.
1947
Hurwich retires from the BJE and Hebrew Teachers College.
Hebrew Teachers College separates from the BJE.
Dr. Benjamin J. Shevach is named Executive Director of BJE.
Both organizations are funded solely through the auspices of the Federation.
1948
Hebrew Teachers Association and Principals Association merge into Hebrew Teachers and Principals Association.
1950s
Boston Jews begin to move out to the suburbs.
1950
BJE standardizes a three day a week curriculum.
1954
Twenty-one suburban towns are added to the BJE service list.
1960s
Reform synagogues begin to adapt more traditional practices.
1973
Combined Jewish Philanthropies commissions a study of the BJE. The Report of the Study Committee recommends BJE becomes more service oriented.
Dr. Shevach retires.
Louis Newman becomes new Executive Director.
1976
BJE amends Constitution to reflect new role.
1980s
Louis Newman leaves his position as Executive Director.
Dr. Daniel Margolis becomes Executive Director.
CJP creates the Task Force on Supplementary Jewish Education
1993
CJP created Sh'arim/Gateways to Jewish Living: The Jewish Family Educator Initiative.
2001
TeenAde is established.
2009
The BJE loses its funding from CJP and closes.

Extent

142 linear feet (130 document boxes, 7 oversized boxes)

Abstract

The Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) in Boston, Massachusetts, was founded in 1920 when the Associated Boston Hebrew Schools and Bureau of Jewish Religious Schools merged under the leadership of Louis Hurwich. While not the first centralized Jewish education organization in the country, the BJE was the first to receive support from its local Federation. From 1920 to 2009, the BJE provided consultation, evaluation and teacher training services using a variety of methods and tools. It worked closely with Jewish day schools, synagogue schools and non-traditional Jewish community programs to ensure professional standards and guidelines were implemented. This collection contains pamphlets, reports, correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, curriculum, programmatic information, grants, meeting minutes, agendas, audio-visual materials, media and publicity. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-120.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Dr. Daniel Margolis of the Bureau of Jewish Education, September 2009.

Processing Information

Processed by Stephanie Call, 2010
Title
Guide to the Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-497
Author
Processed by Stephanie Call
Date
2011

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245