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Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-120

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains meeting minutes, the BJE constitution, directories of Jewish schools in Boston, publications, reports, and financial ledgers. Also included are additional records from the Hebrew Teachers and Principals Association and the United Hebrew Schools of Boston. Publications include those about the Bureau and general Jewish education. This collection also contains glass plate negatives with images of Hebrew schools in the Boston area. These are fragile and must be handled with care.

For more on the Bureau of Jewish Education in Boston, please see collection I-497.

Dates

  • undated, 1926-1992

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

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

(A larger collection of records from the Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-497 is also available.)

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. A lot 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.

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
21 suburban towns are added to the BJE service list.
1960s
Reform synagogues begin to adapt more traditional practices.

Extent

13.25 linear feet (2 manuscript boxes, 6 oversized boxes, 1 glass plate negative box)

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 meeting minutes, Jewish school directories, publications, reports, glass plate negatives and financial ledgers. For more detailed records, please also see the Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-497.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donate by the Bureau of Jewish Education in 1976, with additional material donated at an unknown date.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Stephanie Call
Title
Guide to the Bureau of Jewish Education (Boston, Mass.) Records, I-120
Author
Reprocessed 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