The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education

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Author: Jonathan B. Krasner

Series: Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture and Life

Samson Benderly inaugurated the first Bureau of Jewish Education in 1910 amid a hodgepodge of congregational schools, khayders, community Talmud Torahs and private tutors. Drawing on the theories of Johann Pestalozzi, Herbert Spencer and John Dewey, and deriving inspiration from cultural Zionism, Benderly sought to modernize Jewish education by professionalizing the field, creating an immigrant-based, progressive supplementary school model, and spreading the mantra of community responsibility for Jewish education. With philanthropist Jacob Schiff and influential laymen financing his plans, Benderly realized that his best hope for transforming the educational landscape nationwide was to train a younger generation of teachers, principals and bureau leaders. These young men became known collectively as the “Benderly Boys,” who, from the 1920s to the 1970s, were the dominant force in Jewish education — both formal and informal — in the United States.

Subject: Jewish Studies

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