Title: The Azrielli Papers: Dimensions of Orthodox Day School Education
Edited by Drs. David J. Schnall and Moshe Sokolow John Clayton
Publisher: Yeshiva University Press
Reviewed by Yael Bussu and Goldie Golding
When Yaakov Avinu knew that he was about to move his family down to Mitzraim, his first priority was to establish a yeshiva. Ever since then, educating our young has continued to be a lifelong challenge and commitment for every Jew. We have come a long way from Mitzraim; the world has changed many times over. Every Orthodox educator knows that we cannot alter our mesorah, the link we have from Har Sinai, but how do we transmit it in the twenty-first century?
That is why The Azrielli Papers: Dimensions of Orthodox Day School Education is so compelling. Edited by Drs. David J. Schnall and Moshe Sokolow, this well-rounded anthology presents keen insight into issues impacting Jewish education today. Anyone interested in the education of Jewish children should read it.
The Azrielli Papers is a collection of essays on the most current and most critical areas of educational concern for parents, lay leaders, and school principals. It showcases years of serious research done in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools. Its authors are true visionaries, each a noted expert in his/her field, representing their unique and creative perspective on topics ranging from school structure to student psychology and curriculum.
This engaging, thoroughly researched compilation can serve as a primer or handbook for all stakeholders in Jewish education. It presents the challenges faced by those responsible for teaching and reaching our youth and offers insight and practical approaches to addressing the most pressing issues of the day.
Intended also as a reference tool for educators and school leaders, as well as heads of summer camps, youth programs, and synagogues, the book focuses on issues such as bullying, social exclusion, and inculcating our students with authentic Jewish values. These topics are handled with tremendous skill and sensitivity, by renowned experts. David Pelcovitz is well known for his work and lectures dealing with at-risk adolescents. He discusses practical interventions for educators. Rona Novick presents unique opportunities to promote positive peer culture. Jay Goldmintz highlights religious development in adolescence.
In an eye-opening chapter entitled The Ethics of Exclusion, Jeffrey Glanz explores inclusive practice in education and schooling. Glanz’s game-changing theory advocates inclusion as a moral necessity and considers it an ethical imperative for Jewish schools to be philosophically and financially committed to support inclusive pedagogy initiatives.
He calls for an educational environment that provides modifications and accommodations so that all children can learn together in the same school and in the same classroom regardless of their learning challenges. He makes a convincing case for inclusionary practices as a means to better serve all students.
Other scholarly essayists include Howard Deitcher and Alex Pomson, who discuss achievements, challenges, and aspirations for Jewish day school students. Michael Rosenak explores Jewish educational thought. Lawrence Schiffmann suggests ways to make the teaching of Tanach come alive. Both eminent editors present essays as well. Dr. Sokolow utilizes the writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l, to discuss guidelines for curriculum, and Dr. Schnall, collaborating with Daniel Pollack, explores the right to education in American and Jewish legal traditions.
At first glance, it might appear that the book is intended for just the Modern Orthodox population, but on closer inspection, this publication will prove to be a valuable resource to all those involved in ensuring the continuity and continued success of Jewish day schools and yeshivot.
What is most significant about this book is its premise – that we can improve Jewish education by combining research and practice. Using great vision and intelligence, this trailblazing work offers practical ideas for educators while demonstrating that there is significant research and academics to back up its statements. Every teacher, lay leader, or principal who picks up The Azrielli Papers and internalizes its lessons, will benefit – but ultimately it is the children, and the future of Klal Yisrael, who will benefit the most.
Yael Bussu and Goldie Golding are principals at Yeshivat Shaare Torah in Brooklyn, New York. In addition, Mrs. Golding is a noted author of ArtScroll children’s books.