Latest update: September 23rd, 2012
“In 1901 a few individuals who wished to give their own children an intensive Jewish Talmudical education, engaged one Hebrew teacher and one English teacher, and opened a school under the name Beth Sefer Tifereth Jerusalem (Glory of Jerusalem School). It was organized because ‘the ordinary Talmud Torah was unable to give a complete mastery of the history, literature and the precepts of our religion’ and because ‘there was no school in which a complete secular education could be given, without reducing the time needed for religious training.’”
While the duties of the menahel (Hebrew studies principal) occupy fully twenty-two lines in the constitution, the duties of the English school principal take up only five and provide only a minimal amount of detail. The founders of the RJJ School felt it was sufficient that the secular department meet the standards set up by the New York City Board of Education, and left it at that.
There was emphasis on Talmud with the goal of producing Talmudic scholars. Beginners were taught to read the Rashit Da’at, the Siddur, and then began the study of the Bible. The Sedra or weekly Bible portion was studied in the upper grades together with the classical Rashi commentary. The Kitzur Shulhan Aruk was studied weekly.
Study of Gemara began in the sixth grade for boys who were 10 or 11 years old.
No formal attempt was made to teach Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the other important Prophets. Courses in Jewish history were not included in the curriculum. The attitude of both board members and faculty was that these subjects were relatively simple in comparison with Talmud and required no formal instruction. They felt that the student could master such subjects by himself after attaining proficiency in Talmud.
During the 1920′s the Religious department was divided into two sections — a Hebrew and a Yiddish section. From interviews and talks with individuals, it would seem that gradually a demand developed on the part of younger parents to have their children learn more Hebrew. It is probable that Hebrew-taught classes started slowly and developed into a separate but parallel department through the elementary grades. The parents insisting on a Hebrew education for their children seem to have been more Zionist in outlook. By introducing Hebrew as a language of instruction, the school adapted some of the methods of the Heder Methukkan (the improved school). For this purpose, teachers with a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, language, grammar, and pedagogy were needed. This tendency was interpreted by some educators as the Haskalah (age of enlightenment) influence upon the Yeshiva curriculum. However, the teachers who were engaged were all orthodox men devoted to Torah and Mitzvot.
 “Jewish Education in New York City” by Alexander M. Dushkin, The Bureau of Jewish Education, New York, 1918, page 75.
 “RABBI S.I. ANDRON DIES IN PALESTINE,” The New York Times, February 27, 1930, page 18.
 “It is simply not accurate to say that all of the Judaic teachers were Orthodox men, etc. When I attended the yeshiva in the 1940s there were several who definitely fit into the Haskalah category.” Personal communication from Dr. Marvin Schick, 11/26/07.
Dr. Yitzchok Levine is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. “Glimpses Into American Jewish History” appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at email@example.com.
About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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