Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Jewish dedication to education was noted in the Middle Ages by a student of Peter Abelard: “Jews, out of zeal for [G-d] and love of the law, put as many sons as they have to letters, that each may understand G-d’s law. A Jew, however poor, even if he had ten sons would put them all to letters, not for gain… but for the understanding of G-d’s law, and not only his sons but his daughters.”

Unlike today’s yeshiva elementary schools, children in medieval Ashkenaz were educated at home by parents or by a melamed (a hired tutor). The Sefer Chassidim, an ethical work from this period, notes that the father, the mother and the melamed are all partners in a child’s education. Of course, not everyone could afford a melamed. In such cases, families partnered together or sought help from wealthy individuals or communal charity funds.


So, if next year’s tuition contract has given you sticker shock, remember that the challenge to afford tuition is nothing new. But history teaches that Torah education is essential to Jewish continuity and as such is well worth the investment.


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Dr. Chaya Sima Koenigsberg is an assistant professor of Judaic studies at Lander College for Women/The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School.