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Distributed for Brandeis University Press

The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education

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.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments • Introduction • Making Order out of Chaos, 1900–1939 • The Making of the Master: Benderly in Baltimore • The New York Bureau and Its Critics • A Few Good Men (and Women) • The Struggle for a Modern School System • The Organization of a Jewish Education Profession • Progress under Threat: Jewish Education and the Great Depression • Jewish Learning for Jewish Living, 1910–1945 • Education as Enculturation: Progressivism and the New York Bureau • The Jewish School Curriculum and the Limits of Progressive Reform • The Central Jewish Institute: The School Center as a Model for the Modern Talmud Torah • “An Environment of Our Own Making”: The Origins of the Jewish Culture Camp • Between K’lal Yisrael and Denominationalism, 1940–1965 • Unity in Diversity? The Jewish Education Committee • Rebuilding, Renewal, and Reconciliation in the Postwar Era • Conclusion: The Benderly Revolution • Notes • Index

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