Sunday, March 28, 2010

181 Jewish schools in New York City in 1917

Here is an interesting list of Jewish schools (of all sorts) which were in existence in New York City in 1917. While obviously the quality and religious orientation of these schools were hardly uniform (some were Sunday schools, others had sessions every day; some had 40 students and a couple over 1000) I'll bet it is nevertheless surprising to many that 181 such places in New York City alone existed in 1917.


  1. I see they have RJJ (Rabbi Jacob Joseph) listed.

  2. I should hope so. It counts 525 students.

  3. Wouldn't that be 181, not 159? Maybe you didn't notice the last frame.

  4. Right. I posted in haste.

  5. You'll need to change the body '159' also to 181, as you did the header.

  6. You can whack my two correctional comments...including this one.

  7. I noticed that listed is a Volozhin Yeshiva. I think the rosh yeshiva of that yeshiva was R Yehoshua Chosak. I found his NYT obit which listed him as RY of Volozhin in NY.

  8. FRED:

    "I'll bet it is nevertheless surprising to many that 181 such places in New York City alone existed in 1917"

    more than 181. dushkin didn't include chadarim in the list (reaching about 14k students). also he estimated that 10k were taught by private tutors.
    but even with all this, in 1917 less than a quarter of elemetary school kids received a jewish education (and much lower among high schoolers).
    this was a time when forty-something percent of manhattan public school students were estimated to be jewish


    principal of volozhin was jacob meyer edelman (1917-20, perhaps other years as well). in 1904 some students started a zionist club, but the school forced it to close. the club reformed outside the school and became somewhat popular.

  9. @Lion of Zion: sounds like the real Volozhin, only in Russia they probably couldnt close the club.

  10. Sure it's surprising. Havent you read any Artscroll books? Dont you know there was no Torah in America before the Agudah and Rabbi Aaron Kotler?

    LOL! 'Dyontif.


  11. DF:

    i can't believe i'm about to do this, but in artscroll's defense, the vast majority of these 181 schools were not regular yeshivos (or even, lehavdil, day schools) and the curriculum of many (most?) of these schools was not one artscroll would boast about.

    chag kasher ve-same'ach

  12. @ Lion: i think i read in an artscroll book that R ahron Kotler brought over the first complete set of shas to america when he came in 1941 or so.

  13. ANON:

    i'd love to see that reference. there is evidence that gemaras (to say nothign of a complete shas) were hard to come by in america, but
    a) who says gemaras (and complete shas) were so ubiquitious in europe?
    b) a complete one-volume shas was printed at least 3 times in the teens and twenties by the morgen journal in new york (stereotype of korotsin ed.?).
    after WWI a few individual masechtot were published in boston. at the same time agudath harabbonim and riets teamed up to publish a complete shas that printed in montreal by kanader adler (riets backed out in the initial stages). an entire folio edition was printed in 20 vols.

    the main impetus to print the complete shas was because the european hebrew printing houses were destroyed in the war and theere was a death of shases for the yeshivot. so for all we (or artscroll) know, the shas that rav. kotler brought with him was the edition published a few dedades earlier in america!

  14. death = dearth

    (the first gemara printed in america was yerushalmi bikkurim with original commentary in 1888 in chicago, reprtined a few years later in ny)

    also, daf yomi was proposed first in america ca. 1909

  15. Lion, you are right in what you say, but still and all, at least some of these schools were real yeshivahs, and were teaching real Torah. [The Artscroll view on this score is very, very warped, and cannot be defended.]


  16. DF:

    "at least some of these schools were real yeshivahs"

    only 4 of the 181 were "real yeshivas," and since they were weighted toward the younger grades, it's difficult to exaggerate how much "real" learning was taking place. the remaining 177 schools were supplementary, some meeting as little as an hour or 2 on sunday morning. kids frequently switched schools and many never completed the course of study (which was only for elementary school in any case). as far as currciulum, little attnetion was given to
    "real talmud torah." (btw, my grandfather graduated from one of these schools:

    artscroll is wrong
    a) in saying there was *no* torah in turn-of-the-century america (but let's not swing the pendulum in the other direction). there were chevra shases, seforim and torah journals, attempts to found higher yeshivas (riets being the successful example), sending kids to learn in eretz yisrael, etc.
    b) in holding america up to an ideal that no longer (or really never?) existed in europe. eastern europe was basically headed on the american trajectory, if perhaps a generation behind it. iirc (but could be wrong), a majority of vilna's jewish children in the interwar period went to state schools, and the percentage was even higher (sometimes much higher) in other areas. and those not in state schools were not necessarily in a traditional framework either, but rather were in modern jewish schools (bund, tarbut, etc.)

  17. Lion, I agree. To further the point, there was such a thing as Young Israel for a long time before WWII. Their focus was more on leading a Jewish life than pure study [and who's to say that's not the right approach, but thats a different story, right?] but there was certainly Torah taught as part of their overall program.

    Likewise, there were more Americans in Europe before WWII than people think. Fred and I discussed this offline. There was at least two Americans in Volohzin in as early as 1879 and 1881. In the Mir there were as much as 30 Americans in some years, and they were a discernible, recognizable group. Obviously the men sending their sons abroad in these times knew whwat Torah was.

    I think in Artscroll's mind, Torah = koillel. And in that regard they are right, there was no koillel in America before WWII came around. But that brings us back to what was said above, that this is not necessarily something to be proud of.

    Re the second point that the Europe described is a fiction, you are of course correct too, but not much to add at this point. I gotta take the kids out now, so must run. G'Moed.


  18. DF:

    the earliest i know of americans learning in eastern europe is 1872(?). there is a report in a newspaper about 2 fathers who were going to visit their sons there.

    perhaps fred should start a new blog and publish his off-blog correspondence

  19. Would be a little too scandalous.

  20. One page (the one that would have my alma mater, I suppose) is missing.



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