Institutional Scholarship

Yiddish Secular Education: An American Institution

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Title: Yiddish Secular Education: An American Institution
Author: Lipman, Emily
Advisor: Kitroeff, Alexander
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of History
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: Yiddish secular education in America, an institution evolved from the Jewish political radicalism of eastern European cities, was carefully revised and reoriented for the American environment upon its transatlantic transplantation in the early twentieth century. These Yiddish secular schools, bastions of Jewish culture and socialist politics,gained firm traction in the United States among the burgeoning Eastern European immigrant population and enjoyed a fruitful fifty-year reign from 1910-1960. They stood in sharp contrast to the insular Orthodox. Jewish heder schools established by the religiously traditional immigrant majority, hailing from Russia's rural Pale region. As opposed to the rote Bible study of the heder, Yiddish secular schools self-consciously applied progressive educational methods to perpetuate a cultural Jewishness in America that complemented the national atmosphere of cultural pluralism. This thesis examines the ways in which Yiddish secular schools taught their students to cherish their ethnic heritage while emphasizing how it enhanced, not contradicted, their American lives. The schools' core curriculum featured Yiddish language and literature, Jewish history and current events, as well as a diversity of holiday celebrations. Throughout all the subjects covered in their schools, Yiddish secularists artfully employed American themes and socialist ideology to develop dual American and Jewish identities within their students. A one-of-a-kind experimental educational project, Yiddish secular education in America not only reflected the goals of its Jewish immigrant founders, but also the dynamic, modernist, and diverse national culture of the period.
Subject: Yiddish language -- United States
Subject: Jews -- Education -- United States -- History -- 20th century
Subject: Humanistic Judaism -- United States
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Lipman, Emily. "Yiddish Secular Education: An American Institution". 2012. Available electronically from

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