The Jewish Contribution to World Education

Much like any nation that ends up being scattered all over the world, Jews value education more than anyone else.  Particularly when it pertains to learning about their own culture and values from ancient times, as well as what is classified as important in Israel today.

So much so, the importance of cultural education is installed in the minds of Jewish children from being little, and it is not only due to the Jews advancing their own cultural values in Israel and elsewhere through education, but also through eventually affecting and advancing the world culture as well.

Why is education so important to Jews? — The need to be in school and learning has been a mainstay of Jewish culture since 75 B.C.E., and it was one that carried us through more than 1,700 years, no matter where Jews have traveled or where they lived.

Up until the 18th century, however, the children of most Jews were educated in separate institutions. Starting in the 18th century, older Jews in Europe began to attend secular universities after the Austrian emperor Emperor Joseph II allowed them to do so.

It was then that they really began to share their knowledge with the world at large.

Jews and the modern idea of kindergartens — The first kindergarten in Austria was set up in 1830 by a Jewish philanthropist in Vienna called Joseph Ritter von Wertheimer.

This immediately meant Jewish children were now in the mainstream in the school system right from being very young.

Jews as philanthropists — As soon as Jews began to be educated in the mainstream, they also began to contribute to it.

Some of that was just sharing knowledge, but much of it was in actual philanthropy as they donated huge sums of money to schools and universities all over the world.

Not only contributions to schools where Jews were educated either, but even schools for blacks in various places in the United States.

A Swedish Jew was instrumental in the importance of teaching manual skills in school, and a Jewish teacher from France (Alen Brandman) was one of the first people in the world to stress teaching people who were deaf and mute.

Schools and universities in the United States and the U.K. also benefited from the educational expertise of Jews after they were forced to flee Germany and other European countries during the Second World War.

International recognition of Israelis — Israel, too, has citizens who are being given international recognition for their work in educational theory.  Specifically, in the last few years, two Israelis – David Lesch and Robert Godley – have been honored for their work in general educational history as well as in educational research.

About the Author
Robbie Rothenberg is a dedicated community activist and philanthropist. His strong connection to Israel is exemplified by his having volunteered under the Sar-El program, with the Israeli army on a base near Be'er Sheva. Robbie is one of the founders of Yeshivat Orayta, a Jerusalem based Yeshiva for high school graduates; and serves on the advisory committee of the Eagles Wings Israel Experience Program, which sends Christian college students to Israel to empower them to become advocates for Israel on their respective campuses and beyond.
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