JEWISH TEACHERS' SEMINARY AND PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITY


JEWISH TEACHERS' SEMINARY AND PEOPLE'S UNIVERSITY, the only Yiddish teachers' training college and school for advanced Yiddish studies in North America. It was founded in 1918 under the auspices of the Labor Zionist movement by Joel *Entin and Judah *Even Shemuel (Kaufman), who headed it during its formative years and provided opportunities for adult education in both secular and Jewish studies on the model of the European "Folks-Universitet." In 1935 it was incorporated by an act of legislature of the State of New York with the right to grant degrees. A Jewish Music Division was inaugurated in 1964 and in 1965 it merged with the *Herzliah Hebrew Teachers' Institute. It acquired new premises in 1970 and had a library of 40,000 volumes, in Yiddish and Hebrew.

The Seminary provided teachers for all the groups in the Yiddish school movement, except for the Communists. Its program emphasized "the historic and religious values and institutions, the cultural heritage of Yiddish and Hebrew … the national renaissance in the Land of Israel, the ideas of the Jewish labor movement, and the American democratic way of life." Its graduate program offers study and research in Yiddish Language and Literature, Hebrew Language and Literature, and Jewish Social Studies (the last embracing Education, History, Philosophy, and Sociology). The institute was governed by an independent board of trustees which includes representatives of the Labor Zionist Movement, the Workmen's Circle, and the Zionist Organization of America. The Seminary published a scholarly Yiddish-English quarterly Kulturun Leben in the 1940s.

With American Jewish education evolving along religious denominational lines in the post-World War II period, and with the Yiddish secular movement failing to rally behind its own institute of higher learning, the Seminary could not keep pace with developments in the Jewish community. A similar situation in the Hebraist Herzliah Hebrew Teachers' Institute was the cause of their merger. In spite of the centrality of Yiddish in the Seminary as against the formerly exclusive emphasis upon Hebrew in the Herzliah curriculum, the common ideological commitment to modern Jewish education within a national-cultural frame of reference allowed for parallel continuation of each program in accordance with differing linguistic commitments. The merger of the two hitherto weakened institutions prolonged the life of both for a time but was ultimately unsuccessful, and the school closed.

[Gershon Winer]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.