LANDESMAN, ALTER (1895–1981), Jewish educator. Born in Lithuania, he immigrated to the United States in 1906 and earned his B.A. at Western Reserve University (1917), was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1922, and earned a D.H.L. in 1928.
As a Jewish educator he became the superintendent of the Hebrew Education Society (HES) in Brownsville, then one of the largest Jewish communities in New York. HES served as an educational and social center helping the acculturation of American Jews; under Landesman's direction it became a community center for Brownsville Jews. When he began his service, Americanization was a central motif in the work of the Center; over time as immigration to the United States decreased, the task of Americanization became less urgent and the responsibility for continuing Jewish education ever greater.
Landesman worked together with Modern Orthodox elements and HES housed a Young Israel, which met the needs of traditional young people who wanted a sermon in English and wanted religious activities on Friday evening. It held services in the building. HES became more Zionist in orientation and in the early years was more Yiddish oriented, most especially as its leadership passed from German Jews to Eastern European Jews.
He established the Brownsville Neighborhood Council to deal with housing, health, recreation, and social services, and he guided the development of the Young Israel in Brownsville and adjacent East Flatbush.
Landesman was a pioneer in the Jewish center movement. He served as president of the Metropolitan Association of Jewish Center Workers and vice president of the national association.
He prepared for the United Synagogue of America's Committee on Education four curricula; one for schools that met on Sunday; a two-year course for students beginning their studies at age 11 and being trained for their bar-mitzvah; a program for three-day-a-week schools; and a program for four-day-a-week schools. His work covered the entire gamut of Jewish education in those days, as there were only a handful of day schools.
He wrote a well received history of Brownsville, a community that has been understudied and unheralded, but which was critical to New York Jewish life through the first half of the 20th century, and a more scholarly work on the Jews of Provence between the 10th and 14th centuries.
D. Soyer, "Brownstones and Brownsville," in: American Jewish History (2000), 181–207; Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly (1981).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.