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Sylvia Cutler Ettenberg

(1917- )

ETTENBERG, SYLVIA CUTLER (1917– ), U.S. Jewish educator, particularly within the Conservative movement. Born in Brooklyn, she received a B.A. from Brooklyn College and a Bachelor of Pedagogy from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). In 1940 she married Moshe Ettenberg, an engineering professor; the couple had two children.

Although her career was spent almost exclusively at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, her influence was felt in a wide range of institutions and settings. Ettenberg, the first female senior administrator at JTS, played a leading role in some of the most important and innovative projects of Conservative Jewish education. She was directly involved in the founding of the Seminary's supplementary high school (the Prozdor) in 1951, the creation of the Melton Research Center in 1959, and the eventual establishment of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education in 1996. She worked on the creation of a joint undergraduate degree program between JTS and Columbia University and helped supervise the Department of Jewish Education at the Seminary as it developed its M.A. and doctoral programs.

Arguably, her most notable achievement was Camp Ramah, a summer educational camping program that grew into an international network of camps. Ramah was first launched in Wisconsin in 1947 by a group of community leaders from Chicago. But it was Ettenberg and Moshe Davis who brought Ramah inside the world of JTS itself, creating an infrastructure for the camping system that developed over time and nurtured the powerful educational vision embodied in the camps. The Ramah camps had a profound impact on Jewish education and provided a large percentage of the future academic, lay, and professional leadership of Conservative Judaism.

Ettenberg received an honorary doctorate from JTS, the Behrman House Books – Jewish Educators Assembly lifetime achievement award, and the Samuel Rothberg Prize in Jewish education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sources:[Barry W. Holtz (2nd ed.)]

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