The Future of the American Jew

By Mordecai M. Kaplan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
JUDAISM'S CONTRIBUTION TO EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRACY

Religiously and ethically, we Jews have to undergo considerable reconstruction in our organizational activities and re-education in our system of values, if we are to be in a position to contribute our share to the enhancement of American life. That, indeed, is one of the motives for such reconstruction and re-education. But to render that purpose realizable, we have to find some area within our own life and culture, where we have immediate opportunity to articulate our contribution to the life and culture of the general population. Such an opportunity is presented in the area of education.

Jews, as a people, have been supremely aware of the significance of education as a process of transmitting their group life from one generation to another. To that awareness, the Jewish people owes its unique power of survival, despite the most adverse odds. Even more remarkable, however, than the process of transmission are the values it has helped to keep alive and the spirit in which it has been carried on throughout the centuries. That miracle of Jewish survival should be an incentive to all mankind to hold on to life, in the face of overwhelming odds. What it spells, in terms of the Jewish educative process, should persuade all peoples to derive from Judaism values as inspiring as are those of ethical monotheism and the passion for righteousness. Indeed, the Jewish educative process, at least as ideally conceived in the past, points the way toward the most effective means of implementing both ethical monotheism and the passion for righteousness.

It is with that end in view that the following four sections on Judaism's contribution to education discuss the following: First, the aim of all education must be world improvement. Lacking that aim, all education is reduced to training in the capacity to dominate. Secondly, there are certain conditions which education must satisfy, if it is to enable the child, as he matures, to share in the building of a better international society. What these are is suggested by Judaism's token rite which symbolizes the educational process, namely, the Passover Seder. Thirdly, if education is to be a means of strengthening the democratic spirit of the American people, it must be so conducted as to enable the growing generation to distinguish between genuine de-

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