A sensitive guide

Author reflects on Jewish education in England.

Students in classroom 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Students in classroom 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
It will surprise Nobody who knows the Anglo-Jewish community that the education on offer to its youngsters in the immediate post-war period was a watered down experience, limited for most to heder on Shabbat and Sunday morning. The goal was to fit in as much as possible with English society, and therefore most learning took place in the regular educational system.
But in the sixties and seventies, things changed. Goaded by the rise in intermarriage and the deterioration of local schools, parents embraced Jewish day schools as a way of affirming religious identity and getting their children a decent secular education as well.
Mendelsson is a sure and sensitive guide to the politics and social trends behind this remarkable switch. I grew up under the older dispensation, and can therefore vouch for the accuracy of at least the first part of his book. And, perhaps because I was a child of my times, I have no regrets that I did so. Heder should have been better than it was, for sure. But my regular schools had high standards: mixing with my non-Jewish classmates was an enriching education in itself.