The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education

Jonathan B. Krasner

Samson Benderly inaugurated the first Bureau of Jewish Education in 1910 amid a hodgepodge of congregational schools, khayders, community Talmud Torahs, and private tutors. Drawing on the theories of Johann Pestalozzi, Herbert Spencer, and John Dewey, and deriving inspiration from cultural Zionism, Benderly sought to modernize Jewish education by professionalizing the field, creating an immigrant-based, progressive supplementary school model, and spreading the mantra of community responsibility for Jewish education. With philanthropist Jacob Schiff and influential laymen financing his plans, Benderly realized that his best hope for transforming the educational landscape nationwide was to train a younger generation of teachers, principals, and bureau leaders. These young men became known collectively as the “Benderly Boys,” who, from the 1920s to the 1970s, were the dominant force in Jewish education—both formal and informal—in the United States.

E-book: $35.99
ISBN-13: 9781611682939
Pages: 512 | Size: 6.25 in. x 9.25 in.
Date Published: May 10, 2011

“[A] well-written, deeply researched, and richly annotated volume.”



  • [A] well-written, deeply researched, and richly annotated volume.

  • The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education is an outstanding work of scholarship. It has a strong narrative drive, yet captures the big themes beyond a mere recitation of facts. Superbly documented and compelling, this work establishes Krasner as the leading historian of American Jewish education for the present generation. I eagerly look forward to what he will produce next and what his work may inspire in other scholars.

    The Forward
  • [A] fascinating story.

    Jewish Journal of South Florida
  • Jonathan Krasner’s excellent book tells the story of Samson Benderly and his disciples and the effect that they had on American Jewish education in the first half of the twentieth century. Because the history of Jewish education in America is very much the story of how American Jews have sought to define themselves in this land, Krasner’s work also is valuable to general students of American Jewish life. The Benderly Boys is meticulously researched. It uses personal letters, interviews, detailed organizational minutes, photos, and close reading of curricula and other texts to construct a vivid picture of the individuals studied and the age in which they worked. Krasner is a gifted writer, and his analysis is uniformly fair and insightful.

    American Jewish Archives
  • Those of us who know the field of American Jewish education have long heard, read, and debated the Benderly revolution and its impact. But until now, the evidence on which we based our understanding was incomplete, scattered and ill understood. Krasner brings together information from diverse sources to create a rich, nuanced picture of Benderly, helping us better understand his motivations, goals, accomplishments and frustrations. Building on this, Krasner helps us understand for the first time the varied ways in which Benderly’s protégés built on his ideas while extending them in unique ways that fostered their own vision of Jewish education. We get
    a palpable feel for the achievements of the Bureau, the struggles to professionalize the field, the uniqueness of the Central Jewish Institute, the power of Camp Modin, and the breadth of activities of the JEC. We also appreciate the specific strengths and weaknesses of Benderly’s boys, Dushkin, Chipkin, Berkson, and Schoolman. At the same time, by bringing all of this together in one book, Krasner gives us a real sense for the first time of the breadth and scope of this revolution in American Jewish education.

    Dr. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Jewish Theological Seminary

About the Author

Jonathan B Krasner

Jonathan Krasner’s 2020 book, Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps (Rutgers University Press), co-authored with Sarah Bunin Benor and Sharon Avni, was the recipient of the 2020 National Jewish Book Award in Education and Jewish Identity. His 2011 book, The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education (Brandeis University Press), was the winner of the 2011 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies. He was named as a 2012 …

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