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Different cultures and peoples are educated on the principles and norms of the collective groups. In Jewish society, religion is a very important factor that the laws of the culture are studied, learned, and implemented.

Religion is a strong presence in the lives of the Jewish faith; so much that religion is strongly embedded in society. Out of all religious teachings, is the teachings of the Torah that are most important and sacred to Jewish society.

The teachings of the Torah in the Old Testament described the purpose and importance of education in the lives of the faithful. And while the main purpose of the Torah is to teach the Jews about God and all of his might and glory, it is not the basis of Jewish education.

Throughout history, there have been dozens of education builders that have educated the populace. And while the presence of God has been at the center during the history, things are very different now.

Jewish people are taught the prayers and verses of the Torah, but also the morals, values, and importance of proper modern education.

Before we continue any further, we have to separate religion from basic education. The two are quite commonly interpreted with one another in Jewish society, but there is a clear and distinctive difference between both.

For starters, religious teaching is solely from the Torah, while the rest of the education is done through kindergarten all the way to college.

Formal Jewish Education

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The formal Jewish learning starts at 75 BCE by Simeon ben Sheath. This is the first person in the ancient world that has placed strong importance on learning.

Ever since schools and synagogues have been the prime places where any young individual could learn the teachings and ways of god and society.

While religious schools still exist in the world, where the curriculum is shaped around the Torah, ordinary schools are the primary source of education for Jews.

Out of all centers, it is the primary schooling system where a young Jew starts the journey towards literacy. The person to thank for this is Joshua ben Gamla. Bel Gamla made the case for boys and girls, aged 6 and 7, to get the necessary learning they need to become literate people and not farmers and peasants. The institution that was created for the purpose of this was the Talmud.

Law was very important in Jewish society, so much that the Yeshiva was created to teach the laws of the Torah. The Yeshiva was created to teach the followers of the importance of community and create a moral compass for each individual.

Jewish schools are the modern-day centers where children get the necessary education. Schools have completely replaced the Yeshiva and Talmud as the primary source for learning. But these came to be only in the 19th century before that boys would attend synagogue-style classrooms called cheder.

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There is a term called “Jewish day school” which refers to the first day of school. The first day of school happened in Germany and has been a regular occurrence ever since.

As opposition to higher studying, apprenticeships were another form of learning a profession. Anything from woodworking to blacksmithing and jewelry making was highly present in Jewish society.

As a matter of fact, much of modern-day gift-giving culture has to do with religion and popularity of jewelry. Jewelry is very important in Jewish society, so much that it is the prime gift to give to the people you love the most. You can visit and see more why jewelry is so popular amongst the Jewish culture.

During the same time, a gymnasium was more than enough to prepare a person for life at university. Truthfully speaking, only the best and brightest could attend university and those with a lot of money and status in society.

Now speaking, every person is expected to finish college. As a substitute for college, Jewish children could specialize in a particular skill such as woodworking. Contrary to popular beliefs, learning a craft can sometimes be more financially beneficial than finishing college.

It is Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to thank for modern-day schools. It is because of Rabbi Samson why Jews are disproportionately engaged in academic studies and promoting teaching as a profession.

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But what about girl’s education? Has it been the same as boys? While the case might be different in the past, Jewish girls have also been the target of these 19th-century reforms.

Public religious learning hasn’t been exclusive to only boys, and girls were also taught the necessary skills to make it in the world. The sad part is that girls were homeschooled on the teachings of the Torah before these reforms. This isn’t anything exclusive for the Hebrew faith, and many religions throughout the world have neglected girls from the religious learning systems.

One of the most highly influential builders of female religious education in Jewish society is Sarah Schenirer. Due to her initiative, the first girl’s school in Krakow opened in 1918.

But this was the case only in Europe. In the United States, girls got the same level of education as boys and were even incorporated with the boys.

Before the 19th century, girls were only literate in Yiddish. This was sole because of the fact that they couldn’t attend public schools. Boys, on the other hand, were taught the Hebrew language and the texts of the Torah.

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Those that were of higher influence or wealth could bend the rules and receive education for their daughters. But other than that, most of the Jewish girls were Hebrew-illiterate.

Illiteracy was the deciding factor for why women would stay home and look after the kids, cook, and take care of the home while men would work and provide.

This has significantly changed ever since girls were incorporated into the public learning systems. After World War II, Jewish girls were even incorporated in the army, with many of them becoming spies, soldiers, nurses, couriers, and even drivers.

Ever since the devastating effects of World War II, Hebrew teachings have become more open to the female gender.