Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Eretz Yisrael in Children’s Books Before 1948

 Eretz Yisrael  in Children’s Books Before 1948

[Note:  I am publishing this in my blog as a work in progress.  The more time that I spend researching the more information I find that I need to learn.  As a work in progress I invite comments and ideas on how to conclude the project.  I am not an expert in children’s literature and I don’t even know much about current materials for Jewish children.  Many children’s books cross my desk, but I don’t have time to read them.]

After V-E day (8 May 1945) most American soldiers were not needed in Europe, but the U.S. Army had no way to quickly return them home.  My father was stuck in Italy waiting for transport.  He had a desk job working regular hours.  In one of his letters to his family he wrote that he and some of his buddies were seeking transport to take a vacation in Palestine.  He wanted “Next year in Jerusalem” to happen in 1945. They were not able to find a boat for passage to Palestine.  When I read his letter a few years ago I caught a bug of an idea and a question, what was American Jewish children’s literature writing about Palestine?  Were American Jewish children taught about love of Eretz Yisrael?

This article will explore some examples of Jewish children’s literature, but there is no way I can be comprehensive in a short article.

I was most interested in the period of 1900-1948.  In 2014 Andrea Rapp wrote about the historical children’s literature collection in the Isaac Meyer Wide Temple Library [1] mentions two studies of literature, Jonathan Sarna’s book, JPS the Americanization of Jewish Culture 1888-1988 about the Jewish Publication Society (Sarna 1989) and Linda Silver’s presentation, “Milestones in American Jewish Children’s Literature”, given at the 2005 Association of Jewish Libraries regional conference. (Rapp page 154-155).  Neither work highlighted anything about Israel, Palestine or Zionism in children’s literature.  Sarna does mention that The Jewish Publication Society (here after JPS) was concerned with the lack of children’s books.  
Roger Strauss of publisher Farrar, Struss and Cudahy and JPS made a deal to write biographies for Jewish children about great American Jews, but this was in 1956 after many years of interest.  It is significant because until Straus pushed this idea JPS thought the children’s market was too small to warrant any major publication effort.  This deal created Covenant Books and was a joint publication.  JPS would sell to its members and Strauss would sell to the general book trade.  This lack of interest in children’s books because of economic concerns was a major reason very few books for children were written before the late 1960’s or 1970’s.

The Shavzin-Carsch Collection that Rapp wrote about has 44 books written for primary grade children published from 1900-1950.  If I subtract the 22 that are primarily Bible stories that leaves 22.  For middle school and high school aged students the collection has 103 books and 16 are Bible stories.

The creation of books specifically aimed children did not have a long history.  One major part of the philosophy of education was to create obedient servants of the society.  In Jewish education this meant the learning of Torah and the laws and traditions of daily, Shabbat and holiday ritual observance. From the earliest times Jewish education was character education.  The Torah[2] was not recreational reading; it was the source of Jewish law, ethics and religious life. Children were seen as miniature adults who didn’t need imaginative literature.  Even in Christian society, reading of the Bible and telling Bible stories was an important part a child’s education.   
Liberal education, that is an understanding of the diversity of the world, is a recent part of education.  Liberal education took a long time to develop.  Many universities and colleges before the early 20th century thought a liberal education meant learning classical literature.  Students didn’t learn how to think on their own but were trained to repeat the mistakes or glory of the past.  Because of this attitude toward education, it is no far-fetched rationale to say that children did not need books that were written for children.

Most of the books in the list below tell stories or give explanations of Jewish holidays, Shabbat, and Jewish traditions.  While the language is defiantly at a child’s level, all are trying to teach.  For example, K’tonton’s adventures are centered around holiday or Shabbat preparations or observances.  While the stories are amusing and entertaining, the stories are a children’s version of a treatise on Jewish practices.

If you want to read about the history of American Jewish education, Judah Pilch’s  book deals with the events, people, and happenings in American Jewish education, but never deals with the philosophy and the “why” of education. In chapter 4, “From the early forties to the mid-sixties,” by Judah Pilch does mention the role of the Jewish community of Palestine and the impact of the State of Israel on Jewish education. After 1948 the study of Hebrew language and Jewish current events achieved a more important part of the Jewish school’s curricula.

The Zionist messages do appear in some Hebrew language textbooks.  Many of the readers are from Israeli (Palestinian) writers such as Hayyim  Nachman Bialik and Ahad Ha’am.

Examples from the books

Zevi Shafstein (1884-1972) was an educator and writer.  He arrived in the United States in 1914 and two years later started teaching at the Teachers Institute of Jewish Theological Seminary.  He was a professor of education until his retirement in 1960.  He wrote many textbooks for children learning Hebrew and edited a dictionary.  In ארצנו is a story of a family that travels by boat to Eretz Yisrael. Sharfstein never uses the word “Palestine.”  When on the boat they meet some people going to Israel to be halutzim.  While in Israel they visit the sea shore, small agricultural settlements, and talk about the food and scenery. [3] They never visit Jerusalem. This is one of the few openly Zionist books. It does have a chapter mentioning Shabbat, but none of the religious observances are mentioned.  The only bracha is for the Hanukkah candles. This is a textbook, not recreational or enrichment reading.  It does not fit most of selection criteria.  Since it was written in 1938, my father would not have read this in school. This book contrasts Marenof’s textbook that has stories of religious observance and no mention of Eretz Yisrael.

Sadie Rose Weilerstein (1894-1993) was an author who is best known for the K’tonton  books and the books in the bibliography. She graduated from the University of Rochester with a B.A. in English in 1917. She got her start in the writing of plays and telling stories in Community Synagogue of Atlantic City where her husband was the rabbi.  Her first book was The Adventures of K’tonton was published by the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue in 1935. [4]

[to be continued…]

Selected Children’s Books Consulted

Marenof, Shlomo. עם ומועדיו : חומר לנסיון בהוראת הלשון העברית לגדולים. ניו יורק : היברו פאבלישינג קאמפני, 1936
Shafstein, Zevi.  ארצנו. נויורק : שילה, 1938.
Silverman, Althea Osber. Habibi and Yow : a little boy and his dog. New York : Bloch Publishing Company, 1946.
A boy grows up learning Jewish traditions and religious principles and customs.
Weilerstein, Sadie Rose. The adventures of K'tonton : a little Jewish Tom Thumb. New York : National Women's League of the United Synagogue, [c1935]
Weilerstein, Sadie Rose.  What the moon brought.  Philadelphia : The Jewish Publication
Weilerstein, Sadie Rose. Little new angel.  Philadelphia : The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1947.
Happy children learn about the makeup of an ideal Jewish home through fascinating stories.
Weilerstein, Sadie Rose. What the moon brought. Philadelphia : The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1942.
Stories of the Jewish holidays and the Shabbat, woven around the experiences of two children in an American Jewish home.

Selected books on Palestine published before 1948

Falkenberg, Paul V. Palestine.  [New York] : Holiday House, [1946]
Smither, Ethel Lisle. A picture book of Palestine.   New York ; Nashville : Abingdon-Cokesbury press, c1947. 
Story of everyday life in Palestine in Biblical times.  The text is very stilted and written in passive tense. 
Trager, Hannah. Festival stories of child life in a Jewish colony in Palestine, / Hannah Trager ... with a preface by the Very Revd. Dr. Hertz. New York : E.P. Dutton & Co.,  [c1920]  eBook from the Internet Archive.
Trager, Hannah. Stories of child life in a Jewish colony in Palestine. New York : E.P. Dutton, [1919]   eBook from the Internet Archive.
Trager, Hannah.  Pioneers in Palestine : stories of one of the first settlers in Petach Tikvah. New York : E.P. Dutton, 1924.
Zeligs, Dorothy F. The story of modern Palestine for young people. New York : Bloch, 1944.   eBook from the Internet Archive.

Other Works Consulted

Drazin, Nathan.  History of Jewish education. Baltimore : The Johns Hopkins Press, 1940.
Pilch, Judah, editor.  A history of Jewish education in the United States. New York : The National Curriculum Institute of the American Association for Jewish Education, 1969.
Sarna, Jonathan D. JPS : the Americanization of Jewish culture, 1888-1988. Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society, 1989.  

[1]  Rapp, Andrea. 2014. "The Shavzin-Carsch Collection of Historic Jewish Children’s Literature," Judaica Librarianship 104 vol. 18, 154-166. DOI:
[2] By “Torah” I mean both the actual text of the Torah, rest of the Tanach and the associated oral literature. Perhaps Bible stories and stories from the Midrash were told to entertain children? Or perhaps the stories are didactic and “entertainment value” was not part of the teacher’s intent?
[3] This map of Eretz Yisrael from Artzeinu  has no national or international borders.

[4] Weilerstein first submitted K’tonton to JPS in 1933.  The book was turned down by all three reviewers. They didn’t think JPS members would be interested in buying this for their children. For the story turn to Sarna pages 171-172. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tacit Knowledge in the College

New President Interview -- Part 40  November 6, 2018

Tacit Knowledge in the College

Preliminary remarks

It has been more than 12 months since we heard from the College President. The last installment concerned emotional intelligence.   This installment concerns tacit knowledge.  Tacit knowledge is non-verbal and non-recorded quiet knowledge.  It may be organizationally specific or a general knowledge of people,  their psyche,  and situational sociology.  It includes the stories of how things work or do not work.[1]

Q> What is the role of tacit knowledge in the running of the College?  Are institutional stories recorded?

Answer> The accountants can’t measure tacit knowledge.  Tacit knowledge is not stored in the college files or library. Tacit knowledge is not recordable in rules, plans, or documents. Tacit knowledge includes the ability to read faces, understand emotions, and decipher how objects and processes work so that the tasks can be done. The acquisition of tacit knowledge comes with experience and that is reason veteran, experienced workers are more valuable than neophytes and recent graduates.

Let me tell you a story that happens in highly functional organizations.  Person AB has been with the organization for many years.  AB has created many systems within his department and the organization to enable people to work more efficiently and in concert.  Today AB announces he is leaving for a new job.  Everyone is happy for him including his managers.  The manager wants to hire a replacement as soon as possible so that AB can train him.  AB agrees to stay and help hire and train a replacement.  The hiring process goes well.  The organization has a good-bye party and the company even gives him certificate of appreciation. AB leaves the company in good hands and goes on to his next organization with good connections and bridges to the old place. 

Hold on ---   This is not how it goes.  My colleague in another college told me how his college “works.”  Person XYZ held an important administrative role and announced two months in advance a plan to retire at the end of the semester.  The college gave him a good-bye party.  The accountants say (to themselves) that this is an opportunity to save money.  We will not hire a new person until XYZ leaves. We will not even advertise the position is open.  The president of the college does nothing to start the hiring process or even figuring out the role of a potential new person.  No one even discusses, the job requirements or the needs and wants of the college.  In the end, XYZ says “good riddance” and never shares the tacit knowledge.  The college cleans out his office of all papers and the computer files are wiped clean.  Nothing is saved.  The college loses XYZ’s knowledge and the students suffer.

Q> Wow!  Are you exaggerating?

Answer> Yes, a little.  Experience is a powerful teacher.  Our pay scale is designed so we can hire experienced faculty and staff and pay them more than new graduates.  Experience is valuable in the way we teach, run the organization, and influence the community. Learning to ask the right questions is as important as learning from a book or class.  If we know the right questions, seeking the answers are easier.  Training, expertise, and academic preparation are only part of what we bring to the job.  While colleges claim to teach research skills and encourage life-long learning, the organizational culture at many colleges does not practice what they teach.

Q> Let’s return to the first question.  What tacit knowledge needs to be saved?  How does one save it?

Answer> Our college has someone assigned the task of archivist and chief knowledge officer.  The person helps develop policies concerning what to save and how best to save it.  In the archivist role, this person supervises the saving, storage and retrieval college records and documents. College records means documenting events and processes.  The storing and retrieving of student records is part of another department’s role.  For example, if a department is undergoing a re-accreditation process we have procedures and policies to save the documents from the preparation of the self-study.  The people in charge must also write reports describing the process including what they learned that could make the next round go easier.  The lessons learned in the process are saved for the next person who may be tasked with this job.  While this report is not tacit knowledge, the narratives help others understand the tacit knowledge that was part of the process.

Q> How does one save tacit knowledge?

Answer> Using my definition it is not possible to teach tacit knowledge with documents. Tacit knowledge cannot be recorded with words or symbols. Tacit knowledge is used when you “go with your gut” or answer, “how do you feel about the situation?”  One needs a personal connection such as a mentor or colleague.  They will point out what is going on in the organization in a way that documents do not preserve.  The mentor may be able to show the new person the people and processes that are needed to get a task done.  The mentor may be able to pass on some of the people knowledge gained over the years.  Empathy, which involves the reading of the emotional needs of others and social skills, which enable us to act artfully and professionally are skills that can be taught with words but one needs experience to use these skills effectively.   
Q> How does knowledge get transferred?  Is the transfer of knowledge one of the college’s goals?

 Answer> One theory of education is the knowledge provider has a broad overview of what the learner needs to know. Knowledge is the result of understanding and interpreting data and information.  Explicit knowledge is the written and recorded knowledge that is presented to the learner.  The provider needs ways to give the learner multiple sensual experiences to help internalize the information.  Through practice and mentoring the knowledge provider will give a path to internalize knowledge. The learner will develop a “feeling” about the knowledge that will influence behavior.  We call this influence or change in behavior education.  The mastery of knowledge is both a science dependent on rules that are always present and an art, which is situationally dependent.  The “art” is also called “a gut feeling.”  The learner who becomes an excellent student or worker is one who balances the rules with the feeling to do what is right.  Sometimes doing the “right thing” is counter to following the rules

Q> Are you confusing classroom learning for credit with learning how the organization works?

Answer> Classroom learning is needed to give a conceptual approach to a discipline.  Without understanding the historical or scientific process, one cannot have “gut feelings” that are correct when problem solving.  The character of Jethro Gibbs on NCIS knows his agents are trained well.  He frequently says, “go with your gut” rather than telling his subordinates exactly what to do.  Creativity and solving tough problems always requires both following the rules and thinking out of the box.

In her doctoral dissertation in 2013 Linda Guzzo[2] “Case Study: The Transfer of Tacit Knowledge from Community College Full-Time to Adjunct Faculty” says that knowledge is a valuable commodity.   She questions whether the inadequate transfer of tacit knowledge from the full-time faculty to the adjunct faculty affects student outcomes, student success and institutional effectiveness.   The answer, without even reading her conclusion, based on my experience and talking with fellow college presidents is, “yes, performance is affected.”  If there is not transfer of tacit knowledge, it is likely the whole communications process is lacking.

If I contact an organization and no one, can tell me who is in charge to solve a particular problem that is a symptom of poor knowledge transfer.  If one of my faculty or staff members does not know how to direct a student to finding the correct person to solve the problem, that is a symptom of poor knowledge management.

Q> We are out of time for this interview.  Thank you very much.

[1] The picture is someone staring tacitly.   It is from a source that I assume is public domain.  

[2] Guzzo, Linda R. “Case Study: The Transfer of Tacit Knowledge from Community College Full-Time to Adjunct Faculty.” ProQuest LLC, ProQuest LLC, 1 Jan. 2013. Retrieved from  EBSCOhost,  

Sunday, September 16, 2018

All Correct and 100% Useless

All Correct and 100%  Useless

We have all grown to depend on error messages to correct computer mistakes.  Spell-checking and grammar checking have helped us become better writers and present.  Programs such as PowerPoint are a vast improvement over the 35mm slides we prepared in the pre-computer days.  I have always searched for the stretching the limits of my PowerPoint knowledge.  A few weeks ago, I learned the PowerPoint presentation could produce a video MP4 files by just a “save as” command.  I saved a file and this error message popped up.

For this test I had only one media file.  The error message does not tell me what is wrong with the media.  Many hours of experimentation I learned this message means --  Microsoft Office cannot save MP3 audio files when creating MP4 video files.  However, WAV files can be saved without conversion or problems.  The message was accurate, but useless.

Creating a Video PPT File

Creating video file for your PowerPoint presentation gives you control and security over what users can do with your information.  The end users cannot change or edit your file and you can add audio narration, music, or other sounds.  Users do not need PowerPoint to see the video.

Start by going to the File menu. Choose Export. Choose Create video.  Choose the presentation quality and the options for slide timings.  If you created slide timings when you made the show, you may use them or a selection a standard timing for that will apply to all of the slides.  Then click on Create Video. 

Audio in MP3 format cannot be used for PPT videos.  PowerPoint saves audio in WAV format.  Files may be converted with audio programs such as Audacity.  If you don’t convert the file to WAV, another program can be used to add the recording to the completed video.  I used a free online system called Add Audio to Video.  (   This web page asks you to upload the MP4 file and the audio file.  Make sure the timing on the audio is what you want to match the slide set.  Add Audio has many options.  I choose add audio to video.    In a few moments, your file will be converted, and you can download it. 

The MP4 video is immediately viewable on your computer.  If you want to share it, use one of the video sharing services such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Screencast.  You will have to determine which works best for you.  I choose the free version of Screencast because it has no ads or promos as YouTube. The free version limits storage size and monthly downloads.  Screencast gives a URL to share that will send users to the file and play it.  The other option is an embedded viewer that can be added to a web page.  The viewer size may be changed.  You are done and may tell people the URL for the video.