Passionate Pioneers


The special guest for this year’s annual Spring Lecture will be Fradle Pomerantz Freidenreich author of the new book Passionate Pioneers: The Story of Yiddish Secular Education in North America, 1910–1960.

This is a joint program co-sponsored by the Chicago YIVO Society and the Chicago Jewish Historical Society.

Date: Sunday, May 2, 2010

Time: 2 PM Lecture

(followed by book-signing/social hour with kosher refreshments)

Location: Temple Beth Israel

3601 West Dempster; Skokie, IL


A little-known chapter in the history of Jewish education in North America involves a wide network of Yiddish schools and camps that sought to transmit a distinctive, authentic sense of secular yiddishkayt. Over a fifty-year period at the beginning of the last century, about 1000 Yiddish cultural schools were established in the United States and Canada, along with at least 39 summer camps, sponsored by a range of organizations. Together these schools and camps comprised a vibrant, multi-faceted educational movement with lasting significance, often overlooked by historians.

Passionate Pioneers: The Story of Yiddish Secular Education in North America, 1910 – 1960 is the first comprehensive, documented record of this movement. Through extensive research Fradle Pomerantz Freidenreich reveals the enormous influence of these Yiddish institutions. For the author, the project was personal and professional. The daughter of a well-known Yiddish poet and a Jewish educator, she attended and later taught at a number of these schools and camps. In this groundbreaking study, she integrates personal narratives and objective reporting.

A professional educator who has worked in formal and informal settings in Jewish education, serving as a teacher, principal, curriculum writer, camp director, consultant and university lecturer, Freidenreich was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Before moving to Israel in 1989, she was the associate director of JESNA (Jewish Education Service of North America). In Israel she worked in higher education helping train teacher educators in universities and colleges.

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