Dr. Jonathan Krasner, Associate Professor of the American Jewish Experience at HUC-JIR/New York has been awarded the 2011 National Jewish Book Award for his new book The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education, published by Brandeis University Press. Dr. Krasner will receive the "American Jewish History -- Celebrate 350 Award" at the gala awards ceremony to be held on March 14 at the Center for Jewish History in New York. The awards ceremony, which begins at 8 pm, is free and open to the public. As the longest-running North American awards program of its kind in the field of Jewish literature, the Jewish Book Council's National Jewish Book Awards is designed to recognize outstanding books of Jewish interest.
Dr. Krasner's book tells the story of how Samson Benderly and his protégés revolutionized Jewish education in the United States between 1910 and 1970. Samson Benderly was the first director of the Bureau of Jewish Education in New York and a champion of progressive education, American-Jewish integration, Zionism and the promotion of modern Hebrew. 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. He 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 – and a few women – 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.
Jonathan Krasner received his doctorate in Jewish history at Brandeis University in 2002, and wrote his dissertation on the representation of self and other in American Jewish religious school textbooks. He also holds a masters degree in education from Harvard University. Dr. Krasner's articles have been published or will appear shortly in the Journal of Jewish Education, American Jewish History, The Lion and the Unicorn, American Jewish Archives Journal, Polin and the anthology Queer Jews (Routledge, 2002). Prior to completing his doctorate in 2002, he was history department chairman at the New Jewish High School of Greater Boston. He continues to work as a freelance consultant on curriculum development issues in the day school setting.