- early 20th Century, particularly pre-WWII, but not pre-WWI
- Russia and Poland
Furthermore, has anyone else noticed that this group was hit very hard by some of the worst spiritual onslaughts in Jewish history?
Haskalah, the Reform movement, the Conservative movement, Socialism, Communism, the mass immigrations to Western Europe and the Americas, Leftist secular Zionism (with a bit of anti-religious and anti-Sephardi eugenics)…
Without any sarcasm or derision intended, whatever methods used then during that narrow window of time didn’t work for a massive percentage of Jews.
If someone is promoting their chinuch method as “the original method used for raising children until Western psychology came along and ruined everything,” then I want to know if it is the method that produced the Chafetz Chaim or is it the method that produced the secular Communists?
(Also, as already stated in the previous post, Western science-based psychology actually came along and ruined everything at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, not the Sixties. The child psychology that started to form in the Sixties and reached its zenith in the Eighties was merely a reaction to the earlier form of Western child psychology.)
And as stated above, the poor weren’t always successful with raising their children while the rich weren’t always unsuccessful. Some children went off the derech in Poland and Russia while some children remained frum in Hungary and Germany.
And so on.
Furthermore, who else has noticed that the Sephardi communities in North Africa and the Middle East did not succumb to the Haskalah or Communism or Secularism or Reform "Judaism"?
Yes, they were affected somewhat by the Haskalah-influence in the 1950s. However, even the eugenicist onslaught by Torah-hating Leftist extremists against the Sephardim upon their arrival to Eretz Yisrael did not succeed in inculcating most Sephardim with the Torah-hatred and atheism found in many Jews from Eastern Europe at that time.
Jews in both groups have also noted that, generally speaking, even secular Sephardim are still rather traditional and express positive feelings toward God and the Torah.
Of course, I'm spouting broad generalities. There were (and still are) many courageously and marvelously frum Ashkenazim during the Haskalah and behind the Iron Curtain, and there are some rabidly secular Sephardim. But nonetheless, based on the general observation, maybe we should be investigating the chinuch methods used "pa'am" in Morocco or Iraq?
Furthermore, some of the methods used "pa'am" were induced by poverty and lack of technology. If you were washing laundry by hand (or scraping your pennies together to pay a laundress) and lugging water from a well, then yes, you were going to very strict with your kids about keeping their clothes clean. Circumstances insisted on this.
Likewise, if you were an underpaid malnourished cheder rebbi who needed to shuffle through snow in old boots to pick up some of your pupils and then come to a one-room hovel to teach 30 boys of all ages until evening, you might not be the most patient and caring teacher. (Unless, of course, you are Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, who was an extraordinarily patient and understanding cheder rebbi back in Europe.)
When Rav Meir Shapiro revolutionized the yeshiva and cheder system in his area, he didn’t claim that’s how it was “pa’am”—because it wasn’t like that “pa’am”—at least not for the majority, who were poor (because cheders were often for the poor and thus weren’t funded well; wealthier children received private rebbis to their comfortable homes).
The rav saw that better conditions—and better teachers—were needed, so he went about creating and implementing an improved system. Yes, such improvements were certainly in the ruach of authentic Torah. And yes, there was a kind of tradition to it—basically, all students now learned in the same conditions that wealthy Jewish children generally had.
But Rav Shapiro was bringing the ideal attitudes and process shel pa’am, and not a system that developed out of lack of resources and necessity.
Even the revolutionary Beis Yaakov schools for girls had their predecessor in Rav Meir Lehman’s school for girls in Germany in the 1850s.
And while Jewish female literacy was often low, other Jewish daughters in history had been taught at home—sometimes on a very high level—by their parents or tutors. But no one took that into consideration and really, formal schooling for girls was unheard of. (To them, something that took place in Germany 70 years before wouldn’t have counted.)
There was no system “shel pa’am” on which to base Beis Yaakov. Sara Schenirer consulted with the rabbis of her day and based the curriculum on that. But she based her methods on Torah Judaism and emuna.
“Pa’am” in and of itself doesn’t legitimize anything.
It must be based on something in Torah and Chazal.
You can refer to traditional attitudes and guidance “shel pa’am”—such as Mishlei and the Mishna and so on. But the actual methods used often say more about the limited resources of that time than they do about recommended methods as per Chazal.
So next time someone is enthusing about a chinuch method based on the methods "shel pa'am," it's wise to wonder about the actual effectiveness of the method in the face of heavy trials and spiritual onslaughts (like what we face today too).
Romanticization and sentimentality have never been good tools of chinuch.