Pilch, Judah

views updated


PILCH, JUDAH (1902–1986), U.S. Jewish educator. Born in the Ukraine, he received a traditional Jewish education in Europe and his ordination as a rabbi in Turkey. He went to the United States in 1928. He received his M.A. degree from Columbia University and his Ph.D. at Dropsie College. He was on the faculty of the College of Jewish Studies at Chicago from 1929 to 1939; for the following five years he was director of the Jewish Education Association in Rochester, n.y. After serving with the Jewish Education Committee of New York City and the Jewish Education Association of Essex County, n.j., in 1949 Pilch became associated with the American Association for Jewish Education (now the Jewish Educational Services of North America), and from 1952 to 1960 was the executive director. In 1960 he became the founding head of the Association's National Curriculum Research Institute. After his retirement, Pilch moved to Los Angeles, where he was on the faculty of the Institute of Religion at huc/jir.

In the early 1950s Pilch organized and led the first Jewish teachers' seminar to Israel. He was president of the National Council for Jewish Education (1945–1950), vice president of the Religious Education Association of the U.S. and Canada in 1953, and president of the National Conference for Jewish Social Service (1954–55). He was vice president of the Histadrut Ivrit (1934–38). Without compromising his devotion to Hebrew, he was also interested in Yiddish literature and served as dean of the Graduate Division of Herzlia–Jewish Teachers' Seminary in New York.

Pilch was a prolific writer in Hebrew, English, and Yiddish. Among his works are Jewish Life in Our Times (1943), Teaching Modern Jewish History (1948), Between Two Generations: Selected Essays (1977), and The Weak Against The Strong (1973). He edited the Jewish education department of the Encyclopaedia Judaica.

Pilch was widely recognized as one of the great leaders of Jewish education in the United States, belonging in the same echelon as Alexander *Dushkin, Israel *Chipkin, and Samson *Benderly. Like them, he combined a European, traditional Jewish education with Western culture, and expertise as a teacher and administrator. He brought to his positions and work an extraordinary single-minded devotion to the furtherance of Jewish education; he sought to pioneer in methodology and stimulated the preparation of newly designed textbooks and the exploration of teaching through technological advances.

[Milton Ridvas Konvitz (2nd ed.)]