The role of Bais Yaakov plays from interwar Europe to America today
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Undergraduate honors thesis / Opt Out
The first half of this thesis explores the history of Bais Yaakov and Bais Yaakov plays, from which I suggest reasons why they were instituted in the early Bais Yaakov school system. I then argue that the Bais Yaakov play phenomenon was transplanted from Europe to America. The second half of this thesis contains data from five personal interviews conducted with American Bais Yaakov employees, as well as two Bais Yaakov plays that I viewed this year. Evidence for these schools prioritizing their plays and student involvement in them leads to my research questions: what value do current Bais Yaakovs believe their plays provide to their school and students? How is that value similar or different to what fueled Schenirer’s decision to consistently include plays in her curriculum? After identifying and analyzing common themes that emerged across the interviews, I present continuities and discontinuities between Bais Yaakov productions from the interwar era until today based on historical research and interview data. Discontinuities include the elaborate nature of today’s productions compared to the simple ones in interwar Europe, the new current school view of these plays as driving student social and emotional development, and the rise of Bais Yaakov play scripts set in contemporary and modern Jewish historical times compared to earlier emphasis on Biblical, Talmudic, and Deuterocanonical stories. Main continuity findings include Bais Yaakov plays acting as a recruitment tool for their schools, taking inspiration and material from secular culture while aiming to be a substitute for that very culture, and offering students joyful Jewish experiences that impart meaningful Torah messages. (from Introduction)
Hirsch, E. (2023, April 27). The role of Bais Yaakov plays from interwar Europe to America today [Unpublished undergraduate honors thesis]. Yeshiva University.
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