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Alcott House & Early Jewish Education

Rachel Raz

“I have lived in Concord Massachusetts for the past 16 years. Concord—and especially Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott —has inspired me a lot as a person and as an educator. Everyone loves the house because it was home to the author of “Little Women.” But I love the house not because of Louisa, but because of the way her parents raised her and their view of education. I go to the house twice a year to take groups of educators on tour. Louisa loved to write, so when you visit the house, you can see the small desk her father built for her. It was unheard of at that time for women to be writers, but Louisa’s father encouraged her. Louisa’s sister loved to draw and paint so her parents allowed her to draw on the walls. Visit the house and you’ll see her drawings on the walls and windowsills. Actually, later on she became the teacher of Daniel Chester French, the sculptor who created the Lincoln Memorial. This all influenced me quite a lot. When you identify the talents and gifts of your child (or your students), how do you, as parents (or educator), allow their passions to grow? My daughter is an artist, and I support her career path fully. Who am I to say, “No, don’t pursue art” or to determine which job is best or makes someone the most successful in our era?”

(Rachel Raz, Director of the Early Childhood Institue at Hebrew College‘s Shoolman School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College)

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