Professor Shoshana Kurtz: A stalwart of Jewish education in Toronto

Professor Shoshana Kurtz, who taught in the Faculty of Education at York University for over 20 years, has died. A stalwart of Jewish education in Toronto, Prof. Kurtz died recently in Israel of pneumonia after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 77.

Prof. Kurtz was the associate director of the Board of Jewish Education (BJE) in Toronto when, in the late 70s, York and the BJE initiated York’s Jewish Teacher Education Program. From the beginning, Prof. Kurtz played a pivotal role in that program. She taught the pedagogy courses (such as Teaching Hebrew as a Second Language) in the Faculty of Education; supervised the students’ placements as student-teachers in the private schools run by the BJE; and was the one who helped graduates find jobs.

“She excelled at all of those tasks. Under her guidance, the program produced excellent teachers who almost all found employment in Toronto with Dr. Kurtz’s help,” said humanities Professor Martin Lockshin, the former director of York’s Centre for Jewish Studies.

The program grew, and its success eventually led to the establishment of York’s Koschitzky Family Chair in Jewish Teacher Education.

Prof. Kurtz is remembered as being uniquely qualified to take a leadership role in the Jewish Teacher Education Program. In her earlier years she had taught Hebrew in private schools. She later earned a PhD in education from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. As a York Faculty of Education instructor, she combined strict academic standards with a caring and helpful approach to her students.

After retiring from York six years ago, Prof. Kurtz moved to Israel. She is survived by three children, 19 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.