In the blizzard of articles, reactions, and blog posts about the Pew Research Center study of American Jews, the most unexpected came from the prominent public intellectual Noah Feldman.
Writing in Bloomberg, Feldman’s column jumps from the Pew study to some observations about, surprisingly, the Lakewood yeshiva. He explains that Lakewood is a massive ultra-Orthodox educational institution (6500 students embedded in a community of 55,000) focused almost entirely on the study of Talmud and exclusively for male students, that its educational model is “astonishingly egalitarian and democratic,” that it demonstrates that “one kind of authentically Jewish experience is flourishing in America.”
[Lakewood] matters. It matters for the future of Jews in America precisely because it matters for the future of Judaism in America. By privileging ideas and thought over identity, it proudly stakes out a position of genuine durability.
Feldman is no apologist for traditionalism. What he notices about Lakewood, astutely, is that they have identified a particular cultural practice that they value above everything else, and they have set up an educational system to pursue that cultural practice with single-minded focus and discipline. Continue Reading »
Should we focus our efforts to improve the field of Jewish education on teaching, or on learning?
From its founding in 2002, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis has focused on teaching-and-learning. The hyphens in the phrase signal that we (and the field of teaching-and-learning in general) think about the two terms in relationship to each other. We have always cared about both. At the same time, most of our research over the past decade has looked more closely at the teaching end of the teaching-and-learning spectrum.
More recently, we have become increasingly aware that the field of Jewish education needs to be paying more attention to learners and learning, to hard questions about our desired outcomes and how we might assess those outcomes, and especially, to understanding learners’ experiences. In response to this need new Mandel Center projects now being developed and launched will focus less on the former term and more on the latter. Indeed, we have already begun to do so—and the new name of this blog, “Learning about Learning,” is one way of signaling that shift.
How delightful, therefore, to discover that others are thinking in similar ways. In the following guest post, originally published by the Jim Joseph Foundation, Stanford doctoral student Ziva Reimer Hassenfeld articulates why she believes that field of the teaching and learning of classical Jewish texts needs to adopt precisely the shift that I describe above, and how she intends to make that happen in her own work. Continue Reading »
“If you want to live the American dream, move to Finland.”*
I recently had an opportunity to meet and talk with Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of the Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation at the Finnish Ministry of Education and author of Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn From Educational Change in Finland (New York: Teachers College Press, 2010). Finland outperforms other countries on international assessments of mathematics, science and reading, and educational leaders around the world are turning to Finland for insights about how to improve education in their own countries. According to Sahlberg, Finland got its vision from the U.S., but it is taking a very different path to get there.
Continue Reading »
Earlier this year, after publishing an article in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service on the topic of the goals of Jewish service-learning, I posted some of the ideas from my article on this blog. I wrote that, while the goal of service is to benefit the person or community served, the goal of service-learning entails the growth or development of the person doing the service as well. And that growth, I argued, ought to be understood in terms of dispositions.
Which dispositions? I proposed that we ought to consider three:
- service-humility, a stance in the face of deep and abiding social problems that is not oriented toward the generation of solutions primarily but rather, more simply, toward doing God’s will in the world;
- service-discipline, avoiding the ideal of moral heroism in favor of non-heroic, small-scale work in the world, characterized by showing up every day;
- service-wisdom, exercising our critical and independent judgment in order to discern what God wants us to do in the world.
I’m delighted that these ideas have resonated with some readers. Most recently, I was honored that Rabbi Jan Katzew and Wendy Grinberg asked for permission to publish a revised and abbreviated version of my article on their new online journal, Avodat ha-Kodesh: A Journal of Sacred Service Learning. That revised article is now online.
Image courtesy American Jewish World Service.
This guest post, by Rabbi Joshua Cahan, is reprinted with permission from eJewish Philanthropy.
If you are a Jewish educator looking to teach Talmud outside of the Orthodox world, you will probably end up teaching high school. Outside of seminaries, high school students spend more hours a week studying Jewish texts, and are more likely to study them in the original, than any other group in the US. This makes the Jewish high school an ideal setting for a rich conversation about what in-depth Jewish learning should look like in the non-Orthodox world. It is a setting that demands real answers to the question that bedevils visions of our communal future: what precisely is the Jewish content that should fill in our vague dedication to Jewish Continuity? Continue Reading »