This guest post is by Benjamin M. Jacobs, who was a fellow of the Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies project. For another, complementary perspective on Jewish studies and Jewish education from this blog, see “An Underutilized Resource in Jewish Education?”
This is the first in an occasional series of posts by fellows of the Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies project.
When Aaron W. Hughes, a professor of Jewish studies at the University of Rochester, declared that “Jewish Studies Is Too Jewish,” a hullabaloo among Jewish studies professors ensued.
Some objected that Jewish studies has by now long been established in the academy as a scholarly, dispassionate, scientific pursuit on a par with all other disciplines and area studies, and has earned its rightful place on university campuses.
Others say that Jewish studies may be in some respects parochial, but then again, so are African-American studies, East Asian studies, and women’s studies, not to mention astrophysics, English literature, and constitutional law. What of it? Moreover, many Jewish studies professors go to great lengths to teach their subjects in a comparative frame, and many Jewish studies programs are paradigms of inter-disciplinarity, so all the better.
Unlike Hughes, I am not at all concerned with whether Jewish studies is “too Jewish.” Like many of my Jewish studies colleagues referenced above, I simply do not see this as a problem for Jewish studies, universities, or Jews. But rather than simply rejecting Hughes, I think there’s something worth talking about here. I am interested in when, how, why, and by whom Jewish studies professors might be considered Jewish educators. Continue Reading »