Sep 18 2014

Engaging the Public Through Jewish Languages

Sarah Benor, associate professor of contemporary Jewish studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religioncontributes this entry to our series from the Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies seminar. She can be reached at

image003I became interested in Jewish languages as a college student. Initially I had only heard of Yiddish, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), and Judeo-Arabic, but eventually I learned about endangered languages/dialects like Judeo-Greek, Judeo-Malayalam (from Southern India), and Judeo-Tadjik (Bukharan, from Uzbekistan), as well as emerging languages/dialects like Jewish English, Jewish French, and Jewish Hungarian. For the past two decades, I have been researching and teaching about the phenomenon of Jewish languages, and I find great satisfaction in sharing what I’ve learned with scholars and students.

But classroom teaching, academic publications, and conference presentations have limited reach. Only a few dozen students each year encounter my ideas in the classroom, and given that linguistics and Jewish studies are both small fields, maybe a few hundred people hear my presentations or read my articles. Continue Reading »

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Aug 28 2014

Minds and Hearts: Rethinking the “Division of Labor” Between Jewish Studies and Hillel on Campus

Barry Wimpfheimer, associate professor of religious studies at Northwestern, contributes this entry to our series from the Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies seminar.


WebAs Director of The Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Northwestern University, I have insisted on a division of labor between Jewish Studies and Hillel. Jewish Studies is the site for the study of Judaism, Jews and Jewishness while Hillel is the place for exploring Jewish identity and finding community.

This division of labor benefits both parties. Hillel is able to unabashedly promote a vision of Judaism and Jewish commitment. That vision is broad and pluralistic, to be sure, but it emphasizes Jewish exceptionalism. In this way, Hillel harnesses the resources of community and university to advocate for Jewish interests on campus and beyond.

Jewish Studies, on the other hand, can invite students of all ethnic and religious identities to explore Jewish literature and the history of Jewish religion and culture without the limitation of promoting Judaism or Jewish cultural affiliation. Enrollments are increased when we target both Jewish and non-Jewish students. The history of the Jewish religion, culture and people is easily integrated in the humanities curriculum. Perhaps most fundamentally, Jewish Studies scholars are free to explore aspects of Jewish history, religion or culture that do not support the program of Jewish exceptionalism or continuity.

But is it possible that the division of labor has negative ramifications as well? Continue Reading »

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Aug 06 2014

Jewish Identity Complex: Why we Cannot, and Should Not, Get Along

This guest post is by Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, community engagement manager for CASJE. It was originally published at eJewish Philanthropy.

We all carry what has been termed FOMO, “a fear of missing out.” Today at least, although Jewry is concentrated in the vicinity of New York and in Israel, technology allows us all to tune in from wherever we are located. We do not have to miss out. I’ve been glued to my computer screen during lectures, communal debates, and the like. I followed people’s Facebook and Twitter comments during Yeshivat Maharat’s historic graduation, for example, while simultaneously watching live-feed streaming from the graduation itself. While the modern age has allowed all of us to participate in a number of events and conferences, our engagement can still be limited due to time, technological glitches and other factors.

As the Community Engagement Manager for the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE), I was thrilled to learn of blogcasting, a new communication medium wherein everyone has equal access to a conversation and all are welcome to contribute; there are few better ways of “keeping up.” Continue Reading »

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Jul 28 2014

Claiming the mantle of “theology”

Mara Benjamin, associate professor of religion at St. Olaf College, contributes this entry to our series from the Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies seminar.

As the only participant who teaches Jewish studies in a Christian context, I was a bit of an odd fit in the Mandel Center’s Pedagogies of Engagement seminar this past year. St. Olaf College, which is affiliated with the ELCA, takes theological education seriously: it requires all students to take a first-year course on the Bible (defined as Hebrew Bible and New Testament) and a later course in theology, with a focus on “Christian theology, understood as critical and normative reflection on Christian teachings.” These requirements pose some obvious challenges for me. Continue Reading »

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Jul 24 2014

Better Teacher Training and Support Lead to Better Teachers

Renee Rubin Ross, program officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation and former Mandel Center post-doctoral fellow, contributes today’s guest post.

Through the Jim Joseph Foundation’s investments in Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC), The Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University, the Day School Leadership for Teaching (DeLeT) program, and the Jewish New Teacher Project, the Foundation has invested millions of dollars in educator training and support. The rationale behind this is straightforward: more well-trained and supported teachers and educators will lead to more effective and compelling learning experiences for young Jews, the central goal of the Foundation.

Strengthening teacher training and support has a number of elements, as two presentations at last month’s annual conference of the Network for Research in Jewish Education (NJRE) suggest. Continue Reading »

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