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
What happens when you get about 45 sociologists, educators, historians, scholars of literature, and people who work in philanthropic foundations in one room to talk about Jewish identity? What happens when they challenge assumptions about what “Jewish identity” means, and how the concept works in the Jewish community and in Jewish educational settings?
We’re finding out now, at our conference on Rethinking Jewish Identity and Jewish Education.
When I invited participants to share their thoughts and questions at the end of the first day (Sunday, March 30), here’s some of what they offered: 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
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