HaYidion: RAVSAK's Journal of Jewish Education – Teaching Jewish History

Spring, 2014

Source: HaYidion - Spring 2014


This issue of HaYidion is devoted to teaching Jewish history. Our history is integral to who we are, yet ours is not a happy story. Thus, as many of the authors in this issue point out, it is unappealing to those whose focal point of Jewish identity, as revealed by the Pew Report, is a sense of humor. Within the pages of this issue of HaYidion are many suggestions for addressing this problem. Technology, creativity and an acknowledgement and awareness of the changing nature of the study of history provide the means by which we can make the teaching of Jewish history vibrant and meaningful.


At RAVSAK's recent conference in Los Angeles, a keynote speaker asked us to consider a text by Abraham Joshua Heschel that is totally relevant to the theme of this issue. In “The Spirit of Jewish Education,” Heschel described the teacher as “the intermediary between the past and the present….the creator of the future of our people.” The teacher of history, Heschel wrote, must teach students “to evaluate the past in order to clarify their future.” We hope that this issue of HaYidion will make you better able to address this challenge.


Among the articles in this issue are:

    Jewish History: The Neglected Discipline
  • Samuel Kapustin

    Kapustin explains reasons why Jewish history is often less valued than other pillars of the Judaics curriculum. When taught well, he argues, Jewish history is the subject most capable of shaping mature, sophisticated thinking.

    The Opportunities of Teaching Jewish History

  • Sivan Zakai

    As someone who trains teachers of Jewish history, Zakai here tailors ideas about best practice in the teaching of general history for Jewish day schools.

    Between History and Memory in Israel Education

  • Alex Sinclair

    Sinclair splices conversations with four other leading Israel educators to reflect on the purpose of Israel education, what it should be and what it is capable of.

    Why Study American Jewish History?

  • Jonathan D. Sarna

    The doyen of historians of American Jewry, Sarna proposes a host of reasons why day schools should care about and teach this neglected subject.

    Creating Collective Memory as a Moral Imperative

  • Nance Morris Adler

    Adler argues forcefully for the centrality of history in Jewish identity, as the storehouse of collective memory that binds us to our people, our values and our heritage.

    Teaching Jewish History: A Major Impediment

  • Robert Chazan

    Eminent scholar of medieval Judaism Chazan suggests a reason why many students find history uninteresting. His solution is to give them the tools to understand the complexity of choices people confronted.

    PaRDeS: History as Spirit in Action

  • Michael Feuer

    Inspired by postmodern historians’ questioning of “facts” and “objectivity” in historical research, Feuer offers a schema for transmuting historical texts and data into a national story.

    History, Myth and Meaning: Living in the Present with the Past

  • Jonathan Woocher

    Beginning in First Grade

  • Bryna Leider

    Why do most schools claim to begin Jewish history in fourth grade and why are educators so convinced that young children are unable to acquire these concepts?

    Connecting Curricula: Jewish Social Studies in a Community Day School

  • Andi Koss

    Teaching Jewish History across Disciplines—and across the Hall

  • Joel Abramovitz and Shona Schwartz

    Barrack Centropa Museums of European Jewry

  • Susan Schwartz and Amy Malissa Hersz

    Since 2011, 9th graders at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy begin their study of the Holocaust by focusing on what was lost, not only how it was lost. We culminate these studies with the production of a sophisticated student-produced museum highlighting a different vibrant Jewish community each year.

    A Case Study Approach to Integrating Jewish Values and Modern History

  • Neil Kramer

    A course at the New Community Jewish High School in Los Angeles employed a case study approach integrating Jewish history and Jewish values, enabling students to apply Jewish values to contemporary challenges of the Jewish world. The case study approach enables students to practice solving real world problems as if they were clergy or leaders acting on behalf of Jewish communal organizations, or as Jewishly engaged citizens.

    Recipe for Engagement, Enrichment, and Inquiry: Primary Sources

  • Jack Lipinsky

    Lipinsky argues that engagement with primary documents is vital for students’ ability to find relevance in Jewish history. He demonstrates a sophisticated approach to two different kinds of documents.

    Using Simulations to Play With Jewish History

  • Meredith Katz

    A JTS professor who joined as a JCAT partner last year, Katz draws lessons from this ambitious program for teachers to create their own simulations with student role-playing.

    Understanding the Holocaust, as Jews

  • Ann Nachbar

    In response to the challenge Chazan identified (p. 28), Nachbar presents a way to redesign a class on Shoah education so that students understand the victims not just as “sheep to the slaughter.”

    Inheriting the Past, Building the Future: Developing Historical Thinking in Upper Elementary Students

  • Lisa Micley and Stan Peerless

    Drawing on an online program in Jewish history they created, the authors elucidate best practices for engaging upper elementary students and offer suggestions for designing classroom activities.

    Role-Playing Between Accuracy and Creativity

  • David Fain

    While acknowledging the benefits of role-playing developing student historical empathy, the author confronts challenges that this activity poses to the transmission of historical understanding.

Updated: May. 07, 2014