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A commitment to empathetic understanding shaped the field of religious studies; although subject to critique, it remains an important teaching practice where students are charged with the task of recognizing, and perhaps even appreciating, a worldview that appears significantly different from their own. However, when the focus of the course is historical trauma there are significant epistemological and ethical reasons empathetic understanding may not be our best pedagogical strategy. Drawing primarily on my experience teaching a general education class “The Holocaust and Its Impact” at California State University, Bakersfield, I advocate replacing empathetic understanding with engaged witnessing as a pedagogical framework and strategy for teaching traumatic knowledge. To make this case, I delineate four qualities of engaged witnessing and demonstrate their use in teaching about the Holocaust.
Updated: Jun. 17, 2015
Spend the 2015 summer at Nishma at the JTS Beit Midrash; immerse yourself in Hebrew and Torah study, and help create a more engaged and more knowledgeable future for yourself and for the Jewish people. Nishma is the only North American summer Talmud program that integrates university-level Hebrew study with intensive beit midrash-style learning of Talmud.
Updated: Jan. 28, 2015
Over 100 Jewish student leaders from more than 25 countries joined together last week for the annual Congress of the World Union of Jewish Students. To help support the local economy, the Congress took place in the South of Israel where WUJS purchased all congress supplies from local companies, hired local services and provided opportunities for participants to volunteer with local charities. The goal of the Congress was to set the agenda for the coming year, coordinate international activities and receive vital training. The student leaders and activists who attended connected with their peers, strengthened ties between their different student unions and increased their knowledge about Israel and the Jewish people.
Updated: Jan. 15, 2015
In this essay, dedicated to Mike [Rosenak]’s memory, I propose to bring him just such an issue of current concern in the philosophy of Jewish education and to consider the response that he might offer—or, rather, that he did offer, directly and indirectly, in his book, Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge: Conversations with the Torah. The question I have pertains to Jewish leaders and teachers (for example, campus Hillel rabbis) who are committed (a) to the strengthening of Jewish life in their communities and beyond, and (b) to the strengthening of the Jewish lives of individual Jews (students, for example) but are committed no less (c) to a vision of Judaism and Jewish life that crosses ideological and denominational boundaries. How can such leaders and teachers, speak cogently and forcefully about Judaism to Jews and in particular to emerging Jewish adults, or varied conviction and direction?
Updated: Dec. 24, 2014
Environmental Literacy Components and Their Promotion by Institutions of Higher Education: An Israeli Case Study
The recognition of the key role and moral responsibility of higher education institutions (HEIs) in cultivating the environmental literacy (EL) of their students is growing globally. The current research examined the contribution of HEIs to their students’ EL by focusing on an Israeli college as a case-study. A survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1147 students from all departments in four phases of their academic studies.
Updated: Nov. 12, 2014
In its largest expansion to date, the Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (popularly known as JLIC) has expanded to four new universities: Columbia, Binghamton (New York), Wisconsin and Drexel (Philadelphia). JLIC, a program of the Orthodox Union in partnership with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, places an Orthodox couple on a secular college campus. Once there, the couples provide programming for Orthodox students as well as encourages close-knit relationships with students who otherwise could be lost in the predominantly secular environment.
Updated: Nov. 05, 2014
The Yiddish Book Center is now accepting applications for its 2015-2016 Fellowship Program. Yiddish Book Center Fellows spend a year as full-time staff learning valuable professional skills and contributing to the Center’s major projects. Applicants should be recent college graduates with strong backgrounds in Jewish studies or related disciplines, a working knowledge of Yiddish, a commitment to Yiddish language and culture, and a demonstrated ability to work both independently and as part of a team. Each Fellow receives a stipend of $28,000 plus health insurance.
Updated: Oct. 26, 2014
The Yiddish Book Center’s Steiner Summer Yiddish Program offers college students a spirited exploration of Yiddish language and culture. In seven weeks of concentrated study, from June 7-July 24, 2015, Steiner students not only gain Yiddish language literacy and substantive knowledge of Central and Eastern European Jewish history and culture – they also participate in the lively world of Yiddish culture at the Yiddish Book Center and beyond.
Updated: Oct. 22, 2014
The 2012-13 Directory of Israel Studies builds on the work of previous directories through inclusion of course enrollment data and identification of faculty. A key change is the recognition and addition of upper-level Hebrew language courses as Israel-focused. At the 316 colleges and universities included in the Directory, Israel-focused courses increased from 609 in 2011-12 to 616 in 2012-13. Including upper - level Hebrew language courses, however, increases further the total number of Israel - focused courses in 2012 - 13 : 701 courses.
Updated: Oct. 07, 2014
Gur Alroey, chair of the School of History at the University of Haifa and director of the Israeli school’s pioneering Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies, has likened a 10-day United States trip for the program’s students to “Reverse Taglit,” referring to the free Taglit-Birthright trips of the same length that bring diaspora Jews to Israel. Last month, the Ruderman Program’s inaugural class of 21 graduate students took part in that immersive U.S. journey, attending lectures, meeting community leaders, and touring historical and religious sites that reflect the American Jewish experience.
Updated: Jul. 16, 2014