Search results for: Epistemology
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Worth Knowing: Talmud Study and the Intellectual Values of High School Students at Liberal Jewish Day Schools
What do Jewish day school students believe constitutes good understanding and worthwhile learning in the context of their encounter with rabbinic texts in the classroom? This article shares findings from an interview study of Jewish day school students in grades 9 through 12 regarding their attitudes toward the study of Talmud. I argue that high school students’ estimations of the value of Talmud study are shaped, not only by individually held tastes, talents, and commitments, but also by a set of shared intellectual values. These values, related to their beliefs about the purposes of learning and what good learning should accomplish for the learner, develop in the context of their schools and communities and frame how students set goals for and assess their own understanding of Talmud.
Updated: Mar. 04, 2020
When the Truth Is Not What Actually Happened: The Epistemology of Religious Truth in Orthodox Jewish Bible Study
This paper uses data from Jewish religious chumash (Bible) study to examine how students’ conceptions of biblical truth are grounded in the particular forms of chumash study they engage in. Using data from clinical interviews with Orthodox Jewish Bible students, we argue that, in relation to the biblical text, questions of truth are functionally meaningless; that is, they are irrelevant to the implicit epistemology embedded in the practice of chumash study. Because of this, students were unable to coherently answer questions about the truth-value of the biblical text, even while engaging in sophisticated reasoning about its literary character. This has implications for how religious schools and teachers approach religious study of traditional texts.
Updated: Jul. 17, 2019
Beyond a Humpty-Dumpty Narrative: In Search of New Rhymes and Reasons in the Research of Contemporary American Jewish Identity Formation
Oriented predominantly by a particular master narrative, knowledge produced by the social scientific study of Jewish identity formation tends to ask some questions but not others. Engaging in a study comprised of a select but key cross-section of the last half-century’s leading contributors to scholarship about American Jewish identity formation, the article exposes this narrative with the allegorical aid of the poem, “Humpty Dumpty.” Applied to the field of Jewish identity formation research, the rhyme about this ill-fated character depicts an allegory of the Jewish people as having fallen down to America from some high place; namely, pre-America, pre-Holocaust, and sometimes also a pre-Enlightenment, pre-emancipation Europe. The story then concludes on a tragic note, with all the Jewish professionals and leaders failing to put the Jews together again in accordance with their allegedly whole state that had existed previously in Europe. Elucidating the “wall,” “fall,” and the failure to “repair,” the article demonstrates how social scientists of Jewish identity formation have, until quite recently, tended to default to one or another version of this same story of decline.
Updated: Mar. 12, 2014