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Wisdom from All My Teachers: Challenges and Initiatives in Contemporary Torah Education [Hardcover]

By Susan Handelman (Author)
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Item description for Wisdom from All My Teachers: Challenges and Initiatives in Contemporary Torah Education by Susan Handelman...

The twenty essays in this volume are both descriptive and prescriptive. The authors represent a remarkable cross-section of contemporary Torah educators; both men and women, teachers with but a few years of experience, side by side with the leading figures in Torah education, both in Israel and throughout the Diaspora. In this book, innovative Jewish educators explore the nature of Torah study and its relationship to the love and awe of God, personal moral development; the role of worldly wisdom in Torah education; the cultivation of the student's soul; the challenges of teaching students or adults who do not fit into the mold of the traditional curriculum; deliberations on the teaching of Talmud and Bible to this generation; the use of philosophy and aggadah in the yeshiva curriculum, and the place of the Israel experience in shaping the religious personality. This book combines erudition with deep concern for the challenges facing the field of Jewish education in the contemporary world.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Urim Publications
Pages   399
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.16" Width: 7.54" Height: 1.2"
Weight:   1.96 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2003
Publisher   Urim Publications
ISBN  965710856X  
ISBN13  9789657108567  

Availability  0 units.

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Eclectic collection of articles on Jewish education  Jan 21, 2004
ATID, the Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions opened its doors some years back with the expressed intention of raising the level of dialogue among young Jewish educators, giving them the opportunity to actually think about what they have chosen to devote their lives to. (Full disclosure: I acted as a mentor for a number of ATID fellows, including one whose project appears as an article in the book under review.)

In its first few years of existence, almost 50 young educators participated in their fellows programs, producing a wide range of thoughtful commentary on contemporary Jewish education, which are available on-line at . This volume takes some of those projects and combines them with articles by leading practitioners and thinkers in the field of Jewish education, making up an insightful, multi-generational picture of the discipline today.

The book is broken into six sections, including "Meta-Reflections on Torah Education" with articles by Rabbis Norman Lamm and Aharon Lichtenstein, "Torah Education and Personal Development" with articles by. Steve Bailey and Joel Wolowelsky, and "On the Study of Talmud" with articles by Avi Walfish and Beverly Gribetz. For the full table of contents, see .

Every anthology is bound to have some articles that catch your eye and others that are less inspiring. My years as moderator of a discussion group for Jewish educators has taught me that there are issues that are not of great interest to me, yet are of great relevance to others. There is something here for everyone concerned with Jewish learning and teaching today.
Here are a few brief words about some of articles that I found to be of interest.

Avi Walfish's "Hermeneutics and Values: Issues in improving contemporary Talmud teaching" comes as a relief to those of us who toil in the classroom and find that the new methods that are often suggested in the hope of getting students "interested" in Talmud study suffer from the age-old malady of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". With the use of specific examples, Walfish suggests three central goals that can connect students with Talmud:
Emphasizing values and spiritual concerns
Pointing out stylistic and literary qualities of Talmudic texts, and
Honestly grappling with the methodology of the Talmudic text itself (Hermeneutical principles).
By successfully developing sensitivity to these goals, Walfish argues that the teacher can inspire the students to develop a respect for the study of Talmud as well as for the internal logic of the Talmudic discussion.

Yitzchak Blau's "Redeeming the Aggadah in Yeshivah education" appears in the section entitled "Curricular Deliberations". It could easily have been included in the section that focuses on Talmud study. Many a Gemara Rebbe spends sleepless nights deciding whether to read-and-translate the upcoming Aggadic portion of the Gemara or to simply skip it and continue with the next sugya. I recall my own excitement upon discovering Rav Kook's Ein Aya on Massekhet Berakhot, a find that changed the pace and direction of my class for an entire year. Blau argues that the text of the Aggadah itself should act as an opportunity for discussion of contemporary moral and ethical issues within the context of a Gemara class, rather than relegating such discussion to a Jewish philosophy class where English articles by contemporary thinkers are usually the springboard for discussion. Blau presents seven sample Aggadot, and, while admitting that commentaries on the Aggadic portions are not always readily available, he calls upon the community of educators to collaborate on producing curricular materials that will redress the situation.

Yoel Finkelman's "Virtual Volozhin: Socialization vs. learning in Israel Yeshivah programs" deals with my two professional loves - teaching Talmud and one-year Israel programs. Finkelman argues that as much as the one-year Israel programs aim to teach limudei kodesh - with a clear emphasis on Talmud study - they are interested in promoting religious growth and commitment in their students. In the interests of accomplishing this second goal, argues Finkelman, the Yeshivot sacrifice skills development, encouraging their students to enjoy the excitement of lomdus, even as they remain unable to prepare primary sources on their own. Finkelman believes that much of the methodology employed in today's Yeshivot is a throwback to the days of European Yeshivot which were dealing with a vastly different population. In conclusion, Finkelman expresses his concern that the standard Yeshivah curriculum does not prepare the students to continue to learn independently nor to deal with the reality that will face them upon their return to a non-Yeshivah environment.

One thing that is clear when reading these articles is the inspiration for so much of the contemporary world of Jewish education. Of the twenty articles, fifteen of them refer to either Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik or his student and son-in-law Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein (this includes one article written by Rav Lichtenstein, and one article entitled "Teaching Rabbi Soloveitchik's thought in the high school classroom"). Far from making this collection one-dimensional, it attests to the broad impact that Rabbis Soloveitchik and Lichtenstein have had on their contemporaries and students, which points to the importance of ATID's ultimate goal - to produce thinking Mehankhim and leaders.

To give a sense of the value that I place on the articles in this volume, I have already referred subscribers to Lookjed (the Jewish educators discussion list - ) to two of them (Chaim Brovender's "Towards Ahavat Hashem: Art and the Religious Experience" and Joel Wolowelsky's "Religious Counseling and Pesak Halakhah in a Yeshivah Setting") as a basis for on-list discussion.


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