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eBook Studies in Jewish Education VI: Teaching Jewish Values
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Publisher:  Varda Books
Published:  2009
Language:  English
Pages:   368

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ISBN: 1-59045-967-9

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About the Book -- Studies in Jewish Education VI: Teaching Jewish Values

In the summer of 1989, the Fourth International Conference on  Jewish Education was held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This conference sought to summarize and assess the development of the Jewish Values project....

The Jewish Values project is an attempt to develop an approach for the teaching of Jewish text to young Jews who do not see themselves, their parents, and to a large extent their communities as obligated by the Jewish tradition. This characterization of the target population places in sharp relief the common denominator among Jewish youth in our time lack of commitment to the Jewish tradition a description which applies to the vast majority of Jewish youth  in the various communities of the Diaspora and Israel....

The book is divided into four sections:

Section 1: Concepts and approaches in Jewish education;

Section 2: Curriculum and the teacher;

Section 3: Implementation of educational programs in the field;

Section 4: Analysis of approaches and of curriculum

Section 1: Concepts and Approaches in Jewish Education

Rosenak deals with the problem of "the uncommitted" (to Jewish tradition and sources). The paper characterizes this population with respect to the world of Jewish concepts and in comparison to "the committed." This analysis brings the author to a discussion of the question which was central to him in his role as the "philosopher in residence" of the Jewish Values project: How is it possible to present the Jewish tradition and the Jewish sources authentically to "the uncommitted?" Rosenak proposes a conceptual framework based on the thought of MacIntyre, which he believes is capable of guiding the educational process of exposure of "the uncommitted" to the world of Jewish tradition and Jewish sources.

Resnick evaluates the contribution of the program to Jewish education from an external perspective. In his paper, he emphasizes data from various studies indicating the centrality of Jewish values in the understanding of Judaism by contemporary Jews. In his view, the Jewish school presents its students with a picture of the world drawn from Jewish sources but unreal in the context of the students' everyday experience. In this conflict, it is the Jewish world which is the loser. Here, according to Resnick, is where the contribution of the Jewish Values project has been significant. It enriches the student's relationship to the world of Jewish concepts, maintaining a productive tension between this world and the open reality in which the student lives.

Chazan, even though he was not an active member of the Jewish Values project staff, has carried on a continuous dialogue with the program in the context of his central roles at the Melton Centre and his academic and educational involvement in the topic. In this paper, Chazan argues that education for Jewish values should not be seen as a self-evident desideratum. Rather, this is a direction which is both unclear and controversial. He raises a number of issues from the realms of philosophy, psychology, sociology, and education, which negate the values-education approach. His conclusion is that while it may be possible to educate for Jewish values, this can only be accomplished under certain specific conditions. In conclusion, he suggests a theoretical framework intended to guarantee the appropriate conditions.

Deitcher, a member of the Jewish Values project staff, focuses on one of the questions which was crucial to the project: How is it possible to use aggadic text as an educational tool? In his paper, he deals primarily with the teaching of aggadic text in the elementary school, attempting to clarify how children understand this type of text. The paper sets forth the educational potential of the aggadah and proposes an approach based on considerations from various disciplines, intended to achieve maximum effectiveness in the teaching of the text.

Horenczyk deals with the issue of teaching Jewish text from a psychological perspective, focusing on Jewish identity. He bases his paper on research he has carried out on the topic of Jewish identity and on the educational conclusions suggested by this research. The assumption is that human beings have internal needs, "internal whisperings," which constitute a motivational force striving to find appropriate channels for expression. One of these needs is Jewish identity. The conclusion of the paper is that if we can identify the connection between the study of Jewish texts and values and the internal needs of the student, then we will be able to help the student uncommitted to the Jewish tradition to understand himself and at the same time to find meaning in the text and in the Jewish concepts contained in it.

Alexander seeks to return the discussion to basic questions. He argues that before we can address the question of how to improve Jewish education, we must ask what "Jewish education" means in our time. In the authors view, this is neither an empirical nor an administrative question, but a philosophical one. He explicates the educational-philosophical thought of both Rosenak and Chazan, and questions the ability of these philosophical approaches to provide answers to the fundamental questions we must address. Alexander suggests Nozick's approach as a direction for building a meaningful framework of philosophical and educational thought.

Section 2: Curriculum and the Teacher

Who is the teacher who is to deal with the Jewish Values curriculum and with the education of today's Jewish youth?

Aron presents points of departure for the examination of the Jewish teacher. She suggests distinguishing between the teacher as a professional and the teacher as one who is "called" (vocation). As a profession, teaching is characterized by a legitimacy based on knowledge and expertise, and by professional autonomy. As a vocation, it has a number of additional characteristics. The author describes these, and argues that only a teacher with this sense of vocation can successfully address the challenges of Jewish education in our time.

Shkedi, from the perspective of one who has been involved in the development of the Jewish Values project, tries to outline a method for preparing teachers for their role in the program. In his paper, he presents the considerations which led the project staff to move toward involvement of teachers in the curricular process, and to suggest teachers' workshops as the most suitable method for achieving this involvement. He describes those elements he believes to be essential parts of the deliberative process in the teachers' workshop, in order to insure the teachers' full involvement and participation in curriculum development. This paper is part of a larger study of the participation of teachers in the Jewish Values project and of the place of the teachers' workshop in the process.

As mentioned above, the Jewish Values project is based on the thinking of Schwab and on his approach to curriculum.

Holtz focuses on Schwab's approach to curriculum development. His paper presents examples of curriculum development at the Melton Research Center of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. It deals with the deliberative process and with the unique solutions developed in the work of the Center; with the place of the curriculum writer in the whole development and field-testing effort; and with his influence on the revision process. Holtz seeks to show what we have learned from the experience of the Jewish Values project is complemented by the curricular lessons of a parallel Jewish-educational curriculum project.

Section 3: Implementation of Educational Programs in the Field

Gillis describes the effort, over a number of years, to introduce the Jewish Values project in the Jewish day school in Melbourne. He points out a number of problems which arose in the course of this introduction; the main tension, it seems, centered around the question of the "relevance" of the material. While the curriculum developers assumed that particular existential questions would be relevant to any student, relevance in the mind of a student in Melbourne meant finding answers to questions that he perceived to be important in his own life and development. The solution to this in Melbourne involved a combination of the Jewish Values project materials with locally written units designed to have relevance to the particular students in the school. The Melbourne experience therefore indicates an additional direction for development, within the accumulating experience of the Jewish Values project.

Smiley also attempts to address the question of the relevance of the Jewish sources to the world of the student, as well as the issue of integration of Jewish and general studies. The paper describes several experiments in the teaching of concepts from the Jewish sources by means of the computer. In the author's view, an evaluation of the experiments indicates that they were not successful. Although it is true that the experiments aroused student interest and positive responses from parents and colleagues, nevertheless, argues Smiley, the learning was on a relatively superficial level, and did not enter the realm of meaning and values. Thus, Smiley is dealing with a problem which with basic to the formulation of the Jewish Values project: setting the bounds of relevance.

Section 4: Analysis of Approaches and of Curricula

Cohen describes attempts in Israeli education to establish a framework for teaching Jewish thought. He presents the "diagnosis" upon which each attempt is based, as well as the "prescription" in content and methodology which each proposes for dealing with the problem. Cohen also exposes the underlying assumptions of the writers of each curriculum with respect to the nature of the discipline of Jewish thought. This paper adds another layer to the ongoing discussion which is at the heart of the Jewish Values project, in which Cohen took part as a staff member. This discussion seeks to translate fields of knowledge dealing with Jewish sources into the educational situation required to foster Jewish commitment in an open society.

Sheniak describes the process of writing To Be a Jew in a Christian World, one of the units in the Jewish Values project: The paper outlines the difficulties arising from the physical, mental, and ideological distance between the writing team in Jerusalem and a school in the Diaspora, its teachers and students and the surrounding community. The process moved from the writing of units to inservice training, testing of the units, rewriting, and so on. This resulted in the writing of a number of versions. Among the manifestations of the complexity of the process is the fact that despite extensive experimentation,  a version has not yet been produced which enables schools to deal successfully with the topic.

Frost's paper considers Jewish education in Poland between the two World Wars, examining values education in the major educational movements active in the community. Frost describes the educational frameworks and the curricula of each of the Jewish movements, and exposes the underlying values and the educational thinking of each. Special emphasis is placed on the role of the Hebrew language and of Jewish and general texts in each movement. The paper focuses on the connection between the guiding values of each movement and its understanding of the future and fate of the Jewish people.



HANAN A. ALEXANDER is dean of academic affairs and associate professor of philosophy and education at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. He is also a lecturer in education at the University of California at Los Angeles and is the editor of Religious Education.

ISA ARON is an associate professor of Jewish Education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. She is currently working on a book on teachers in Jewish schools.

BARRY CHAZAN, former director of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is currently a lecturer at the Centre.

JONATHAN COHEN, a lecturer at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as academic director of the Jewish Values Project. He was a Jerusalem Fellow from 1983-1986.

HOWARD DEITCHER is the academic director of the Senior Educators Program and a lecturer at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was principal of Efrata school in Jerusalem, and a Jerusalem Fellow from 1984-1987.

SHIMON FROST is a researcher at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Before his aliyah he served for many years as a supplementary and day school principal. He was the head of the curriculum department of the American Association for Jewish Education and later the director of Jewish Educational Services of North America.

MICHAEL GILLIS is responsible for Jewish studies curriculum development at Mount Scopus College, Melbourne, Australia. He was a Jerusalem Fellow from 1982-1985 and is currently working on a Ph.D. on the place of classical text study in modern Jewish education.

BARRY W. HOLTZ is co-director of the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and an assistant professor in the Seminary's Department of Jewish Education. He is also co-editor of The Melton Journal.

GABY HORENCZYK is a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His main field of research is the psychology of ethnic, national, and Jewish identity.

DAVID RESNICK is a lecturer in the School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, and the Israel representative of Jewish Educational Services of North America. Before his aliyah, he served as the director of JESNA's Department of Community Consultation and Planning.

MICHAEL ROSENAK, a former director of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the Mandel Professor of the Philosophy of Jewish Education at the Melton Centre. He founded the Jewish Values Project and served as its first academic director.

RAFI SHENIAK is the director of the department of teacher training and of the school for training "Israel experience" instructors at Melitz, the Center for Jewish Zionist Education in Jerusalem. He was an education shaliach to Mexico and coordinator there of the "Tarbut Jerusalem" project of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora of the Hebrew University.

ASHER SHKEDI is a lecturer at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and at Oranim, the school of education of the kibbutz movement, specializing in teacher training and curriculum. He is the academic director of the Jewish Values Project.

MARK STEVEN SMILEY is the principal of Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit. He was a Jerusalem Fellow from 1984-1987.


About the Book


New Page 6


Asher Shkedi - Introduction Jewish Values An Educational Approach to the Jewish Sources 9


Michael Rosenak - Commitment and Non-commitment in Jewish Value Education 25

David Resnick - From Ought To Is: On the Relationship of Jewish Values Education to Jewish Life 46

Barry Chazan - Should We Teach Jewish Values? 66

Howard Deitcher - The Child's Understanding of the Aggadic Literature 84

Gaby Horenczyk - The Actualization of Jewish Identity: Research Findings and Educational Implications 100

H. A. Alexander - Recent Trends in the Philosophy of Jewish Education: Chazan, Rosenak, and Beyond 121


Isa Aron - The Teacher's Role in Curriculum Reform 155

Asher Shkedi - School-based Adaptation of Curriculum: Consideration of Jewish Values Curriculum Implementation 174

Barry W. Holtz - Making The Practical' Real: The Experience of the Melton Research Center in Curriculum Design (English Abstract) 196


Michael Gillis - Teaching Jewish Values and Teaching Jewish Texts in a Melbourne Jewish Day School 201

Mark Smiley - The Computer As Tutee: The Implementation of Computer Projects in the Rabbinics Curriculum An Experiment That Failed 227


Jonathan Cohen - Recent Proposals for the Teaching of Jewish Thought: The Contribution of the Jewish Values Project (English Abstract) 249

Rafi Sheniak - Judaism And Christianity: The Development of a Study Unit in Tradition in the "Tarbut-Jerusalem" Program, 1974-1983 (English Abstract) 252

Shimon Frost - Value Education in a Pluralistic Society: Educational Thought and Curricular Content in Jewish School Systems in Interwar Poland (English Abstract) 254



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