Turn It and Turn It Again: Studies in the Teaching and Learning of Classical Jewish Texts

Turn It and Turn It Again: Studies in the Teaching and Learning of Classical Jewish Texts

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Edited by Susan P. Fendrick & Jon A. Levisohn

Series: Jewish Identities in Post-Modern Society
ISBN: 9781936235636 (hardcover) / 9781618113092 (paper)
Pages: 426 pp.
Publication Date: April 2013

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The study of classical Jewish texts is flourishing in day schools and adult education, synagogues and summer camps, universities and yeshivot. But serious inquiry into the practices and purposes of such study is far rarer. In this book, a diverse collection of empirical and conceptual studies illuminates particular aspects of the teaching of Bible and rabbinic literature to, and the learning of, children and adults. In addition to providing specific insights into the pedagogy of Jewish texts, these studies serve as models of what the disciplined study of pedagogy can look like. This book will be of interest to teachers of Jewish texts in all contexts, and will be particularly valuable for the professional development of Jewish educators.

Susan P.  Fendrick is an editor, editorial consultant, and teacher of adult Jewish education. She received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program. Her writing has appeared in The Women's Torah Commentary and The Women's Haftarah CommentaryThe Women's Seder Sourcebook, the haggadah A Night of Questions, the journals Sh'ma and Living Text, as well as numerous online publications. She previously served at Senior Research Associate at the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University.

Jon A. Levisohn is an associate professor of Jewish Education in the Department of Near Eastern & Judaic Studies at Brandeis, as well as the Assistant Academic Director of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education. He holds a doctorate from Stanford University and is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship program, and is the author of The Interpretive Virtues: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Teaching and Learning of Historical Narratives (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). Other recent work has appeared in Diaspora and Indigenous Minority Education (DIME), the Journal of Philosophy of Education, and the Journal of Jewish Education.

. . . An almost Talmudic diversity of visions and statements that scholars, educators, and interested lay persons will all find valuable.
— David M. Stern, Moritz and Josephine Berg Professor of Classical Hebrew Literature, University of Pennsylvania
. . . Creates a true kaleidoscope of orientations for teaching classical Jewish texts. Both the substantive studies here and the frame that stands behind them will help sharpen our focus, whether about the inner workings of learning minds or about the electricity and passion of a successful beit midrash.
— Rabbi Ethan Tucker, Rosh Yeshiva, Mechon Hadar
. . . Coherent, illuminating, and a joy to read. These essays connect modern analytic scholarship on classical texts with the most current bodies of theory and practice in the study of teaching and learning. The book deserves a place on the desk of every serious Jewish educator.
— Lee S. Shulman, President Emeritus, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
As I read the pedagogical reflections of the teachers in this book, I was afforded an opportunity to cogitate on the pedagogical strengths and weaknesses of my own teachers as well as my own teaching and discover several innovations. . . . To some degree, every essay illustrates the benefits and instructor gains when she or he slows down enough while teaching a classical Jewish texts course (easily adaptable to any course reading and interpreting sacred texts) to observe carefully and reflect critically how learning outcomes are achieved in the students. . . . Every essay invites readers to explore or ‘turn’ pedagogy from various instructive angles and learn from these reflective teachers about how one’s own orientation to teaching similar sacred texts courses may be strengthened.
— Michael D. Matlock, Asbury Theological Seminary, in Teaching Theology & Religion, Volume 17: Issue 4 – October 2014

Table of Contents

Sharon Feiman-Nemser

1 Cultivating Curiosity about the Teaching of Classical Jewish Texts
Jon A. Levisohn and Susan P. Fendrick
PART 1: Focus on Subject Matter
2 A Map of Orientations to the Teaching of Bible
Barry W. Holtz
3 What Are the Orientations to the Teaching of Rabbinic Literature?
Jon A. Levisohn
4 Teaching Talmudic Hermeneutics Using a Semiotic Model of Law
Daniel Reifman
5 Neusner, Brisk, and the Stam: Significant Methodologies for Meaningful Talmud Teaching and Study
Michael Chernick

PART 2: Focus on Teaching and Teachers
6 The Pedagogy of Slowing Down: Teaching Talmud in a Summer Kollel
Jane Kanarek
7 Serendipity and Pedagogy: Presenting the Weekly Parashah through Rabbinic Eyes
Carl M. Perkins
8 Introducing the Bible: The Comparative Orientation in Practice
Jon A. Levisohn

PART 3: Focus on Learning and Learners
9 Teaching Ancient Jewish History: An Experiment in Engaged Learning
Michael Satlow
10 “A Judaism That Does Not Hide”: Curricular Warrants for the Teaching of the Documentary Hypothesis in Community Jewish High Schools
Susan E. Tanchel
11 Developing Student Awareness of the Talmud as an Edited Document: A Pedagogy for the Pluralistic Jewish Day School
Jeffrey Spitzer
12 A Theory of Havruta Learning
Orit Kent

PART 4: Focus on Context
13 “Torah Talk”: Teaching Parashat Ha-shavua to Young Children
Shira Horowitz
14 Using the Contextual Orientation to Facilitate the Study of Bible with Generation X
Beth Cousens, Susan P. Fendrick, and Jeremy S. Morrison
15 Academic Study of the Talmud as a Spiritual Endeavor in Rabbinic Training: Delights and Dangers
Jonah Chanan Steinberg
16 Teaching Rabbinics as an Ethical Endeavor and Teaching Ethics as a Rabbinic Endeavor
Sarra Lev

List of Contributors
Index of Biblical and Rabbinic Sources
General Index