Special Issue "Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 May 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Elie Holzer
Website
Guest Editor
School of Education and Head of the R. David Ochs Chair for Teaching Jewish Religious Studies, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 5290002, Israel
Interests: practice oriented philosophy of Jewish education; text based Jewish studies; philosophical hermeneutics; pedagogy and ethical-spiritual traditions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleague,

Teaching and learning constitute a pedestal of rabbinic Judaism and its multiple historical branches to date. It not only has served purposes of socialization and the acquisition of traditional Jewish knowledge, but also has operated as a devotional activity believed to transform the learner's values, beliefs, character, and practice. Consequently, essential questions about teaching and learning Judaism have been (re)examined and discussed across generations and in encountering new opportunities or challenges in changing cultural environments. Present scholarly work on Jewish education rarely focuses on essential aspects of Jewish religious teaching and learning broadly understood. One important anthology of essays on Jewish education contains very few articles relating to Jewish teaching and learning (Miller, Grant and Pomson, International Handbook of Jewish Education, 2011). One collection addresses the practices and the purposes of the study of classical Jewish texts (Jon A. Levisohn with Susan P. Fendrick's Turn It and Turn It Again: Studies in the Teaching and Learning of Jewish Texts, 2013), and another one discusses the initial elemental stages of teaching Talmud in a variety of learning contexts (Jane L. Kanarek and M. Lehman, Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens, 2016).

Still, to this date the "religious" (as either a noun or an adjective) of Jewish religious teaching and learning has not served as a subject of critical and constructive reflection. What might be examples or ways to conceptualize what makes Jewish teaching and learning "religious"? Such exploration of Jewish religious teaching and learning is particularly vital in the wake of broad cultural phenomena such as secularism, post-modernity, gender awareness, new forms of fundamentalism, the digital revolution and globalization, and quests for Jewish spirituality.

The aim of this volume is to engage this exploration. It will bring together groundbreaking articles about any aspect pertaining to Jewish religious teaching and learning by both scholars in the field of Jewish Studies and scholars and practitioners engaged in Jewish religious education, while the term 'religious' will be specified. It will feature scholarship across research disciplines of Judaism, with the goal of identifying ideas in the past as well as in the present, that might fertilize the furthering of Jewish religious teaching and learning in a wide variety of contemporary settings. The following represents a sampling of possible topics:

  • "Religious" is an equivocal term: In what ways might the term "religious" (re)define the purposes of Jewish religious teaching and learning nowadays? What makes Jewish teaching and/or learning distinctively "religious"? "Religious" versus "spiritual": what's the difference and what are its implications, if any?
  • What is the contemporary task of Jewish religious teaching and learning?
  • Revising the curriculum: What ancient and/or new (Jewish as well as non-Jewish) subjects are essential nowadays for Jewish religious teaching and learning?
  • What should a teacher of Jewish religious learning know, be able to do, and ideally become as a person?
  • What might Jewish religious teaching and learning have in particular to contribute to today's broader culture?
  • What distinctive educational opportunities and/or challenges do Jewish religious teaching and learning encounter, given the impact of the digital revolution as well as of the consumerist, neo-liberal economic culture, on people's habits of mind, heart, and hands?

Topics might refer to specific learning contexts, particular subject matter, or distinctive student bodies. Authors are encouraged to address their topics by engaging hermeneutically with ideas and texts of different historical periods and from different Jewish religious orientations, or to submit empirical research. They also should offer a critical reflection on their research topics' contributions toward furthering Jewish religious teaching and learning.

Prof. Dr. Elie Holzer
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
“Jewish Mindfulness” as Spiritual Didactics Teaching Orthodox Jewish Religion through Mindfulness Meditation
Religions 2020, 11(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010011 - 25 Dec 2019
Abstract
Since the late 1990s, the expression “Jewish Mindfulness” has become ubiquitous in Jewish community centers (JCCs) and synagogues in America, in Israel, and in the Western diaspora. “Mindfulness”, a secular meditation technique originating from Buddhism which has been popularized in Western culture through [...] Read more.
Since the late 1990s, the expression “Jewish Mindfulness” has become ubiquitous in Jewish community centers (JCCs) and synagogues in America, in Israel, and in the Western diaspora. “Mindfulness”, a secular meditation technique originating from Buddhism which has been popularized in Western culture through its recontextualization within the Western therapeutic culture, has been increasingly used in Jewish Religious settings, including Modern Orthodox. How do Modern Orthodox rabbis describe their use of “Mindfulness” in their religious teachings? Why do they refer to Mindfulness Meditation rather than to Jewish Meditation? In this article, I comparatively analyze the discourses spoken—online, and in print—of American rabbis from various Modern Orthodox trends as a case to study strategies of adaptation in the current context of globalization. By identifying three types of use of Mindfulness—through, and or as Judaism—I seek to highlight the various ways in which today’s Orthodox educators use “Mindfulness”, both as a meditation technique and as a spiritual mindset, and how this is reshaping the way they teach Jewish religion. Observing contemporary Orthodox discourses on Mindfulness within Jewish religious pedagogy can help us better understand the processes of cultural appropriation and translation as well as religious change in the making, as part of a boundary maintenance work within today’s cosmopolitan cultures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning)
Open AccessArticle
Form and Content in Buber’s and Schweid’s Literary-Philosophical Readings of Genesis
Religions 2019, 10(6), 398; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060398 - 24 Jun 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The following essay is presented as part of a long-term project concerned with the theory and practice of modern Jewish thinkers as interpreters of the Bible. The recent Bible commentaries of Eliezer Schweid, who is one of the foremost Jewish scholars and theologians [...] Read more.
The following essay is presented as part of a long-term project concerned with the theory and practice of modern Jewish thinkers as interpreters of the Bible. The recent Bible commentaries of Eliezer Schweid, who is one of the foremost Jewish scholars and theologians active in Israel today, are analyzed in comparison with parallel interpretations of Martin Buber, with special reference to the first chapters of Genesis. Their respective analyses of Biblical narrative reveal notable similarities in their treatment of the literary “body” of the text as the key to its theological significance. Nonetheless, Buber articulates religious experience largely “from the human side,” striving to mediate Biblical consciousness to the contemporary humanistic mindset, while Schweid positions himself more as the clarion of the “prophetic writers” for whom the fear of God, no less than the love of God, must inform an authentic religious sensibility. Schweid’s more theocentric perspective has great import for contemporary issues such as the universal covetousness engendered by the violation of our ecological covenant with the Earth. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning)
Open AccessArticle
When the Truth Is Not What Actually Happened: The Epistemology of Religious Truth in Orthodox Jewish Bible Study
Religions 2019, 10(6), 378; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060378 - 12 Jun 2019
Abstract
Recent research on student epistemology has shifted from seeing epistemology as a stable entity possessed by individuals to a collection of more situated cognitive resources that individuals may employ differently depending on the context. Much of this research has focused on the explicit [...] Read more.
Recent research on student epistemology has shifted from seeing epistemology as a stable entity possessed by individuals to a collection of more situated cognitive resources that individuals may employ differently depending on the context. Much of this research has focused on the explicit beliefs students maintain about the nature of knowledge. 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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning)
Open AccessArticle
Narrativism and the Unity of Opposites: Theory, Practice, and Exegesis: A Study of Three Stories from the Talmud
Religions 2019, 10(6), 367; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060367 - 03 Jun 2019
Abstract
In this article, we pursue a double mission: First, we will demonstrate the unique nature of dynamic group facilitation as it emerges from the concept of the unity of opposites and its relation to situations of conflict, as well as the pedagogical challenges [...] Read more.
In this article, we pursue a double mission: First, we will demonstrate the unique nature of dynamic group facilitation as it emerges from the concept of the unity of opposites and its relation to situations of conflict, as well as the pedagogical challenges that teachers face in the classroom. This approach underlines the value of a more dialogical and dynamic understanding of the intricate networks of relationships that take place between students and with a teacher at any given moment in a classroom situation. Second, we will examine three Talmudic midrashim that focus on conflict and reconciliation through the lens of facilitation, while casting light on the theology behind the facilitation method and its hermeneutic power. Again, this approach to the interpretation of these texts allows them to emerge as valuable not only to the learning process, but also to the dynamics of interaction that saturate the learning situation. To this end, we will highlight the links and differences between two styles of facilitation—the narrative and the unity of opposites. These links and differences will help us illuminate the similarities and differences between the facilitation processes they employ. Because (1) the notion of exegesis is strongly embedded in narrative theory; (2) theology has deep roots in the concept of the unity of opposites; and (3) both styles address conflict and its resolution, in the second part of this article, we take the insights of the narrative and unity of opposites approaches and juxtapose them as hermeneutic tools for reading three related Talmudic midrashim that focus on conflict and reconciliation. In this way, we hope to exemplify how the different approaches can be applied to the design of the different facilitation styles, both in conflict dialogue groups and as a lens through which we can read these seminal tales that have shaped consciousness, identity, and the attitude towards the culture of debate in Judaism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning)
Open AccessArticle
Religious Education and Sacred Study in the Teachings of Rabbi Yitshak Hutner
Religions 2019, 10(5), 327; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050327 - 15 May 2019
Abstract
Rabbi Yitshak Hutner (1906–1980) was a remarkable scholar, an enigmatic religious intellectual and a charismatic teacher. Drawing upon his public discourses and his written letters, I argue that Hutner’s vocabulary—which remained rooted almost entirely in the vocabulary of traditional Talmudism—afforded him a ready [...] Read more.
Rabbi Yitshak Hutner (1906–1980) was a remarkable scholar, an enigmatic religious intellectual and a charismatic teacher. Drawing upon his public discourses and his written letters, I argue that Hutner’s vocabulary—which remained rooted almost entirely in the vocabulary of traditional Talmudism—afforded him a ready garment in which to clothe a syncretic educational theory, which combines Hasidic approaches to spiritual instruction and remakes the traditions of Lithuanian piety and study for his new American audience. The present study interrogates a series of key themes that appear in Hutner’s teachings, all of which pertain to issues of pedagogy and the construction of religious education. The essay advances a historical argument by examining the works of an important and influential modern Jewish thinker, but it is also driven by a constructive question: What does Hutner’s vision of Jewish religious teaching and learning have to contribute to today’s Jewish education, and to the broader world of higher education in North America in particular? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning)
Open AccessArticle
The Relationship of Vulnerability to Religiosity in the Adult Jewish Learner
Religions 2019, 10(5), 307; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10050307 - 07 May 2019
Abstract
This article examines the role of vulnerability in personal religious transformation. It offers several “working” definitions of the terms and also mines the use of the term through the portrait of three adult Jewish learners who each experienced vulnerability as a result of [...] Read more.
This article examines the role of vulnerability in personal religious transformation. It offers several “working” definitions of the terms and also mines the use of the term through the portrait of three adult Jewish learners who each experienced vulnerability as a result of Jewish text study for different reasons. This sense of vulnerability was either itself a religious experience characterized as a mixture of humility, gratitude, and belonging or catalyzed enhanced study that led to a greater sense of knowledge of and participation within a religious community. Vulnerability is understood by one learner as the insecurity of ignorance, which inspired her to take agency for her learning and compensate for pre-existing gaps. For the second, vulnerability is less about ignorance or openness in an act of study, but the insecurity of the performative aspects of Judaism in the shared space of community. This prompted him to learn more to overcome these uncomfortable feelings. For another, vulnerability represents an existential state of humanity that connects all people. Vulnerability for her is a positive state of openness; she seeks out Jewish experiences of study and prayer where she can exhibit her vulnerability in the presence of others equally willing to share their own moments of joy, doubt, humility, and failure. In each instance, vulnerability created a paradoxical motivation to study—the discomfort of not fitting in or knowing enough that, in turn, gave rise to feelings of enhanced religiosity induced by the study experience. To that end, the paper also explores vulnerability as a generative aspect of transformative learning that leads to enhanced spiritual states. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Jewish Religious Teaching and Learning)
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