RECONCEPTUALIZING THE TEACHING OF RABBINIC LITERATURE

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Newcastle University]On: 04 November 2014, At: 09:27Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Religious Education: The official journal of theReligious Education AssociationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/urea20</p><p>RECONCEPTUALIZING THE TEACHING OF RABBINICLITERATUREDavid Zisenwine aa Tel Aviv University , IsraelPublished online: 10 Jul 2006.</p><p>To cite this article: David Zisenwine (1989) RECONCEPTUALIZING THE TEACHING OF RABBINIC LITERATURE, ReligiousEducation: The official journal of the Religious Education Association, 84:4, 584-588, DOI: 10.1080/0034408890840410</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0034408890840410</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable forany losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoeveror howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use ofthe Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/urea20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/0034408890840410http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0034408890840410http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>RECONCEPTUALIZING THE TEACHINGOF RABBINIC LITERATURE</p><p>David Zisenwine</p><p>Tel Aviv UniversityIsrael</p><p>The teaching of rabbinic literature and Jewish thought in thejunior-high and high school grades has not been fully discussed ineducational circles. We do have many examples of Talmud studyunits that contain instructional and curricular assumptions, butthese do not present a conceptual framework for teaching thissubject matter.</p><p>An analysis of the existing study materials shows that theprimary goal of Talmud instruction is the mastery of the "Sugya"or talmudic dialectic on its own terms. The student is assisted inmastering the actual language of the text and the unique form oftalmudic dialectic. The better materials, developed in the UnitedStates and Israel, present the material in a sequential manner withextensive explanations of the text and the translation of words andphrases. The talmudic argument is well outlined, and its resultsare analyzed and discussed. Following the accepted norms ofstudy units in general, attention is paid to graphics, color, andformat that help the student master the written text. In unitswhere the legal decision is important, this is emphasized and high-lighted. There is an attempt at relevance or "translation" of thecase into contemporary terms; e.g., the case of depositing a cowwith an unpaid watchman is translated into a bicycle with a will-ing neighbor. Such examples are seen as moving from the worldof the Talmud to contemporary culture. The examples of transla-tion are often banal and obvious to the high schooler who studiesliterary criticism and analysis on the one hand and aspects of nu-clear physics on the other. The high school student who is not part</p><p>Religious Education Vol 84 No 1 Winter 1989</p><p>584</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p>cast</p><p>le U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>27 0</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>DAVID ZISENWINE 585</p><p>of the Yeshiva world, where the talmudic dialectic has conse-quences for daily living and implications for advanced study, seesthis material and approach as intellectually unexciting and almosttotally irrelevant to his or her life.</p><p>In response to this situation, a curriculum and instructionproject was developed in the Masorti High School in Jerusalem,Israel. This high school is part of the general or secular as opposedto religious stream of the Israeli school system. The school's majorgoal is to introduce the Israeli-Jewish child to Judaic studies froma positive, critical perspective and provide Jewish religious expe-riences within the school framework without demanding reli-gious observance in the home.</p><p>A survey of existing Israeli materials in the Talmud area re-sulted in the feeling among the school staff that these units wereeither contextually irrelevant or inappropriate to the non-Ortho-dox student. A curriculum team set about to write materials thatwould reflect the intellectual world of the Masorti High Schoolstudent. A look at the schools' curriculum and its instructionalstrategies showed that the humanities curricula promoted criticalthinking and literary analysis as well as an emphasis on historicaldevelopment; economic, political, and social influences on ideas;and literary works. The general aim of these curricula is to pro-duce a student who is capable of analyzing ideas and texts andable to generalize about the value of the works in their culturalsetting and to understand their role in the contemporary world.The tools of historical inquiry, literary criticism and analysis, aswell as the emphasis on conceptualizing the materials and form-ing opinions, are the tools of the general humanities curriculum.The instructional strategies in this particular school range fromlecture to inquiry-guided learning. The Masorti High School-rabbinic literature curriculum team decided that rabbinic litera-ture should not be seen as curricularly separate from other hu-manities subjects studied in the school, and that the tools availableand used in the general school curriculum must be employed inthis area as well. This decision was, in fact, a reconceptualizationof the place of rabbinic literature in the high school curriculum. Itis no longer a unique religious subject matter area where the un-derstanding of the internal dialectic is the educational objective.Rabbinic literature is now an integral part of the general humani-ties curriculum and therefore defined as part of the cultural heri-tage necessary for a student to come to terms with and understandhis or her own growth and development within Israeli-Jewish so-</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p>cast</p><p>le U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>27 0</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>586 TEACHING AND RABBINIC LITERATURE</p><p>ciety. This curricular formulation led to a decision to employ thesame tools of analysis and criticism used in the other humanitiessubject areas and to expect the same level of conceptualization asin those areas.</p><p>What does this mean in practical terms? The relationship ofthe text studied to the historical period, the place of the talmudicdiscussion in its social, economic, and religious context, and theunderstanding of the dialectic is a primary goal of this curriculum.This formulation also requires a working relationship and coordi-nated program among the various subject matter areas. Rabbinicliterature is now a "curricular piece" of a larger integrated human-ities program. The placing of this subject matter area moves itfrom a unique "religious" topic to a part of the developingcultural-religious tradition of the Jewish people.</p><p>The curriculum team began its reconceptualization process ofthe 10th, 11th, and 12th grades by working with existing highschool curricula. The history department, under state mandate,divides the curriculum chronologically into the second common-wealth (grade 10), middle ages (grade 11), and modern period(grade 12). In the second commonwealth curriculum, the empha-sis is on the Hellenistic world; its specific cultural, political, andeconomic role in Israel; and the coping strategies of Jewish Pales-tine within the Hellenistic world. A decision was made to teachTalmud, the literary creation of this period, and to focus on issuesand problems raised and dealt with in the history curriculum. Thecurriculum team decided that the 10th grade geography studiesshould concentrate on the Hellenistic period and utilize the ar-chaeological excavations and findings available to the students inthis Jerusalem high school.</p><p>This integrated curriculum was first tested in 1986-87. Anevaluation of students' attitudes toward this integrated programwas conducted at the end of the school year. Students were askeda series of questions about their attitudes toward the integratedprogram. Several questions were directly aimed at the students'grasp of the relationship between the disciplines. These responseswere taped and provided the curriculum team with very positiveresponses. The children do see the connection between the disci-plines, appreciate the different perspectives, and understand thesignificance of the talmudic text. The integrated curriculum didraise the intellectual challenge of Judaic studies by offering thehigh school student a forum for comparison and generalizationseen in good humanities programs. The Jewish text moves fromthe study of antiquity to a program of intellectual relevance.</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p>cast</p><p>le U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>27 0</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>DAVID ZISENWINE 587</p><p>Questions of ethics, government, social challenge, and response,the status of a minority religion, and political and religious leader-ship are now the substantial part of the textual study and addanother aspect of intellectual inquiry to rabbinic literature on thehigh school level.</p><p>At the end of the school year, the 10th grade class of the Masor-ti High School had to take a state matriculation examination in theintegrated area. The test was composed by the curriculum writersand teachers. The Ministry of Education selected 30 percent ofthe exams graded by the teachers for re-grading by outside in-spectors. The outside team verified the grades of all the exams asaccurate and in 15 percent of the cases raised the grade. The inte-grated program had passed the state standards.</p><p>The 11th grade program is being tested now. It consists of astudy of the Middle Ages and the relationship of the Jewish com-munity to both its Christian and Moslem hosts. In keeping withthe notion of integrated studies and the goal of showing highschool students that Jewish religious texts developed and re-sponded to reality, we selected the Responsa literature as our text.Rabbinic Responsa were a major rabbinic tool for coping with thereality of the Middle Ages. It requires an understanding of tal-mudic precedent in the legal sense and the ingenious use of law tomaintain Jewish life and institutions.</p><p>The social and business relationship of Christians and Jews,and Moslems and Jews, in the Middle Ages are two of the areasexamined in this course. The Rabbinic Responsa are filled withcases involving social and commercial relationships and show ushow the rabbis made Jewish life and existence possible in an aliensociety. For the 11th grade student in the Masorti High School,this is not only a continuation in the development of rabbinicliterature in a unique format but also an introduction to the realityof life as seen through the eyes of Jewish religious political leader-ship. The student meets history through primary sources and cananalyze and generalize about the specific period and the modelspresented for Jewish activity as well as survival. The use of law asa guarantor of social life and commerce within a religious com-munity is an issue that should be confronted and understood bythe adolescent. The appreciation of text and reality is another goalof this integrated curriculum in Judaica.</p><p>The third year of this curriculum will be devoted to the mod-ern period from the emancipation though the birth of the State ofIsrael. The curriculum calls for a study of the Jews' entry intomodern society and the challenge this brought to traditional Jew-</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>New</p><p>cast</p><p>le U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>27 0</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>588 TEACHING AND RABBINIC LITERATURE</p><p>ish life. The variety of responses from conservatism to total assim-ilation will be studied along with rabbinic texts and treatises. Wewill also introduce the area of Jewish philosophy and Jewishthought in this last year of the curriculum. The goal is to continueto expose the student to aspects of historical response and to dem-onstrate how Jewish religious literature changed or adapted itsformat in keeping with the challenge of the period. We will onceagain deal with the literary format, whether it be an essay of Men-delssohn or letters of Beryl Katznelson. In addition we will be ableto demonstrate, through use of primary source material, the de-velopment of Jewish classical texts as a creative response to social,religious, and political reality.</p><p>A graduate of this program will have been exposed to the de-velopment of rabbinic literature and modern Jewish thought andtheir relationship to an ongoing, developing, and changing Jewishpeople. They will be able to see the organic relationship of areasof study and the need to take a look at the big picture. This recon-ceptualization of Judaic studies as an integrated whole should befamiliar to the students of humanity and should help form positiveattitudes as well as knowledge for the Jewish student.</p><p>While this integrated approach to rabbinic literature and Jew-ish studies offers an approach to Jewish education compatiblewith contemporary theory, it does differ from the traditional Jew-ish approach to subject matter. It removes the division of disci-plines as the guiding principle of curriculum and instruction. Thiswill cause its detractors to claim that this "social studies" view willresult in a shallow and limited understanding of rabbinic litera-ture and will not lead to serious scholarship in the discipline. Ourresponse is that this is a confusion of goals. Our goal is to introducethe high school students to the world of Judaica and the interde-pendence of Jewish studies. We are as concerned with broadperspectives and positive attitude as we are with the intensivestudy of one discipline. We are also saying that the very nature ofthe study of rabbinic texts for high school students in the Westernworld has been misunderstood and inappropriately presented.This concept of Judaica curriculum in a field situation has provenitself effective, stimulating, and challenging to contemporaryhigh schoolers. The need to reconceptualize has been longoverdue.</p><p>David Zisenwine...</p></li></ul>

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