Kapustin explains reasons why Jewish history is often less valued than other pillars of the Judaics curriculum. When taught well, he argues, Jewish history is the subject most capable of shaping mature, sophisticated thinking.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Teaching Jewish History
Is Jewish history the linchpin to Jewish identity formation, the weak link in day school Jewish studies, or perhaps both? Jewish history provides students with critical links to their past and gives them the context for their own experiences. Discover insights in this field from senior scholars and educators, and find creative new initiatives being used by teachers in day schools today.
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Lipinsky argues that engagement with primary documents is vital for students’ ability to find relevance in Jewish history. He demonstrates a sophisticated approach to two different kinds of documents.
Students in Jewish day schools, even those who claim that history is boring, are curious about their heritage, and as teachers, it is incumbent upon us to fan the sparks and teach about personal and ancestral history.
As teachers of history, we are faced with the challenge of making history relevant to our students and helping them connect history with their own lives. By using the ethics and values of our sacred texts as one lens to study Jewish history, we can make history and Jewish texts come alive, while at the same time encouraging students to examine the relationship of these studies to their own decisions and actions.
We live in a world whose culture is deeply influenced by Christianity and whose populations still perceive themselves, by and large, as religiously Christian. The Jewish people has had a long, complicated and often troubled relationship with Christianity. As various forms of Christianity have wrestled with their attitudes towards Jews and have attempted to proffer hands in friendship, it is important for us to know all aspects of this relationship and the meaning it has had and continues to have for our people.
As a head of school, I am increasingly dependent on short-term consultants for one of the following reasons: they are more affordable than permanent staff; funders often agree to the short-term hiring of an expert but will not fund a permanent hire; the board of directors believes that this is the best possible course of action. As a result, I am working with consultants in the areas of curriculum development, servicing special needs students, and technology.
Relational Judaism, Dr. Ron Wolfson states, “What really matters is that we care about the people we seek to engage. When we genuinely care about people, we will not only welcome them; we will listen to their stories, we will share ours, and we will join together to build a Jewish community that enriches our lives.” The recent RAVSAK/PARDES Day School Leadership Conference, in my home town of Los Angeles, was a wonderful example of just such connection, community and relationships. Attendees listened carefully, learned together, challenged each other, and deepened their relationships with each other as well as our network.
About thirty years ago, I developed a photographic exhibit/catalog of the Jewish community of Syracuse. Being neither a historian nor a Syracuse native, I found this a challenging undertaking and quickly realized that history is often a result not of selectivity, intention or bias, but rather of availability of materials. People who kept scrapbooks, records, diaries and artifacts guarded them jealously and often would not part with them even for the hour or so it would take me to photocopy or photograph them.
While acknowledging the benefits of role-playing developing student historical empathy, the author confronts challenges that this activity poses to the transmission of historical understanding.
Inheriting the Past, Building the Future: Developing Historical Thinking in Upper Elementary StudentsMar 10, 2014
Drawing on an online program in Jewish history they created, the authors elucidate best practices for engaging upper elementary students and offer suggestions for designing classroom activities.
In response to the challenge Chazan identified (p. 28), Nachbar presents a way to redesign a class on Shoah education so that students understand the victims not just as “sheep to the slaughter.”
A course at the New Community Jewish High School in Los Angeles employed a case study approach integrating Jewish history and Jewish values, enabling students to apply Jewish values to contemporary challenges of the Jewish world. The case study approach enables students to practice solving real world problems as if they were clergy or leaders acting on behalf of Jewish communal organizations, or as Jewishly engaged citizens.
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