HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Jewish Literacy and Curriculum

Jewish Literacy and Curriculum

When formulating a vision of what they want their students to learn, day school educators need to start with a shared understanding of Jewish literacy. This issue explores the connections between a vision of Jewish literacy and a Jewish curriculum. Authors consider the purposes and goals of literacy; suggest ways that Jewish sources can serve as an educational framework; advocate for various subjects, curricular emphases and pedagogical or delivery methods; and share specific initiatives that they have developed. 

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Jewish Literacy: Mi Yode'a?

by Dr. Barbara Davis, Secretary, Board of Directors Mar 01, 2016 RAVSAK

In Spanish, the word for “illiterate” is analfabeto—one who does not have an alphabet. Yet having an alphabet does not make a Jewish person literate, as can be attested to by thousands of Jewish teens and adults who know the alefbet but not much else. What makes a person literate in a Jewish sense?


Working Together for a Bright Future

by Rebekah Farber, Chair, Board of Directors Mar 01, 2016 RAVSAK

It has been an honor to serve as the chair of RAVSAK’s Board of Trustees for almost three years now. Our board is a trusted and trustworthy group of individuals, cultivated to provide expertise in many areas of Jewish day school leadership, finance, law, organizational behavior and good common sense. I have learned so much from each of my colleagues on the board, mostly about their steadfast resolve to put the needs of our constituent schools as the north star of our work.

Column: Embracing the Practical

by Dr. Miriam Heller Stern Mar 01, 2016 American Jewish University, Los Angeles
RELATED TOPICS: TeachersPedagogyLeadership

In 1969, University of Chicago Professor Joseph Schwab famously declared the field of curriculum “moribund.” Textbooks and lists of great works alone did not adequately construct well-designed architectures for teaching and learning. Educational theories deriving singularly from academic research in psychology or philosophy in Schwab’s view underserved curriculum development, leaving the enterprise “desperately in search of new and more effective principles and methods.”


Navigating Critical Relationships

by Cooki Levy Mar 01, 2016 RAVSAK

I know how critical the relationship between the head of school and the board chair is to the success of the school. I have not yet been able to create this kind of positive and respectful relationship. Are there tried-and-true actions that build good relationships between the lay and professional leaders of the school?


Redeeming Jewish Literacy

by Dr. Jon A. Levisohn Mar 01, 2016 Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts

Literacy has always referred to the ability to read, to decode and make sense of written texts. More than a technical skill, the ability to read provides a person with a gateway into whole worlds beyond their immediate experience, worlds into which they otherwise have no access. But in 1987, E. D. Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy changed how we think about literacy in fundamental ways. His argument was straightforward. In addition to decoding, readers need to understand a text’s cultural references to make sense of that text.

Setting the Bar High for Jewish Learning

by Lisa Exler Mar 01, 2016 Beit Rabban Day School and Mechon Hadar, New York City

Many day schools boast creative and innovative programs that excite students about Judaism and produce graduates who continue their affiliation with the Jewish community. Yet many of these same students and graduates cannot independently navigate our core texts or comfortably and confidently practice Judaism. They may be enthusiastic about their Jewish identities, but they lack the skills, knowledge and experience to be the bearers and transmitters of Judaism into the next generation.

Tanakh Literacy, for the Jewish Present

by Rabbi Dr. Rafi Cashman Mar 01, 2016 Associated Hebrew School, Toronto

“Literacy is about more than reading and writing—it is about how we communicate in society. It is about social practices and relationships, about knowledge, language and culture.” UNESCO


Jewish Fluency: Creating a New Culture

by Abi Dauber Sterne Mar 01, 2016 Hillel International, Washington, DC

What’s the difference between the following two sets of questions?

Who was the first Prime Minister of Israel?

What is the first of the Ten Commandments?


Why has Israel always been important to the Jewish people?

I don’t believe in God. Can I still be Jewish?


Room to Breathe: Creating Air in Pluralistic Jewish Education

by Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman Mar 01, 2016 American Hebrew Academy, Greensboro, North Carolina

It is challenging to design curricula for a pluralistic school. Central to the concept of pluralism is the belief that there is no one correct way to “be Jewish.” When it comes to behavior, no pluralistic educator would say, “This is how a student should behave.” Yet there does not seem to be the same reluctance to say, “This is what a student should know.


Jewish Literacy Versus Jewish Identity: Teachers' Reflections

by Dr. Sarah Levy Mar 01, 2016 Colorado Agency for Jewish Education, Denver

Over the last several decades, many authors have attempted to define and assess Jewish literacy and identity. Jewish day school teachers find themselves at the forefront of these conversations every day, as they craft their curricula and interact with students.