HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Nurturing Faith

Nurturing Faith

Faith is the most elusive quality to inculcate, the hardest to measure. Yet at some level, everything Jewish day schools seek to achieve depends upon it. The sense of belonging and connection that is fundamental to Jewish identity resides, at heart, in a sense of emunah, of trust and belief in something larger than ourselves. This issue considers factors that nourish Jewish faith of different kinds.

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by RAVSAK Staff Dec 11, 2010

This column features books, articles and websites, recommended by our authors and people from the RAVSAK network, pertaining to the theme of the current issue of HaYidion for readers who want to investigate the topic in greater depth.

From the Desk of Arnee Winshall, RAVSAK Chair

by Arnee Winshall Dec 11, 2010

As we have all come to expect, RAVSAK does not shy away from taking on challenging and tricky topics. This issue of HaYidion on faith is yet another example of this. When you look the word up in the dictionary two meanings strike me in particular:

From the Editor

by Barbara Davis Dec 11, 2010

Like many heads of Jewish community day schools, I come to my position via a circuitous route, in my case a doctorate in Spanish literature. In my favorite book, Cervantes’ Don Quijote, the self-defined knight of the title makes himself a helmet out of pasteboard. He tests it by slashing it with his sword, destroying it in the process. He then rebuilds it, and rather than testing it, places it confidently on his head, declaring it “a work of the most perfect construction.” Such is the difference between science and faith.

Emphasizing Process over Product: Reaching Postmodern Jewish Youth

by Yonatan Yussman Dec 11, 2010
RELATED TOPICS: StudentsPedagogy

How can Jewish educational leaders reach teens who are often distrustful of institutionalized religion and highly individualistic, with contradictory and fluid personal identities? A recent article described a young Jewish girl as “a hetero, eco-feminist, vegan, Jewish, history major.” Another article refers to “Grande Soy Vanilla Latte with Cinnamon, No Foam” Jews.

Faith in Stories

by Rafael Cashman Dec 11, 2010

Stories have an unusual capacity to live within us in a way that abstract principles do not. They touch our hearts with messages our minds can only distantly grasp, and create a bridge that allows our most profound ideas to make their way into our lives. I believe this is what the Sages meant when they said that if someone wants to acquire wisdom they should learn halachah, but if they want to fear G-d, to develop the emotional and spiritual capacity to experience the divine, they need to learn aggadah (Avot deRabbi Natan, chapter 29), the parables and stories of the Oral Torah. Faith is nurtured through stories.

Nurturing Faith Through Music

by Marsha Bryan Edelman Dec 11, 2010
RELATED TOPICS: PedagogyArtsJewish Studies

Scientists believe that music is one of the oldest human creations. Apart from the millennia-old flutes and harps that have been discovered among archaeological finds, some anthropologists believe that music was a precursor to speech, that humans used music to communicate moods and even specific information long before there were words to express precise ideas. For a people as connected to the text as we Jews are, that’s a powerful notion, theologically affirmed by the sentiments of Psalm 150 encouraging all manner of music-making in order to praise G-d.

Kohelet: Debating Faith

by Eli Kohn Dec 11, 2010
RELATED TOPICS: PedagogyJewish Studies

As a high school Jewish studies teacher, and a subsequent Jewish studies curriculum developer, I have long been troubled by the question of how we educate students towards growth in religiosity, particularly in the area of Jewish belief and practice. Curriculum models have been designed which focus on student attainments in the domains of Jewish studies knowledge and skills. But in the affective domain, for example, educating towards belief and faith in G-d, it is far more difficult both to educate and to measure the impact of our teaching on our students’ lives.

Faith in Am Yehudi

by Catriella Freedman Dec 11, 2010
RELATED TOPICS: Jewish Studies

The whole notion of faith has been a difficult one to understand and to define, let alone to teach or to nurture. Since the age of enlightenment (and in other points in the development of Jewish thought) the hitherto assumed notion of faith has been disintegrating. As more and more people question religion, G-d, halakhah, and biblical authorship, the whole concept of faith has lost much of its stronghold. Even defining what faith is becomes challenging: are we assuming that faith is belief in G-d? What if one does not accept the existence of G-d? Is faith a declaration of a belief in personal providence? Even those who accept the idea of G-d may feel uncomfortable stating unequivocally that G-d has a hand in one’s day to day existence. And yet, in looking at the enduring history of the Jewish people, most would agree that faith has been a major ingredient in ensuring the survival of Jews, their traditions and culture.

Faith and Critical Jewish History: A Complex Relationship

by Robert Chazan Dec 11, 2010
RELATED TOPICS: Jewish Studies

Over the past two centuries, a new kind of historical study has emerged in the Jewish world. As described elegantly by Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi in his book Zakhor, this new historical study has critically reexamined and reassessed aspects of the Jewish past, in the process often confronting and contradicting many of the traditions sacred to Jewish memory. Like so much else in Jewish life over the ages, this new development has not been self-generated from within the Jewish world; it is the result of the broad tendency in the modern West to investigate anew historical realities and—in the process—to subvert traditional thinking. The more firmly Jews have engaged and absorbed modern Western thinking, the more intense the Jewish commitment to critical historical study has become. Today, there are major centers of Jewish historical scholarship all across North America, in the State of Israel, and in many European countries. The products of this scholarship are diffused far and wide throughout all these settings and regularly involve reassessment of traditional Jewish convictions about the past.

Developing a Personal Relationship with G-d— A New Approach

by Aryeh Ben David Dec 11, 2010

How ironic that Jews, who brought the knowledge of G-d to the world, are willing to talk openly about anything and everything—except their relationship with G-d. I have been intensively exploring the challenges of developing a personal relationship with G-d during the last several years. The following reflects a summary of what I have learned during this endeavor. There is good news and bad news.