HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


Pluralism, Ethos, Creativity and Israel

by Shaul Magid Issue: Mission & Vision

Lehmann’s essay “Beyond Continuity, Identity, and Literacy” offers a rich, textured, and starkly honest appraisal of the state of Jewish education in America as we move more deeply into the twenty-first century. The essay correctly assumes that the “day school,” largely a postwar American Jewish phenomenon, has now become a mainstay of American Jewish education but has not kept up with the changing fabric of American Jewry or American society.

Lehmann’s essay “Beyond Continuity, Identity, and Literacy” offers a rich, textured, and starkly honest appraisal of the state of Jewish education in America as we move more deeply into the twenty-first century. The essay correctly assumes that the “day school,” largely a postwar American Jewish phenomenon, has now become a mainstay of American Jewish education but has not kept up with the changing fabric of American Jewry or American society. The project of “Americanization” in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that prevented the day school from emerging, and the rise of multiculturalism in the 1980s that provided a cultural foundation for the day school’s success, are both things of the past. While the day school persists and continues to grow, Lehmann argues that it remains mired in an educational paradigm that no longer meets our students’ experiences as they mature into young Jewish adults in what David Hollinger has called “postethnic America.”

In some way, this is understandable. The challenges of postethnic America require more than tinkering with an existing system; they require a complete reappraisal of the educational goals of identity formation. This is because we live in an era where religion has ceased serving as the primary anchor of Jewish identity. Ethnicity, loosely defined, is now how many young American Jews identify as Jews. Religion serves more as a secondary, or tertiary, means of ethnic expression rather than a foundation of belief and practice upon which Jewish identity is forged.

Yet today that ethnic anchor has been destabilized by numerous factors including the reality that the American Jewish community, like Americans more generally, are increasingly multi- or post-ethnic. Being “ethnically Jewish” is now far more complex than it was even in the 1970s. And the acceptance of “Jewishness” as an integral part of the American landscape, in culture, literature, film and politics, makes “Jewishness” as something exclusive to Jews more complicated and nuanced. Ironically, Jewish success in America makes Jewish identity formation more, not less, difficult. In what follows I would like to present a series of challenges to Lehmann on four points: pluralism, ethnicity, creativity and the role of Israel in Jewish education in America today. My point is less a critique than an attempt to sharpen the relevant issues and think about the price we may pay by addressing them in a systematic fashion.

I begin with a short comment on pluralism as it is presented in this essay. Lehmann stresses the importance of pluralism as an ideal that extends beyond acceptance, or tolerance, of the “other” to include the destabilization of truth and certainly as the center of the religious life. That is, pluralism as a theological and not only a social or cultural category. This is certainly courageous, and correct, in my view, but for it to have lasting effect I think it requires an entirely new theological framework, one that in many ways undermines the classical texts that serve as the basis of our educational program. Living with “complexity, contradiction, and ambiguity” as Lehmann states, is certainly something to be celebrated, but how can this model resist the more absolutist models that young Jews may confront as they enter the Jewish world? Cultivating roots to sustain this idea would require more than simply introducing a series of classical texts that can be read “strongly” to support our claims of theological relativism. As we know, these texts can be read otherwise, and often with far more consistent and convincing support.

Rather, this goal of celebrating complexity and ambiguity as theological foundations for human reaction would require a new, and arguably radical, theological subversion of much of what the Hebrew Bible and its tradition espouses. Subversions are not unprecedented in Jewish history; one might argue that Jewish subversive thinking has made some of the most important contributions of Judaism. We find them in works such as the early rabbinic corpus, a radical break from Temple-based Israelite religion (now normalized as “Judaism”), Maimonides’ Aristotelian radically transcendent God, the Zohar’s theory of the fragmented godhead, Isaac Luria’s notion of creation as rupture, Hasidism’s idea of divine immanence bordering on pantheism, Mordecai Kaplan’s notion of Judaism as a civilization and not a religion, and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s New Age “Paradigm Shift” Judaism.

Adaptation through re-interpretation, or the attempt to redeem the past without undermining it, is a more conservative attempt to move Judaism forward. It is a safer but in my mind a weaker model than open subversion, even as the former may better assure continuity than the latter. This is because open subversion honestly acknowledges that our values often stand in contradiction to the texts we read rather than suggesting a more seamless line between the values of the past and our present state of mind. In his call for theological as opposed to cultural pluralism, Lehmann is calling us to rethink the very roots of the Jewish theological project. The potential price for this, a price that may result in nothing less than the accusation of heresy, may be higher than he wants to pay. I fear, however, that anything less will not sufficiently achieve Lehmann’s goals as set out in this essay.

On the question of ethnicity, it seems that Lehmann’s model of Jewish education still assumes a stable ethnic anchor; that is, that Jewish education is largely about Jews teaching Jews about Judaism, although the “Jew” here is never defined. Increasingly, though, the Jewish community is becoming a more complex amalgam of “biological” Jews, non-Jews and various gradations in-between. Jewish education is thus now not only about the tolerance of the non-Jew “outside” the community but needs to think about ways of incorporating the non-Jew who lives “inside” the Jewish community. Jewish education in the next generation needs to consider ways the non-Jew can be incorporated as an integral part of the American Jewish collective, not as a convert (ger tzedek) but as a righteous gentile (ger toshav) who has a positive role to play in the Jewish community.

Lehmann introduces “creativity” as the educational focus that he suggests should supersede the older model of transmission and the obsession with continuity. Fully cognizant of the dangers that “creativity” presents when faced with training a minority culture to survive in a society where they are not threatened from the outside, Lehmann writes, “Our students can take creative risks as Jews because the Judaism at the center of our day schools communicates is strong enough, old enough and flexible enough to hold, support and celebrate their creativity.” I wonder how much Lehmann is willing to enable this creativity to flourish when it resists, even undermines, basic tenets of Jewish life. What are the parameters of creative control?

A good place to look for advice here is Rav Kook’s 1908 letter to the Bezalel Art School, where Kook both encourages and warns budding art students in Mandate Palestine that the Jews need them to open the wellsprings of the Jewish heart though creative expression. Kooks knows that creativity potentially undermines the tradition, and he warns against this, but also knows that without the freedom that give rise to that possibility, the artist cannot succeed in his work. Creativity is a form of rebellion, and thus the call for creativity as a centerpiece of Jewish education must consider the price of that call. I am not suggesting we choose conformity over creativity. I only ask that we as educators be fully aware of the danger creativity wields.

The question of Israel is indeed a vexing one. Many of us who remember Israel before 1967 and who were raised on Leon Uris’ Exodus and Otto Preminger’s film version of that mythic novel must remember that our students only know a much complex Israel, more Western, economically stable, and also mired in managing a 45 year occupation. Many students may ask why Israel should be important at all, or why they should learn about Israel when Israelis learn almost nothing about the contemporary diaspora. Many will argue that Israel does not embody the democratic values they learned were sacred in America.

I think the question “why Israel?” should be an operative one in Jewish education today. We may take that for granted but they may not. Their experience is very different than ours. Assuming Israel is or should be a central part of American Jewish identity formation is more indoctrination than education, at least along the lines Lehmann suggests. Can Jewish education in American today have room for Jewish non-Zionism or even anti-Zionism? If not, why not? I think the Israel curriculum in American Jewish education is in dire need of reformation. It rests on a foundation that is simply outdated and does not speak to the reality of Israel today. The question “How do we teach Israel as a centerpiece of Jewish identity?” should include, in my view, the question “Why teach Israel as a centerpiece of Jewish identity?” allowing for contesting viewpoints and arguments.

In sum, Lehmann’s essay is a forceful prolegomenon for thinking about Jewish education for the next generation. Replacing rote transmission and an obsession with continuity with creativity and experimentation should be encouraged. I think, though that this transition is more precarious than Lehmann thinks and could easily result in a radical break with the past as a consequence. As I mentioned above, this would not be unprecedented but does require the willingness to stake a claim against the mainstream that may place us very much on the margins. I, for one, am in favor of paying that price. In fact, I think it is necessary. I wonder how Lehmann would respond.

Shaul Magid, the Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Professor of Jewish Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, is the author most recently of American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in Postethnic America and the forthcoming Hasidism Incarnate: Hasidism, Christianity, and the Construction of Modern Judaism, and is also the rabbi of the Fire Island Synagogue in Sea View, New York. smagid@indiana.edu

Contribute your thoughts and add annotations such as comments, questions, explanations or photos to this and other essays about day school mission and vision!

Directions:

To comment, sign up for your own account on Genius.com and add your thoughts.

To read comments, click on a highlighted block of text. You can respond to individual annotations via the Genius website after you have created a free account.

*Genius.com is a public website that contains many different forms of literature and writing. RAVSAK is not responsible for the content that exists on the genius.com site.

 

Go To the Next Article

Complexity Leadership for Complex Day...

Pollin, the head of the day school in New Orleans, offers a model of how a complex, dynamic system that often......

Comments

I know there a few specialists and researchers that consider them to be two very particular procedures and some which challenge this view. Custom Essay Service with EssayDoer. it's not astonishing given that there appear to be more than sixty meanings of imagination and no concurred set of measures to think.

up
0 users have voted.

At redskins jerseys Pixar, the versace outlet online Braintrust under armour shoes is cc beanies the jerseys from china meeting free running of prada shoes the minds where a lunette ray ban draft of nike air force a nike air max film air max 2015 is knockoff handbags screened, problems browns jerseys are identified, bengals jerseys and lacoste shoes numerous air max schoenen solutions burberry sale are brainstormed. sacramento kings jersey The Braintrust nike shoes is patriots jerseys no long champ ordinary polo outlet store meeting plein shoes of nike air jordan colleagues. colts jerseys It is hogan outlet a mechanism veneta for www.tommyhilfiger.nl taking an idea, givenchy outlet a plan, a work in coach black friday progress and making new balance canada it texans jerseys better. rolex watches Instead armani outlet of timberland femme scrutinizing pandora bracelet the polo ralph lauren creator, cheap nba jerseys candid comments nba jerseys are directed air jordan at coach outlet store online the dsquared2 sale project north face under review. Conversation is governed beats headphones by an operating levis jeans assumption that azcardinals jerseys the smart people hollister kids in the juicy couture outlet room minnesota timberwolves jersey have a shared investment in enhancing nike free run the tommy hilfiger outlet quality longchamp outlet of the project. No fivefingers directives are given; ralph lauren polo the ralph lauren ideas coach purses outlet online on ralph lauren the table thomas sabo are polo ralph meant roshe run to stimulate jerseys from china the cheap oakley thinking replica watches of burberry sale the director nike store so portland trail blazers jersey that nike free 5.0 she can steer thomas sabo uk forward.

 

If I am the director montre homme of ralph lauren polos a barbour factory movie, or giuseppe zanotti sneakers a teacher asics gel who has reloj created polo ralph lauren outlet online a new ray bans outlet curriculum, or 49ers jerseys a bcbg max azria teacher leader who michael kors has introduced a giants jerseys new program tracksuits store into mcm backpack my jimmy choo outlet school, adidas.se it nike free 5.0 is timberland boots likely coach outlet that I nike roshe am christian louboutin shoes deeply omega watches invested nike air max shoes in my chicago bulls jersey project. My professional identity michael kors is wrapped up in coach factory the work. lakers jerseys Often, we tommy hilfiger dwell nike free 5.0 so far ralph lauren outlet online inside louboutin shoes our versace outlet online own adidas canada projects that we cannot ralph lauren outlet online see new balance outlet what needs to oakley vault change. To find the inspiration celine bags and direction bcbg max to pivot, we the north face need burberry outlet online our eagles jerseys brain trust san antonio spurs jerseys to omega watches participate dolphins jerseys with charlotte hornets jerseys candor and in buccaneers jerseys good faith. michael kors outlet We true religion jeans women need coach outlet online to birkenstock shoes be vans shoes able dre beats to trust that they tommy hilfiger online are chi hair smart and michael kors purses that they know cheap michael kors what longchamp handbags it feels reebok like nike air max thea to be in hollister kids the michael kors hot michael kors taschen seat. purses and handbags Feedback rayban must spring from empathy in order ray ban sunglasses outlet to timberland outlet be ralph lauren outlet constructive; otherwise it just deconstructs and air max leaves us toronto raptors jersey right back where pandora we chiefs jerseys started: cheap ray ban stuck. ralph lauren outlet A pandora canada good brain trust will longchamp produce alternative rams jerseys ideas that inspire action rather adidas than paralyze juicy couture handbags progress. nfl jerseys If the michael kors outlet online feedback jordan retro can stimulate air yeezy shoes new michael kors outlet online sale thinking ferragamo shoes and advance jordans my project, michael kors outlet online I can flourish.At golden state warriors jersey Pixar, the coach outlet online Braintrust adidas superstar is the converse shoes meeting michael kors bags of mont blanc the minds where a draft calvin klein underwear of a film is raiders jerseys screened, nike shoes problems are nike air max identified, nike roshe and numerous solutions soccer shoes are brainstormed. The Braintrust is ferragamo shoes no oakley sunglasses ordinary meeting panthers jerseys of replica watches colleagues. true religion outlet It is a michael kors v?skor mechanism michael kors canada for taking an houston rockets jerseys idea, denver nuggets jerseys a plan, a work in nike outlet progress and jaguars jerseys making it better. hogan Instead ray ban wayfarer of scrutinizing the creator, candid comments red bottoms are lions jerseys directed titans jerseys at reebok shoes outlet the polo ralph lauren outlet project woolrich outlet under swarovski jewelry review. baseball jerseys Conversation coach outlet canada is oakley sunglasses governed oakley by an operating supra footwear assumption indoor soccer shoes that kate spade outlet online the smart oklahoma city thunder jersey people oakley vault in the room michael kors canada have the north face a shared investment in burberry outlet online enhancing the baseball jerseys quality michael kors uk of dallas mavericks jerseys the project. prada No ray bans directives are mbt shoes outlet given; bottega veneta the ideas mizuno wave on michael kors outlet online sale the table are meant rayban to stimulate nike mercurial vapor the thinking ralph lauren outlet of the director so that she hollister online can steer forward.

 

If I am the polo ralph director new york knicks of jordan release dates 2015 a movie, steelers jerseys or a swarovski teacher mcm backpack outlet who has ray ban wayfarer created a wholesale clothing new cheap oakley sunglasses curriculum, or mcm backpack a teacher nike air max leader chi flat iron who stephen curry shoes has nike huarache introduced philipp plein outlet a oakley sunglasses outlet new north face outlet program ferragamo into ralph lauren my cheap basketball shoes school, it is burberry online shop likely that air max I am hollister clothing deeply invested in my nike schoenen project. My nike air max professional identity swarovski crystal is wrapped up in the north face outlet the valentino outlet work. louboutin shoes Often, we dwell michael kors bags so orlando magic jersey far atlanta hawks jerseys inside dsquared2 our christian louboutin shoes own projects converse sneakers that we cannot nike shoes see what ralph lauren factory store needs to change. To nike air max 90 find mcm bags the puma outlet inspiration and skechers direction memphis grizzlies jersey to air huarache pivot, we rolex watch need northface our brain trust cheap nfl jerseys to softball bats participate seahawks jerseys with tory burch outlet candor and swarovski jewelry in good faith. We nfl jerseys need to be able nike schuhe to trust that adidas superstar they are smart burberry outlet and that they know what it feels birkenstock outlet like oakley sunglasses outlet to tory burch be katespade in vikings jerseys the pandora charms hot seat. Feedback ray ban occhiali must spring coach store from empathy longchamp outlet in order to be constructive; coach outlet online otherwise hogan outlet it just chargers jerseys deconstructs nike roshe and hermes leaves us right back where we started: stuck. oakley frogskins A michael kors outlet online good brain trust will thomas sabo jewellery produce alternative ideas ralph lauren polos that inspire action rather burberry handbags than paralyze progress. If giuseppe shoes the red bottom shoes feedback can iphone 5s cases stimulate falcons jerseys new fitflop outlet thinking chrome hearts and michael kors outlet online advance my roshe run project, dansko outlet I can nike.dk flourish.At Pixar, the Braintrust watches canada is the coach outlet online meeting vans schuhe of ray ban sonnenbrillen the coach factory shop minds where saints jerseys a draft prada outlet of vans outlet a film nike.se is cleveland cavaliers screened, north face jackets problems air jordan shoes are identified, prada sunglasses and glasses online numerous solutions are coach outlet brainstormed. hermes bags The Braintrust swarovski online is nike shoes no cheap oakley ordinary air max meeting of colleagues. It tommy hilfiger outlet stores is a mechanism long champ for burberry taking los angeles clippers jersey an idea, a plan, michael kors a work true religion in gafas oakley progress new balance and making oakley it adidas online better. ray ban sunglasses Instead burberry outlet of scrutinizing michael kors the creator, philadelphia 76ers jerseys candid comments coach factory are nike air max directed at the hollister clothing store project phoenix suns jersey under baseball bats review. timberland shoes Conversation is swarovski australia governed by birkenstock deutschland an operating assumption hilfiger online shop that the salvatore ferragamo smart people in oakley sunglasses the bills jerseys room jerseys from china have michael kors outlet a shared glasses frames investment barbour jackets in enhancing skechers outlet the quality instyler ionic styler of abercrombie the project. No directives beats by dre are given; the ideas jerseys from china on the cowboys jerseys table detroit pistons are hugo boss shop meant to stimulate the thinking asics of supra footwear the director so ray ban zonnebril that broncos jerseys she north face backpacks can steer skechers forward.

 

If oakley I michael kors outlet online sale am the boots on sale director of burberry sale a movie, or a indiana pacers jersey teacher iphone case who has tommy hilfiger created a prada outlet new purses and handbags curriculum, or cheap michael kors a teacher coach outlet online leader rolex watches for sale who has introduced fossil uhren a new program barbour outlet into soccer shoes outlet my new balance school, pandora schmuck it is rolex likely louboutin that huarache I am katespade deeply invested in my project. nike outlet My coach factory outlet professional identity marc by marc jacobs is converse outlet wrapped marc by marc jacobs up in the work. new balance Often, ray ban outlet we ed hardy clothing dwell so oakley sungalsses outlet far inside ralph lauren outlet our nike shop own projects barbour jackets outlet that jets jerseys we christian louboutin shoes cannot see what air max needs bears jerseys to utah jazz jersey change. To find converse chucks the packers jerseys inspiration and michael kors outlet direction stone island polos to pivot, ferragamo shoes uk we need boston celtics jersey our brain new orleans pelicans jersey trust hollisterco to nike tn participate with pandora candor fred perry polos and in oakley canada good faith. mcm handbags We roshe run need coach factory outlet to be zapatillas nike able to hoodies trust that ralph lauren outlet they are smart ravens jerseys and that michael kors they adidas superstar know what ray ban it handbags outlet feels ray-ban sunglasses like michael jordan to adidas online be oakley outlet in burberry outlet the hot baseball jerseys seat. Feedback burberry outlet must ecco outlet spring from air jordan retro empathy in true religion jeans order to be fendi handbags constructive; otherwise it just deconstructs and fred perry outlet leaves barbour outlet us burberry outlet store right salomon schuhe back where we lunette ray ban started: ralph lauren stuck. A puma online good brain jimmy choo shoes trust will washington wizards jersey produce milwaukee bucks jersey alternative ideas longchamp taschen that ray bans inspire beats by dr dre action rather fidget spinner outlet than cheap true religion paralyze progress. the north face If true religion jeans outlet the coach outlet online feedback can stimulate new thinking burberry outlet online and north face advance my heat jerseys project, hermes belt I oakley sunglasses cheap can babyliss pro flourish.

brooklyn nets jerseys

up
0 users have voted.

I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people. Garage door repair Lubbock

up
0 users have voted.

I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks alot! Pomegranates

up
0 users have voted.

Mission & Vision

The key to a school's success is the articulation of a strong mission and vision statement and an administration and board that stick to these ideals. Mission and vision differentiate a school from its peers and proclaims the unique value proposition that the school offers. Reconsider the purpose and mission of Jewish day school education from a variety of perspectives. Then, gain advice for composing a mission statement and discover the range of uses that such a statement can serve.

Click here to download the PDF and printer friendly version of this issue of HaYidion