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Commandments and Concerns

Jewish Religious Education in Secular Society

Authored by Michael Rosenak

Publication Year: 1987

In this cutting-edge study, Michael Rosenack provides a new understanding of the challenges inherent in teaching Judaism today. His ground-breaking theories are based on close examination of religious experience in individual's lives, consulting sources from all Jewish denominations, from Israel and the Diaspora, and from the non-Jewish world. Rosenak uses his research and a wealth of academic theories to formulate and present proposals for an honest, new approach to teaching religion in our contemporary, secular world.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

There are some people who deserve explanation about this book, and others who deserve thanks. To those who expected a completely detached treatment of Jewish religious education, I must explain that I find it hard to be detached. But I have tried to be fair and honest. To readers who expected solutions to all problems of religious education and recipes for "making them more religious," I must apologize...

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pp. 3-11

This book deals with the problem of religion in contemporary Jewish education. It grew out of my thinking and teaching about Jewish education, which made me realize that religion is always on the agenda of Jewish education, that for many it is the agenda, and that is seen as a problem. "Religion" and "religious education" are nebulous and controversial terms in this secular and ...

Part One: Religion and Philosophy of Education

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1. Jewish Religious Education: Two Philosophical Schools

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pp. 15-26

Our century, like other eras of great crisis, has been blessed with an abundance of educational schools of thought. Both the crisis and the schools are rooted in the philosophical and social movements toward modernity of the preceding centuries. These movements reshuffled religious beliefs and at times discarded or rejected them as they sought to interpret and direct the economic, political. ...

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2. Aspects of Normative Religious Education

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pp. 27-4758

There are three questions, according to Frankena, that concern every normative educational thinker. 1 (1) Which "dispositions" are to be considered good? (2) Why are these attributes or dispositions considered to be good and worthy of cultivation, and which criteria and principles led to the choice of these rather than others? (3) How and by what means or processes can these chosen ...

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3. Secular Diagnoses of Educational Crisis

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pp. 48-63

In viewing the situation of religious education through the prism of the deliberative-inductive orientation, we must keep a crucial fact in mind: Problematic situations, those obvious indications of malfunctioning that initiate deliberation (with a view to locating the problem; that is, diagnosing "the disease" itself), are problematic only to those who find a given situation uncomfortable. ...

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4. Religious Responses to Secular Solutions

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pp. 64-82

In the previous chapter, we surveyed what may be called secular or untraditional hypotheses about the problem of Judaism and Jewish education in the contemporary world. The search for this problem and the subsequently proposed solutions arose from a state of unease experienced as a crisis. This crisis, evidenced by symptoms of "disease" of malfunctioning indicated that ...

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5. The Scholar, the Believer, and the Educator

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pp. 83-107

Our previous discussion on the secular climate of the modem world and the status of religious thought, life, and education in modem soeiety was not de signed to refute secular views or to demonstrate the truth of religion. If theoretical examinations of religion (psychological, sociological, historical, or even philosophical) cannot prove the veracity of religious beliefs, polemics are ...

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6. Explicit and Implicit Religious Life and Teaching

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pp. 108-126

There are, says Fowler, 1 "master stories" that "we tell ourselves and by which we interpret and respond to the events which impinge on our lives. Our master stories are the characterizations of the patterns of power-in-action that disclose the ultimate meanings of our lives. " Master stories are basic faith understandings of reality and value by which we work. For example, one per ...

Part Two: Theology of Jewish Education

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7. Norms Despite Modernity: Explicit Educational Theology

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pp. 129-150

At the time this chapter was being written, a group of curriculum writers at the Hebrew University's Melton Centre for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, including this author, met frequently to discuss ways of teaching the oral tradition in the Jewish school. Diverse approaches were presented to the group and were analyzed and evaluated by the participants, who represented differing ...

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8. Encounter and Deliberation: Implicit Educational Theology

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pp. 151-169

Explicit religious educators have a nonnative philosophy of religious education (although, in the contemporary world, this philosophy is admittedly not simple to apply, and it will not speak to the non-committed). Nevertheless, explicit religious educators know what Judaism is and what it demands; if they find it impossible to convey the experience and the substance of real Judaism ...

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9. Standards and Spontaneity: A Theology of Jewish Education

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pp. 170-188

In our discussion of the individual's relationship to ultimacy and to the "dimensions of religious commitment" that delineate fellowship we set the stage for our description of religious traditions as both "explicit" and "implicit." Religions, we noted, speak to a variety of human beings in different and changing situations and invite all of them to membership in community and to the ...

Part Three: A Theory of Religious Jewish Education

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10. From Theology to Theory of Religious Education

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pp. 191-206

In the first part of this study, we dwelt upon the problems besetting religious Jewish education in our era and described how normative-religious conceptions that had shaped the consciousness and culture of pre-modern generations had been undermined by secular philosophies and socio-political transformations. We surveyed the controversies concerning religious understandings of ...

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11. Educating the Loyal Jew: Theory of Explicit Teaching

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pp. 207-227

The non-normative aspects of educational theory, as we have seen, are concerned with the possibilities and limits of change within the human being as a result of purposeful action on the part of educational agents, on the one hand, and the interaction between the person and his or her environment on the other. These aspects of educational theory are based on the assumption that persons ...

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12. Cultivating the Authentic Jewish Individual: Theory of Implicit Teaching

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pp. 228-249

Implicit religious orientations cast a spotlight on the relationship of the individual to his or her "ultimate concerns" and posit that the vision of ultimacy of which a person is capable is a function of personal development. In order to guide the young person toward faith, therefore. the educator must be able to grasp such concepts as "readiness." "development," and others that denote the individuation that (according to the implicit religionist) characterize the mature, "integrated" religious personality. The young person must become...

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13. The Elements of Religious Jewish Education

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pp. 250-269

Our discussion of religious educational theory has taken us through various domains. We have dealt with the classic "normative" features of education, which have perennially served to inform civilizations. societies, and individuals about what "being truly educated" means. We saw how deliberation, always needed to correct distortions in the application of nonnative philosophy of education, became a replacement for such a normative framework as a result of cultural and religious crisis...

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pp. 270-273

Let us return briefly to the several religious and non-religious Jewish publics with whom we began. Does theoretical discussion characterizing the philosophy of religious Jewish education help them? Does it clarify areas of agreement and of controversy? Does it aid in establishing criteria for success and suggest ways of dealing with partial failures? Does it illuminate various ...


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pp. 274-302

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pp. 303-304

The author wishes to thank the following individuals and publishers for their kind permission to quote from the sources listed: The estate of Martin Buber, for quotations from Martin Buber, Eclipse of God (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1952)...


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pp. 305-309

E-ISBN-13: 9780827611085
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827602793

Publication Year: 1987