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66 SHOFAR Summer 1999 Vol. 17, No.4 Focus on Teaching Teaching Jewish Studies: Four Reflections Peter 1. Haas Vanderbilt University The following four essays came out of presentations made to the tenth annual conference ofthe Midwest Jewish Studies Association held in Chicago in October 1998. Sessions dealing with pedagogy have in fact been a standard part of MJSA conferences from the very beginning. This is the result of a concrete decision made at the founding of the organization. It was determined at that time that one of the foundational principles of the MJSA would be a commitment to devote time and resources, at its conventions and in its publications, to pedagogy. The rationale was simple. While every one of the other professional organizations to which our members belonged dealt with reports ofresearch and with academic developments in their respective fields, virtually none addressed issues of teaching. Yet the membership of the MJSA was, and is, made up of people who are affiliated with institutions that value good and innovative teaching. The MJSA was founded in part out of a sense of frustration that neither in graduate school nor in our places of work nor in our professional meetings is there a chance to reflect on what happens in the classroom. The decision to include pedagogy as a regular part of our program was designed to insure that teaching would always be one of the foci of attention. The essays included here come from two different sessions. Three of the pieces, as it happens, deal with the whys and hows of teaching the Holocaust. What brings these pieces together is the introspection of the authors, the ability of each one to articulate the tensions, frustrations, and successes of teaching this difficult topic in a particular way. The fourth essay finds its place here because it also considers the interaction of resources and student responses. It has to do with the development and use of new computer technology, in particular, a website designed to help undergraduate students understand the complexities, promises, and limitations of Ancient Near Eastern archaeology as applied to the Bible. Like the other essays, it not only explores a particular resource, but invites reflection on what worked for the students and why. These four presentations are also chosen for presentation here because each, in its own way, deals with new or innovative teaching materials: oral survivor accounts, Vatican documents, the internet. These pieces are meant to provoke the reader into thinking beyond the normal syllabus and textbook to other resources and techniques. Teaching Jewish Studies: Four Reflections 67 I think there will be little disagreement that Jewish Studies is one of the most dynamic fields in research and teaching in the Humanities today. New programs are still being created, and as anyone who has tried to keep up knows, the level of publishing, both in quantity and in quality, is prodigious. A Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in the 1960's would be astonished at the breadth and depth of Jewish Studies that has developed over the last thirty years. Where we still lag, however-and this is no less true for our colleagues in other fields-is in developing a mode of instruction that both meets the expectations of our new generation of students and is worthy of our subject matter. It is our hope that the work of scholars such as those represented here will provide us with the inspiration and ideas to lead the way in the area of pedagogy as well. For as the Talmud reminds us, "One who learns but does not teach is like a myrtle in the desert" (Rosh Hashana 23a). ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 66-67
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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