Contemporary Conceptions of Jewish Education: A Philosophical Analysis

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What does it mean to acquire a Jewish education today? I respond in this chapter by offering a philosophical analysis of contemporary conceptions of Jewish education. These can be organized according to how they conceive the two historical pillars of Jewish consciousness, one religious, the other political, and in relation to their responses to two revolutions of modern Jewish life, Enlightenment and Emancipation. While anti-modern conceptions of Jewish education reject the terms of Enlightenment and Emancipation and seek to preserve the traditional link between religion and politics, modern conceptions tend to prefer the conditions of either Enlightenment or Emancipation, but not both, and so focus their interpretations of Jewish education on either a liberalized conception of Judaism as a religion or political sovereignty of the Jewish people in its own land. Postmodern critiques of Jewish education, on the other hand, view these distinctions as false dichotomies, and offer renewed conceptions of Jewish initiation grounded in left-leaning concerns for elimination of oppression and equalization of power relations. Each orientation takes a different view of the classical categories of the Jewish curriculum established in late antiquity, Bible, rabbinics, observance, and higher Jewish learning. Yet, each also engages learners with some aspect of Jewish life in dialogue with some dimension of modern life by means of a logic or hermeneutic intended to facilitate attachment to one or another account of what it might mean to be Jewish today. This is a classic case of what I have called “pedagogy of difference,” which holds that to know oneself requires engaging others who are different, but to genuinely engage others one must also know oneself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Handbook of Philosophy of Education
EditorsPaul Smeyers
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-72761-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-72759-2
StatePublished - 2018


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