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Beyond Jewish Identity (eBook)

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  • 290 Pages

There is something deeply problematic aboutthe ways that Jews, particularly in America, talk about “Jewish identity” as adesired outcome of Jewish education. For many, the idea that the purpose ofJewish education is to strengthen Jewish identity is so obvious that it hardlyseems worth disputing—and the only important question is which kinds of Jewisheducation do that work more effectively or more efficiently. But what does itmean to “strengthen Jewish identity”? Why do Jewish educators, policy-makersand philanthropists talk that way? What do they assume, about Jewish educationor about Jewish identity, when they use formulations like “strengthen Jewishidentity”? And what are the costs of doing so?

This volume, the first collection toexamine critically the relationship between Jewish education and Jewishidentity, makes two important interventions. First, it offers a criticalassessment of the relationship between education and identity, arguing that thereification of identity has hampered much educational creativity in the pursuitof this goal, and that the nearly ubiquitous employment of the term obscuressignificant questions about what Jewish education is and ought to be. Second,this volume offers thoughtful responses that are not merely synonymousreplacements for “identity,” suggesting new possibilities for how to thinkabout the purposes and desired outcomes of Jewish education, potentially contributingto any number of new conversations about the relationship between Jewish educationand Jewish life.


There is something deeply problematic aboutthe ways that Jews, particularly in America, talk about “Jewish identity” as adesired outcome of Jewish education. For many, the idea that the purpose ofJewish education is to strengthen Jewish identity is so obvious that it hardlyseems worth disputing—and the only important question is which kinds of Jewisheducation do that work more effectively or more efficiently. But what does itmean to “strengthen Jewish identity”? Why do Jewish educators, policy-makersand philanthropists talk that way? What do they assume, about Jewish educationor about Jewish identity, when they use formulations like “strengthen Jewishidentity”? And what are the costs of doing so?

This volume, the first collection toexamine critically the relationship between Jewish education and Jewishidentity, makes two important interventions. First, it offers a criticalassessment of the relationship between education and identity, arguing that thereification of identity has hampered much educational creativity in the pursuitof this goal, and that the nearly ubiquitous employment of the term obscuressignificant questions about what Jewish education is and ought to be. Second,this volume offers thoughtful responses that are not merely synonymousreplacements for “identity,” suggesting new possibilities for how to thinkabout the purposes and desired outcomes of Jewish education, potentially contributingto any number of new conversations about the relationship between Jewish educationand Jewish life.



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by jon a. levisohn, Ari Y. Kelman

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