Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy in Jewish Studies


About the Bridging Initiative

The Initiative on Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy in Jewish Studies was launched in 2003-2004 with a faculty research seminar on Teaching Bible, with the participation of 10 scholars and educators, who engaged in bi-weekly discussions of the purposes and practices of teaching Bible at all levels and settings. In addition, each participant developed a research project with the support of the seminar.

The initiative continued in 2004-2005 with the development of these research projects, and the presentation of many of them at our first public conference in January 2005. View a video about the conference and the Initiative.

As part of the Initiative, a plenary session was developed for the annual conference of the Network for Research in Jewish Education in June 2005. Presenters at this session, entitled "A Missing Paradigm? Strengthening Research on the Pedagogy of Jewish Studies," included Jon A. Levisohn, director of the Bridging Initiative; Susie Tanchel, Gann Academy; Alex Sinclair, JTS; Marc Brettler, Brandeis; and Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Brandeis. View video from this plenary session.

Read "A Plea for Purposes," by Jon A. Levisohn (in Jewish Educational Leadership 4:1, 2005), which expresses some of the intellectual background to the Bridging Initiative. For more background, read Levisohn's "What is Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy?," [PDF] the first in the Bridging Initiative's series of working papers.

For 2006-2007, the Bridging Initiative expanded its focus from Bible to rabbinic literature.  Once again, a group of scholars and educators met bi-weekly throughout the year to discussion the teaching of rabbinic literature and to develop individual research projects on various aspects of the topic.

The next step of the Bridging Initiative was a major conference on Teaching Rabbinic Literature, held January 27-28, 2008.

Following each of the two conferences, the project worked with presenters to develop their presentations into working papers, available for download from this website.  To date, 9 of the working papers have subsequently been published in peer-reviewed journals:

Following publication in the Journal of Jewish Education, Working Paper #14 ("A Menu of Orientations to the Teaching of Rabbinic Literature") also served as the focus of a symposium in the subsequent issue of the Journal of Jewish Education (76:2), with contributions from a number of scholars and educators.  Levisohn then followed up with a response to the symposium (in issue 76:3) entitled "Do We Know an Orientation When We See It?"  

The project also sought to further the development of the field in other ways, for example, by sponsoring roundtables on aspects of the teaching of Talmud at the annual conference of the Association of Jewish Studies in December, 2010 and December, 2012.

Finally, the project developed an edited volume of papers on both Bible and rabbinic literature, titled Turn It and Turn It Again: Studies in the Teaching and Learning of Classical Jewish TextsJon A. Levisohn and Susan P. Fendrick, eds., (2013, Academic Studies Press).