Conference on Teaching Rabbinic Literature

Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy

January 27-28, 2008


January 27, 2008 – morning
January 27, 2008 – afternoon/evening
January 28, 2008 – morning
January 28, 2008 – afternoon

Videos are listed with viewing times.

All handouts are in PDF format.

You are welcome to use any handout on this website for educational purposes (for example, in professional development settings). Please drop us a note about how you used them.

January 27, 2008 – morning

Plenary 1: Opening Session [video 26:48]
Concurrent Sessions A

Session A1: Teaching Halakha
Chair: Daniel Reifman (Midreshet Lindenbaum)

Session A2: Teaching Mishnah
Chair: Jeffrey Spitzer (Gann Academy)

Session A3: Teaching Rabbis
Chair: Scott Bolton (Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School)

  • Yehuda Kurtzer (Harvard University), “Rabbinic Judaism for Rabbinic Jews: Teaching Ancient Jewish History to Rabbinical Students” [abstract] [video 27:25]  
  • Aryeh Cohen (American Jewish University, LA), “Some Things Rabbis Should Know about Mishnah and Tosefta, and How They Might Learn Them: A Report from the Field” [abstract] [PowerPoint] [video 21:23]   
  • Respondent: Susan P. Fendrick (Brandeis University) [video 9:45]
  • Q&A [video 32:37]

Session A4: Teaching in a Beit Midrash
Chair: Jane Kanarek (Hebrew College Rabbinical School)

Concurrent Sessions B

Session B1
Chair: Marjorie Lehman (Jewish Theological Seminary)

Session B2
Chair: Claudia Marbach (JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School)

Session B3
Chair: Deena Sigel (University of London)

Session B4
Chair: Helen Plotkin (Swarthmore College)

Session B5
Chair: Shai Cherry (American Jewish University)


January 27, 2008 – afternoon/evening

Plenary 2
Concurrent Sessions C

Session C1: The Contextual Orientation
Chair: Dvora Weisberg (HUC-JIR, Los Angeles)

Session C2: The Literary Orientation
Chair: Elliot Kaplowitz (Brandeis University Hillel)

  • Avraham Walfish (Herzog College, Alon Shvut, Israel), “A Literary Orientation to Teaching Rabbinic Literature: An Inquiry into Its Use with Orthodox Students” [abstract] [handout] [video 24:16]   
  • Respondent: Reuven Cohn (Maimonides School) [video 10:58]
  • Q&A [video 25:18]

Session C3: The Torah/Instruction Orientation
Chair: Elyse Winick (Koach, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism)

Session C4: The Cultural Studies Orientation
Chair: Mara Benjamin (Yale University)

  • Gidon Rothstein (HAFTR), “Helping Students Get Their Feet in the Door: Geertz' 'Thick Description' and the Use of Academic Scholarship in the Teaching of Rabbinic Texts” [abstract] [video 19:20]  
  • Respondent: Beth Berkowitz (Jewish Theological Seminary) [video 10:50]
  • Q&A [video 35:04]

Session C5: The Halakhic/Legal Orientation
Chair: Barry Wimpfheimer (Northwestern University)

Concurrent Sessions D

Session D1: Teaching Talmud
Chair: Lisa Schlaff (SAR High School)

  • Michael Chernick (HUC-JIR, New York), “Brisk, Jacob Neusner, and the Stam: Significant Methodologies for Meaningful Talmud Teaching and Study” [abstract] [handout] [video 23:38]   
  • Aryeh Klapper (Gann Academy), “How Should Ethically Challenging Texts Be Taught? Reflections on Student Reactions to Academic and Yeshiva-style Presentations” [abstract] [handout] [video 20:04]   
  • Respondent: Lawrence Kaplan (McGill University) [video 11:24]
  • Q&A [video 27:11]

Session D2: Preparing Compelling Learning Sessions
Chair: George Nudell (Congregation Beth Israel)

  • Carl Perkins (Temple Aliyah), “The Pedagogy of Serendipity: Presenting the Weekly Parasha through the Eyes of Rabbinic Texts” [abstract] [video 23:42]  
  • Elyse Winick (Koach, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism), “Mediating the Text and Fostering Organic Discussion: The Challenge of Creating Rabbinic-Text Study Guides” [abstract] [video 25:45]  
  • Respondent: Elyse Goldstein (Kolel: the Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning) [video 12:43]
  • Q&A [video 25:20]

Session D3: Studying Teachers of Rabbinic Literature
Chair: Benjamin Mann (Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan)

Session D4: Teaching Adults
Chair: Elana Stein (Columbia University)

  • Marcie Lenk (Harvard University), “Learning from Adult Learners: What Students Can Teach Us about How to Teach Rabbinics” [abstract] [video 21:21]  
  • Jeffrey Rubenstein (New York University), “How Scholarship Can Contribute to Pedagogy: The Example of the Shifting Scholarly Paradigms in the Study of Rabbinic Narratives” [abstract] [video 19:52]  
  • Respondent: Judith Kates (Hebrew College Rabbinical School) [video 14:00]
  • Q&A [video 31:36]

Session D5: Teaching Midrash
Chair: Chaim Galfand (Perelman Jewish Day School)

Plenary 3: How Goals Affect Pedagogy in Teaching Rabbinic Literature

Moderator: Susan P. Fendrick (Brandeis University)


January 28, 2008 – morning

Plenary 4: The Uses and Abuses of Academic Scholarship on Rabbinic Literature

Moderator: Gail Zaiman Dorph (Mandel Foundation)

Concurrent Sessions E

Session E1
Chair: Jethro Berkman (Temple Aliyah)

  • Jeffrey Spitzer (Gann Academy), “Developing Student Awareness of the Talmud as an Edited Document: A Pedagogy for the Pluralistic School” [abstract] [video 23:26]  
  • Respondent: Lisa Schlaff (SAR High School) [video 10:49]
  • Response by Jeffrey Spitzer [video 3:29]
  • Q&A [video 20:03]

Session E2
Chair: Joshua Moss (American Hebrew Academy)

Session E3
Chair: Avraham Walfish (Herzog College)

Session E4
Chair: Shawn Fields-Meyer (Milken Community High School)

Session E5
Chair: Neal Scheindlin (Milken Community High School)

  • Dov Lerea (Abraham Joshua Heschel School), “The Pedagogic Conversation: How Student, Text, and Teacher Interact to Shape Student Understanding of the Mishnah” [abstract] [video 28:43]  
  • Respondent: Shawn SimonHazani (Perelman Jewish Day School, Philadelphia) [video 14:10]
  • Q&A [video 19:52]

Session E6
Chair: Robin Nafshi (Rimon: Collaborative Jewish Learning in MetroWest)


January 28, 2008 – afternoon

Concurrent Sessions F

Session F1: Teaching Rabbinic Literature in Jewish Day Schools: A Roundtable
Moderator: Susan M. Kardos (Combined Jewish Philanthropies)

Session F2: Teaching Rabbinic Literature in Rabbinical Schools
Chair: Ethan Linden (Camp Ramah of New England)

  • Sarra Lev (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College), “Teaching Rabbinics as an Ethical Endeavour and Teaching Ethics as a Rabbinic Endeavour” [abstract] [video 20:00]  
  • Jonah Chanan Steinberg (Hebrew College Rabbinical School), “Talmud Study as a Spiritual Endeavor in Rabbinical Training: Delights and Dangers” [abstract] [video 20:57]  
  • Respondent: Marjorie Lehman (Jewish Theological Seminary) [video 8:04]
  • Q&A [video 27:55]

Session F3: Teaching Rabbinic Literature at the Margins: A Roundtable
Moderator: Evyatar Marienberg (Jewish Theological Seminary)

Session F4: Pursuing Relevance in the Teaching of Rabbinic Literature
Chair: Joel A. Alter (JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School)

Concurrent Sessions G

Session G1
Chair: Ethan Tucker (Mechon Hadar)

Session G2
Chair: Michael Satlow (Brown University)

Session G3
Chair: Solomon Schimmel (Hebrew College)

Session G4
Chair: Alieza Salzberg (Matan / Bar Ilan University)

  • David Starr (Hebrew College), “Making the Strange Familiar, the Familiar Strange: Teaching Rabbinics to Adults in Me’ah” [abstract] [video 24:03]  
  • Respondent: Michael Balinsky (Florence Melton Adult Mini-School) [video 8:30]
  • Response by David Starr and Q&A [video 1:53]

Session G5
Chair: Michael Gillis (Hebrew University)

Plenary 5: Conference Conclusion