Jon A. Levisohn
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Educational Thought
Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University
Raised in Boston, Jon Levisohn studied classical Jewish texts at Yeshivat Sha’alvim in Israel for two years before earning his AB in Philosophy at Harvard College. He then spent a year studying Jewish thought and Jewish education at the Hebrew University, as well as studying Talmud at the Shalom Hartman Institute.
Returning to the U.S., he taught Jewish studies at a Jewish day school for three years, and then earned MA degrees in Philosophy and Religious Studies and a PhD in Philosophy of Education at Stanford University, where he was a Presidential Fellow and a Wexner Graduate Fellow.
Since his arrival at Brandeis in 2002, he has written on the teaching and learning of classical Jewish texts, the teaching and learning of history, the idea of vision in Jewish education, Jewish service learning, conceptions of transformation in Jewish education, Israel education, the idea of “Jewish identity,” and more. (See his faculty page for publications.)
In 2014, incoming director Jon A. Levisohn crafted a vision for the future of Jewish education to guide the projects and program of MCSJE.
At MCSJE, he has led projects such as the “Initiative on Bridging Scholarship and Pedagogy in Jewish Studies,” the “Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies” project, “Pedagogy Lishma: Using Studies of Teaching to Promote Learning,” the “Learning Agenda Project,” and “Conceptualizing the Outcomes of Religious Education.” He is co-editor of the Mandel-Brandeis Series in Jewish Education at the Brandeis University Press. He has also chaired or co-chaired eight conferences, including “Rethinking Jewish Identity and Jewish Education” (2014) and “Inside Jewish Day Schools” (2018). Most recently, he has been focusing on the concept of “Jewish literacy” as a desired outcome in Jewish education.
At Brandeis, he teaches the following courses:
- A Philosophical Introduction to Judaism (NEJS 156b), which explores a set of issues that are central to Jewish thought and practice;
- Studying Sacred Texts (NEJS 170a), which incorporates modern European intellectual history, comparative religion, and hermeneutics;
- Tikkun Olam/Repairing the World: Service and Social Justice in Theory and Practice (NEJS 171b), which explores the challenges of trying to make a positive difference in the world;
- Philosophy of Jewish Education (NEJS 235b), which examines the animating ideas behind diverse Jewish educational visions.
He currently serves as chair of the NEJS Department. In addition to his appointment within NEJS, he is affiliated with the Education Program, the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership, and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. He also chairs the Brandeis Seminar on Contemporary Jewish Life.
Levisohn is a member of the Network for Research in Jewish Education, the Philosophy of Education Society, and the Association for Jewish Studies. He has held fellowships at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Repair the World, the Jacobson Family Foundation, and the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at Penn. As a fellow of the Applied Research Collective for American Jewry (ARC) at NYU in 2018-19 and 2019-20, he produced two papers, A New Paradigm of Jewish Literacy and Producers Not Possessors: A Direction for Jewish Education in Turbulent Times, both available on the ARC website. He consults to and teaches for Jewish educational institutions, drawing on his academic expertise and twenty five years of experience as a Jewish educator. He currently serves in leadership roles at NRJE, Encounter, OneTable, Congregation Shaarei Tefilah and Minyan Yedid Nefesh.