Students' Understanding of Rabbinics

What have alumni of Jewish day schools learned, in the field of rabbinics? What do they understand about Talmud or other rabbinic literature? How do they conceptualize the subject, how do they think about its significance, and how do they feel about their learning?

While the study of rabbinic literature is a central component of the Jewish day school curriculum in both liberal and Orthodox schools, we knew almost nothing about what students have learned, what they understand, or how they think. Educators and researchers therefore lack the empirical basis to articulate sound educational goals for this subject. 

In an initial, exploratory phase of this project, we examined students' understanding of rabbinics by gathering interview data from new day school alumni, with input from scholars, teachers and other subject matter experts. A report on the findings from Phase I is now available. Phase II is now extending the exploration, gathering new data to enrich our understanding.

The research project was a partnership between the Mandel Center and The Davidson School at Jewish Theological Seminary. In addition to developing a knowledge base for the field of rabbinics education in general, the project was designed to support the ongoing development of standard and benchmarks in rabbinics, as part of the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project. Well-informed, clearly-articulated goals will drive better work in the classroom, more meaningful assessment and more relevant professional development for educators.

Project leader: Arielle Levites

Research assistant: Joshua Ladon

This project was supported in part by CASJE, in partnership with the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education.