Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies

Jon Levisohn with Noam PiankoJon Levisohn of the Mandel Center with Noam Pianko of the University of Washington.

For all its astonishing success in recent years, academic Jewish studies has done little to explore how it can most fully engage the lives and minds of its students and of the larger communities of which it is a part.

The Project on Pedagogies of Engagement in Jewish Studies recruited a group of Jewish studies professors to confront directly the issues facing the discipline and to build together new pedagogic models that respond to the challenges and opportunities of student engagement. The phrase “pedagogies of engagement” signals:

  • new ways of teaching that show promise of engaging students more fully;

  • a closer attention to and focus on students’ experience and students’ learning in academic courses, whether they employ new or more traditional ways of teaching;

  • a concern for civic and communal engagement on the part of our students, as a desirable outcome of our teaching;

  • a bolder view about the role of Jewish studies in the community, including engagement of community members beyond the particular students who show up in our classes. 

Project Goals

The project had three goals:

  1. To cultivate a small network of professors of Jewish studies connected by shared pedagogic and communal commitments and purposes;

  2. To nurture, within that network, discussion and experimentation to foster more deeply meaningful teaching and intellectual practices;

  3. To generate documentation of our shared learning (studies of practice, conference presentations, blog posts) that is available to others and on which others can build.

Over the course of the 2013–14 year, participants presented on and discussed the various facets of “pedagogies of engagement.” Each participant contributed to the documentation of the group's learning through the development of an intellectual product. 

The project was led by Lila Corwin Berman (Temple), Jon A. Levisohn (Mandel Center), and Noam Pianko (UW).