General Reading - Education

Purity and Holiness


Purity has long been recognized as one of the essential drives which determines humankind's relationship with the holy. Codes of purity and impurity, dealing with such far-ranging topics as 'external stains' and 'inner remorse', represent the physical and 'bodily' side of religious experience and provide the key to the understanding of human orientation to nature, and the structure of society, including even relationships between the sexes. A feminist perspective is also provided, examining the intertwined relationship between religion, gender and power.

Wisdom from All My Teachers: Challenges and Initiatives in Contemporary Torah Education


The twenty essays in this volume are both descriptive and prescriptive. The authors represent a remarkable cross-section of contemporary Torah educators; both men and women, teachers with but a few years of experience, side by side with the leading figures in Torah education, both in Israel and throughout the Diaspora. In Wisdom From All My Teachers, innovative Jewish educators explore the nature of Torah study and its relationship to the love and awe of God, personal moral development; the role of worldly wisdom in Torah education; the cultivation of the student's soul; the challenges of teaching students or adults who do not fit into the mold of the traditional curriculum; deliberations on the teaching of Talmud and Bible to this generation; the use of philosophy and aggadah in the yeshivah curriculum, and the place of the Israel experience in shaping the religious personality. Wisdom From All My Teachers combines erudition with deep concern for the challenges facing the field of Jewish education in the contemporary world. 

Jewish Women as Learning Different

Jewish Educational Leadership

Channa Tanenbaum surveys the literature on learning differences between men and women, and offers specific implications for the education of Jewish women. She states that "female students in Orthodox day schools are learning different not only because they are girls, but because they are Jewish girls." Paradoxically, many women who delve deeply into traditional Jewish texts are often considered less serious about their Judaism. The article ends with many questions for further research.   An accompanying article by Chana Tannenbaum, "A Vision for Leadership," is also linked to from this page. 

The Women who Reconstructed American Jewish Education 1910-1965

Brandeis University Press

A collection of essays, edited by Carol Ingall, on the women who “planted the seeds of social reform and progressivism in the soil and soul of American Jewish education” in the twentieth century (p. 1).  While much has been written about the men who transformed Jewish religious education in the United States, very little scholarly analysis has previously been devoted to women. These essay profile ten women, who either influenced or were influenced by Samson Benderly and Mordecai Kaplan, and were instrumental in introducing American Jews to Hebraism and Zionism.  The profiles include hitherto unheralded figures such as Jessie Sampter (Hadassah School of Zionism), Anna Sheman (adult Jewish educator),  Sadie Rose Weilerstein (author of K’tonton), and Sylvia Ettenberg (founder of Camp Ramah and the Melton Research Center, lecturer at JTS).   (See “The Jewish Women’s Archive”

Families, Rabbis and Education: Traditional Jewish Society in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe


This book by Professor Shaul Stampfer (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) analyses the social history of ordinary men and especially women in the Jewish community in 19th century Eastern Europe – how they raised their children, the way they studied, how they married, and all the subsequent stages of the life cycle--including the problems of divorce, remarriage, and elderly parents. Stamfer, as a social historian, utilizes diverse source materials such as traditional rabbinic response literature, as wells as Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian texts and newspapers. 

Book Review of Families, Rabbis and Education: Traditional Jewish Society in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe


In this review of Stampfer’s Families, Rabbis and Education: Traditional Jewish Society in Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe, Marc B. Shapiro (University of Scranton), reveals some fascinating details about life in 19th Century Eastern Europe.  Contrary to stereotypes, women were highly active in the public sphere and often acted as the economic mainstays of the family, there were coed heders for children, and one in every three marriages may have ended in divorce.  While the reviewer points out a few factual mistakes, he nevertheless lauds the author for his thorough scholarship.

Book Review of The Women who Reconstructed American Jewish Education 1910-1965


According to the Melissa Klapper (Rowan University), a Modern Orthodox American Jewish historian who has written groundbreaking work on the lives of girls and women, this book performs a valuable service in recalling to life the central role women played in the development of American Jewish education (formal and informal).  The book claims that these women were ‘insiders’ within the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements.  However, it overlooks the role women played in the Orthodox movement (as in the Bais Yaakov schools that burgeoned across America after WWII).  It also fails to engage in gender analysis, ignoring the discrepancy between religious education for boys and girls, and the role women may have played in bridging that gap.  Given this is the first in a series, the reviewer suggests that the question of the changes in Jewish education within Orthodoxy may be addressed in a subsequent volume.

Spirituality, Textual Study and Gender at Nishmat: A Spirited Chavruta

Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal

Deidre Butler, professor of Jewish Studies at Carleton University in Canada, conducted ethnographic research, including interviews and surveys of Jewish women participating in the 2007 summer program at “Nishmat: The Jerusalem Center for Advanced Jewish Study for Women.” She explores the concepts of religion, spirituality and feminism in this setting, and suggests that the new Jewish feminist vanguard resides in the “quiet revolution” of Orthodox women involved in expanding their religious literacy, leading to increased religious and communal participation.

Is Jewish Orthodox Life Threatened by Changing Gender Roles?

Choosing Limits, Limiting Choices Conference Transcript

While some Orthodox feminists celebrate promising new developments, others voice concern that traditional gender roles may be inextricably linked to the survival of Jewish public religious life. Are traditional Jewish lifestyles fragile and vulnerable, or are they resilient, responding to change with greater vitality?

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