HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Jewish Literacy and Curriculum

Jewish Literacy and Curriculum

When formulating a vision of what they want their students to learn, day school educators need to start with a shared understanding of Jewish literacy. This issue explores the connections between a vision of Jewish literacy and a Jewish curriculum. Authors consider the purposes and goals of literacy; suggest ways that Jewish sources can serve as an educational framework; advocate for various subjects, curricular emphases and pedagogical or delivery methods; and share specific initiatives that they have developed. 

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Translation: A Living Conversation

by Aviya Kushner Mar 01, 2016
RELATED TOPICS: HebrewJewish Studies

Interview with Aviya Kushner, author of The Grammar of God: A Journey Into the Words and Worlds of the Bible. This interview is published in partnership with the Jewish Book Council.


Tell us about your own Jewish education.

A Jewish Literacy Program: Satisfying Our Investors

by Steve Bailey PhD Mar 01, 2016

If we were investors in a business venture, we would want to know exactly what service is being created, how it will be presented to the consumer, its effectiveness and, ultimately, what will result in consumer satisfaction. Ironically, when it comes to Jewish education, parents are willing to “invest” tens of thousands of dollars each year to educate their children so that they develop into young adults and literate Jews, but don’t ask the questions that investors are entitled to ask.

Hebrew Literacy: Passport and Lynchpin

by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer Mar 01, 2016 Mechon Hadar, New York City
RELATED TOPICS: HebrewMission & Vision

It is heartening to see glimmerings of a shift in the debate about the importance of Jewish day school, moving away from “Jewish identity and values” and toward Jewish literacy. For me, the shape-shifting nature of Jewish values crystalized after I read a speech that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg gave when accepting the Genesis award in 2014. As quoted by the New York Times,

The Day School Library: Vital Link Between Information and the Classroom

by Aviva Adler Mar 01, 2016 North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, Great Neck, NY

Most educators acknowledge that libraries are a crucial component of a functioning and well-run school. Most do, but unfortunately not all—not by a long shot. It’s a sad fact that when budget cuts are required (as they so often are), libraries, along with programs like art and music, are among the first things to be eliminated.


Jewish Sources as a Guide to Curriculum and Pedagogy

by Hagit Dotan Feb 29, 2016 Tzav Pius, Jerusalem, Israel

It is told of the Kotzker Rebbe that he was once asked by one of his students, “Where is God?” He answered, “Wherever we let him in.” Similarly, if we ask, “Where is our Judaism expressed?” We can answer, “Wherever we let it in.”

Jewish sources contain instructions for life. When teachers connect any subject, Jewish or secular, to Jewish culture, they highlight and expand the extent to which Judaism is a “Torah for life,” even in the twenty-first century. Jewish culture is an essential part of every aspect of life; its relevance is not limited to specifically Jewish subjects.

Online Curricula: Literacy with Flexibility

by Ilana Lipman Feb 29, 2016 Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy

It was about 30 seconds before the bell rang to signal the beginning of class when Matan approached me. “Mrs. Lipman?” I held my breath. Poor Matan. He was such a curious, thoughtful, hard-working student. I knew he had spent more time than any other student studying for the Shmuel Bet test. It seemed almost unfair to write that B- on the top of his exam, yet rubrics are rubrics and Matan had failed to satisfy the requirements that were demanded to attain an A or an A-. Matan knew that many of his peers had likely scored better grades than he, yet he still came to class full of enthusiasm.

Planning the Unplannable: When Life Interrupts the Curriculum

by Dr. Deborah Skolnick Einhorn Feb 29, 2016 Hebrew College, Newton, Massachusetts

“Gilles” and “Laila,” 15-year-old Parisians being played by two Hebrew College graduate students, were planning an intrigue. Having played these roles in a virtual courtroom on a virtual Masada for almost two months, Gilles and Laila were concerned that the case was slanted too much in their favor. While most players in a virtual game or moot court would be thrilled to have the case clearly going their way, Gilles and Laila were not simply players out to win, they were also mentors and teachers in the Jewish Court of All Time.

Literacy Day

by Dr. Lea Keil Garson, Director, Learning Center Feb 29, 2016 Kohelet Yeshiva High School, Merion Station, Pennsylvania

“Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.” So said Tomie dePaola, renowned author of over 200 children’s books, and as a reading specialist, I couldn’t agree more. Yet do high school students today recognize the importance of reading? Do they enjoy reading? With all the demands on their time and attention, particularly in a dual curriculum high school, students sometimes turn to shortcuts rather than reading entire books, and even highly proficient readers complain that they have little time to read for pleasure.

Literacy: The Gift of Many Things

by Dr. Idana Goldberg, Co-Executive Director Feb 29, 2016 RAVSAK

A series of television commercials from my youth encouraged viewers who were illiterate to seek help and learn to read. Illiteracy, these ads declared, was a stumbling block, impeding good people from transcending the poverty of their circumstances, but it was not irrevocable.

To Learn to Teach

by BRIAN KING, Director of Innovation Feb 29, 2016 Milwaukee Jewish Day School
RELATED TOPICS: Jewish Studies

Milwaukee Jewish Day School is on a mission to bring as many authentic, student-owned learning experiences to our students as possible. The underlying idea is quite simple: authentic learning opportunities lead to much deeper student engagement; and deeper student engagement leads to better learning outcomes.