Tag Archives: devorah-schoenfeld

I teach Judaism at Loyola University, a Jesuit Catholic institution. I teach primarily courses that count for the Core requirement in Theology, and the vast majority of my students are not Jewish. As the first Jew that many of them have encountered, I have a responsibility to challenge any anti-Jewish preconceptions they have been taught. Many of them, for example, see Jews as "legalistic," which they see as the opposite of "spiritual." Others don't understand how Jews can have any concept of forgiveness without Christ. Part of my responsibility to the Jewish community is to interrupt anti-Jewish ways of thinking so they don't continue into the next generation of the Catholic world and to replace them with a more nuanced picture. I think this is my responsibility to the Catholic community as well.

I also believe that I am responsible for representing the Jewish world in all its diversity, including aspects of it that may be more challenging to my students. Students need to know about secular Judaism, for example, even though by not being faith-centered it challenges their ideas of what Judaism (or any religion) should be, because it is a form of Judaism that they are likely to encounter. I am similarly responsible for teaching the variety of Jewish denominations. Otherwise, students may simply take their anti-Jewish projections and apply them to a variety of Judaism to which they feel less connected. It is important to me, therefore, to expose them to a wide range of Jewish ideas. I am careful to never disclose what kind of Judaism I practice or where I stand on any of the debates, lest the students think that is the "right" answer, or the only one they need to know for the final exam, because as the only person teaching Judaism at Loyola I feel responsible to the entire Jewish community.