Tag Archives: leah-hochman

When I first started teaching Jewish Studies I took a "best athlete" route; I invited colleagues from across the disciplines to engage the students in the ways they "did" Jewish Studies. But the students lacked context and instead of seeing a synthesis of disparate methods, they saw a chaotic mishmash. So I began teaching it as a history of an idea: starting with the early Wissenschaftlers we traced the development of the study of Judaism "in its fullest scope" from Immanuel Wolf's description of the aspiring field in 1822 to its realization in colleges and universities in the twentieth century. But we found that approach too dry; the students wanted the opportunity to pry apart the political aspirations of each generation. So we turned instead toward an investigation of academic programs throughout the United States and Canada and assessed the requirements for Jewish Studies minors and majors: language offerings ("just" Hebrew or were Arabic, Persian, Yiddish, or Ladino available and acceptable?), programmatic structure (chronological or subject focused or by discipline), which departments offered the majority of courses, and the presence of an introduction to or capstone in Jewish Studies. We were surprised that hardly anyone seemed to teach a class that looked at Jewish Studies broadly, as a field in its own right, as a multidisciplinary lens through which to view a multitude of subjects. And so my students designed their dream class: historical context was followed by star lectures from across campus, and students presented semester-long projects on topics informed by their favorite academic discipline.

Next time, I will include social media and an examination of the multitude of Jewish organizations offering real-time learning on web-based platforms and in mini-conferences. In the six years since I last taught the class, Jewish Studies has exploded beyond the borders of the university. Its fullest scope includes all the portals through which people learn and engage in Jewish learning, even the study about the study itself.