Beyond Jewish Identity

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There is something deeply problematic about
the ways that Jews, particularly in America, talk about “Jewish identity” as a
desired outcome of Jewish education. For many, the idea that the purpose of Jewish education is to strengthen Jewish identity is so obvious that it hardly
seems worth disputing—and the only important question is which kinds of Jewish
education do that work more effectively or more efficiently. But what does it mean to “strengthen Jewish identity”? Why do Jewish educators, policy-makers
and philanthropists talk that way? What do they assume, about Jewish education
or about Jewish identity, when they use formulations like “strengthen Jewish
identity”? And what are the costs of doing so?

This volume, the first collection to examine critically the relationship between Jewish education and Jewish
identity, makes two important interventions. First, it offers a critical
assessment of the relationship between education and identity, arguing that the reification of identity has hampered much educational creativity in the pursuit
of this goal, and that the nearly ubiquitous employment of the term obscures
significant questions about what Jewish education is and ought to be. Second,
this volume offers thoughtful responses that are not merely synonymous
replacements for “identity,” suggesting new possibilities for how to think
about the purposes and desired outcomes of Jewish education, potentially contributing
to any number of new conversations about the relationship between Jewish education
and Jewish life.

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472 printed pages
Original publication



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