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Sunday, July 13, 2014

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Jewish education book launched

Tags: Jewish learning
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TORONTO — The International Handbook of Jewish Education, a two-volume tome published by Springer Science & Business Media in April, was launched June 12 at the 25th annual conference of the Network for Research in Jewish Education.

The academic meeting, held for only the second time in Canada, was hosted by York University’s faculty of education and Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies. Some 75 academics attended the three-day conference.

Twenty-five years ago, a book on research in Jewish education with 69 chapters, 89 authors, and more than 1,300 pages, would have been unimaginable, said Michael Zeldin of Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Los Angeles, who chaired the opening plenary and wrote the book’s preface.

At the plenary, the book’s co-editors – Helena Miller, Alex Pomson and Lisa Grant – discussed “Key questions of research in Jewish education,” with Grant participating by video conference from Jerusalem.

Miller – who is research and evaluation director of UJIA in London, England – spearheaded the project after learning of a comparable book on Catholic education three years ago. She enlisted Grant, of Hebrew Union College, and Pomson – formerly a Koschitzky Family Chair of Jewish Teacher Education at York, and now based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – to round out the group of editors geographically, and also because they are “the absolute best in their field,” she said.

Among the target audience for the book are graduate students and emerging researchers, Grant said.

Despite the size of the book, however, there are some gaps, she added.

Miller told The CJN that there is no chapter about Jewish education in South Africa or Germany, although the book addresses Jewish education in a range of places like the former Soviet Union and the Netherlands.

Also, Pomson told The CJN that the editors would have liked to include a chapter about the increasing influence of philanthropic foundations.

He noted later in the plenary that some participants had started to address the issue but “kind of froze” for fear of jeopardizing funding. The closest the book comes to addressing the issue is a chapter on the intersection between foundations and informal Jewish education, he said.

Miller’s biggest regret about the book, she said, is its price ($599 U.S.). Parts of the book are available online at http://www.springerlink.com/content/978-94-007-0353-7#section=878172&pag....

Pomson said he hopes the book will lead to interest in comparative research in Jewish education, such as geographic and cross-cultural comparisons. “What one learns is really quite fascinating,” he said. “It requires funders with a global vision.”

Miller said that she and Pomson will soon begin researching the effect of Jewish day schools in the London area on the lives of families. The book doesn’t have a chapter on families per se, but “families come through very strongly” in sections on parents, gender and intermarriage.

Other current issues in Jewish education include Jewish identity and Israel education, Miller told The CJN. As well, she noted emerging fields like technology, gender, and pluralistic education, were addressed at some of the conference sessions.

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