by Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire
When we think about an academic field of endeavor, we typically think of the University departments where it is taught, the books written about the subject, the journals and research papers and the conferences that gather together the veterans and the emerging scholars. The field of Jewish Education as an academic discipline is still very young and I certainly remember 30 years ago there were none of those things. However a small group developed out of CAJE in the early 1980s that had a vision of an academic field and convened annually to create a Network of Researchers in Jewish Education (NRJE). I was privileged to attend the first such gathering in Los Angeles and there were about a dozen participants of scholars, professors and two doctoral students (I was one!) who were able to talk together about the research we were all doing. Since then we have established a peer reviewed academic journal ‘The Journal of Jewish Education’, we have active researchers in universities and think tanks in the US, Europe and Israel publishing papers informing policy and purpose for Jewish education and last year the International Handbook of Jewish Education was published in two volumes with 1300 pages of the latest studies and collected ideas about Jewish Education.
The NRJE will gather here at Hebrew College for its annual research conference on June 10-12, 2012 with Professor Karen Reiss-Medwed and I as this year’s conference chairs. There will now be over 100 scholars and professors of Jewish Education and a score of doctoral students including many of our own EdD students. Research papers will be given selected by peer reviewers as well as symposium sessions devoted to research in progress. Consultations will take place enabling the participants to share new ideas with each other and we will celebrate the growing and burgeoning field of Jewish Education as an academic discipline. The Shoolman Graduate School will sponsor a post conference seminar on ‘Sacred Teaching and Spiritual Learning’ as a means to introduce the academics in Jewish Education to a new paradigm of Jewish Religious Education and to the innovate work that we are spearheading here.
Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire is Dean, Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College.