Dr. Tali Zelkowicz, inaugural recipient of the Professor Sara S. Lee Chair for an Emerging Scholar in Jewish Education, writes: “Each year, in a course called the Sociology of Jewish Education, my students are immersed in the practice and purpose of professional writing, along with the range of social science tools that can be used to inform those written expressions. In the first week of the course, the students begin by writing in something called “Cyber Soapbox” mode, in which we ignore alternative points of view – be they colleagues, scholars, students, parents, funders – and instead articulate our concerns and hopes based on what is deeply and honestly inside of us, and us alone. From there, we move from the inside out, and turn to the use and analysis of interviews, and then broader still, to surveys of the field, to produce literature reviews on particular topics of burning interest and relevance to the students and the field. Finally, the students engage in writing workshops with one another, to develop a “Contribution to the Field,” or “CTF.”
One of the most important ways that Jewish educators - and educators of all kinds – can contribute to their profession is by sharing carefully considered, passionate but well-researched, cogently organized, well-crafted, compelling statements about the central and animating dilemmas in their fields. In other words, educators can be change agents through their writing and publishing. By entering the professional discourse, they must first find and then add their own voices to the on-going discourse, ever sophisticating and clarifying the thought and language among colleagues, and in the field at large.
These “CTFs” address one of the many “contested arenas” in Jewish education, determine “what’s at stake,” provide social scientific (historical, sociological, psychological, etc.) context for the issue, and strive to offer a bold new creative analysis of the dilemma.
Thanks to Lynn Flanzbaum, director of the Tartak Jewish Educational Resource Center, the full text of all the articles can be found at: www.huc.edu/tartak/guide
“Torah at the Center.” Allowing for discourse and dialogue between students and professionals in the field, URJ editor Wendy Grinberg invited one education practitioner or academic to respond to each of the student’s pieces in that same issue, creating an organic series of conversations about some of the field’s most difficult, but also most inspiring, dilemmas.
The students would be happy to engage in dialogue with you, too, if you have any questions or reactions. If you would like to offer your own responses, please feel free to send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org