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Faced with fusty texts, teachers learn to breathe new life into Jewish studies

Published in Times of Israel by Aryeh Ben David
Posted on December 26, 2017

NEW YORK — Eighteen months ago, students at the Bi-Cultural Day School in Stamford, Connecticut, received a relatively flat account of Moses and the 12 spies.

They learned the who, what, where, when and possibly the why of the story: Moses sent out 12 spies to do a little reconnaissance in the land of Canaan. Ten came back and scared the daylights out of everyone, and only two, Joshua and Caleb, challenged the majority opinion.

End of lesson.

And while that’s fine if the goal is to win Jewish Trivial Pursuit, it’s not ideal if the goal is to help students deepen their spiritual and Jewish identities.

According to longtime educator Aryeh Ben David, quantity shouldn’t trump quality — especially when it comes to Judaic studies. Yet, for too long Jewish educators have pushed content, rather than connectedness, said the founder of the Jerusalem-based Ayeka: The Center for Soulful Education.

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