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Spertus Institute pioneers the teaching of Jewish Peoplehood as a subject for Jewish professionals working in the field.
Spertus Institute has added a new course to our graduate curriculum: Jewish Peoplehood, taught by Dr. Shlomi Ravid and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz.
Here Dr. Ravid shares his insights on the project.
The pilot Jewish Peoplehood seminar took place for students in Spertus Institute’s MA in Jewish Professional Studies program, via Zoom, in June 2020. The purpose of this first-of-its-kind forum was to introduce students to the concept and its relevance for their work as Jewish professionals. Guided by the principal that “Peoplehood constitutes the consciousness of the Jewish enterprise,” the course explored the ways in which students’ roles and organizations are part of a historical and global Jewish People.
We focused on three core topics
- How is peoplehood expressed through the work of Jewish professionals, and how does it shape the world of Jewish organizations?
- What are the current changes in contemporary Jewry’s perception of peoplehood and what are the ramifications for Jewish organizations?
- What can Jewish professionals do to enhance the Jewish collective identity of their constituents?
To answer these questions, we wove together conceptual and practical discussions. We explored students’ personal and professional stories, studied texts relating to relationships and commitments of Jews to one another, discussed the Jewish ethos of the organizations for which the students work, and analyzed ways that professionals can use ceremonies and events to nurture collective Jewish identification.
The students developed personal projects over the course of the seminar, with daily feedback from their peers and instructors. The projects enabled students to move from abstract conversation to the nuts and bolts of engaging with their constituents through the lens of Jewish peoplehood.
Based on feedback, evaluations, and final projects, we can heartily conclude that the content and approach resonated. There was consensus among the students that their personal and professional identities were enriched. They agreed on the importance of this topic for all Jewish professionals, or, as one of them expressed in their evaluation, “I think that this class will be a highlight of the program.”
Dr. Shlomi Ravid is the founding director of the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education. His teaching partner, Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, is a sociologist whose areas include Jewish education, community, and issues of collective identity.