Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jewish scholarship in Israel

In the past twelve hours I've seen two critiques of the field of Jewish studies in Israel. One is a blog entry by an American-trained professor at an Israeli university. The other is a journal article by an American-trained professor (who spent time studying in Israel) at an American university (which is also in decline). Still sorting out my own thoughts on the matter. Most of my academic training has been in Israel, and that part of it that was not served mostly to show me that I needed to get back here (though some of it was very broadening). Some things really need a combination of approaches. To mention a pet peeve of mine - the study of medieval Halakhic manuscripts could be much more interdisciplinary than it is now. But jumping into that kind of endeavour without a sound grasp of more traditional Talmud philology is a waste of time.


Blogger DafKesher said...

Myers isn't really writing about Jewish studies, he's writing about Modern Zionist history (decide how Jewish that is yourself)

4:46 PM  
Blogger DafKesher said...

Also, don't the medievalists I know read German and French? Who is Woolf talking about, exactly?

4:48 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

The juxtaposition of Woolf's comments and Myers' article is interesting. Myers spoke about this subject at the last World Congress in a session where some of the issues raised by Woolf were also aired.
One note: I think the NYT article you linked to is primarily about Berkeley not UCLA, although, of course, they are the two flagships of the same university system.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Menachem Mendel said...

Daniel Lasker's article in a recent issue of Tzion discusses some of these same issues-language, methodology, etc. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing, but it looks interesting. One can also criticize certain historians in Israel who aren't aware of recent trends in the dating and study of rabbinic texts.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Woolf said...

In answer to Daf Kesher: I am not singling out anyone in particular. The over-specialization that affects academia is a thousand fold more evident in Israel. The issue is not so much languages (though fewer medievalists are multi-lingual than you might think). It is becoming literate in other disciplines, even within Jewish studies. Otherwise, you don't really understand what you're analyzing.

12:29 PM  
Blogger DafKesher said...

Prof. Wolf: I'm with you on that completely. It of course has to do with the structure of the BA as a specialty degree rather than "an education".

11:07 PM  

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