Ari Kelman, professor of Jewish studies, discusses Jewish Identity on the Seekers of Meaning Podcast and TV Show

Rabbi Address chats with Prof. Ari Kelman of Stanford University in the July 31, 2020 Seekers of Meaning Podcast and TV show.
Rabbi Address chats with Prof. Ari Kelman of Stanford University in the July 31, 2020 Seekers of Meaning Podcast and TV show.

Prof. Ari Y. Kelman, the Jim Joseph Chair in Education and Jewish Studies at the Graduate School of Education, Stanford University, visits the Seekers of Meaning Podcast and TV show to discuss Beyond Jewish Identity: Rethinking Concepts and Imagining Alternatives, which he co-edited with Jon A. Levisohn, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Educational Thought at Brandeis University.

Watch the TV show in the video player below.

Listen to the podcast in the podcast player below or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

From the book’s page on

There is something deeply problematic about the ways that Jews, particularly in America, talk about “Jewish identity” as a desired outcome of Jewish education. For many, the idea that the purpose of Jewish education is to strengthen Jewish identity is so obvious that it hardly seems worth disputing—and the only important question is which kinds of Jewish education do that work more effectively or more efficiently. But what does it mean to “strengthen Jewish identity”? Why do Jewish educators, policy-makers and philanthropists talk that way? What do they assume, about Jewish education or about Jewish identity, when they use formulations like “strengthen Jewish identity”? And what are the costs of doing so?

This volume, the first collection to examine critically the relationship between Jewish education and Jewish identity, makes two important interventions. First, it offers a critical assessment of the relationship between education and identity, arguing that the reification of identity has hampered much educational creativity in the pursuit of this goal, and that the nearly ubiquitous employment of the term obscures significant questions about what Jewish education is and ought to be. Second, this volume offers thoughtful responses that are not merely synonymous replacements for “identity,” suggesting new possibilities for how to think about the purposes and desired outcomes of Jewish education, potentially contributing to any number of new conversations about the relationship between Jewish education and Jewish life.

About the Guest

Professor Kelman’s research focuses on the forms and practices of religious knowledge transmission. His work emerges at the intersection of sociocultural learning theory and scholarly/critical studies of religion. Methodologically, he draws on social scientific and historical approaches to the study of these phenomena.

His interests have drawn him to research phenomena as diverse as Yiddish radio, Evangelical worship music, Jewish online learning, release time programs, religious dictionaries, Jewish identity, ritual, Google algorithms about religion, Jewish students and antisemitism, citational research networks, campus chaplaincy, and the educational dimensions of the ongoing tension between church, state, and schooling. All of these organize around the question of how religious knowledge is constructed, encoded, transmitted, understood, and practiced.

At present, he as work on a handful of projects ranging from a synthetic work about Jewish education, the study of religious education in the post-war period, studies of Google’s algorithmic definitions of religion, and intersections between AI and religion.

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