The Jewish Studies curriculum revolves around not only a two-semester survey of Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness (JS181 and JS182) but also our “Beit Midrash—Jewish Ideas Lab” (JS123). The Hebrew term “beit midrash” refers to a communal setting in which learners discover and co-construct meaning through conversation with one another about texts that address significant ideas and raise essential questions. At Colby, these texts include classic and contemporary sources from the Jewish tradition and beyond. Participants of all backgrounds and perspectives, including students and staff who aren’t enrolled in the course, learn to assess competing ideas critically, to read closely, and to present their ideas effectively within the context of a supportive community. They become sophisticated thinkers and empowered partners in the collaborative creation of knowledge. Seniors enrolled in “Designing the Jewish Ideas Lab” (JS423) play crucial roles in creating the beit midrash‘s special learning environment. In addition, Jewish Studies students have the opportunity to take courses in these three areas:
Ideas and Texts (אלו ואלו, elu v’elu, “both these [ideas] and these”): courses that critically examine competing responses to core Jewish questions and divergent interpretations of canonical sources.
Lived Jewishness (מנהג המקום, minhag hamakom, “local customary practices”): Courses that explore how members of specific communities past and present adapt and express their Jewish identities, with particular attention to the influence of the surrounding culture.
Community Impact (תיקון עולם, tikkun olam, “improving the world”): courses that provide hands-on training in leadership and social entrepreneurship.