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Research @ the EdJS

The EdJS is a hub for research in and around Jewish education.  We understand education quite broadly, to include any and all of the manner of ways that people encounter, produce, internalize, and transmit knowledge for Jewish life.  This is a list of some of the projects that EdJS members are working on during the 2023-2024 academic year.  


Projects are subject to change.


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Religion as Knowledge

Religions are conventionally described and defined by theological propositions, or by the nature of their belief in supernatural beings.  This definition has been central to the field of Religious Studies for nearly the entirety of its existence.  This project posits a different approach to defining religion that centers knowledge rather than belief.  If we accept that religions are defined by what their adherents know as much as by the things that their adherents believe, then we might better understand how religions operate for both communities and their members without having to resort to claims about whose belief is true or better.

Research in the Jewish Community

American Jewish communal organizations generate a great deal of research, but the pathway from research to practice is uncertain and, as yet, unexplored.  This project is an interview-based study of nearly 50 Jewish communal professionals and how they engage with research: how they make sense of it, what they read, and how it informs the decisions they make, decisions that they hope will benefit the larger American Jewish community.

Jewish Teen Mental Health and Wellbeing

In partnership with the Jewish Teen Funder Collaborative of the Jewish Federations of North America, we will be conducting the first national study of Jewish teen mental health and wellbeing.  This path-breaking study will explore how Jewish teens are experiencing and addressing the well-documented challenges facing American youth today.  To learn more, click here.

How to Read the Bible in School

The 1963 Supreme Court decision in Abingdon v. Schempp turned on the Court's distinction between "religious instruction" and the study of religion as part of an "objective course of study."  This project is a historical exploration of this logic, one which seems self-evident at first glance, but which also poses a host of other questions about how people read, how people learn, about public and private schools, and about what it means to learn religion in a country where the Constitution outlines a separation of church and state.

Learning to be Jewish

This novel project is an effort to explore how people learn to be Jewish.  Drawing on decades of research from the Learning Sciences,  this project is an effort to document and imagine how people learn what they need to know about being Jewish.  It will be one of the first focused studies of learning in Jewish education.

Race, Assimilation, and Antisemitism in American Jewish Life

This close study of the concept of assimilation in late 20th century American life, a period in which it played a powerful role in the formulation of American Jewish communal life. This close study of the scholarship of influential sociologist Marshall Sklare, will argue that in order for assimilation to present a real threat to American Jews, it first had to be a real possibility.  At the same time, antisemitism served as a kind of limiting factor, one that helped define American Jews as white enough to assimilate, but not fully or wholly so.

Feeling Jewish

This short work is an exploration of the affective, emotional, and felt dimensions of Jewishness and Jewish belonging.  It takes as its inspiration the quip attributed to Groucho Marx, who noted that he would refuse to join a club that would have him as a member.  Something other than ambivalence, quite different than antipathy, and not exactly rejection or embrace, Marx's joke contains within it the kernel of how it feels to be Jewish in modernity.  This project does not seek to reify that feeling as a problem to be solved, but something closer to a ground truth, an essential element of Jewish life and Jewish being that exists primarily on the level of feeling.

The Berman Archive

The EdJS is proud to host the Berman Archive, the largest publicly and freely available archive of documents pertaining to American Jewish life.  The Berman Archive — formerly the Berman Jewish Policy Archive - documents American Jewish Communities. With open access to digital artifacts from 1900 to the present, we're the largest archive of the printed material of communal American Jewish life. We're a platform for knowledge and intellectual engagement with ideas, data, and points of view that have defined and sustained the American Jewish experience.