This year has begun swimmingly. Our course’s essential question is: how did the Jewish community adapt to the changes in society around them? The students are already deeply engrossed in their research groups and are now presenting. This is an incredibly creative bunch of students, as you will see from the photographs. They are also using a variety of pedagogic techniques that make the classes engaging and very entertaining. Each group studied a different period of ancient Jewish history. We had groups on Ezra and Nehemiah and the return of the Jews from Exile, Jews’ adaptation to Hellenism, sectarianism, the relationship of the Jews and the Romans (a fairly ugly period of Jewish history) and the story of Masada.
The students teach their peers; using an outline they research and then find an interesting way of reinforcing the material. Currently, they are also working on a research paper on a topic of their choosing connected to their research. Some of the topics are: Should the Jews have committed murder and suicide on Masada? Can we justify their actions using Jewish law? Why was the Hasmonean Dynasty so problematic? The most controversial topic being “Did the Essenes write the Dead Sea Scrolls?”
The students are discovering that the dreaded vocabulary tests aren’t so terrible and that they are actually quite useful. There is no textbook for these words; they are all words that appear in our reading or discussions in class. Today’s new word was “extrinsic.”