Jewish History & Philosophy

Jewish History & Philosophy

Department Essential Questions:
How has Jewish history impacted world history, & world history impacted Jewish history? 
Why is there tension between exile & sovereignty, assimilation & cloistering in Jewish history? 
Why has the Jewish Diaspora been so scattered & how has it impacted Jewish identity?
How does Jewish history influence our values, moral commitments, & experience of the world? 

World History/Jewish History (9th Grade Requirement)

World History at Shalhevet is an integrated program that weaves together themes common to both Jewish History and the History of Western Civilization.


The goal is to teach students fundamental skills applicable not only to the study of history but to any field they may someday choose to pursue. Students will work individually and in groups on both daily and longer-term assignments, ultimately combining acquired knowledge from Jewish History and Western Civilization History in two major integrated assessments – one in each semester.


An integrated program has much to offer students at a dual curriculum school:

* It demonstrates that the historical development of both American and Jewish values—the foundation of our students’ American Jewish identity – did not occur in isolation.

* It enables students to gain an understanding and appreciation of how different cultures operate by undertaking comparative analysis.

* It teaches and reinforces a set of historical thinking skills that are common to both courses—contextualization, causation, comparison, continuity and change, analyses of historical evidence (primary and secondary sources), and argumentation.


The Western Civilization component of the course covers Ancient Greece and Rome, Medieval Europe, The Renaissance, The Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution. ­­­­­The Jewish History component covers the Biblical period from the conquest of Canaan, the 2nd Temple period, the development of Rabbinic Judaism, medieval Jewry and Judaism in the Islamic lands and Ashkenaz Europe, popular Jewish movements in early modern Europe, and the Haskalah and Jewish emancipation.

Modern Jewish History – 10th Grade

Modern Jewish History continues the exploration of Jewish history that began freshman year. Beginning with the early modern period and the emergence of the Enlightenment, students are introduced to the seminal events, personalities and ideas that have shaped Jewish life in the modern era. Students learn about the cultural, religious, political and economic challenges that Jews have faced over the last four centuries. Topics include responses to Emancipation, the rise of Zionism and the American Jewish experience. The overarching aim of our lessons is to fully appreciate how events in the past impact our lives today. In that way, history is viewed from both an academic and personal lens.


11th Grade - Israel Education: An Analysis of the History, Politics and Civic Society (SAS option)

This course examines the strategic policies behind the news headlines. But, before understanding the news headlines, students in this course are going to develop the breadth of knowledge, perspectives and skill set to engage in any issue related to the history, politics and civic society of Israel. Over two semesters learners will investigate major regional developments of the modern era including the foundations of political Islam, pan-Arabism, the colonial legacy, modern Zionism, religious Zionism, Palestinian nationalism, the peace process, American foreign policy in the Middle East, Israel's relationship with the UN and American campus life. The critical aspect to this course is that students will be exposed to multiple perspectives and learn how to create one's own worldview with this in mind. To that end, students will be exposed to writers, thinkers and activists from across the political and religious spectrum. 


Initially conceived and taught by Jason Feld and developed by Noam Weissman, who earned his doctorate by writing about Israel Education at USC, our approach to Israel Education emphasizes engagement with Israel, love for Israel and allowing for passion and nuance to marry one another as opposed to being mutually exclusive concepts. Students will learn to listen to multiple perspectives while engendering their love for and commitment to Medinat Yisrael. 


Machshevet Yisrael (Jewish Philosophy) – 12th Grade

This 12th grade course is more than a capstone. It brings together all the ideas from their limudei kodesh experience in a clear and concise way. This course is an in-depth exploration of essential topics within the field of Jewish Philosophy. Drawing from contemporary thinkers such as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Rabbi Eliezer Berkovitz, and Yeshaya Leibowitz, as well as Rabbis Norman Lamm, Aharon Lichtenstein, Shimshon R. Hirsch, and many others, this course offers an essential treatment of some of the most pressing issues that our students are thinking about today. Course topics include an examination of what it means to believe in God, the purpose and efficacy of prayer, the concept of “Chosenness” in Jewish tradition, miracles, among others. Included in each unit are important historical details that provide students with a strong intellectual context for understanding what historical and contemporary thinkers have said about each topic.  This course builds and spirals upon many of the issues that students explore in our Talmud and Tanakh courses. Students ask WHY in this course. They learn some of the big questions and are given tools to start answering them for the rest of their lives.