Bibliodrama in the Press
Pitzele never felt part of any religious tradition growing up, and only knew the Bible as literature. But at 29, when he was finishing his Ph.D. in literature at Harvard, he wanted to teach the Bible as the “foundational text for all writers.” His own religious epiphanies had taken place while sitting with Quakers, practicing Buddhist meditation, and participating in Jungian workshops. In his 40s, he began to study Judaism, the religion of his parents. Only then did he realize the circuitous path he had taken.
Asked to teach a class on leadership skills at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1983, Pitzele presented fifth year rabbinical students with biblical concerns: “You’re Moses; what are your issues?” The students pointed out that he was teaching the Midrash — Jewish interpretive tradition. He sees this technique as “identifying personal challenges embedded in the mythic structures of the Jewish religion, and continually acting them out. For example, the re-enactment of the father/son relationship goes back to Abraham and Isaac. The personal is also archetypal.” Click here to read more.
The study of hermeneutics has been a growing focus of Jewish educational research in recent years. The definitions of the word hermeneutics are many and varied; 1 for my purposes here, I wish to understand the term in its narrow sense of the art of interpreting a text, or, as Jonathan Cohen puts it, “the status of a text for its reader” (J. Cohen 1999, 38). The significance of hermeneutics to Jewish education is its concern with how human beings read and respond to texts. As Jews, for whom the notion of text is so central to identity and practice, we are interested in thinking about what it means to read a text; how and why texts affect us; how texts engender meaning for the reader; and so on. However, as we shall see in a moment, most scholars who have tried to bridge the fields of hermeneutic theory and educational practice have moved between theory and practice in only one direction: from the former to the latter. This is, of course, an important endeavor; but in order to utilize hermeneutic theory with as strong a lever as possible, we need it to help us understand how actual Jews engage with texts in real life situations. In order to do this, we might begin with practice and analyse how it might reflect or manifest theory. Click here to read more.