Saturday, April 17, 2021

'The Jewish Intellectual Tradition'

'Two Touro-Teaneck intellectuals write about the Jewish approach to thought through history'

Joanne Palmer profiled Alan Kadish and Michael Shmidman of Teaneck and Touro College, authors with Simcha Fishbane of The Jewish Intellectual Tradition: A History of Learning and Achievement, in the Jewish Standard.

"'The backstory for me actually starts more years ago than I care to count,' Dr. Kadish said. 'When I started my undergraduate education at Columbia, with what is not really called the Great Books program but everyone thinks that it’s called that' — actually it’s Columbia College’s core curriculum, a set of foundational books that all its students read and is at the heart of the school’s education — 'I found that there was no real context. We read Plato, and Socrates, and Machiavelli, but there was no historical context.'


"That was a problem that he later found with the study of Jewish intellectual history. People read the classics from that tradition, but did not know how they connected to each other or the world around them.

"'There really never has been a real intellectual history of Jewish thought,' Dr. Kadish said. 'There obviously have been a ton of Jewish histories, and histories of different components of Jewish thought, but we thought that there was room for an intellectual history.'

"We not only wanted to do a survey of the Jewish intellectual tradition, but also to put it in context, to extract the major characteristics, and beyond that to try to illustrate how it could be of practical application, universally, today.' Its core values could help thinking people navigate modern life."

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