The field of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations is diverse, and teaching in this area takes place in a variety of disciplines and subject areas. The following is an attempt to reflect on the needs of both teachers and learners in the field. It is not intended to be comprehensive and can usefully be augmented by further reflection. Rather, this section is aimed at prompting education practitioners and students to think critically about their own approaches to Jewish/non-Jewish Relations and examine their presuppositions in light of their disciplinary background, thereby opening new ways of approaching the topic of teaching and learning. The collection of source texts and commentaries assembled on this site is a modest contribution to this exercise, as they each, in their own way, have to reflect the disciplines in which the commentaries are written, as well as open up the discussion of the wider field of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations through their location on an interdisciplinary site.
Jewish/non-Jewish Relations has often been perceived to be the provenance of particularly religious inquiries, such as theology, or at least of those inquiries in the field of the critical study of religion, such as religious studies. The relationship between Judaism and Christianity – rather than the relations between Christians and Jews – is relevant for some Christian theologians, in their quest for a better understanding of their own tradition. Historians of the ancient world are interested in the ‘parting of the ways’ that took place in the first few centuries of the Common Era (CE). Other disciplines, it seems, are either disinterested in religion or positively averse to considering the relevance of religious ideas and practices for their own investigation of the relations between Jews and non-Jews.
However, the contributions on this website challenge the assumption that it is possible to limit the inquiry into Jewish/non-Jewish Relations to theological interests, or to the explicit concern with religious ideas and practices. Rather, it is possible to see quite clearly that the range of sources indicates the need to use a more varied range of disciplines in order to decode them. Such a range also makes clear that a solid grounding in the religious culture of Jew, in all its diversity, is necessary for a fruitful engagement with the texts.
This diversity places particular challenges on both learners and teachers. The commentaries on the source texts indicate their rootedness in particular disciplines, though they do so implicitly rather than explicitly, foregrounding questions of method and their limitations. While aimed at undergraduate students, the commentaries nevertheless presuppose a certain familiarity with general history as well as religious concepts. Where appropriate we have added a terms to the glossary, but its use would need to be augmented by reference to other works that familiarize the student with ideas relevant to Jewish history and culture, as well as those of the dominant cultures in which Jews have lived.
We have taken care to demonstrate the diversity of possible approaches to the topic, as well as the breadth of possible inquiries into Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, through the source texts assembled here and commented on by experts in their fields. Our contributors write as historians and sociologists, art historians and theologians, scholars of cultural studies and literature.
As the site grows we aim to add contributions on the methodology of studying and teaching in the field of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations. If you are interested in contributing to this project, with an essay on methodology or a commentary on a source text, please get in touch.