A 'Halakhah' curriculum for nonobservant students in an Orthodox school
Grysman, Charles Osher
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Contemporary societal trends, assimilation and the increased secularization of Jewish identity, have created a situation where halakhah and its attendant practices are foreign to non-observant students in Orthodox-sponsored day schools. This issue is further complicated by the fact that the connection, or the need for a connection, between religious values and halakhah is obscure to many students. The challenge presented to the religious educator is to teach halakhah in a manner that provides contextuality and significance.;This study seeks to develop a halakhah curriculum designed specifically for the non-observant student in the Orthodox day high school. A model for teaching halakhah to the non-observant student based on the principle of mediation in group social work was developed. In mediation, the teacher addresses the predisposition and difficulties the non-observant student has with the subject matter so as to set a climate for a productive educational experience. This model encompasses approaches towards beginnings, endings, experiential programming, student evaluation, presenting information, and lending a vision to foster mediation. Subject matter is organized in a format consistent with the principles of mediation. It is designed to be intellectually challenging and pertinent to Jewish identity. The reasons for doing commandments, ta'amei ha-mitsvot, implementation of halakhah and the practical application of halakhah are emphasized. Subject matter is developed for four subjects: Shabbat, kashrut, lashon ha-ra, and the marital relationship. Suggestions for further research, course enrichment, suggested activities, sample tests, and pedagogic guidance are incorporated into the reference notes and appendices.;The curriculum was implemented over a six-year period in a Jewish day school with a large non-observant population. Teachers were in-serviced and supervised in utilization of the model designed for the curriculum. The study included teacher and student appraisal of the teaching and method and subject matter.;It has been concluded that the halakhah curriculum suggested in this study is of benefit in providing a vehicle for understanding halakhah and enhancing its relevance for the non-observant student.