Jewish Literature and Jewish Identity

By: Na'amit Sturm Nagel
from Shalhevet High School

Interdisciplinary Integration

Subject(s) of entry:
English/ Writing/ Language Arts, Gemara, Philosophy/ Values/ Ethics/ Hashkafa, Social and Emotional Learning, Tanach, literature

Blended Learning, Hevruta Learning, PBL - project based learning, Socratic Method, Soulful Education

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
12, High school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
11, 12, High school

The class explores the complex development of Jewish identity through the analysis of novels, short stories, poems and graphic novels written by European, American and Israeli authors. It also brings Torah, Talmud and religion into these conversations to help students reflect on and shape their own Jewish identities.

Entry Narrative

I would like to submit the Jewish Literature course that I have carefully crafted over the last four years to be considered for the Interdisciplinary Integration award.  This is my second year teaching the class entitled “Jewish Literature and Jewish Identity.” The course has transformed my own approach to teaching and enriched the lives of my students. As an observant teacher in a Modern Orthodox yeshiva day school, I have the profound opportunity to connect what I teach with what I believe, and bring explicitly Jewish ideals and values into my classroom in a holistic and streamlined manner. For my students, they—perhaps for the first time—encounter questions and reflections on Jewish identity that are not taught or found in the classic, more narrow “Torah” tradition, but which they readily relate to as modern Jews living in America in the twenty-first century. The course embodies the ideals of Torah U’Maddah in its truest sense. While their experience of General and Judaic studies are typically bifurcated, this course is the first time in their high school career that the two fields completely integrate. The exposure to Jewish questions and texts in a perceived secularized setting (i.e. General Studies), introduces them to seeing Jewish culture, intellectualism, and identity in a new light, beyond the confines of the fundamental questions of being Jewish as a modern Jew, in ways that strictly studying Talmud or Bible do not. Similarly, the course introduces them to Jewish literary publications, films, and music, which helps them not only ponder who they are as modern Jews, but also who they want to be and what role they want to play in their Jewish communities going forward.

My submission will include the components below in this Google Drive Folder:

  1. Course Background and Goals
  2. Detailed Unit Description, A focus on the first unit of the year, Yiddish Literature and Klezmer Music. This will include a link to the Klezmer Performance given by the band, Mostly Kosher.
  3. Unit Description Summaries (Samples)
  4. Major Assessments, including the Yiddish Story Writing Assignment, Yiddish Literature and Judaism assignment and Jewish Literature Independent Study Project.
  5. End-of-Year Survey Takeaways, takeaways from end-of-the-year reflection exercise and discussions with students. Gives a sense of the successes and failures of the class.
  6. Improvements made to 2017-2018 course and Student Reflections
  7. Closing Reflection
  8. *Course Syllabus and Schedule
  9. *Jewish Literature Course Reader Index
  10. * Jewish Journal Article I wrote reflecting on last year’s class, specifically addressing one of the failures of the course last year.
  11. *Samples of students Independent Study Projects Initial Questions from 2016 and 2017
  12. * Samples of first paragraphs in their Yiddish Short Stories
  13. * Jewish Literature Reflections Video 2017Student-made video with their reflections on the class

* Supplementary items provided in this application.

Thank you in advance for considering my submission.

Entrant Bio(s)

Na'amit Sturm Nagel has been a teacher at Jewish schools for the past 8 years. She has her Bachelor of Arts in literature from University of Toronto, her Masters in English literature from Brandeis University and was a Yeshiva University Teaching Fellow her first year of teaching. She began her career at Maimonides Middle School in Boston, and then travelled with her husband to live in Jewish communities in Budapest, China, Ukraine and Israel as part of his Ralph I. Goldman Fellowship from the American Jewish Joint Distribution committee. After returning from the fellowship she moved to Los Angeles and taught at YULA Girls High School for three years. She is now in her third year of teaching at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles. She has taught both History and English, but her primary passion is English. This year is the second year she has taught a Jewish literature course she created from scratch. While the course is taught through the English department, its primary goal is to fuse Judaic and General studies to help students develop their Jewish identities. When Na'amit is not teaching she is writing and has recently published articles in Kveller, The Forward and The Jewish Journal.