Then and Now
academic

How to Evaluate University Teaching

How should we evaluate teaching in institutions of higher education?  Despite the deep relevance of this question today, the truth is that we are only beginning to have that discussion and in many places, fitfully at best.  A couple of years ago I was charged to lead a committee to think about this question.  We...

Toward a New Model for Academic Publishing

I had a letter published in the New York Times the other day – it can be found on the Times website here and a I reproduce it below.  While this letter was in response to an article that dealt specifically with the high cost of academic journals, I have long been troubled by a...

On Jewish Betrothal

I recently wrote an essay for thegemara.com on the origins of Jewish betrothal.  The primary but not only context for this essay is to provide a new, historical lens for those who, working through the “daf yomi” cycle of reading a page of Talmud each day through to its completion, have just started tractate Kiddushin. ...

Who Read the Bible in Antiquity?

A video of the lecture that I gave at Trinity University on “Who Read the Bible in Antiquity” to kick off their Lennox Seminar.  Meeting faculty colleagues there and interacting with the students in the seminar were both a lot of fun for me, although I wish that someone told me that my collar was...

Ezra: Role Play Exercise

Each time I teach “How the Bible Became Holy” I spend a day role-playing the response to Ezra’s return to Jerusalem in 458 BCE.  We focus on the aftermath of Nehemiah 8 but students have read all of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This year we had to break the class into three groups, each simultaneously conducting...

Gary Anderson Lecture on Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty

In early November I convened a workshop on Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty.  We spent most of our time at the workshop discussing translations of Jewish texts and we are in the process of assembling those (and other) texts to publish together as a kind of source book. One of the highlights of the...

Workshop: Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty

I am very happy to announce an upcoming workshop at Brown University that I am coordinating, “Jewish Attitudes Toward Wealth and Poverty,” to take place on November 1-3, 2015.  More information can be found on the workshop website. A description: Traditional Jewish texts present different approaches to wealth, poverty, and money. The purpose of this...

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religion

For the last several years I have worked as a co-editor on The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religion, “the first comprehensive single-volume reference work offering authoritative coverage of ancient religions in the Mediterranean world.”  It is now available for pre-order, with publication scheduled for December 15, 2015.  While I have my own skepticism about the...

Interview: How the Bible Became Holy

I recently gave an interview to “New Books in Jewish Studies.”  The interview (about 30 minutes) can be heard here.

The Ein Gedi Scroll: What We Could Potentially, Maybe Learn

A bit over a month ago the Israel Antiquities Authority announced a stunning achievement: a burnt scroll found in excavations of the ancient synagogue of Ein Gedi in 1970 has been partially deciphered using micro-CT technology.  It turns out to contain at least the beginning of the book of Leviticus and, after the Dead Sea...

Great Jewish Books: Second Time Around

Last year I taught an undergraduate class called “Great Jewish Books” and posted the syllabus here.  The course, I thought, went very well.  Nevertheless, since I am an inveterate tinkerer, I have tinkered with the syllabus for the upcoming semester.  In terms of readings, I switched the excerpts for both classic rabbinic texts and medieval...

Wikipedia in the Classroom

I have, in the past, used class assignments involving Wikipedia.  These usually involved students identifying weaknesses in entries dealing with the subject of the class, making the changes in Wikipedia to remedy these weaknesses, and then tracking the entry to see if anybody else modifies or deletes their changes.  I always found these assignments to...