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Families, Rabbis and EducationEssays on Traditional Jewish Society in Eastern Europe$
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Shaul Stampfer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774853

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774853.001.0001

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Is the Question the Answer? The Context and Consequences of an Educational Pattern

Is the Question the Answer? The Context and Consequences of an Educational Pattern

(p.229) Eleven Is the Question the Answer? The Context and Consequences of an Educational Pattern
Families, Rabbis and Education

Shaul Stampfer

Liverpool University Press

This chapter studies the role of questions in east European Jewish education. The importance attributed to question asking by children and students may appear to be a rather trivial aspect of traditional Jewish education in eastern Europe. However, attitudes to questions shed light on a number of educational and historical issues, and reflect basic cultural styles. The chapter demonstrates this by comparing the strategies used in two communities — that of east European Jewish society and North African Muslim society — in relation to sacred sources. While asking questions was a highly regarded skill in traditional east European Jewish education, writing answers — and writing in general — was of peripheral importance. The respect and import attributed to asking questions was closely connected to one of the more overlooked aspects of Jewish education: the special nature of literacy and schooling in the east European Jewish ḥeder from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Keywords:   questions, east European Jewish education, traditional Jewish education, question asking, east European Jewish society, North African Muslim society, sacred sources, writing, literacy, ḥeder

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