Jewish Nightlife | (Un)Announced Response Exercise #3 | 12.1.2014

On the occasion of the final response exercise for Jewish Nightlife this Fall Semester, all students are asked to reflect on and practice FIELD WORK, by completing the following:

  1. Work in chavruta (pairs) by re-composing the same pairs of students already created on the occasion of our Mid-term exam
  2. Access this document via bDrive (you already know the drill…) at this shortened URL: http://bit.ly/JNLResponse4
  3. Formulate the three extremely focused questions:
    1. Jewish music and art: one question for Yair Harel (investigate his personal/artistic background, his knowledge and skills)
    2. Jewish music and research: one question for Francesco Spagnolo (investigate his personal/academic background, his knowledge and skills)
    3. Fieldwork of the Self: one question addressing your personal relationship with the specific piyyut that is assigned to your chavruta on the basis of the following parameters
      • text of piyyut
      • music of piyyut
      • culture of origin of piyyut
      • own culture(s) of chavruta partners
  4. Post your three questions (preceded by the names of each chavruta partners) on this document no later than Tuesday, December 2nd, at Noon

Select questions will be discussed and answered by the instructors on the last day of class, on Wednesday, December 3rd.

Planning Research: A Summer of Student Paper Proposals

Almost all abstracts/proposals for this semester’s research papers are in (as planned according to the course syllabus). As it is often the case when empowering students to select research topics according to their interests and strengths, the variety of the subjects that will be researched by the class is stunning.

From the aesthetics of 18th-century Kabbalistic musical rituals to the development of synagogue music in South India, from the cultural origins of Israeli secular shirah be-tzibur (communal singing) in nocturnal liturgies to the roles of women in the synagogue, from comparative fieldwork in UC Berkeley Jewish and Catholic student religious gatherings to the study of (religious) nightlife in Israel, Korea, and Las Vegas, our semester seems to be producing a lot of original thinking.

In the midst of this diversity, however, are some core and consistent disciplinary approaches. As outlined since the beginning of the semester, the study of (Jewish) nightlife is necessarily a multi-disciplinary endeavor, and the approaches adopted by the students in the class seems to confirm just that. (Phew!).

Below is a graph the summarizes the disciplinary trends expressed in the abstracts submitted this week:

Jewish Nightlife 2014 Research Paper Topics

There are seven groups of papers, listed in order of magnitude:

  1. Religious studies and ethnomusicology (liturgy and piyyut)
  2. Area studies (Jewish communities in the global diaspora)
  3. Musicology (Jews and popular music in America and beyond)
  4. Musicology (Jews and art music in the synagogue, 18th-20th centuries)
  5. Comparative studies (ritual and nightlife in Jewish and non-Jewish communities)
  6. Gender studies (women in Jewish ritual)
  7. Intellectual history

Now, I guess we will have to wait for the papers to flow in to see the results of this semester’s work. Looking forward…

Jewish Nightlife: A Midterm Collaborative Examination

Jewish Nightlife
Midterm Examination
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For our midterm examination, we will combine a traditional collaborative Jewish learning format (chavruta) with the use of collaborative digital tools. (Take that, #digitalhumanities!).

1. TEAMS: Form teams of 2, to work in “chavruta style” (as discussed in class and posted on the course blog)

2. METHODS: Each team must create one multi-media flash card for each of the 3 topics (choose one in each group, so that at the end you will have produced a total of 3 flash cards), using the Google Apps available to UC Berkeley students via the bConnected suite)

Cultural Identity & Cultural History (multi-dimensional notions of time, space, and language)
– Sephardic
– Ashkenazi
– Jews in the Lands of Islam

Ritual and material culture (ritual performances, texts, objects)
– Simchat Torah
– Prayer Book (Siddur)
piyyut
– quasi-Hazzan

Music & Sound (in their relationships to cultural identity and to ritual)
– “chant” (Psalmody and Biblical reading)
– “tune”
– para-liturgical

3. CONTENT: Each card must include the following elements:

  1. Two short paragraphs representing different (possibly conflicting) points of view on each of the topics selected
  2. A visual element
  3. A sound (or video) element
  4. Source citations (no specific style requested) for each of the elements above

4. COLLABORATION: Each team must share its flash cards with the instructor (spagnoloacht[at]berkeley.edu)

Ou-là-là! A Midterm is Coming Up…

The guidelines for the upcoming Midterm Examination (Week 9) will be discussed in class next Wednesday, October 22nd. As it is often the case in this class, this examination will also provide us with a chance to explore collaborative processes, and to test out how the #digitalhumanities may serve our learning goals.

In this case, we are going to explore a consolidated format of Jewish collaborative learning practice, the chavruta.

Derived from the Aramaic for “friendship,” this term (which on Wikipedia you can find under the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the word, chavrusa) indicates the teams of two students learning together inside a Talmudic Academy, or yeshivah (link is to the EJ, with UCB-only access). Each partner in a chavruta is supposed to challenge the other’s views, thus expanding knowledge in an eminently collaborative form.

Carteret beis medrash.jpg

Study partners sit opposite each other or side by side at the Yeshiva Gedola of Carteret (image licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.).

Who will be your chavruta? (Note, you cannot “choose” your partner beforehand: selection criteria will be announced on the day of the examination…).

As the Ethics of the Fathers (pirqe avot) remind us:

Yehoshua ben Perachia says: Make for yourself a teacher [“rav”], acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person as meritorious.

Or, as the Babylonian Talmud puts it (at least in the translation linked here):

How may one explain the verse, “A sword is upon the boasters and they shall become fools” (Jeremiah 50:36)? A sword is upon scholars who sit alone to study the Torah. And not only this, but they also become stupid, as it is written here, “and they shall become fools”….

Class Field Trips | Resources and Guidelines for Fieldwork in Berkeley Synagogues

Dear Class,

As we have been discussing since the beginning of the Semester (and as indicated in our Class Syllabus), this Fall we are taking advantage of the fact that our class time coincides with a major Jewish Festival, Sukkot (Hebrew for “booths” or “tabernacles”), to plan two field trips to local (Berkeley) synagogues in order to explore Jewish nightlife and to learn about fieldwork. The festival of Sukkot lasts seven days, followed, on the eight day, by shemini ‘atzeret (Hebrew for “eighth [day] of closing [assembly]) and simchat torah (Hebrew for “rejoicing of the Torah,” when the yearly cycle of reading the Hebrew Bible in the synagogue begins anew). Our field trips are scheduled so that we can witness the end of the festival, and hopefully the dancing and singing on the night of Simchat Torah, as well as a more “normative” Friday Evening (Sabbath Eve) Service.

As a reminder, the Hebrew calendar is “lunisolar,”that is, based on the lunar cycle, but also integrated with the solar cycle. Therefore, Jewish holidays always fall during the same season each year, but not always on the same date of the Gregorian calendar. This year, the first day of Sukkot fell on Wednesday, October 8, and shemini ‘atzeret falls on Wednesday, October 15.

This presents us with the chance to make two field trips to local (Berkeley) synagogues and witness Jewish nightlife “in action”! Since at this point of the semester we have been learning about the different Jewish musical traditions in the diaspora, and about how sounds can define the identity of a group, everyone in the class is required to visit two different synagogues, and reflect on the similarities and the differences presented by each one. This will be a unique chance to experience and reflect upon the cultures we are studying in class by observing some of its manifestations in situ, and to further our understanding of fieldwork dynamics.

Below I am detailing how the field trips can take place. Please read the whole message, and register for the field trips (a registration form has already been shared with you). If the instructions are not clear, ask questions during lecture time on Monday (October 13). If the trips present a challenge of any sort, promptly inform me by email (ASAP).

All the best,
Francesco

PS: Try clicking on the links above. If you are off Campus and you can read the corresponding entries in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, it means you’ve successfully configured your access to UCB’s electronic resources… Otherwise, read here. (If you are reading this post and do not have UC Berkeley or other academic credentials, the links may not work at all… Sorry about that!).

======================================

ASSIGNMENT / FIELD TRIPS

Visit two (2) synagogues during the two weeks of the Sukkot Festival

1. Consult the list of Jewish congregations in Berkeley
The list is available online at this link. It includes addresses, contact information, and website links (this information is also available via the links posted in your Field Trip Registration Form). Note that they are not listed in order of importance (but the first two are very close to Campus), and that not all of them will be holding services during the upcoming holiday. Each congregation operates according to different (and often site-specific) guidelines. It is important to notice these differences, and to plan your fieldwork accordingly.
2. Choose two (2) different synagogues
Individual visits should be long enough for each student to be able to observe nightlife as it is happening (plan to be on site for at least one hour). Please remember that you must visit two (2) different synagogues on two separate field trips.
3. Register for each field trip
a) Add your name (First, Last) and the date/time of each of your planned visits to the corresponding synagogue on the Field Trip Registration Form, a shared Google Spreadsheet linked here.
b) No more than ten students can visit a synagogue at the same time (to limit your impact on the congregations you will be visiting).
c) You must use your @berkeley.edu login to bDrive to access the registration spreadsheet (more information here).
d) Registration closes at the times indicated on the Field Trip Registration Form. Make sure you name is on the spreadsheet for both field trips by then! 
4. Plan your visits (field trips)
a) Read the congregations’ websites (links provided online, AND in the shared spreadsheet), and document yourself on the background and history of each of the two congregations you are planning to visit.
b) Plan your trip (all congregations are located within walking distance, and near public transportation), to make sure you maximize the time at your disposal.
c) In general, make sure you have as much information with you BEFORE your trip, so that DURING the trip you can focus on researching your surroundings.
5. During your visits: seven general rules of conduct
Remember that you will be visiting ritual spaces, and that you may not be aware of all the rules of conduct that govern them. Be as respectful as you can of your (unfamiliar?) surroundings.
a) Dress appropriately (use your judgment), and be quiet (i.e., not loud: this will also enhance your chances of observing as much as possible of your surroundings)
b) Silence and put away your phones
c) Stand when people stand, sit when they sit
d) Ask for page in prayer book (don’t be shy about asking for assistance!).
e) Introduce yourself if anyone asks you why you are there. There is a long-standing history of visiting synagogues on the part of “strangers” (Jewish visitors from out of town, Jewish members of other congregations, and non-Jewish visitors), so your presence will not be out of the ordinary. But it will definitely be noticed.
f) Do not take notes, do not take photographs, do not make audio recordings, do not use any electronic devices while you are inside a synagogue: many congregations (but not all) ban the use of electricity and writing during certain holidays and the Sabbath
g) Do your best to minimize your luggage (backpacks, etc.), and try to not have any with you if possible (unless, of course, you absolutely need your backpack with you).
6. During your visits: observe and listen to your surroundings (field work)
Be as aware of your surroundings as you can. Look for the following:
a) Architectural space: what does it look like, how is space distributed and occupied, etc.
b) Population: number of people attending, age, gender, dress code(s).
c) Use of space gender and age.
d) Languages (of the prayer books, of people conducting the prayers, etc.).
e) Sounds and music: any particular sounds? recognizable melodies? identifiable musical style or styles?
Also, refer to the four parameters listed in the Listening Assignment Guide for Week 4 (soundscape; performance style, language, and context), as well as to the articulation of the synagogue’s “cast of characters” in this week’s assigned reading (excerpted from S. Heilman’s Synagogue Life).
7. After your visits: take notes (field notes)
As soon as you are able to, write down your observations on the points listed above (No. 6), or on additional details and impressions you may have gathered from your visit. Try to be as systematic as you can in collecting your notes, so that you can compare them from one field trip to the next.
8. After your visits: class work
We will be comparing notes and impressions in class, and you will be asked to incorporate your observations in class discussions.
9. About instructors’ participation
Both instructors (Francesco Spagnolo & Yair Harel) will be also visiting Berkeley synagogues at this time. But we will not register online, and we will only see those of you who are registered for the same field trips on such occasions. We plan to share our observations with the class as well.