Check out our #Unfinal class presentation (Thursday, December 18, 5 PM, at The Magnes) on Facebook!
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:
- Work in chavruta (pairs) by re-composing the same pairs of students already created on the occasion of our Mid-term exam
- Access this document via bDrive (you already know the drill…) at this shortened URL: http://bit.ly/JNLResponse4
- Formulate the three extremely focused questions:
- Jewish music and art: one question for Yair Harel (investigate his personal/artistic background, his knowledge and skills)
- Jewish music and research: one question for Francesco Spagnolo (investigate his personal/academic background, his knowledge and skills)
- 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
- 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.
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:
There are seven groups of papers, listed in order of magnitude:
- Religious studies and ethnomusicology (liturgy and piyyut)
- Area studies (Jewish communities in the global diaspora)
- Musicology (Jews and popular music in America and beyond)
- Musicology (Jews and art music in the synagogue, 18th-20th centuries)
- Comparative studies (ritual and nightlife in Jewish and non-Jewish communities)
- Gender studies (women in Jewish ritual)
- 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…
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)
– Jews in the Lands of Islam
Ritual and material culture (ritual performances, texts, objects)
– Simchat Torah
– Prayer Book (Siddur)
Music & Sound (in their relationships to cultural identity and to ritual)
– “chant” (Psalmody and Biblical reading)
3. CONTENT: Each card must include the following elements:
- Two short paragraphs representing different (possibly conflicting) points of view on each of the topics selected
- A visual element
- A sound (or video) element
- 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)
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.
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”….
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,
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
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.
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.
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) 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.