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Beit Midrásh: Masculinity, Masculinity, Judaism, and Gender

A curriculum titled “Beit Midrásh: Masculinity, Masculinity, Judaism, and Gender” has been incorporated over the past seven years at Hartman Experimental Orthodox Boys’ High School in Jerusalem. The curriculum is taught in grades 7 through 12, and comprises 150 modules that contain intensive, critical discussion of the students’ masculine identity. The curriculum’s rationale is based on the assumption that without education toward questioning conservative-normative masculinity among our boys, it is nearly impossible to transform them into allies who will support gender equality and act to prevent gender-based violence.

Over the course of the six years of the program’s development, more than 120 religious gender focal points were designed as learning units, currently taught on a weekly basis from 7th to 12th grade. Each of these units contains up to date theoretical knowledge from the field of gender studies, confronted by a variety of religious Jewish sources. Thus, this new pedagogy grapples with the conflict between modernity and religious tradition.

The classes are taught in a unique style, called “Beit Midrash learning”, which needs to be explained in order to understand one of the primary dilemmas that will be presented further on In "Beit Midrash" learning, traditional religious texts were studied in dyads, or small groups, and it was permissible to ask anything, say anything or share anything. In some ways, it is similar to what is nowadays called a "workshop". Experience proved this methodology to be especially well suited for fostering a meaningful connection between educators and students. It allows for a shared experience similar to a therapeutic man's group, and as different as possible from the standard classroom atmosphere.

The overarching goal of the curriculum is to work on building the students' identities in a moderate and healthy way, and to help them develop social skills and reflective critical thinking skills. The curriculum is divided by grade level in order to provide content appropriate to each age’s developmental level and challenges.


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