Jewish learning Faculty Spotlight:
Rabbi Jane Kanarek

By Hebrew College

As part of our new faculty spotlight series, we recently spoke with Hebrew College faculty member Rabbi Jane Kanarek, PhD about her teaching, specialty, and the Hebrew College Rabbinical School community. 

Q. What do you like best about teaching at Hebrew College and particularly teaching rabbinical students? 

I love Hebrew College’s commitment to rigorous text study, the creation of community across difference, and poetic religious language. I am drawn to teaching rabbinical students both because I get to teach the texts I love in their original Hebrew and Aramaic and because I do so in a context where I am challenged to constantly bridge ancient and contemporary worlds. All of this is in service of helping our students to imagine the kinds of rich Jewish communities they want to help to create and sustain.

Q. How have Hebrew College students inspired you? 

Hebrew College students inspire me with their intelligence, their kindness, and their commitment to the process of becoming a rabbi. It is a cliche to say a teacher learns from her students, but I truly do — in the sense that I teach from a position of assuming my students see things that I do not yet understand. It is rewarding to teach in a context where I know I will learn from my students’ perspectives and try and integrate some of those perspectives into my teaching.

Jane Kanarek and a studnt looked at a book

Q. What is your specialty and why did you choose it? 

My specialty is Talmud. I chose it because I saw — and continue to see — it as the central canonical work of our tradition. In addition, the Talmud itself and its layers of commentary provide an incredibly rich basis and model for continuity and creative change.

Q. What is a text you love to teach and why? 

 I love to teach the opening sugya (talmudic argument) from tractate Kiddushin. On the surface, it very much positions women as second-class. But a careful reading of the passage renders the sugya as quite complex — upholding patriarchy yet revealing cracks in its facade.

Q. What is a text you love that is unrelated to teaching rabbinical students? 

Most texts that I read make their way into my teaching somehow.

Q. Outside of teaching, what is something you love about Judaism? 

I love Judaism’s textual tradition.

Q. A rabbinical school teacher can play multiple roles. How would you describe your role in 3-4 words?

 Rabbinical school teacher as textual scaffold builder.

Rabbi Dr. Jane Kanarek is associate professor of rabbinics and associate dean of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School. She is the author of Biblical Narrative and the Formation of Rabbinic Law and the co-editor of Learning to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and Mothers in the Jewish Cultural Imagination, the latter two of which were finalists for the National Jewish Book Awards. She received rabbinic ordination from The Jewish Theological Seminary, a PhD from the University of Chicago and is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship.

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