Some operate with the assumption that autonomy — freedom, choice, setting one’s own path in the world, feeling a sense of agency, and actually having agency — is central to human flourishing. Those folks may have a hard time with the idea of obligation. Others, on the other hand, operate with the assumption that accepting obligations, submitting to what someone (or Someone) else asks of us, acting on behalf of a cause or a purpose greater than oneself, is the noblest way to live. Those folks may have a hard time with the idea of autonomy. The goal of this course is to examine the tension between autonomy and obligation, to understand the ways that Jewish tradition has embraced both, and to envision ways that we might do so ourselves.
- Selections from Tanakh, rabbinic texts, and modern Jewish philosophical texts
- Non-Jewish philosophical texts
Jon A. Levisohn holds the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Chair in Jewish Educational Thought at Brandeis University, where he directs the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education. He holds degrees in Philosophy, Education and Religious Studies from Harvard College and Stanford University, and has also studied at Yeshivat Sha’alvim, the Hebrew University, and the Shalom Hartman Institute. He is the author of numerous articles and volumes, including most recently “’This is One of the Commandments that Devolve upon the Community’: Hovot ha-Tzibbur (Communal Obligations) as Resources for Imagining Jewish Community,” with Marc Herman, Toronto Journal of Jewish Thought (2017); “Theories of Transformative Learning in Jewish Education: Three Cases,” Journal of Jewish Education (2017); Advancing the Learning Agenda in Jewish Education, edited with Jeffrey Kress (forthcoming); and Beyond Jewish Identity, edited with Ari Kelman (forthcoming). He has taught for organizations such as Yeshivat Maharat, ADCA, Matach/CET, and JFNA, and served for two summers on the faculty of the Bronfman Fellowship Program. An alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, he served as co-chair of the WGF Coordinating Committee in 2015-17 and on the Wexner Field Fellowship Selection Committee in 2018. He lives in Newton, MA, with his wife Emily Beck and their three children, and is active in Congregation Shaarei Tefilah and Minyan Yedid Nefesh.
Kate Havard Rozansky