Of interest to many readers will be David Goldman’s latest, A Yeshiva Curriculum in Western Literature, published in Hakirah: the Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought. “How should religious Jews approach the high culture of the West?” David wrote when he sent it round:
Outside of the observant Jewish world, it is not often understood that Judaism developed and sustained an autonomous high culture during the past two thousand years. Nor is it widely known that Jews have engaged Western cultural critically at important junctures. I argue that religious Jews can neither ignore the high culture of the Christian West, nor approach it in passive admiration. Our concepts of beauty, love and redemption differ in fundamental respects from Christian concepts. But I believe we can and must engage Western culture without vitiating our autonomous vantage point.
After discussing this, he offers his suggestions for a yeshiva curriculum:
The subject of this curriculum is not literary aesthetics, but the conflict of great ideas through the history of the West, in which Jews and Jewish thinking played a decisive, if underappreciated, role. Rather than array the sources according to period or genre, in the conventional way, I suggest three great themes: Time, Love and Evil.
I. Time: Homer vs. Tanakh
II. Love: Medieval Romance vs. La Celestina
III. Evil: Don Juan and the Paradox of Christian Salvation
This part of the essay (about three-quarters of it), in which he explains what each section will teach, is as interesting as his opening reflections on the general question. A Yeshiva Curriculum is much worth reading for Christians as well as Jews, since David’s insights into the differences are illuminating. It’s also something teachers in Christian and classical schools and homeschoolers should consider, because he helps Christians see the books they want to feature in a new way.