Jewish Paideia: Education and Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora by Jason M. Zurawski
Jewish Paideia investigates diverse self-reflections on what it meant to be Jewish in Hellenistic and early Roman Diaspora communities by examining depictions of ideal Jewish education, or paideia, in the literature of the period. Education offers a unique and unexplored vantage point for understanding the internal constructing of Jewish identity in progress, as it provides key insight into the most determinative constituents of Jewish ethics and culture and into how questions of “Jewishness” were reimagined under dynamic and varied cultural and political circumstances. Within the elite intellectual circles of the ancient Mediterranean world, individual and communal identity, not unlike today, was inextricably bound to education. Depictions of ideal Jewish education become for us windows into a discourse of identity as it happened. By exploring how Jewish writers utilized paideia as a means of forming, reshaping, and deploying unique portraits of Jewish identity, this volume fills a significant lacuna in the study of ancient Judaism and the Jewish people.
It also provides meaningful comparanda for Classicists and necessary background for later developments of Late Antique Jewish and Christian pedagogy. The diverse ways in which education was construed directly reflect how authors sought to internally understand and externally portray the Jewish community. Education offers keen insight into how the ancestral past became a contested site, how “the other” was utilized as a foil for reinforcing the image of the in-group, how empire and colonization impacted understandings of the Jewish people within broader society, and how Jewish law functioned to connect community members across space and time. Paideia, therefore, provides the researcher unparalleled access to Jewish self-reflections during this important period of history and to questions that have been central to developing a greater understanding of the Jewish people within the ancient Mediterranean world.
Year first published: 2023