Open Your Hand: Teaching as a Jew, Teaching as an American (Paperback)
Fifteen years into a successful career as a college professor, Ilana Blumberg encounters a crisis in the classroom that sends her back to the most basic questions about education and prompts a life-changing journey that ultimately takes her from East Lansing to Tel Aviv. As she explores how civic and religious commitments shape the culture of her humanities classrooms, Blumberg argues that there is no education without ethics. When we know what sort of society we seek to build, our teaching practices follow. In vivid classroom scenes from kindergarten through middle school to the university level, Blumberg conveys the drama of intellectual discovery as she offers novice and experienced teachers a pedagogy of writing, speaking, reading, and thinking that she links clearly to the moral and personal development of her students. Writing as an observant Jew and as an American, Blumberg does not shy away from the difficult challenge of balancing identities in the twenty-first century: how to remain true to a community of origin while being a national and global citizen. As she negotiates questions of faith and citizenship in the wide range of classrooms she traverses, Blumberg reminds us that teaching - and learning - are nothing short of a moral art, and that the future of our society depends on it.
About the Author
ILANA M. BLUMBERG is a senior lecturer in English literature and director of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel. She is the author of Victorian Sacrifice: Ethics and Economics in Mid-Century Novels and the Sami Rohr Choice Award-winning memoir Houses of Study: a Jewish Woman among Books.
"In this remarkable memoir, Ilana Blumberg insists that classroom instruction entails moral commitments illuminated, in her case, through immersion in the humanities. A gift to anyone interested in the art and practice of teaching, and a powerful pedagogic manifesto."
— Jonathan D. Sarna
"This extraordinary book is part memoir, part discussion of the ethics and praxis of education, and part detailed accounts of Blumberg’s teaching experiences – poignant, dramatic, profound in their implications. Ranging from pre-school to college, these narratives show how redemptive the act of writing can sometimes be. Blumberg herself thinks and writes her way through crises that interrogate her own assumptions. Here lies the generative drama of her book. A large-hearted and clear-minded document. Highly recommended."
— Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg
"A smart, compelling, significant memoir. I enthusiastically recommend this particularly timely book as it makes a spiritual and ethical case for the humanities in action and for fact-based, rational discourse...Ultimately, Blumberg champions the sacred art of teaching and the power of reading and writing to make worlds and moral selves."
— Helene Meyers
"A powerful reflection on this teaching life...engaging, reflective, and honest. Open Your Hand will appeal to those interested in grappling with what the connection is--or should be--between worlds inside and outside of the classroom."
— Tahneer Oksman
"Reading Open Your Hand is an exhilarating experience. Beautifully written, passionately argued, this is a profound meditation on education, morality, identity. Blumberg takes us through an astonishing range of educational experiences and reminds us why education is an exalted adventure. In a relativistic era, she insists on the urgency and possibility of a moral education. Open Your Hand is an essential book on what it means to be an educator."
— Yossi Klein Halevi
"Open Your Hand will restore your faith in the power of teachers to make a difference. Blumberg offers her readers a thoughtful meditation on moral education by way of an entertaining and often poignant tour of the institutions in which she has taught. She describes her students with a level of empathy and insight that makes you wish that you had studied with her."
— Jonathan Krasner
"Goodnight, Tween: Why I’m Still Reading Out Loud to My Kids," by Ilana Blumberg
"12 New Books About Contemporary Jewish Identity — All by Women!" by Elana Rebitzer and Lilith Staff
Chronicle of Higher Education "Selected New Books on Higher Education" compiled by Ruth Hammond
— Chronicle of Higher Education
"Her book is a compelling argument for the power of education to change lives. It reminds us that in Israel or America, as a Jew or as an American, learning can and should inspire compassion, combat racism, and balance fear with courage."
— Jewish Book Council
"A beautiful, moving book....A timely brief for the humanities. Blumberg’s defense of education is necessary reading."
— The Forward
"Compelling reading because of [Blumberg’s] open and honest discussions of her successes and failures. She admits her own learning curve – recognizing that she will always have to adjust her expectations and teaching style in order to help different types of students. Readers will rejoice in her successes, while discovering that even the best teachers may not be able to help students overcome all their obstacles.”
— The Reporter Group
Excerpt of Open Your hand in Hayidon, "In These Times" issue
Open Your Hand mentioned in "Briefly Noted" round-up
— The Pennsylvania Gazette
"Writing the Unspeakable: Teaching Literature of the Shoah and American Slavery," except of Open Your Hand on the ProsenPeople blog
— Jewish Book Council
"This book chronicles her experiences as a teacher in many settings – at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, as well as at the cutting-edge Jewish day school in New York, Beit Rabban. Some of the most moving passages in this book describe her work as a volunteer in an American inner-city public middle school where she worked with disadvantaged children with spotty attendance records who almost invariably had experienced violence in their lives."
— Jewish Canadian News
"As she negotiates questions of faith and citizenship in the wide range of classrooms she traverses, Blumberg reminds us that teaching - and learning - are nothing short of a moral art, and that the future of our society depends on it."
— Jewish Media Review
"Open Your Hand is at once the story of one woman’s life in classrooms and a pedagogical education in itself."
— Life Writing
The 929 Podcast interview with Ilana Blumberg
— The 929 Podcast
"It’s the best book on teaching that I’ve read in a very long time, so I’ve already given away several copies of Ilana Blumberg’s Open Your Hand: Teaching as a Jew, Teaching as an American. What I found in this book astonished and surprised me. Blumberg, who has taught in colleges, elementary and secondary schools, and a university in Tel Aviv, writes about a classroom crisis she encountered and the ways in which it awakened her to what truly matters in teaching: the formation of character."
— Christian Century
"Blumberg weaves together memoir with reflections on education and pedagogy and their meanings within a broader societal and cultural context [and] invites us into a consideration of education that probes the inescapable questions of how to be a person in the world."
— Christian Scholar's Review