Hebrew Union doctoral students find a niche teaching at MTSO
MTSO Professor John Kampen is a loyal alumnus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he earned his doctorate and teaches a course on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Hebrew Union, which has campuses in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and New York City, is the largest Jewish seminary in North America.
Kampen’s affinity for both MTSO and HUC-JIR led him to propose a program that benefits each of them.
“I was aware of both the emerging needs of our school to broaden its pool of people available for part-time instruction and the peculiar problems that face a graduate school like Hebrew Union,” said Kampen, who holds the Dunn Chair in Biblical Interpretation at MTSO. Hebrew Union has doctoral students who hope to teach in higher education, some in seminaries.
Kampen spearheaded the formation of a joint Instructional Preparation Program to bring well-qualified HUC-JIC doctoral students to MTSO as teachers in their fields of expertise, with mentoring by MTSO faculty. Richard Sarason, director of HUC-JIR’s Pines School of Graduate Studies, said his school sees unique value in the MTSO partnership.
“We are delighted by and seek out opportunities for our graduate students to have not only teaching opportunities in various contexts but, in particular, mentored teaching opportunities,” Sarason said. “That is what’s so wonderful about the MTSO experience.”
“Hebrew Union is an outstanding academic institution,” said MTSO President Jay Rundell. “We’re happy to engage in a partnership that enhances the education we can provide our students and provides Hebrew Union’s doctoral students with a unique opportunity.”
The program is wrapping up its first semester, during which Hebrew Union Ph.D. student Michael Lyons has taught two MTSO courses: Intro to Hebrew Bible and Basic Texts in the Moses Tradition.
“I’ve had a few students go out of their way to volunteer how well they liked his course,” Kampen said. “That doesn’t happen that often.”
Following an energetic late-semester Intro to Hebrew Bible class, several students lined up to pick Lyons’ brain about elements of his lecture. It’s a response Lyons relishes.
“It’s fun to see students who think about what we just talked about and bring follow-up questions,” he said. “They want to know, ‘How’s this work with this text over here?’ or, ‘How does this work with the New Testament?’
“What I would love to do is teach pastors and help pastors understand the beauty of the Old Testament for the church today,” Lyons said. “We live in a time in which the Old Testament is kind of looked at as an archaic document that has nothing to do with our world today, and I would beg to differ.”
Kampen sees value in bringing a teacher from a Jewish seminary to a Christian seminary: “It’s important for both seminaries with regard to the interchange of ideas and religious traditions. It’s also important in terms of forming educational alliances with different faith traditions.”
Hebrew Union’s Sarason said this cooperation between schools of Jewish and Christian traditions is “a huge value, first of all because both our rabbinical program and our grad program promote interfaith understanding. We have a required course in the rabbinical program on Christian scriptures.”
Kampen will soon begin considering HUC-JIR candidates for Fall Semester teaching at MTSO. As liaison, he’ll conduct interviews and recommend a candidate to Dean Lisa Withrow. Meanwhile, Lyons departs with gratitude for his time at MTSO.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to teach in a Christian seminary setting, which is really what I’d like to do long term, so this has been a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “This is a great environment: students who really want to ask hard questions and think seriously about the Bible in new ways.”
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