Dr. Walter Herzberg, assistant professor of Bible and Professional and Pastoral Skills at The Jewish Theological Seminary, has devoted the bulk of his career to working directly with students in the United States and Israel. He teaches introductory and advanced courses in Bible and traditional biblical commentary in The Rabbinical School, the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music, and the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of JTS, and guides classroom and online students in the reading of the Bible by using a methodological approach and integrating modern literary close reading techniques with the study of traditional Jewish commentary.
Knowing that what he teaches will add far-reaching benefits to the personal and professional lives of his students, Dr. Herzberg's primary goals are to facilitate the study of Bible and Torah lishmah (for its own sake) and the educational process. He teaches students "what they cannot teach themselves," and helps them become fluent readers of the Hebrew Bible and independent, analytical close readers of the texts. In 2009, Dr. Herzberg was the first recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Teaching in The Rabbinical School.
Dr. Herzberg walks well and determinedly in the footsteps of his mentors: Bible studies innovator Dr. Nehama Liebowitz, noted for her unique pedagogical methods and preference for the title teacher over the more prestigious professor; and Dr. Cyrus Herzl Gordon, world-class scholar of Near Eastern culture and ancient languages, who was known for his skills in teaching texts to students at different levels of readiness at the very same time. Much to the delight of his JTS students, Dr. Herzberg quotes his mentors often, and much to the students' advantage, he has modified his mentors' theories to fit his own evolved perspective. Applying the resulting ideas-and his own internalization of the Socratic Method-to the questions and topics he so carefully formulates for his classes, Dr. Herzberg's daily efforts are changing Jewish thought, culture, and religious practice as he intrigues eager minds. And yes, he is proud to be called teacher.
A list of Dr. Herzberg's accomplishments includes being senior lecturer and chair of the department of Jewish Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles (now the American Jewish University), and an instructor of Bible, commentaries, and biblical Hebrew grammar at Jerusalem's Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Hebrew University, Hebrew Union College, and New York University's Institute of Hebrew Culture and Education. Earlier, he was educational director of the Commission on Jewish Education of the United Synagogue of America (now United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism), and a visiting professor at JTS.
Dr. Herzberg earned a bachelor's degree in History and a master's degree in Jewish Education from Yeshiva University; a master's degree in English as a Second Language from Teachers College, Columbia University; and a doctorate in Bible and Near Eastern Studies from New York University (NYU). He was also a postdoctoral fellow at NYU and in the Jerusalem Fellowship program, and studied at Hebrew University.
At JTS, Dr. Herzberg works closely with Dr. Nitza Krohn, assistant professor of Hebrew Language and director of the Hebrew Language Program, developing a curriculum in which the teaching of Bible, biblical commentary, and Hebrew is coordinated. They use prepublication materials in their classes, and partner with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning to augment their online materials. For two years, Dr. Herzberg has taught the Davidson School's Pedagogical Skills course in Bible and biblical commentary with Meredith Katz, Jim Joseph Senior Scholar of Jewish Education, and Sara Shapiro-Plevan, adjunct lecturer of Jewish Education, in close consultation with Dr. Jeffrey Kress, associate professor and area coordinator of Jewish Education and academic director of the Experiential Learning Initiative. Dr. Herzberg and the group create links between their parallel courses so that students can develop an appreciation for and particular skills in the process of translating Jewish texts for pedagogical use. He also teaches an online course for The Davison School on Parshanut, and, for The Rabbinical School, a class on the homiletical uses of the commentaries. At the H. L. Miller Cantorial School, he teaches a course on the weekly parashah in a course that considers the evolving role of the cantor.
Dr. Herzberg is currently working with Professor Steven Kepnes, Finard Professor in Jewish Studies and Religion at Colgate University, on a book titled Reading the Bible for Meaning: A Theology of Biblical Exegesis (Academic Studies Press, August 2014), which will show how, in a close reading of the texts and different commentators, one can begin to reveal or discover the implied theology of those commentators.