Modern Medical Education and Traditional Jewish Learning

Nurturing a Society of Learners: Suggestions from Traditional Jewish Pedagogy for Medical Education

Jacob Urkin, Edward Fram, Allen Jotkowitz, and Sody A. Naimer


Historically speaking, in many societies a select few carried the burden of preserving and transferring knowledge. While modern society has broadened the scope of education, this is not enough in the medical sciences. We must ensure that all those who pursue a career in medicine become life-long learners who will grow and contribute well beyond their years in medical school. In considering how to attain this goal, we were intrigued by the similarities between generations-old wisdom of teaching and learning methods in Jewish culture and modern educational principles. Both aim to nurture a culture of learners. Our objective was to parallel the methodologies, pedagogic directives, and demands made of students in the Jewish tradition, to the principles used in medical education today. We surveyed the traditional Jewish culture of teaching and learning. We compared it to modern medical teaching methods and looked to see what lessons might be gleaned. In the traditional Jewish community, life is focused on education, and producing “learners” is the ideal. This culture of learning was developed over the generations and many educational methods are similar to modern ones. Some of the pedagogic principles developed successfully in Jewish society should be considered for adaptation in medical education. Further comparative research could help to expand the ways in which we teach medicine.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2017;8(3):e0033