Games Children Play: A Digital Upgrade for Jewish Education?

Posted on: August 9th, 2011 by Hayim Herring

Image courtesy of

In a recent article in eJewishPhilanthropy, Rabbi Owen Gottlieb makes the case for Jewish “Games for Learning,” writing that today’s learners “are increasingly Gamers, Designers, and Builders (Tinkerers).”  He argues that the expansion of these games in secular educational settings needs to be embraced by the Jewish philanthropic community if Jewish education efforts are to successfully meet Jewish learners where they are at.

Here are some powerful statistics from the Pew Center’s Internet & American Life Project¹ that confirm Gottleib’s point:

  • Nearly all American teens (a staggering 97%) ages 12-17 play computer, web, console, or mobile games.
  • About one-third of teen gamers play games every day.”
  • 76% of teen gamers play games with other people in some way, either online or in person. Gaming is not necessarily a socially isolating experience anymore.

In yesterday’s opinion piece in the New York Times, columnist Virginia Heffernan argues that grade-school education needs a “digital-age upgrade.”  She asserts that 21st-century American classrooms, with their orientation to “teaching tasks, obedience, hierarchy and schedules” are a holdover from the industrial-era, when the classroom was retooled as a “training ground for future factory workers.” (I wonder what she would say about Jewish education!)

Heffernan claims that we need to bring education from the industrial-era model to a digital-age one:

Simply put, we can’t keep preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist. We can’t keep ignoring the formidable cognitive skills they’re developing on their own.

Her comments suggest a serious place for gaming in the educational system. We know that many aspects of Jewish education need a digital-age upgrade.

  • What do you think are some of the needed components?
  • Does Jewish gaming have a place in this upgrade?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Rabbi Hayim Herring


¹Lenhart, Amanda, et al.  Teens, Video Games and Civics.  Report, Washington, D.C.:  Pew Internet & American Life Project, September 16, 2008. (accessed August 8, 2011).


©2024 Hayim Herring – Rabbi, Entrepreneur, Consultant
Designed by Access Technology