“The essence of Havruta is to learn history, identity and humanity”

신태섭 기자l승인2019.10.28l수정2019.10.28 09:08






▲ Sungjun Lee / Director of Center for Havruta Education

Many say that education is the very foundation for the future of a nation. How to educate young people decides a rise or a fall of a nation and this saying has been repeated over and over again with couldn’t be enough emphasis. But not all seems good with this saying. South Korea is second to none when it comes to education as the overheated extra-curricular activities after school is found in no other countries in the world but here only. Many students including children are knackered around the time of closing a day and it happens almost every day. 

It is not surprising, therefore, to observe a continuous flow of introducing new and alternative educational methods. However, almost seem to appear shortly and disappear like nobody knows. Yet, there are still a few survivors and one of them is a Jewish education method called <Havruta> known to be the driving force of having achieved a 30% prestigious US university entrance and a 25% of the Nobel Prize winners. 

Difference between Korean Havruta and Jewish Havruta

It was 2012 Havruta started to spread fast in South Korea. Unlike the quickly come and go educational methods, Havruta rather seems to be accelerated as the year 2019. Parents today might have heard Havruta at least once or twice as some elementary schools assign Havruta questions for homework. 

 Sungjun Lee / the director of the Center for Havruta Education, studied in the US during which he visited South Korea shortly in 2015 and came to know about Havruta. Back in the US, he took a course at American Jewish University and finished the Judaism Program and deepened his knowledge on Jewish Education. Gathering his knowledge and vision, he wrote two books: <Havruta: the Speaking History> and <Havruta: What Is Your Question?>. 

 When asked about Havruta, Lee says “There is difference between Korean Havruta and Jewish Havruta. The former focuses on speaking method, question method and pairing method while the latter on history, religion and tradition. In other words, the authentic Jewish Havruta is a means to pass down the root culture of Jewish.”

The long suffered Hebrew has grown today as the most powerful influencer on earth. What made this relatively small number of people this much powerful? And what did Havruta do to them? 

“Havruta is the way of their life. It is a means to keep their root, history and tradition. It is an education for identity but NOT a method of how to study! It happens at home. It starts from parents to their children. Ant they have been doing Havruta for the last 3,500 years” explains Lee, adding “It is not Jewish who keep the Sabbath but the Sabbath that keeps Jewish.”

For Jewish, history is not about knowledge but ethnicity. Naturally, Havruta starts at home and it is passed down to generations to generations. Jewish values highly of their suffering and painful history and proudly pass it down for younger generations to never forget what they have suffered and what they have done.

Tzedakah: charity

 The Hebrew word ‘Tzedakah (צדקה)’ literally means ‘justice’ or ‘righteousness’ but commonly used to signify ‘charity’. Tzedakah is an important element of Havruta closely related to ‘humanity’. In the same respect, learning Havruta is deepening humanity for which Jewish trains themselves through reading and discussion. 

“In Havruta, the person sitting next to you is not a rival but an object of study partner, companion, sharer and compassion. I think it’s only natural those with agreeable heart and character more likely to call luck and success than those who lack them. And the age of Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality call people equipped with abilities for cooperation, collaboration and communication.”

What South Korea must do?

 “Regardless ethnicity, fostering talented global leaders starts at establishing identity. Before talking about pedagogy of Havruta we must lay the foundation for our history and root which are the core of our identity. And one of the best ways to know our history is exploring historical sites. Through this, we learn the sufferings and pains of our ancestors and build pride and next directions.”

As part of this effort, Lee is leading the Korean History Expedition, the Havruta History Camp and the Havruta History Tour. 

Q. What are your visions?

A. 7.5 million Koreans are living in 180 countries in the world. It is regretful that many of the second generations seem to forget where they came from and even their mother tongue. So I’m working on ‘History Havruta’ for them starting in LA around February next year. I respect Changho Ahn who left a famous saying: “Individuals fulfill their duty of humanity by working for the people they belong.” I want to walk the same path.


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