Ilana Blumberg

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Reading Open Your Hand is an exhilarating experience. Beautifully written, passionately argued, this is a profound meditation on education, morality, identity. Blumberg takes us through an astonishing range of educational experiences -- from teaching children in an experimental Jewish school to young teens in a broken inner city school to conservative students in a mid-western university -- and reminds us why education is an exalted adventure. In a relativistic era where facts are contested, she insists on the urgency and possibility of a moral education. Open Your Hand deserves a place among the essential books on what it means to be an educator.


--Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute, author, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor


This extraordinary book is part memoir, part discussion of the ethics and praxis of education, and part detailed accounts of Blumberg’s teaching experiences – poignant, dramatic, profound in  their implications. Ranging from pre-school to college, these narratives show how redemptive the act of writing can sometimes be. Blumberg herself thinks and writes her way through crises that interrogate her own assumptions.  Here lies the generative drama of her book. A large-hearted and clear-minded document. Highly recommended.

-- Avivah Zornberg, author of Moses: A Human Life


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"In this remarkable memoir, Ilana Blumberg insists that classroom instruction entails moral commitments illuminated, in her case, through immersion in the humanities. A gift to anyone interested in the art and practice of teaching, and a powerful pedagogic manifesto."

Jonathan D. Sarna 

Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University

"Open Your Hand will restore your faith in the power of teachers to make a difference. Blumberg offers her readers a thoughtful meditation on moral education by way of an entertaining and often poignant tour of the institutions in which she has taught. She describes her students with a level of empathy and insight that makes you wish that you had studied with her."

Jonathan Krasner 

Jack Joseph and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Education Research, Brandeis University

"A smart, compelling, significant memoir. I enthusiastically recommend this particularly timely book as it makes a spiritual and ethical case for the humanities in action and for fact-based, rational discourse...Ultimately, Blumberg champions the sacred art of teaching and the power of reading and writing to make worlds and moral selves."

Helene Meyers

Author of Identity Papers: Contemporary Narratives of American Jewishness



Ilana Blumberg is the author of Open Your Hand: Teaching as a Jew, Teaching as an Americanand Houses of Study: a Jewish Woman among Books, winner of the Sami Rohr Choice Award for Jewish Literature and shortlisted for the National Jewish Book Award in Women's Studies and the Moment Magazine Prize for Emergent Writers. She publishes regularly in the field of Victorian studies and is the author of the scholarly monograph, Victorian Sacrifice: Ethics and Economics in Mid-Century England.

Ilana was educated in Jewish day schools, at Drisha Institute, and Midreshet Lindenbaum, and earned her BA in English, summa cum laude, at Barnard College.

Ilana earned her M.A. in Creative Writing and her Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Mellon Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and the Israel Science Foundation.


Ilana began her formal career in teaching at Beit Rabban in New York City. She has received awards for teaching excellence from the University of Pennsylvania and Michigan State University, where she taught for eleven years. Ilana currently directs the Shaindy Rudoff Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University where she is a Senior Lecturer in English. 


Ilana lives with her family in Jerusalem.  


With Evan Fallenberg, interview at Jerusalem Book Launch, May 2019

Upcoming Events

  • Small Drama
    Dec 08, 7:00 PM GMT+2
    Dec 06, 2020, 7:00 PM GMT+2
    Dec 08, 7:00 PM GMT+2
  • Lost and Found: Writing the Present in Light of the Past
    Aug 17, 7:00 PM GMT+3
    Aug 16, 2020, 7:00 PM GMT+3
    Aug 17, 7:00 PM GMT+3
  • Craft of Teaching, University of Chicago
    University of Chicago Divinity School
    Nov 14, 2019, 7:00 PM
    University of Chicago Divinity School, 1025 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
    Graduate seminar
  • Beth El Synagogue, Minneapolis
    Beth El Synagogue
    Aug 12, 2019, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM GMT+3
    Beth El Synagogue, 5225 Barry St W, St Louis Park, MN 55416, USA
    Reading, discussion, book signing! Please come
  • WriteSpace Jerusalem Master Class (1)
    Aug 07, 2019, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
    Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
  • WriteSpace Master Class
    Jun 27, 2019, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
    Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
  • Conservative Yeshiva
    Conservative Yeshiva
    Jun 16, 2019, 7:00 PM
    Conservative Yeshiva, Fuchsberg center, Agron 8, ירושלים, Israel
  • Jerusalem Book Launch
    Yehuda St 31
    May 19, 2019, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
    Yehuda St 31, Yehuda St 31, Jerusalem, Israel
  • Drexel University, Jewish Studies lecture
    Drexel University
    Apr 30, 2019, 4:00 PM
    Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA


Ilana is available for speaking engagements and master classes.

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© 2019 by Ilana Blumberg. All rights reserved.