Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Stories in Transit: Educational Shifts in Stories from the Jewish Talmud Translated into Japanese and Korean

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Mahogany, First Floor

Since its arrival in South Korea in 1975, the child-oriented editions of the Korean translation of the Jewish Talmud steadily gained popularity. This popularity increased dramatically in 1998 with the IMF crisis and the subsequent turn to neoliberalism in the Korean education system. However, these so-called “Talmud” books in Korea are not direct translations of the Jewish original, but compilations of stories remixed from various sources, the primary one being a compilation of Jewish stories published in Japanese by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. Many of the stories within Tokayer's volume and the later Korean translations do not originate from the Jewish Talmud.


This paper traces the background of the publication of the Talmud compilation in Japan; its transition to Korea; and the methods of its popularization there. Based on a sampling of some thirty volumes, it then provides an overview of the content of children-oriented Talmud compilations in Korea.


Furthermore, by analyzing one of the most common stories in the Korean Talmud compilations, this paper demonstrates the thematic shifts that occur in the translation, and how it is representative of the educational thrust of the Korean Talmud compilations. Lacking the context of the original stories, the Korean versions give the stories new educational meanings, generally focused on the development of interpersonal relationships. The Korean versions routinely omit historic and geographic details, which renders the stories more neutral and easily accessible to the new audience, transforming them into folklore akin to Aesop's Fables.

Aviya Amir

University of California, Riverside, United States

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3 - Stories in Transit: Educational Shifts in Stories from the Jewish Talmud Translated into Japanese and Korean



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