I was invited to be on a panel about Israel education at this year’s J Street conference. Sadly I couldn’t be there, but here is what I had been planning to say…
‘Jewish Peoplehood’ – the notion of collective Jewish belonging – has been criticized as an abstract term with little practical grounding. In order to overcome this challenge, various resources including curricula and seminars have been developed to teach students what Jewish Peoplehood means.
The problem with this approach lies in the assumption that students will simply get it if educators teach them the value of and the textual basis for the ties that bind the Jewish people. However, engendering an organic ‘group connection’ is not a didactic exercise but rather a highly internalized understanding built out of layered relationships and experiences. To Full Post
Yonatan Ariel, Executive Director of Makom, spoke engagingly and entertainingly at the General Assembly of 2011. On this panel, Yonatan plays out what Israel education must become. (Starts at 11:16)
The panel, entitled “Israel: A New Narrative”, was chaired and introduced by John Ruskay, Executive Vice-President and CEO, UJA-Federation of New York, and Yonatan Ariel shared the panel with Yehuda Kurtzer, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America (7:52), and with Elizabeth Wolfe, Chair of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
Yonatan Ariel focuses on the Hatikvah Vision: To Be A Free People In Our Land, Yehuda Kurtzer explores the latest work of the Hartman Institute in Israel engagement, and Elizabeth Wolfe speaks of the experiences of Toronto in working with us (26:00).
From my perspective, the “Come Home” videos suggest a profound indictment of Jewish education and identity formation in Israeli secular culture. To Full Post
As the executive producer of the your event you will need to form a team of people you trust to handle various aspects of the engagement. While many people (including yourself) may not be a professional full time producer/booking agent/promoters – it should not be too difficult to divide the time and work needed to complete the tasks ahead of you. In some cases you or your team will need to wear more than one hat in the production.
The period from the conquest of the land under Joshua to the crowning of Saul as king raises a number of interesting questions with modern relevance. Regarding the conquest itself, there are questions on two levels: a) did it really happen as described in the book of Joshua? Internal biblical evidence – and, possibly, archaeology – cast doubt on the account of the Israelites’ rapid and total conquest ofCanaan; if so, what do we do with the contradiction and how do we teach it? b) how do we respond to our own and our students’ moral concerns about the bloody account of the conquest? And of course, the question of the morality of conquest hovers over the discussion of the modern state ofIsraeltoo.
Another issue is that of Israelite identity. The Book of Judges seems to depict a land inhabited by a number of disparate and sometimes even warring tribes, each absorbed in its own local conflicts with neighboring non-Israelite tribes; only in the face of a powerful common enemy does any kind of political union form – and only temporarily. Different theories have been proposed regarding the formation of the Israelite nation during this period; how might these affect our understanding of Jewish identity past and present?
Many of the “founding fathers (and mothers)” of modern Israel came to the country as twenty-somethings (or younger), in the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) and the Third Aliyah (1919-1923). While they were small in number, their cultural influence was far-reaching and long-lasting, and it is perhaps largely due to their experience that Israel’s self-image is that of a “young” society, a society whose youth are its heroes and its leaders. There is an ironic reversal here of the traditional respect accorded to age and wisdom. And needless to say, this self-image affects many aspects of cultural life, from child-rearing to education to politics – not always in constructive ways. Another factor contributing to this youth-centeredness is the central place of defense in the collective consciousness – the near-universal conscription of both genders means that the army is a major rite of passage and a huge cultural influence.
This unit will examine the perception of – and the experience of – youth in Israeli society in several important contexts. The materials and background are presented straightforwardly – not as a comparative examination with the North American Jewish experience; however, exploring the comparison is recommended as a useful and effective educational method for using this material.
I’ve been getting really wound up by a series of articles that my friend Rabbi Daniel Gordis has been writing about trainee North American Rabbis and their connection to Israel. His latest one in Commentary just wouldn’t let me rest. While acknowledging that aspects of his problem analysis are sharp and spot-on, I think that the educational consequences of tackling the problem as he defines it are mistaken and damaging.
Danny’s heart is broken because
in the case of these rabbinical students, there is not an instinct that should be innate—the instinct to protect their own people first, or to mourn our losses first.
I was troubled to read Daniel Gordis’ recent thoughts about the place of Israel in the lives of aspiring rabbinic students. Because Danny is a true ‘lover of Zion’ and a friend, I wanted to share a few thoughts…
Based on Makom’s experiences working with rabbinic students studying in Israel from the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Hebrew Union College, I would suggest Danny points to a real issue but may overstate his case by bringing the most extreme examples.
At the same time as there are students openly hostile (hostile is different than critical) to Israel, there are also students who are highly Israel engaged (whose parents are Israeli, who are graduates of Birthright, Lapid, and Masa programs, and who grew up in the Conservative or Reform camping systems, etc.)