Welcome Community Leaders!
We believe you may be interested in the following materials:
Real Talk is a series of guided conversations to be held with lay and professional leadership in your community, in order to enable a more nuanced, considered approach to Israel engagement.
This presents a way in which you might choose to frame the way your community engages with Israel, in all spheres.
Is there a way to break out of an uninspiring cycle of Yom Ha’atzmaut events? We recommend a re-think…
A collection of our articles for various publications, offering deeper insights into the challenges facing Israel Engagement. You may find Creativity in Coalition of particular relevance, addressing, as it does, community change processes in Israel engagement.
Below you can also find all the materials posted that have been earmarked for your interest.
December 6, 2012 by Makom
First appeared in Times of Israel
As the cease-fire between Israel and Gaza maintains its tenuous hold and life in Israel returns to relative calm, we continue to mourn the human casualties of this latest conflagration. But there is another, less discussed casualty of the hostilities, not one suffered by Israelis or Palestinians, but by American Jewish education.
The damage was inflicted in heated battles like the Gordis-Brous controversy that raged in Jewish newspapers and social media outlets, as public intellectuals and private citizens jumped to condemn the positions other Jews expressed about Israel. Caught in this unfriendly verbal crossfire were Jewish educators and their students across the United States.
The adage, “anyone to my right is a lunatic and anyone to my left a heretic” has taken on new venom, and the poison is afflicting Jewish teachers and students.In print and online, Jews on the left have been excoriated as traitors or self-hating Jews, while Jews on the right have been castigated as racists or immune to the suffering of others.
It has not taken long for this kind of toxic language to have a stifling effect in Jewish classrooms, where teachers and students are increasingly wary of speaking about Israel lest they find themselves the brunt of such criticism.
To illustrate, I share with you three true anecdotes about the Jewish educational settings I encounter as a teacher educator and scholar of Israel education.
As rockets were raining down upon Israel, a talented religious school teacher knew she wanted to speak with her students about the situation, and yet she worried about the turn the conversation might take. “When talking about Israel,” she explained to me, “I no longer feel comfortable being the only adult in the room.”
Like sex education teachers who know it is always safer to have another adult witness lest conversations with students be misconstrued, Jewish educators are now carefully monitoring their words about Israel lest they be accused of betraying Israel or Jewish values.
These fears carry a steep price.
When this teacher’s colleague was unable to join her in facilitating a conversation about Israel, she admitted, “I found myself with very little to say when faced with the opportunity to have a class dedicated to talking about Israel.” And so, she continued with her regularly scheduled curriculum and her students did not discuss Israel at all.
Classrooms of students are not even talking about Israel because their teachers are hesitant to enter the fray of a public discourse that is so vitriolic. Educators in a variety of settings are beginning to self-censor to avoid being criticized for their beliefs about Israel.
A Jewish Studies professor recently shared her fears about expressing her opinion about Israel in public forums. “I’m scared of being effectively blacklisted,” she wrote. As a scholar and expert about Jewish topics unrelated to Israel, she is asked to speak at synagogues and organizations of all denominations and political orientations. If she makes public comments about Israel, she worries, “I’m afraid that I’ll be passed over in favor of other speakers.” And so she remains silent.
Any market-place of ideas benefits from a variety of opinions, and we should be encouraging diverse voices, especially among those who teach our youth. But recent public discourse has made no room for civil disagreement, causing skilled Jewish professionals and intellectual powerhouses to shutter their windows.
Perhaps most troubling of all is the story of Dina, a high school junior at a Jewish day school. Born in Israel and raised in the U.S., Dina refuses to even mention the word Israel. This is because, as Dina explained, “Israel is such a touchy issue in our school.” Dina fears being ostracized by peers who disagree with her opinions about Israel. “I know this is terrible,” she admitted, “but I try to avoid conversations about Israel with other people in the school.” She, and classmates of hers who identify with both the right and the left, whisper in hushed voices to trusted adults, but do not speak with one another about Israel out of concern for the social stigma that would come from openly stating their positions.
Many of today’s American Jewish youth and, increasingly, the educators who are most qualified to teach them about Israel, are opting out of the conversation.
This new reality should give pause to all those who care about the State of Israel and the future of its relationship with American Jews. For today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders, and if they are unwilling to discuss Israel – or unable to because those tasked with educating them have avoided the topic – then there can be no lasting relationship between American Jews and Israel.
Creating a more civil discourse among Jewish adults would go a long way towards preventing further collateral damage.
Dr Sivan Zakai is Director of Research & Teacher Education at the Graduate Center for Education at American Jewish University.
If We Build It, They Will Come: A Case for Developing the Field of Jewish Service Learning in Israel
June 10, 2012 by Dyonna Ginsburg
Dyonna Ginsburg is the Director of Jewish Service Learning at the Jewish Agency. Previously, Dyonna served as the Executive Director of Bema’aglei Tzedek, an Israeli social change organization, and was a founder of Siach: An Environment and Social Justice Conversation, an international network of Jewish social justice and environmental professionals.
Currently, the field of Jewish service-learning in Israel is characterized by a handful of programs that target young North American Jews and that are officially recognized and funded by Repair the World, an organization founded in 2009 to “make service a defining part of American Jewish life.”1
Although these programs are known for their high educational standards, many have struggled to fill their ranks and reach financial sustainability. Alongside these accredited programs are others, often larger and better endowed programs that include some aspects of volunteerism, but have yet to adopt the more stringent Standards of Practice for Immersive Jewish Service-Learning Programs developed by Repair the World (Repair the World, 2011).
Many—myself included—believe that the time has come for a concerted effort to build the field of Jewish service-learning (JSL) in Israel—exploring ways of expanding the smaller, high-quality, service-learning programs; adding necessary depth and authenticity to the larger, volunteer-oriented ones; and identifying additional program areas that can appeal to core concerns of young Jews not addressed by existing program offerings. To Full Post
This article was commissioned by Makom for the second Global Jewish Forum, and is edited from in-depth consultation with experts in the field.
The relationship between the State of Israel and its Haredi population is of concern to the entire Jewish world. From the economic and social instability of an exponentially growing community of non-productive citizens, to the unsavory headlines about extreme and violent behavior, it is clear that a policy of laissez-faire can no longer be tolerated.
Yet how might we characterise the problem facing us? Is this a fundamental issue threatening the Jewish and liberal identity of the State of Israel? Or is this an issue of failed public policy that needs to be re-thought? To Full Post
January 18, 2012 by Sarah Mali
‘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).
Since 1929, the Jewish Agency has addressed the most critical challenges facing the Jewish people, real-time – anytime, anyplace. We bring Jews from forgotten, often embattled, corners of the earth to Israel. Safeguarding our people is a central pillar of our work. To Full Post
The Philosophers’ Retreat (2003) was an attempt to capture and make widely available an assessment of the state of the field of Israel engagement. This document has been used in schools, synagogues and in leadership training programs.