Israel and Jewish Experience – Ksharim curriculum
A broad and in-depth curriculum for adults – 43 fully annotated sessions – Israel throughout all aspects of Jewish text and Jewish life: from Israel in the bible, to Jewish holidays, Jewish history, liturgy, life cycle events, contemporary issues, and beyond.
This curriculum was written by Rabbi Dr. Marc Rosenstein, and co-authored by Sigalit Ur and Tova Sacher (of the Galilee Foundation for Value Education), in a joint development project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Makom.
Jews in the middle ages lived a balancing act, juggling loyalty to the Jewish faith and survival both personal and as autonomous communities within the Christian or Moslem world. It was a time of strong communal institutions and philosophical debate as Jews tried to comprehend and articulate (primarily to themselves) their continued exile and persecution as well as the basic tenets of their faith which set it apart from the surrounding religions that saw it at best as ”primitive” or forsaken by G-D if not downright corrupt and evil. Always at the mercy of Christian or Moslem rulers who intermittently sought forcibly to convert them, Jews suffered discrimination, persecution, and exile after exile. Despite these hardships in Diaspora, or perhaps because of them, there was no mass movement to “return” to the land of Israel. That land too was under foreign rule (alternatively Moslem/Christian/Moslem as the Crusaders came and went) and there too Jews suffered. Although there was a continued, tiny and impoverished Jewish presence in the land of Israel, for the majority of Jews the land of Israel was always present in the liturgy (piyutim, kinot) as a cornerstone of faith but not as a physical alternative. The Holy Land acquired an almost mythical nature in Jewish consciousness as an unattainable paradise. Even the numerous false messiahs that surfaced in different countries throughout the middle ages remained localized phenomena never succeeding in enflaming the masses to actually consider moving to Israel (until Shabbetai Zevi). Paradoxically though, throughout the era there was a continuous flow of individuals including scholars and leaders making the difficult journey at least to die if not to live in the Holy Land.
This lesson will study some of those individuals, their stories and their writings, examining their varied motivations to “go up” to Israel. Are these individual responses to each one’s specific circumstances or a reflection of the ongoing relationship between the Jew and the land of Israel? How do their responses compare to the feelings of Diaspora Jews who “make aliyah” today.
Zionism has changed the face of Judaism and the course of Jewish history. Was the development of Zionism a revolution – a break with all Jewish ideology that went before it, the birth of a new Jew as master of his own destiny? Or, was it a realization of the unbroken loyalty the Jewish people held for their ancestral land? Was it a Jewish manifestation of nineteenth century state nationalism or a yearning for socialist utopia? Or maybe it was just another way to survive? Its origins, like Zionism itself, are complex and varied. In this lesson we will study the different ingredients and personalities that gave rise to modern Zionism and ask ourselves: did Zionism/the State of Israel provide the solutions to the problems its originators envisioned.
From the very beginning, Zionism meant very different things to different people. This lesson examines three of the major fault lines: a) between those who saw Zionism as a rebellion against Judaism and those who saw it as the fulfillment of Judaism; b) between those who saw in Zionism the hope for creating a socialist utopia and those who sought “normalization;” and c) between those who anticipated the ingathering of all the exiles and those who saw the state as a sustaining center for a revitalized world Jewry.
As the ideological and political battles of Zionism were being fought out in Europe, the first mass immigrations to Eretz Yisrael formed. Facing incredible hardships – economic deprivations, disease, friction with the local population and culture shock – these immigrations were to form the basis of much of the Israel we know today. In this lesson we will follow some of the history of the new immigrants in Palestine, address some of the dilemmas they faced, and get to know some of the legendary figures of that era.