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First International Dialog on the Israel Educator

7/24/14

By Cyd Weissman

I was fortunate to participate July 7-10 in the First International Dialog on the Israel Educator sponsored by WZO, the I Center and the Israeli Government. Jewish educators from around the world asked the question: What are effective ways to engage today’s learners with Israel? There was no debate that the times demand new ways of learning. The innovation group SIT led us through a creative process to create new ways of engaging to be presented to the Israeli government for possible funding.

What stood out for me? Meeting Jewish educators from around the world with common educational issues like: Parents care about Judaism, but the pressure for children to succeed in their secular studies pressures them. And then I heard what was not common: From France, Argentina, Brazil, and Spain I heard about the anti-Semitism that students are dealing with. “It’s not safe to say you are Jewish,” is a haunting comment. Ironically, one of the speakers the conference said, “We can’t teach Israel through the lens of conflict only.” Agreed, but it was a hard message to hold when all of us had to run to shelters.

A thought I’m taking away: We struggle to help learners connect to Israel. Yet, the world, as we see in the news, connects each and every Jew to Israel. This is a reality without choice. What does education look like that starts from this reality? From the painful events, from my own visceral experience, the whole subject right of Israel feels less far away, less hypothetical. On July 31 at 9:30 The Jewish Education Project is  inviting New York clergy and educators to our headquarters  to

Gather together with respect for our diversity, to hear and value one another in these difficult times.
To focus on the concrete things you can start to be doing for your community and your learners.

Hope to continue the dialogue

 

This note comes from organizers of the conference:
We know how difficult it is for those who are deeply connected to Israel to be out of the country during these terribly difficult times. We also know just how much you want to do something – anything – to be connected and, in these circumstances, to demonstrate your support for our right to defend ourselves. So we’re sending you this short guide as to how you might do that.

1. Stay informed. There is a huge amount of material available to keep you up to date on developments as well as a plethora of great background information. In addition to surfing the websites of Israel’s newspapers, check out the annotated list “Israel in Cyberspace” that we at the World Zionist Organization have compiled for your convenience.  One site that hasn’t yet made it on to that list is the regular digest of news being produced by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) which you can subscribe to at: bicom@newsletter-bicom.org.uk.

2. Share what you know with others. The “Israel in Cyberspace” document mentioned above also includes sites that offer numerous suggestions for sharing information and organizing activities. Find materials you are comfortable with on one of these sites and organize people to stand at the entrance of a mall and give them out to people coming in. If you happen to be working in, or have connections with an educational institution – including summer camps – that engage teenagers and young adults, we recommend you check out educational materials already produced specifically in response to the current situation at makomisrael.org/current-affairs/the-gaza-conflict. The WZO is also in the process of preparing such materials. If you are interested in receiving them as soon as they are ready, contact us at wzoinfo@wzo.org.il.

3. Demonstrate public support. Organize a rally, hold a teach-in, help an organization that you are affiliated with run a community event, ask your rabbi to dedicate his/her sermon to Israel, organize a “Buy Israel Week,” organize a letter-writing campaign to national political leaders, find or initiate a Facebook page dedicated to supporting Israel, come up with a slogan and print a bumper sticker. Respond as well to any media bias you come across. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed to set the record straight. Register any protest you might have with those responsible for unfair reports in broadcasting media.

4. Visit Israel. Our hearts break with every announcement of the latest casualty on our side even as we are sickened by the suffering of the innocents subjected to the horrors of war by Hamas, yet morale here is high as we know this is a battle that is just and must be fought. Still, we are buoyed by every visitor who arrives, every solidarity mission that is organized, and every program participant who chooses to remain here despite the incessant shelling. We need you here during these difficult times. Your presence strengthens our resolve, bolsters our spirits and contributes to our economy, which is also suffering terribly as a result of the conflict.

5. Help us help others. The World Zionist Organization has been organizing numerous efforts to alleviate the anxiety of those subjected to the worst shelling in the south. We’ve been bringing performers to their communities and taking children away to areas that are calmer for days of rest and relaxation. We’ve organized engaging programs in the Herzl Museum free of charge for those looking for an escape from the constant running into shelters. You can help us in providing days of fun for traumatized children by sending a check directly to the World Zionist Organization, P.O. Box 92, 91000 Jerusalem, Israel, or, for a tax-deductible donation in the United States, to the American Zionist Movement, indicating that the donation is for WZO war relief.

6. Come home. If Aliyah has ever crossed your mind, now is the time to revisit the idea. Yes, the pursuit of peace is exhausting, but the sense of being at home, a home that is ours, is exhilarating – particularly in times such as these. In two weeks I will be celebrating 40 years of life in Israel. With all that living here entails, I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a single day – not even a single moment – when I regretted my decision to move here. Perhaps that is because the challenge of fashioning Israel as an exemplary society is every bit as invigorating for me today as it was when I first arrived, even as the need for safeguarding a homeland for the Jewish people continues to be a necessity.

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