Revamping Israel Education

The Need

We need a major recon­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of what it means to teach Israel and Zionism for our times… Wide groups of lead­er­ship in Israel and North America believe that educa­tion about Israel has failed as reflected in the fact that so many American Jews, adults and young, in high school and partic­u­larly on college campuses, cannot respond to Palestinian polit­ical argu­ments… In devel­oping one’s own perspec­tives, in debating them with those who hold decid­edly different views, commit­ment and attach­ment to the State will deepen and they will find their own way of partic­i­pating in the strug­gles of the contem­po­rary State.”
–John Ruskay, CEO, UJA-Federation New York

Encounter alumni return to North America eager to trans­late their trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ences into educa­tion for their class­rooms, congre­ga­tions and other constituen­cies. They are faced, however, with a lacuna of rele­vant, current and compelling Israel educa­tion curricula, which can largely be char­ac­ter­ized as out-of-date and ideo­log­i­cally loaded. They share the growing consensus among Jewish lead­er­ship that Israel educa­tion is failing in many respects, as evidenced in the sharp decline among Israel engage­ment and attach­ment of those under the age of 35, and docu­men­ta­tion that the Israel to which younger adults do connect is the complex Israel of the evening news rather than the ‘mythic’ Israel of much existing curricula. [1. See for example:

The ulti­mate impact of Birthright on this phenom­enon remains unpre­dictable, as some initial eval­u­a­tions conclude that Birthright seems to strengthen Jewish iden­ti­ties, but not attach­ment to Israel.]

Younger adults are anxious to engage with the hard ques­tions they face in their public schools or on their college campuses. They crave educa­tional settings in which they can openly explore, listen and learn about multiple perspec­tives without commit­ting to a certain polit­ical soli­darity in advance. They don’t find these settings in their syna­gogues, day schools and Hillels, and so they often choose the path of disen­gage­ment from the Jewish commu­nity as well as from Israel. This disen­gage­ment will have severe reper­cus­sions without creative and rigorous educa­tional intervention.

Meeting the Need: The Israel Education Initiative

Talented, in influ­en­tial posi­tions throughout North America, and inspired by their powerful expe­ri­ences on Encounter, our alumni are perfectly posi­tioned to reshape Israel Education in North America into settings of vibrant conver­sa­tion, creative problem-solving, and passionate, authentic engage­ment with Israel’s peace and secu­rity dilemmas. This type of engage­ment is crit­ical to sustaining North American Jewish rela­tion­ships with the Jewish State in the 21st century.

Encounter’s Israel Education Initiative includes:

Community of Practice (CoP)
Since January 2010, a select group of Encounter alumni educa­tors meet regu­larly to discuss new ways of educating about the history and current events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in both formal and informal settings; and
Resource Book and Online Materials
Encounter will harvest the talent and collab­o­ra­tive work of our CoP to produce a resource book for use in high schools, campuses, and young adult settings, with stand-alone units and lessons.

Get Involved!

For infor­ma­tion about how you can join the Israel Education Initiative or to learn more, contact Rebecca Polivy.

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Our Mission

Encounter is an edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tion dedi­cated to strength­ening the capacity of the Jewish people to be construc­tive agents of change in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moti­vated by the relent­less Jew­ish pur­suit of hokhma (wis­dom) and binah (under­stand­ing), Encounter cul­ti­vates informed Jew­ish lead­er­ship on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict by bring­ing…

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