An online tour of Masada, visits from kibbutz-based educators and a package of documentary and experimental films are among the highlights of the first Israel Education Month, a national campaign that runs through February 16.
The campaign hopes to attract a new, young, Web-savvy group to engage in Israel-related activities, according to coordinators of the campaign, which include United Jewish Communities, the Jewish Education Service of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
“We want to hard-wire kids about Israel and Israel’s place in Jewish life,” said Benita Gayle-Almeleh, director of the Renaissance and Renewal Alliance of UJC and JESNA.
The campaign’s goals are to attract Jewish youth with a trendy package and to incorporate education about Israel into “the educational life of institutions and individuals,” said JESNA’s president, Jonathan Woocher.
Past efforts to enhance Israel education have tended to be products of individual schools and federations. Israel Education Month, however, boasts plenty of curriculum plans, Web resources and events aimed at all types of Jewish groups, including Hebrew and synagogue schools, Jewish day schools and youth groups.
Once a topic that took center stage in American Jewish classrooms and lecture halls, Israel education’s importance to Jewish life has been diminished as a result of social and historical forces, campaign organizers said.
In truth, “there was a sense among educators that Israel has never received the central place it deserved in the totality of the educational process,” Elan Ezrachi, director of educational programs and experiences for the Jewish Agency’s Department for Jewish Zionist Education.
Others blame themselves for the lack of emphasis on education about Israel.
Marion Blumenthal, chair of the UJC Renaissance and Renewal Pillar’s Task Force on Educational Engagement with Israel, said that “the current situation has revealed our failure to teach Israel in a way that creates meaningful engagement for our students to deal with the core issues of Israeli society, Jewish identity and the relevance of Israel to the Diaspora.
Those backing Israel Education Month met over the course of the past year to discuss methods of rejuvenating educational focus on the Jewish homeland. The group conceived a month-long schedule of programs.
Resource and program offerings can be found at www.israeleducationmonth.org, and educational materials are available in print form for distribution.
Until now, Jewish educators have not focused on “how to make Israel come alive,” Woocher said.
For more information, please visit see www.ujc.org/israel_home.html.