I heartily agree with the comment in Gary Rosenblatt’s column, “Why I Don’t Share Beinart’s Pessimism” (Dec. 10) that our schools have neglected to transmit the narrative of the miraculous modern -day triumph “to be a free people in our land.”
I have been active in Israel education for many years, having written a Zionism curriculum “For the Sake of Zion: A Curriculum of Israel Studies” (Third edition, Jewish Agency For Israel: 2010) and served as a JAFI Education Department shaliach (emissary) in greater New York and currently completing a doctorate in Israel education.
It never ceases to amaze me that, in the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “our children know about the Holocaust, about how Jews died, not how they live. They know about Israel, but that is somewhere else, not here.”
Most mainstream Zionist day schools in greater New York do not even have a separate “Zionist/Israel studies” program for their students (with notable exceptions, such as HAFTR and the Yeshivah of Flatbush). So, it should not be surprising that once Jewish students leave the protective bubble of school, home or intimate social group and enter the “real world” of a mixed college campus, sometimes hostile to Jews and Zionism, they often find themselves uncomfortable, on the defensive and unable to speak about Israel, in part, because they lack the passion for Zion.
In order to respond effectively, with a sense of self-respect and to be proactive, students need a sense of commitment and pride, as well as knowledge and tools. This will only come about if our day schools realize the vital importance of providing a strong curricular foundation for the understanding of Zionist history, Zionist ideology and the State of Israel. Also, it is important to acknowledge that with all of Israel’s incredible successes in many fields since its creation, there are issues that Israel continues to grapple with.