Israel as the Vision and Venture of the Jewish People: Educating for Global Partnership

by: Shlomi Ravid and Elana Sztokman

Dr. Shlomi Ravid is the Director of the School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies, and has worked on behalf of the Jewish People for the past thirty years in Israel and San Francisco. Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman, Contributing Editor of JEL, is a writer, researcher, educator and activist.

The existence of Israel is nothing short of remarkable. That a small nation, scattered around the world, expelled from their host countries every few generations on average and speaking nearly every language under the sun, suddenly re-awakened after two-thousand years to return to its country and seek sovereignty, that this small nation not only dreamed up such an eventually but actually achieved it, is an unparalleled story in the annals of human existence.

The International School for Jewish Peoplehood Studies (SJPS) at Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldmann Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, is celebrating this incredible story. The narrative of Israel as the product of mammoth efforts and complex international cooperation between Jewish communities everywhere is the focus of a new and innovative educational initiative. Israel: The Vision and Venture of the Jewish People is not a typical curriculum, nor is it a standard program. Rather, it is a tool-kit, a collection of materials, sources, and ideas for engaging students in the intriguing and perhaps unprecedented historic account of Jewish partnership and cooperation. The tool-kit was released this year by SJPS in honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary and seeks to highlight the ways in which Israel’s continued thriving has been the product of global cooperation between Jewish communities.

Israel: The Vision and Venture of the Jewish People revolves around four themes:

  1. Dreaming and Thinking Jewish Sovereignty: What led the Jewish People to the conclusion that a Jewish State was a necessity?
  2. How did the Jewish People mobilize to make the dream come true?
  3. Sixty years of partnership. How the Jewish people from all corners of the universe collaborated with those who made Israel their home, in assuring the survival, success and thriving of the State. The program will challenge participants to identify the “finger prints” of world Jewry on the State and the impact of Israel on world Jewry.
  4. Creating a joint vision towards 2048. The future relationship between the Jewish People and the State of Israel, the complexities of the partnership in a changing world.

This tool-kit contains texts, art, photographs, and multi-media resources, and uses original archival materials along with political cartoons, super-hero exercises and real-life dilemmas to pique the interests of students. Project cards also explore important personalities such as Henrietta Szold, Zeev Jabotinsky, Simon Dubnov, Louis Brandeis, and many others.

The uniqueness of the curriculum is that it challenges the current paradigm that Israel belongs to Israelis alone. Having established the point that Israel is the vision and the venture of the whole Jewish people, it pursues by exploring the future challenges of Israel as an enterprise of the Jewish collective. The message to every Jewish student is that Israel is their’s, they need to explore what that means to them, to examine what responsibilities and (and rights) that confers upon them, and what sort of relationship they envision with partners in Israel.

The tool-box also comes with a disk, a facilitator’s guide book, project cards, and access to the interactive website. The website (http://www.israventure.com), developed in partnership with the Center for Educational Technology, contains resources, forums, and an interactive dialogue with a digitized likeness of Ahad Ha’am. (Other partners in the project are the Jewish Agency for Israel, UJA Federation of New York, United Jewish Communities, the World Confederation of Jewish Community Centers and Israel’s Ministry of Education, and the project received support from Nancy and Stephen Grand.)

Initial reactions from the field have been encouraging. “This curriculum made me challenge my basic assumptions about Israel and its role and place in the Jewish world,” one educator wrote to SPJS after using the tool-kit. “It is amazing to see how the challenges framed by the founding fathers of Israel (Herzl, Ahad Ha’am, etc.) are relevant today,” wrote another educator. “This is a first serious attempt to integrate Israel and Peoplehood education. Hopefully more will follow.”

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