Over the past few months, I have met with a number of educators – teachers, administrators, Israel programming specialists – at Day Schools to discuss Israel education and programming. The conversation generally begins with questions about what Israel education currently looks like in their schools. Soon, we get to the key question: “What’s missing?” “What’s missing” is generally an easy question for educators to answer (the answer is always unique to the specific school). It’s the follow-up question that causes hesitation and stress: “Where do we put it?” Jewish Day Schools have a lot on their plates: a dual curriculum, extracurricular offerings, and experiential programming, to name a few items. “Where do we put it” is a valid question, and a complicated one to answer, but one that is necessary to address if the educators believe that Israel education is critical to a holistic and well-rounded Jewish education.
Each school has unique needs. Each school has a unique educational environment. Caught up in the daily life of a school setting, it’s difficult to take a step back and think about filling an empty classroom, yet that’s where it begins. The ultimate multi-part question I want to ask educators: “Imagine you are starting from scratch. What’s YOUR vision of Jewish education? If it includes Israel, how does Israel fit within the larger picture?” Ultimately, when I speak with educators, I want them to use their vision to develop an Israel program that enhances the educational program that already exists within their schools.
So, I ask you to think hard about your vision. How can you incorporate Israel education in an already strained schedule and a full calendar? It's not easy, but it's a worthwhile endeavor that will strengthen your students' identities and connections to Israel.