Lisa Eisen is the National Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
The moment is ripe to make Israel education a key priority of our community.
It was thrilling to see the great interest in this field of study demonstrated by the 80-plus participants at The iCenter’s iThink event this week and those who joined in virtually. Now it is time to bring innovation, inspiration and resources to creating a vibrant field and to helping build generations of young Jews with nuanced understanding of and meaningful personal connections to Israel.
Finding creative, resonant ways to educate our children—our younger generations and future leaders—about Israel is one of the most important and urgent tasks we have as a community. It is vital to cultivating rich Jewish identities in our young people, to forging in them a sense of global Jewish Peoplehood and to ensuring they will have a real and enduring commitment to Israel as our Jewish homeland and as a centerpiece of the collective Jewish experience. In short, reinvigorating pre-collegiate Israel education and making it more prominent, more prevalent and more effective in all sorts of educational settings—from camps to day schools, youth groups to Israel trips and supplementary education—is critical to our future.
I believe this, fully recognizing both the inordinate complexity of Jewish youth engaging and struggling with Israel as part of their identity and of the educators’ imperative to give their students the space to do so without all of the rancor, bitterness and polarization characterizing so much of the adult discourse on Israel.
There are many people who have been laboring in these vineyards quite successfully, bringing new energy, sophistication and resources to Israel education. They have planted new seeds and helped it to blossom as an emerging field. We acknowledge and celebrate all of their work and the contributions they have made to establish Israel education as a field worthy of study, worthy of cultivation and worthy of investment.
Importantly, we are taking a fresh and honest look at where this nascent field stands today, so we can use it as a launching pad for creating a bold vision and realistic action plan for the future. Our hope is that the release of the comprehensive Mapping the Landscape: The Emerging Field of Israel Education report, and the discussions around it, will be a pivot point in the field, an opportunity to advance this work in ways we had not previously imagined.
The conversations this week were illuminating and engaging, but they must be merely the beginning of the next phase in the growth of Israel education. We have built the foundation, we have the momentum, and now we must sustain and expand it by increasing support for and improving the professionalization of the field of Israel education to achieve the kind of progress our community needs.
To read the full report and the iCenter’s six key goals for the field of Israel Education, visit www.theicenter.org/ithink.
Join the conversation online using the hashtag #IsraelEd.
- A New Look at Israel Education: Mapping the Field and Charting the Future eJewishPhilanthropy