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MIFGASHIM  December 2001

MIFGASHIM December 2001

Subject:

MIFGASHIM

From:

Solly Kaplinski <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

MIFGASHIM LIST <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 17 Dec 2001 00:22:42 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (239 lines)

MIFGASHIM

December 16 2001
1 Tevet 5762
Volume 1  5



CONTENTS:

1. Introduction



2. Coping with Israel’s existential crisis: A case study for a Jewish High
School ( Tzvi Civins )
Response: Jeff Cohen: Principal, Herzlia High School, Cape Town

3. Towards personal and professional fulfilment:  Learning to become a
Jewish Educator in and for a pluralistic  environment ( Tamar Rabinowitz)
A response: Shlomo Kaye


4. Conclusion


------------------------------


Introduction

When the Jews are in trouble, and one individual distances himself from
them, the two angels who always accompany everybody come and put their
hands on that person’s head and say, “This person who separated himself
from the people shall not be entitled to witness the consolation of the
people.”

Ta’anit 11a

------------------------------



Coping with Israel’s existential crisis: A case study for a Jewish High
School (Tzvi Civins)
Response to Ron Weiser: Jeff Cohen: Principal, Herzlia High School, Cape
Town


I guess I was not very articulate in my initial response, as Ron Weiser
(see MIFGASHIM December 9 2001) seems to have misunderstood me. Perhaps
this is best exemplified in this quote:

" ... we should be able to educate our children that Israel is acting
morally and that the concept of the Jewish State is a moral one."

These are two completely different things. The latter point -- that the
concept of a Jewish state is a moral one -- is very central to our whole
outlook. The former one is not: if Israel, for instance, were suddenly to
send bombers to drop sarin nerve gas on Cairo tomorrow morning (chas
v'chalillah), she would be acting immorally. The actions and policies of
each successive Israeli government are not, simply in virtue of their being
Israeli, morally spotless and unquestionable, and if we try to maintain
that they are then we set ourselves up as risible. Our students will not
take us seriously if we operate from the position that everything done by
the Israeli government, or indeed by Tzahal, is automatically right and
must be defended.

My point is actually stated best, I think, by Ron's quote from my original
remarks:

"But some of us question whether the present policies will achieve that end
in a morally defensible way."

I fear that if we confuse these two things -- a very sound and moral end
with sometimes dubious means to that end -- then we simply cannot expect to
be taken seriously, not by gentiles or Jews.

Like some 100 000 other Jews, I lived through the 1976 Soweto uprising in
South Africa, and all its sickening consequences for the next 18 years. I
saw stone-throwing children mowed down with rifle fire -- I saw it on
television and I saw it with my own eyes. I watched the apartheid
government and its friends and supporters justifying this on grounds of
state security, and I saw thousands of people thrown into prison without
trial, tortured and murdered. In that case, the ends AND the means were
evil, but watching children being shot with live ammunition was not any
more pleasant then than it is now. In our situation, we are dealing with a
radically different situation, of course: the children in Soweto wanted the
overthrow of apartheid, not the destruction of white people, and they were
not filled with the hatred which so many of the Palestinian people have for
Jews. But it is still difficult to justify the methods, which are often
used in the occupied territories, and indeed to justify the settlements in
those territories. One can debate these issues, but if one begins from the
view that ANYTHING done by Israelis is automatically good and must be
supported, then I fear that one loses both relevance and morality. And we
would lose our credibility as educators. Especially Jewish educators.

And this is why I spoke of the difficulty of presenting educational
material on the subject. For some people, especially in the present anti-
Semitic and anti-Israel climate, ANY criticism of Israel is taboo. On the
other hand, one certainly does not want to be naive and parrot the kind of
anti-Israel propaganda, which is so widespread right now, and Ron is
perfectly correct, I think, when he mentions a "western wishful thinking
spin on the Palestinian position". This is a very dangerous trap, and right
now in South Africa we have a cabinet minister called Ronnie Kasrils, a
totally non-identifying Jew, suddenly setting himself up as the self-
appointed spokesman for "Jews of conscience" and starting a ludicrous,
utterly one-sided anti-Israel declaration which has been signed by over 200
Jews already. This sort of thing is beneath contempt.


------------------------------


Towards personal and professional fulfilment: Learning to become a Jewish
Educator in and for a pluralistic environment (Tamar Rabinowitz)
A response: Shlomo Kaye


I was impressed by Tamar Rabinowitz’s article on how her studies are
preparing her to work in pluralistic community day schools. However I have
some questions. Firstly, I have some difficulty with the concept of
pluralistic schools. What exactly is a pluralistic school? If a school does
not have a specific ideological position and by implication, if all points
of view are equally valid, doesn’t this seem to suggest that ultimately,
what does prevail is a laizzez faire type of set up where instead of
equally competing points of view, there is a watering down or dumbing down
of ideological positions or put more colloquially: a wish washy school
philosophy? .

Secondly, I also want to respond to the following statement:

“I am learning in an environment that offers innovative responses to the
needs and challenges of the Jewish community today - intellectually intense
yet open environment….My fellow students who represent a variety of
ideologies and beliefs, come together to engage in texts, each in his/her
own way. This ethos nurtures a love and respect for traditional values
while not asking us to reject our own personal ethics and beliefs”

My question is: What happens if your own personal ethics and beliefs
undermine those of the institution or vice versa? How do you make choices?
How do you decide? What are the red lines for Pardes and for you?

Thirdly, Tamar writes:

“As a student-teacher in such a school, I encountered students from
different denominations, with different belief systems and who had
encountered different hermeneutic approaches. The courses I had taken and
the guidance from my mentor helped me realise that I needed to incorporate
different understandings of the text so that all students could gain fresh
and meaningful insights without feeling that their belief systems had been
attacked”.

I want to ask the following: At a high school level, do we really have to
molly coddle students? Why do we need to be over protective? Are students
not more resilient than we think they are? By being oversensitive to their
needs or ego, do we not run the risk of sending them out into the real
world totally unprepared for the thrust and parry of real live people the
vast majority of whom don’t give a hoot about one’s feelings? Also,
shouldn’t there be limits on tolerance, shouldn’t there be external yes’s
and no’s or rights and wrongs or some ultimate moral authority? Aren’t in
fact students really looking for guidelines and structure?

Similarly, with the following statement

  “Pardes' s Beit Midrash provides a safe environment to tackle and
struggle with Jewish texts and challenges our previously held conceptions
of what is authentic”

What exactly does a safe environment mean and why do postgraduate students
have to feel safe and protected?


------------------------------



Conclusion


“What comes from the heart, enters the heart”

Mivchar Pninim


“Here is my secret - it is very simple

You can only see well with the heart

The most important things are invisible to the eyes"


The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Ha’aretz (Friday 14th December 2001) featured an article on the success of
the Bayit Vegan High School in Bat Yam which despite its low budget and
poor facilities, turns out students who get top grades in the national
matriculation exams. Furthermore unlike selective Tel Aviv high schools,
Bayit Vegan takes in all the junior high schools no matter what their
grades. The only criterion for acceptance is the extent to which the
student is religiously observant. About 30% of the students’ parents are
supported by the municipal welfare budget which means they have to no money
to buy textbooks.

So what is the secret of its success?  According to former Principal Shaul
Weissman who retired last year.

“When we relate warmly to the students, they relate warmly to us in return,
The key words for success in studies are love and respect for the students
and a heart that sees them”



------------------------------

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