MIFGASHIM: December 2nd 2001
Offered as a service by Bar Ilan Universityís Lookstein Centre, MIFGASHIM
seeks to create a community of learners, which is respectful towards the
multiplicity of voices in the field of Jewish Education and at the same
time, is prepared to engage these differences and be open to personal
growth and development.
Responses to Zvi Civinsís article - Coping with Israelís existential
crisis: A case study for a Jewish High School
Response to Tom Friedmanís article - The Real War: New York Times 27 /11/01
Shalom from a shattered Jerusalem. The mood here as you can well imagine
following the tragedy in the midrachov is sad and sombre ...and angry,
compounded by yet another suicide bombing in Haifa with many casualties.
Our hearts go out to all the families who have suffered grievous and
devastating losses. We wonder how and whether the situation here will be
resolved and whether what we pray for more than anything else: Shalom al
kol Yisrael is an attainable dream. One thing is for certain: we will carry
on and live our lives here to the best of our ability. This is our country,
this is our home, and this is where we live.
This is also one of those moments in our lives where Kol areivim zeh bazeh
takes on an added significance. This is crunch time. In a time of our lives
where people are not coming to Israel, perhaps they can express their
solidarity world-wide both in Jewish and general communities, by flying the
Israeli flag from every household, school, and communal organisation. Now
is the time to stand up and say, ďI am an Israeli!Ē.
Bar Ilan University
Coping with Israelís existential crisis: A case study for a Jewish High
Zvi Civinsís: Head of Jewish Studies: Bialik College, Sydney, Australia
Response: Jeff Cohen
Principal, Herzlia High School, Cape Town
The dilemma faced at the Bialik School is very much the one we face, and
Civins put it succinctly when he said:
"Inherent in all these initiatives was the school and staff's shared belief
that not only must we support Israel, but we also must be prepared to
examine the situation as objectively as possible. This necessitated great
skill in balancing open, un-biased reporting and discussion of events with
our students, with obvious concern and essential support for Israel".
When I began reading the article and Zvi mentioned the "25 questions"
document he had prepared for students and teachers, my heart sank. The
local Zionist Federation produced just such a document this year, and it is
awful: cheap, shallow propaganda, setting up puerile straw men and shooting
them down. A child would not be convinced by it.
We in Cape Town (and I imagine we are not alone) subscribe to a culture of
not criticising Israel -- not only in public, but even in private. I am
uncomfortable with this. I understand well that living here in Cape Town,
it is easy to criticise, so I am very careful, but espousing the view that
anything done by the Israeli government must be supported at all costs is,
I feel, insupportable and unconscionable. Therefore I was pleased to read
that this is not the approach Bialik has taken; implicit (but not explicit)
in Civins' paper is that there is room for vigorous criticism where
appropriate. The vital distinction to keep is that between supportive,
constructive criticism intended to find a better future for Israel, one
that is morally acceptable, and the fatal position of becoming anti-Israel.
At Herzlia, we ran two very successful one-day Zionist Seminars earlier
this year in which we took extreme care that the Palestinian position was
given a full hearing, issues were debated vigorously, and no-one was
coerced into a point of view. But our position throughout was made very
clear: we are Jews and we love and support Israel. We want the best for
Israel. But some of us question whether the present policies will achieve
that end in a morally defensible way.
It seems that this line taken by Bialik. I look forward to an exchange of
materials with Herzlia and Bialik in the hope and expectation that the 25
questions document is an honest, constructive one which genuinely adds to
Response: Shalom Berger
Moderator, Lookjed lists
In response to Zvi Civinsís article, I would like to share some of the
experiences that I had this past summer in Camp Moshava (Indian Orchard,
PA), where I played the role of Rav Machane. The camp, affiliated with the
Bnei Akiva movement, has a large group of Israelis who work there in the
summer and always builds an educational theme around a concept of religious
Zionism. It is hardly surprising that what was going on in Israel played a
major role in the day-to-day goings on in camp. I believe that with some
modifications, many of these programming ideas can be used in school
In general, the camp believes that the way to connect campers with Israel
is to have them meet Israelis. Much of the adult staff lives and works
full-time in Israel. Many of the counsellors and speciality staff are
Israelis as well. Finally, since many families are there for the summer,
staff kids are in bunks and interact with the "native American" campers.
(My 12-year-old came to me and described the political discussions that he
had with his bunkmates. While my son is hardly an insightful commentator
on the political scene in Israel, his presence made other kids aware of
some of the issues in Israel today).
One significant decision made by the camp this year was to invite families
who suffered losses in terror attacks to come to the United States for the
summer. The impetus for that decision (I believe) was simple Hessed, but
having those families in camp affected the entire community. (You can see
the Jewish Week take on it at:
The theme for the first month was Yerushalayim. All of the formal, frontal
shiurim, dealt with it in classes ranging from text analysis of
Ezra/Nehemia to Reb Aryeh Levine (A Tzaddik in Our Time) stories. The
informal educational activities included building the walls and gates of
the city, bringing Maaser Sheni, etc.
Briefly, some of the other programs that aimed at raising sensitivity to
the situation included:
Daily Tehillim after Tefilla together with a short statement about current
A letter writing campaign to Oprah Winfrey (there were rumours that she was
going to run a program on the plight of the Palestinians)
Participation in a pro-Israel rally for camps in New York
Sponsoring a rally on visiting day in camp
Shabbat with General Effi Eitam, who participated in the Entebbe rescue
Shabbat with Rabbi Seth Mandel, who spoke about to the campers and staff
about his son, Koby who was murdered by terrorists. The other Mandel
children were in camp for a month.
Leil Iyun for the staff
In general the activities were aimed at giving the campers a sense of
connection (intellectual, personal, even emotional) with what was going on
in Israel, as well as tools with which they could feel that they could
affect what was going on (through activism as well as Tefilla).
Comment: Ron Weiser, President, Zionist Federation of Australia
I would only hope that other Australia Jewish Day Schools will also realise
they have a problem and then attempt solutions such as Zvi's or others of
RESPONSE: Tom Friedmanís article - The Real War: New York Times 27 /11/01
Howard Rosenblatt: Principal, Beth Shraga Academy of the Capital District,
I'm planning to use Friedmanís article as part of a presentation to High
School kids on Shabbat. The primary topic is to look at approaches to the
concept of covenant in Judaism. If there is a notion of Brit where people
and God are partners, and there are Jewish folktale traditions that both
stand for exclusive Jewish relationships to God and others that recognise
diverse religious approaches, how do we relate to the issues Friedman
raises? I'll let you know what the kids say.
A Chassidic Rebbe was once asked: "If you could save one thing from your
burning home, what would it be?"
"The fire" answered the Rebbe, "because it is the "brenn" (Yiddish for an
inner fire) which makes life worth living." Indeed, without an inner fire
burning in the soul of man, there is no real life. Life becomes meaningful
only when man "burns from within" for his ideals and his determination in
life. The art is to live a life as if every moment is new, a challenge and
an encounter with the Divine.
Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo
The David Cardozo Academy
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