Investigation: Israel in your school Big Ideas about Teaching Israel What are the “big ideas” the school espouses with regard to Israel? In the JCDS-RI mission statement, the first of its four main values set forth is “כלל ישראל" which calls for inclusivity. Under this value, it reads: “Jewish values transcend denominations and build a sense of community. These values include, but are not limited to: tzedakah (charity), gemilut hasadim (deeds of kindness), tzedek (justice), hesed (caring and compassion), eretz yisrael (the Land of Israel), and tikkun olam (repairing the world). These values are woven into the fabric of JCDS-RI and are reflected in our curriculum, pedagogy and school environment.” In other words, the mission statement states that the school has a commitment to building community, and in order to do that we need to practice Jewish values, one of which is “Land of Israel.” From this, I gather that the school has a general commitment to emphasizing the importance of Israel to Jews, but does not further define how to go about doing that. There are several old news bits about planting trees in Israel, and the links page lists several Israeli sites.
What kind of relationship does the school purport to want the children to develop with Israel? The school does not clearly state what kind of relationship it wants its students to have, but vaguely alludes that it does want its students to have some relationship with Israel. Hebrew is addressed in the school literature as a living language that is important to Jews. When the school had a middle school, the eighth grade class took a trip to Israel, which leads me to believe that the school wants the students to experience Israel, and create some personal connection by visiting.
What skills and knowledge does the school want the children to come away with in regard to Israel? Based on the school literature, the school only clearly states that it wants the students to understand Hebrew.
Bulletin boards, school literature and website What is the relationship between what you read in the school's literature and website and what you see in the classroom and hallways? The only Israel curriculum I have seen in the fifth grade classroom is infused into the Hebrew program, taught as part of Judaic studies, or lessons I have taught. In Hebrew class, the students have written letters to pen pals in Israel, and I believe they have also been asked to do some light research about Israel in Hebrew. I taught a lesson during Tu BeShvat about the different climates in Israel, and what kinds of agriculture is grown there. In Judaic studies, anything related to Israel is in the Biblical historical sense, such as descriptions, Biblical geography, or the like. That said, the biggest event of the school year is the zimriyah, where the students sing Israeli songs, all in Hebrew, and present facts and information about Israel. This year's theme was Tel Aviv. The backdrop was an artist's rendition of the view of Tel Aviv from Yaffo. This performance displayed pride in Israel, which is carried through each morning with the singing of HaTikvah. Also, the school tries to hire Israeli Hebrew language teachers. I see the literature as vague and undefined, whereas what is implemented in the classroom is sporadic yet present.
What kind of alignment do you find or not find between the two? I don't really feel like any curriculum could be particularly aligned or misaligned with the vague statements found in the school literature. Essentially, I think the school leaves it to the Judaic and Hebrew teachers to determine what they teach in their classrooms, with a basic understanding that Israel is important in any Jewish day school. The annual zimriyah goes well beyond a vague emphasis on Israel. It is very close to Hebrew immersion, and showcases a pride in eretz Yisrael.
What do you think accounts for this alignment or lack thereof? I think that the school has not looked at its Israel curriculum because it trusts its teachers to determine how they will teach Israel. When I proposed teaching the lesson on agriculture in Israel, my mentor teacher was very receptive and accommodating.
Assess the school's attitude toward teaching Israel in relation to your developing stance on teaching Israel. The school's stance is less defined than my developing stance. I would want to showcase Israel more than the school currently does, and present Israel as a point of pride and community for the Jewish people, an integral part of our past, present and future. I am drawn toward an Israel curriculum that includes getting immersed in Israeli culture, songs, food, agriculture, innovations, history, etc.