Three Connecticut educators were among a group of teachers from Jewish day schools and community educational programs around the country convened in New York City last month for an intensive three-day training seminar on how to empower students to articulate and advocate for Israel. Led by educators from The David Project, teachers learned how to inspire their students for activism and help them/others to think critically about Israel and the Middle East conflict.
The David Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and inspire strong voices for Israel through educational seminars, workshops, and curricula for students and adults. The organization’s Israel education curricula are taught in more than 130 Jewish middle and high schools across North America and Israel. Educators prepare college students to assume leadership roles and bring Israel-related programming to their campuses, and train adults to advocate for Israel in their communities.
Educators participating in last month’s training course studied a curriculum designed for high-school students, “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Educating Ourselves, Educating Others,” created with the support of the Avi Chai Foundation.
Graduates of the program will receive ongoing consultation, support, resources, site visits, and additional educational programs from The David Project, as well as the opportunity to take part in the organization’s Blackboard portal, which provides discussion forums and ongoing lesson plans for David Project educators.
The David Project has a three-pronged, long-term strategy: to populate campuses with educated, trained, and confident college students, to prepare high school students and Jewish teens to become Israel advocates, and to activate the Jewish community in response to the growing anti-Israel discourse.
Three Connecticut educators participated in the course.
Elise Passy is the new executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education of UJF of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, and the director of UJF’s Kulanu supplemental Jewish high school.
“I took the course because I wanted to hear the curriculum explained and see how it could be used within our community as a whole,” says the Stamford resident. “I hoped to learn how other participants are using the material and to glean ideas from my fellow educators.”
For Passy, the program curriculum proved an invaluable resource that she will use with both her teen and adult students.
Susan Carter and Ella Gurevich became interested with the David Project through their involvement with the Chabad Hebrew School in Westport. “I needed to understand the real Arab-Israeli conflict in a formalized setting, and get a viewpoint based on fact rather than emotion,” says Carter, a Weston resident. “I was so impressed with the program! I learned so much more than I thought I would.”
For Carter, curriculum highlights included viewing a film about Jewish refugees from Arab countries, and meeting non-Jewish teachers from Jewish day schools.
“I will use the training to give credibility to my opinions,” she says. “But the single reason I want to do this is that so much of Hebrew school is learning things like the holiday rituals and Hebrew, which few kids learn to a degree of any purpose that they need to understand. I’d say the same for many adults. But why should they defend Israel? Because of the current situation in the region. They should know what the 1967 borders are. They should know where every country is in the Middle East. They should know Israel’s accomplishments. Hebrew school is such a turn-off to so many kids. I hope to incite some emotion, some anger, and some frustration in kids, so that they want to protect, defend, and preserve Israel. And I want to have them know why.”