Israel Engagement in Education: RAVSAK Reflections
By Heidi Krizer Daroff
The plane touched down in Los Angeles and as I walked to baggage claim adrenaline was coursing through my body. Although the black suitcase felt like it weighed five hundred pounds I lifted it off the luggage conveyor belt and waited for my navy bag that held my clothing to come next. The black bag was filled with materials that I would be using to promote The Israel Forever Foundation at the RAVSAK North America Jewish Day School Conference. This was our first time attending this conference and I was really looking forward to it.
For almost a decade and a half I taught in a Hebrew school and my daughter has been attending Jewish Day School since she was in kindergarten. I am enamored by people who dedicate their lives to sharing their love of being Jewish and our collective connection to Israel with the next generation.
Teaching can be a stressful and low paying profession. Yet, in my experience as a teacher and a parent I have found the vast majority of educators to be enthusiastic, compassionate, and dedicated but always in search of something new, exciting, innovative in how we impart our passions to our students and our children.
It was with this understanding that my team prepared all the items I had brought along with me. Our display was replete with brochures, business cards, program information sheets, Israeli wild flower seeds, and content pieces. We wanted to share multiple opportunities to forge their own personal connection to Israel,and to share the promise that having a sovereign Jewish homeland provides for all of us, regardless of our age.
We know that teachers and administrators alike are looking for unique ways that they can make Israel come alive in the classroom and to make our Jewish state a more meaningful part of their school culture. With every conversation and encounter, I was able to share just how much Israel Forever can enhance the existing educational curricula that Jewish day schools have in place.
For three days I had the pleasure of engaging in conversations with people from all over North America. Classroom teachers, Heads of School, and Board Members originating in places as far away from each other as San Francisco, California, Akron, Ohio, Allentown, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, New York and Washington DC.
While we may have come from diverse backgrounds and towns scattered across the United States, we all shared in common a strong love of Israel and, most importantly, the knowledge that it was up to each of us to pass on to the next generation that same bond with our shared history.
I had high expectations of the Israel Engagement session that was slated on the program schedule. At a time when we were honoring the death of a great leader of Israel, it was a shame that his legacy was reduced to nothing more than a negative reflection on his contribution to the building of the state. At a conference where educators are gathered in search of inspiration, it was unfortunate to observe that I was not the only one made uncomfortable by this diminishing of Israel through what I felt was an misplaced analysis of the ethical issues Israel faces in her continued struggle for security and peace.
I was saddened to see that the topic did not reflect any of the real, meaningful, or positive engagement that is possible when it comes to connecting Israel to our Jewish identity.
I have to be honest - I didn't stay long in the session. But I was empowered by the knowledge that the efforts of The Israel Forever Foundation are focused on combating the prevalent tendency to allow politics and conflict to divide us and hinder the exploration of Israel's relevance and importance today. Making Israel personal is how we believe we can help educators, parents, and youth alike foster a positive and dignified relationship that can be perpetuated for generations to come.