The Melton Centre for Jewish Education represents the Hebrew University’s commitment to the advancement of Jewish education worldwide. For many years that commitment has included a focus on understanding and improving how Israel is taught in the Diaspora. This focus has seen expression in conferences, research projects, professional development programs, and curriculum development initiatives, all animated by a shared incentive to advancing the field of Israel education.
In recent years, the Centre's work in this field has intensified in response to a widespread concern that younger Diaspora Jews are increasingly disconnected from the State of Israel. This intensifying work has, in turn, fostered insights, skills and institutional capacity at the Centre that is expected to bear on future projects.
In 2007, the Centre launched an Israel Education Think Tank for a group of scholars committed to developing this field. The twelve member group from universities in Israel, Australia, the United States and Canada presented papers at a by-invitation seminar that addressed two key questions: What are the purposes of Israel Education and what sort of outcomes can Israel Education hope to achieve in today’s Jewish world? These papers can be downloaded here.
The work produced by this group provided the framework for an international conference on "The Purposes and Practices of Israel Education" held in December 2009 at the Melton Centre in partnership with MAKOM, a Jewish Agency unit focused on Israel education. See the conference program here.
In 2008, with funding from the AVI CHAI Foundation, the Centre launched a major investigation of how Israel is taught in North American day schools. This included a quantitative survey of more than 300 schools and the collection of qualitative data from 15 schools, considered leaders in the field. See the project report, "Israel Education in North American Day Schools: A Systems Analysis and Strategies for Change".
Also in 2008, and dovetailing with the AVI CHAI research, the Centre was commissioned by the Jim Joseph and Schusterman Family Foundations, as a project of the iCenter, to catalogue and study curriculum employed for teaching about Israel. See the project report,"Israel Curriculum in North American Jewish Day Schools: A study of Untapped Transformative Potential".
A searchable catalogue of the more than 70 publicly available curricula may be accessed here.
In 2010, with the support of the AVI CHAI Foundation, the Centre launched a video-based study of what North American high school students think and feel about Israel. This initiative builds on their previous research so as to make it possible to see more clearly how young people experience the Israel education provided by their schools and by other social institutions with which they interact.
In August 2010, as a complement to their research in North America, and with funding provided by the Pratt Foundation, the Centre will launch a parallel 18-month study in Australia. This will explore how Australian day schools teach about Israel, and how the Israel education they provide is experienced by their students.