In this study we investigated the perceptions and interpretations of 14 various stakeholders in the field of teacher preparation and early childhood education regarding what and how Jewish education should be learned and taught, in general, and to preschool children in contemporary Israel, in particular. The present study, carried out in the spring of 2011, employed an “ethogenic” methodology (Harré & Secord, 1972), such that that the interpretations of Jewish education were extracted from the respondents’ written statements about what they consider Jewish education and what they believe the implications are for teaching students and young children in Israel.
To implement some of the insights revealed by this study, we decided in the 2012–2013 academic year to collaboratively plan workshops dealing with learning and experiencing Shabbat at Levinsky Teachers' College and in preschools in which our students have been placed. The relevant staff—college mentors, Judaism lecturers, and the Heads of the Departments of Judaica and Early Childhood Education—collaboratively planned these workshops and the implementation in preschools throughout the school year. Although in their Judaica courses students have been learning about Jewish holidays, we decided to focus on Shabbat for experiential learning as the students had the chance to implement their teaching plans several times throughout the school year and to gradually improve their work with the children. Second-year students disclosed their perceptions and feelings about Shabbat. Then they inquired about the sociocultural profile of the children in the preschools in which they were placed. Finally they chose relevant texts from a list offered to them by the Judaism lecturers and constructed teaching plans dealing with the main ideas represented in these texts in ways that were suitable for young children. We then held a collective Shabbat ceremony in which students presented their plans to represent main ideas in texts dealing with Shabbat in their work with preschoolers in their placements, and we all celebrated Shabbat symbolically. This ceremony was conducted by the Head of Jewish Studies, who commented on the students’ presentations and explained Shabbat symbols. Students have implemented the plan in preschools at least twice during the school year so they could introduce modifications drawn from their reflections during the first implementation.
We intend to continue to slowly strengthen collaboration among the stakeholders connected to Jewish education at Levinsky so that we gradually and steadily implement the understandings derived from the present study.