“My Heart Is in the East and I Am in the West”: Enduring Questions of Israel Education in North America

August, 2014

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 80, Issue 3, pages 287-318


By examining writing about Israel education since the founding of the State, this paper highlights three questions that have surfaced repeatedly in Jewish educational discourse: What is the purpose of teaching American Jews about Israel? Who is best equipped to teach American Jews about Israel? How can Israel education foster positive identification with Israel without whitewashing over the imperfections of the Jewish State? By exploring how each question has manifested in Jewish education, it examines why—for very different reasons—these questions have endured over time, and considers what it might take to arrive at lasting conclusions about them.


As a whole, this vision of complex Israel education focuses on multiple meanings of Israel from multiple voices and multiple disciplinary lenses. Scholars and practitioners committed to improving Israel education must continue to develop both the theory and the practice of complex Israel education.

Only with clearly articulated purposes of Israel education, thoughtfully developed subject-specific pedagogies for teaching it, and stronger links between the academy and the world of practice will it be possible to address the enduring questions of Israel education. And only by addressing these questions will it be possible to teach American Jews in nuanced and meaningful ways what it means to be, like the 12th century Hebrew poet Yehuda Halevi, connected to the East while remaining firmly rooted in the West.

Updated: Sep. 18, 2014