In anticipation of a 2014-15 school year fraught with anxiety over how to teach kids about the Israel-Hamas war — and about Israel in general, in the wake of the war —Jewish LearningWorks (JLW), an San Francisco-based nonprofit formerly called the Bureau of Jewish Education jumped into action late in the summer and organized several educators-only workshops. The gatherings helped teachers and administrators at Jewish day schools figure out how to best approach the subject of Israel. And in conjunction with that, JLW also launched a Web page titled “Israel-Gaza Conflict Resources”, a compendium of helpful materials for teachers.
Ilan Vitemberg, director of JLW’s Israel Education Initiative, worked with other JLW employees on the workshops and resources, including executive director David Waksberg and Israel arts and culture specialist Vavi Toran.
Launched in early July, Operation Protective Edge lasted 50 days, and the war claimed the lives of 72 Israelis and around 2,000 Palestinians. The conflict brought a deluge of rockets onto Israeli cities, shut down Ben Gurion Airport for a day and triggered worldwide protests against Israel, some of them outwardly anti-Semitic.
With the war still raging, JLW quickly organized four regional workshops for educators, each drawing around 20 attendees. Participants came from a range of Jewish day schools: Wornick in Foster City, Gideon Hausner in Palo Alto, Contra Costa in Lafayette and Brandeis Hillel (both San Francisco and Marin campuses), as well as several synagogue schools. The goal was to review the facts of the war, then give participants a chance to voice their thoughts.
The JLW team wanted to make sure these Jewish educators had quality resources at their fingertips if and when they brought up the war in class.
JLW’s “Israel and Gaza Conflict” resources Web page includes links to essays, articles and blog posts about the war, some expressing diverging political opinions. There’s a section titled “Helping educators understand and cope with the issues” that includes links to more than a dozen articles and essays, and another titled “How to talk to children about violence and crisis” with about 10 links.
Many of the resources come from the iCenter for Israel Education, a Chicago-based nonprofit that is a national hub for Israel education. The iCenter develops Israel-centric curriculum and materials, and offers training and support, for educators in day schools and other settings.
Adam Stewart, who serves as director of education for the iCenter, worked hand-in-hand with Jewish LearningWorks in compiling the resources.
The iCenter and Jewish LearningWorks both count on support from the S.F.-based Jim Joseph Foundation, one of the nation’s leading funders of Jewish education programs and institutions.
Read more at Jweekly.com.