MOFET International Jewish Leadership Seminars: History, Memory and Heritage in the Jewish Peoplehood Discourse Authors: Perlmutter Tova. Dr. Tova Perlmutter, lecturer and pedagogical tutor in Jewish History at Levinsky Teachers College and staff member of MOFET International's Jewish Teacher Educator Community, shares the rationale and approach of the MOFET Jewish Leadership Seminars in Israel. Every year tens of educators and educational administrators participate in seminars lead by Tova, enriching their professional & personal identities and skills.
Toward the end of his book, The Liberation of the Jew, Albert Memmi describes a group of students that approached him with the request that he write "a kind of plan-and-appeal to Jewish youngsters: How does a Jew live nowadays? [...] How can one be a Jew without observing the mitzvot [commands]?" While Memmi did not in fact write the appeal, he concluded his book by relating to the question that had been addressed to him: "If I dared to approach the young generation, I would tell them: "I am happy to be a member of the generation that understood where our liberation lies and set out to make it a reality. Your role, which is also important, is to complete it. From now on, Israel is your focus of interest. It is the only way out ahead of us, it is your true card, and it is our ultimate historical chance. All the rest is simply distraction."
Jewish history in the Diaspora teaches that in both past and present, the fact of belonging to the community serves a religious value, a social value, and a national value. Albert Memmi's statement, "Israel is your focus of interest", relates to the national value, which, to my mind, constitutes the "Thou shalt" commands for the Jewish People both in Israel and in the Diaspora. In order to carry out this command, the idea arose at MOFET International to hold Jewish leadership seminars. The idea (Jewish Leadership Seminars) was born of the union of existential hardship and intellectual curiosity. Its roots are entrenched in the attempt to comprehend the source of the malaise that we Israelis experience vis-à-vis the positioning of the State of Israel in the Jewish identity of the future generation of the Jewish People in the Diaspora.
It seems that with regard to the State of Israel and its society, there exists an untold story. The "hidden" story and the desire to reveal it constitute the basis of the program, "Seminar on Wheels for Jewish Leadership, Educators, and Functionaries in the Jewish Communities in the Diaspora". The seminar constitutes a personal journey as well as a professional (pedagogical and educational) experience that enhances the sense of belonging and commitment to the Jewish Peoplehood.
During this journey, we read texts and deal with dialogues of present, past, and future. We tackle the question of the desire to be an inseparable part of the chain of Jewish generations (the dialogue between past and present) on the one hand, and the desire to exert an influence on the education- and value-based moral thinking of the future generation on the other.
Yitzhak Tabenkin once said: “With every major question, I ask myself: What would my grandfather have said, and how will this affect my grandson?” We explore what the “grandfather” would have said in response to the queries about Jewish Peoplehood, and discuss the question of how the memory of the past will influence the education of the “grandson” - of our future generation.
In light of the feedback of participants in the seminar and out of a desire to renew and be renewed, I embarked on a fascinating journey during which I learned to recognize stories that had been excluded from of the Zionist historical memory. One of these stories is that of the pioneer women who fought for the image of the "New Jew" in the Land of Israel by the side of the male pioneers, but found themselves fighting an additional battle for the image of the "New Jewess". While it is natural that the latter battle constituted a part of the struggle for the new Jewish society and "Tikun Olam", they not only stood alone, but paid a heavy price. This revelation induced me to develop an additional program for a female leadership seminar titled: "Every Woman Has a Story... The Role of Feminine Power in Designing Social-Educational Leadership", which will take place from July 21 to July 30, 2015.
We invite Jewish educators and administrators from across North America to join us on this journey.
Here are some of the comments of the participants of the last Leadership Seminar, April 2015:
- "The seminar program was a learning experience that transformed me into a person with greater knowledge and into an ambassador for Israel."
- "As a teacher, I evaluate the seminar program from the viewpoint of what is expected and what needs to be carried out in order to achieve this result."
- "I gained a better understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in all its complexity and with its various dimensions."
- "I will convey to both Jews and non-Jews my insights regarding life in Israel in the past and in the present and I will fight against the erroneous opinions that exist about Israel."
- "At the seminar, I experienced the moderator's "revelation" that she wanted to open up to us and share with us."