Urgent Questions, Pressing Problems, and Emerging Paradigms in Jewish Peoplehood Education


Source: Hagira – Israel Journal of Migration vol. 5, 2016 pages 42-57


What does it mean to educate towards Jewish peoplehood? How can Jewish educational tourism achieve this goal? This paper traces the historical development of Jewish educational tourism and explores the paradigm of Jewish peoplehood that emerges from it. This is accomplished through a close analysis of the different stages of programmatic activity at the Department of Jewish Peoplehood – Oren throughout its 25 years.

The paper describes three stages of educational programming at the Department of Jewish Peoplehood – Oren:

  • The Israel experience, which focuses on bringing Diaspora Jews to Israel and having Israel impact them;
  • The mifgash (facilitated encounter), where Israeli and Diaspora Jews come together to learn from one another;
  • Building an ongoing relationship between Jewish communities in the Diaspora and in Israel.

These three stages point to an emerging paradigm of Jewish peoplehood, including: belonging to the Jewish people, having a connection to other Jews, Jewish capital, and personal responsibility to fellow Jews. This paradigm has the capacity to address the various challenges facing Jewish educational tourism today, pointing the way toward new directions in Jewish educational tourism and educational tourism research.

What then are the additional challenges facing contemporary Jewish educational tourism? Today, unlike when we started this work, we engage in reciprocal tourism. Tourism flows in both directions, such as with Boston - Haifa; each community becomes a destination in turn. However, there is an additional layer of reciprocity here, since there is also a direct rotation of guest and host roles. Unlike the typical tourist situation, the same people are both guests and then, later in the year, hosts, developing a continuous relationship. Altercasting (a notion that comes from interactionist sociology) and context restructuring predicate change (Mittelberg,1988). This change in roles is itself the secret of our work. We also have multiple destinations — home land, host land, and “other” land. “Other” land means when American or Israeli Jews go to Russia, Poland, South America, or elsewhere.

As a result, Jewish educational tourism research must deal with the challenge of being multilingual, cross - cultural, and multicultural. These three words are not the same. Cross - cultural means trying to engage across boundaries. Multicultural is an ideology that asserts that different cultures can engage each other with acceptance, tolerance, and understanding, while valorizing diversity. In addition, Jewish educational tourism is glocal, meaning that our identities that are pluralistic, and hopefully hybrid and multiple. The paradigm of Jewish peoplehood presented in this article has the capacity to address these different challenges of pluralism, hybridism, and multiple identities; to traverse these distances; and to transcend these differences.

Updated: Sep. 08, 2016