Are we informed by Education or surveys?

JULY 21, 2021

Source: Jerusalem Post


After almost any study conducted in the Jewish community, articles like this one will inevitably raise the issue of the efficacy of Jewish education and how that level of efficacy contributed to the study’s results. People reading the recent Jewish Electorate Institute and AJC studies have asked variations of the question, “How is it possible that we raised a generation of youths who could possibly believe X or do Y?” Sometimes it is put even more crassly. “After investing so many millions of dollars in our future, especially in sending so many of them to Israel, how is it possible that this is what we are still seeing?”

It is here where Israel education has an inherent dilemma. And while I believe most people in the Jewish community would favor raising a generation of critical thinkers, the line seemingly is often drawn when these independent minds transgress certain boundaries.

Our obligation as Jewish educators is to provide our learners with knowledge and skills so they can reach their own informed opinions about Israel. But this transmission does not guarantee they will think, believe and feel the same way you or I do. Education is but one part of the overall zeitgeist of the existence of human beings – a powerful one indeed, but not the only element that will determine how our young people think about Israel.

The challenge moving ahead for Jewish educators is to strengthen people’s commitment to a Jewish homeland while simultaneously embracing what is core to the majority of Jewish Gen Z today: a commitment to universal values of freedom, equality and dignity for all people in the world. If these come into tension, either for the educator or the learner, this is precisely where good education ought to, and must, take place.

So, rather than disparage Jewish education because of these latest surveys, we should instead invest even further in more and better educator training and Israel education. This certainly includes investments for young Jewish Americans to experience Israel, where they will form personal connections, appreciate our rich heritage and undoubtedly think for themselves.

Read the entire piece in the Jerusalem Post.

Updated: Aug. 01, 2021