Teaching Jewish Holidays in Early Childhood Education in Israel

Spring, 2016

Source: Taboo: The Journal of Culture & Education Vol. 15 Issue 1, p119-134. 16p.


Teaching Jewish holidays in secular kindergartens in Israel is a major part of the early childhood education curriculum and often revolves around myths of heroism. The telling of these stories frequently evokes strong nationalist feelings of identification with fighting as they describe survival wars and conflicts in which the heroes are mostly male fighters and Jewish victory over the enemy is celebrated. Thus the teaching of the holidays hidden agenda strengthens ceremonial, patriarchal and national ideas. This paper proposes a number of educational alternatives in accordance with critical feminist pedagogy and Jewish values of social justice. The article focuses on three major holidays: Hanukah, Purim and Passover. It shows in each one of them the conventional reading of the holiday which is the traditional way it is being taught in secular kindergartens, the holiday through a critical feminist pedagogy lens and application in early childhood classrooms.


Jewish heritage encourages multifaceted interpretations of its sources. In Judaism one may find contradicting views of peace and war, of mercy and revenge. As educators our pedagogic and curricular choices convey the messages we value for our students. I believe that teaching the holidays in early childhood may generate critical thinking and deep values of peace, tolerance, love and acceptance. Holidays unite us around ancient traditions and moral standards. Critical feminist pedagogy wrestles with issues of race, class, gender and (dis)ability equality. This article leads the way to illuminate ideas of human rights and gender equality through our holidays through different interpretations and positioning of moral questions for critical examination. The application of critical feminist pedagogy to the Jewish teaching of the holidays in early childhood education complements and reinforces our Jewish tradition of Midrash, exegesis questioning, interpreting and arguing over the meaning of texts. It may also enrich our education and the lives of our young children.

Updated: May. 15, 2016