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Inspirational keynotes, workshops and networking opportunities for educators, administrators, board members and stakeholders of network member schools will engage participants around design thinking, school change, board development, educational leadership, innovative technologies, contemporary ideas of Jewish pluralism, Israel curricula, modes of prayer education, special needs inclusion, early childhood education and more. 

*Schedule subject to change.

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Monday, January 20 • 10:30am - 5:00pm
New Paradigms for Israel Education (in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America)

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To address the growing gap between “Israel education” and Jewish education, and to help schools craft new approaches to integrating Israel across their curriculum and school cultures in a sophisticated manner.


The State of Israel is central to the Jewish educational vision that our day schools strive to impart. But there are growing fissures and anxieties around the role of Israel in contemporary Jewish identity that are carrying over to the day school classroom, resulting in mounting concerns that it is difficult to teach Israel honestly, and that how we talk about Jewish values and texts must be different than how we talk about Israel and its complicated realities.

In this session, through a combination of study, reflections from the field, and applied conversations, we will explore how we might translate the core and complicated ideas of Israel into the pedagogical context of the day school. We will grapple as learners with some of Israel’s primary foundational texts in dialogue with classical Jewish texts and experiment with rethinking the Beit Midrash as a site of not just studying text but studying difficult questions. We will discuss the developmental challenges of how and when to introduce Israel’s complexity and its unanswered questions as the invitation into, or perhaps as the impediment to, building engagement with Israel as part of a thick Jewish identity. And we will explore together how we might begin to build an authentic, spiraling curriculum that imbues commitment to Israel within the framework of contemporary realities.


At the day school conference co-sponsored by RAVSAK and PARDES three years ago, research by Alex Pomson of Hebrew University made national Jewish news with the revelation that students were highly skeptical by what they perceived as the "selling" of Israel as part of their education.

To help prepare for the session, I encourage you to read Rabbi David Hartman's famous essay "Auschwitz or Sinai," written in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War, in which he called on the State of Israel to rethink the core metaphors that signal its meaning to Jews and Judaism. Additionally, you may consider watching this interview between Rabbi Donniel Hartman and Yossi Klein Halevi, part of the iEngage curriculum, which explores some of the broader implications of a contemporary Jewish conversation on power and powerlessness.

The material we will use in our sessions is largely derived from the Hartman Institute's iEngage Project, a research and educational initiative that seeks to reframe the meaning of the State of Israel for world Jewry through both its cutting-edge content and its diverse educational programs for leaders and change-agents.


10:30am-12:30pm: iEngage Beit Midrash: Power, Powerlessness, and The State of Israel 

The State of Israel (and the American Jewish experience) offer a degree and quality of power in ways unprecedented in Jewish history. This manifests in a strong Jewish army, the possibility for a Jewishly-informed foreign policy, American Jewish political participation that signals a meaningful acceptance of Jews into American society, and a degree of confidence for Jews as political actors that is new. This experience also brings untold challenges, especially to the State of Israel, as it seeks to integrate this new experience of the world into a Jewish-values narrative that has much to say about the ethical use of such power, even as those traditions were rarely tested in practical reality.

Participants will engage in guided havruta to study some of Judaism’s foundational texts on the meaning of power and powerlessness, using our contemporary sensibilities as an entry point into our classical tradition. We will juxtapose these classical sources with some contemporary texts as well, hoping to consider in what ways this interplay of texts and traditions might be constructive – or at times destructive – to both how we think about the study of Jewish text, and how we think about mounting a thick Jewish Israel conversation.

12:30pm: Lunch Break (Lunch by Israel interest area)

1:30-3:00pmCase-Studies: Power and Powerlessness in Practice

Moving from the conceptual to the “applied,” participants will break up into small facilitated groups to explore specific case-studies on the exercise of power in the modern State of Israel: Targeted Assassinations, Indirect Responsibility, Assymetrical Warfare. Each case-study will build on the foundational ideas laid out in the previous study session, but will also introduce contemporary realia and an additional set of texts – ancient and modern – for participants to consider. In these facilitated discussions participants will consider the utility of the text-study methodology in Jewish day schools for exploring current events, and in what ways a study-based approach facilitates productive and constructive dialogue and learning around Israel’s most vexing policy issues.  The case studies will be an opportunity to experiment with a teaching methodology that reimagines the place of text study in Jewish day schools.

3:15-4:45pm: Translating from Theory to Practice: How can the iEngage approach inform the ways we teach about Israel? (Participants choose one to attend)

Participants will have the opportunity to choose a workshop led by academics and educators who are piloting this approach in teaching contemporary Israel. The workshops will look at year-long curricula and lesson plans to consider how this approach can work in a day school audience, what types of students are best suited for such a methodology, and how an approach such as this might also help position students more effectively for the college environment. The facilitators will both lead the discussion and introduce methodological and pedagogic thinking into the conversation, to integrate between content and process.

  • Engaging Teenagers: Israel, Nuance and Developing Abstract Thinking Skills

Rabbi Joshua Seth Ladon

This session will examine a specific difficulty I have encountered in the Israel class that I teach which is based on the iEngage curriculum. A serious discussion of power and powerlessness in the Israel narrative requires students who can think abstractly and critically. The process of helping students develop these skills has been challenging.  In this session we will look at a couple of assignments which attempted to introduce students to critical theory and asked them to explore different facets of Jewish and Israeli culture through the lens of power and powerlessness. As part of this session, we will look at student work as well as brainstorm different ways of introducing this material.

  • Israeli Literature and Film:  Inspiration and Critical Thought for the Reluctant Learner

Laura Sanders-Masset

Israel education in many instances has been reduced to teaching students answers to criticism they might encounter on their college campuses, an approach that not only fails to inspire students but one that also counters the critical thinking we strive to foster in them.  This session uses a model lesson on the security fence to demonstrate how Israeli film and literature can spark the reluctant learner’s interest in Israel while allowing for the development of critical thought.   We will begin with poetry and/or prose excerpts from Agi Mishol, Yehuda Amichai, Aharon Shabtai, and David Harris-Gershon plus a variety of film clips to examine the security fence from an experiential vantage, using the emotional impact of these voices to motivate further research into the actual causes and effects of the fence.

  • Foundations and Practice of Israel Education

Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin PhD

Based on student and parent learning at the Milken Community High School, this session will explore two large questions. What is the relationship between Jewish Education and Israel Education?  How can Israel education problematize and inspire Jewish Education in America? How can integrated text study (Jewish Thought-AP Literature) connect theological and practical questions for Israel studies? Among the texts to be studied are selections from David Hartman, A.B. Yehoshua, Talmud, and Shakespeare.

4:45-5:00pm: Bringing it all Together: Closing Reflections

Participants will regroup to identify approaches and major takeaways to bringing these new methodologies and approaches back to their school and classrooms.

avatar for Gordon Bernat Kunin

Gordon Bernat Kunin

Rabbinic Director and Director of the Advanced Jewish Studies Center/BeitMidrash, Milken Community High School
Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin is currently serving in his twentienth year as Rabbinic Director and Director of the Advanced Jewish Studies Center/BeitMidrash at the Milken Community High School of Stephen Wise Temple. He was the founder and Educational Director of Makor, which developed pluralistic, grassroots Shabbat-centered learning communities for Jews in their twenties and thirties. He served as Lecturer in Rabbinics at the Ziegler School... Read More →
avatar for Yehuda Kurtzer

Yehuda Kurtzer

President, Shalom Hartman Institute of North America
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, overseeing the Institute’s many educational initiatives for the leadership of the North American Jewish community. He previously served as the inaugural Bronfman Chair in Jewish Communal Innovation at Brandeis University, where he taught as a member of the faculty and wrote his acclaimed recent book Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past (Brandeis... Read More →
avatar for Josh Ladon

Josh Ladon

Teacher, Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco
Joshua Ladon teaches Rabbinic Literature and Jewish Thought at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. He received rabbinic ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute and graduated from their Melamdim teacher education program. In addition, he holds a master’s degree from Tel Aviv University in Jewish Thought. He lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife Yael and daughter Elisheva.
avatar for Laura Sanders-Masset

Laura Sanders-Masset

Chair of Integrated Israel Studies, Milken Community High School
Laura Sanders-Masset received her Bachelor's degree in History with a focus on African history and a credential in Secondary Education in Social Studies from Loyola Marymount University. After several years of teaching and starting a family of three, she returned to school and earned a Master's of English. | | Ms. Sanders-Masset is a member of the Upper School History Department and currently teaches 9th grade Modern and Jewish World... Read More →

avatar for Shalom Hartman Institute of North America

Shalom Hartman Institute of North America

The Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) is a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. A leader in sophisticated, ideas-based Jewish education for community leaders and change agents, SHI is committed to the significance of Jewish ideas, the power of applied scholarship, and the conviction that great teaching... Read More →

Monday January 20, 2014 10:30am - 5:00pm
Westchester B Westin LAX

Attendees (5)