Learning about Learning

Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, Brandeis University

Tag: Israel

by Hannah Tobin Cohen

Republished from forward.com.

Silhouette of Beauty and the beast from the Disney filmDo the following scenarios describe a Disney movie or the latest headline about Israel? The forcible separation of a baby from its mother, villagers persecuting a feared outsider, and factions competing in a deadly battle to control the land.

Spoiler alert: it’s both. Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King tackle these tricky subjects with young kids.

So why are adults so afraid to do the same when it comes to Israel?

While we allow our children to watch movies packed with flawed heroes and moral ambiguity, Israel education continues to be a manichaean struggle between good versus bad. Our schools, camps, and even we ourselves shut our children out of honest conversations about Israel for fear of them not being “ready.”

Well, they are.

As part of the research team at the Children’s Learning About Israel Project of Brandeis University, I have spent the past eight years conducting hundreds of interviews with Jewish kids about Israel. Following a cohort of 35 Jewish elementary schoolers as they aged from kindergarten to middle school, I heard them express their thoughts and feelings about the country. Listening to these kids discussing Israel, it’s clear they have something to teach the adults in their lives.

The children in our study are spread across a diverse group of schools: One is Reform, one Conservative, and one a non-denominational community school. One has a large Persian-Jewish population, one has predominantly Ashkenazi students, and one has a large number of Israeli expatriate families.

There is just one area in which our cohort is uniform: Our children are all frustrated and confused about Israel. And it’s because of us.

Continue reading

For Camp Leaders, Some Questions and a Challenge

By Sandra Fox

Kiva Rabinsky, Seth Winberg, Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Joseph Reimer at the conference

At last month’s conference on Jewish summer camping, at Brandeis’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, I hoped my participation would place a friendly parenthetical question mark at the end of the conference title. This hope grew out my research, which  questions the assumptions Jewish leaders and educators hold about camp’s power, and highlights the perspective of the youth they seek to mold.  However, I ultimately found it refreshing to talk about camp with fellow scholars and practitioners–people who, like the historical figures I write about, participate in and shape the lived experience of Jewish camping today. Continue reading

New Survey Finds that Hebrew at Camp is about Connection, Not Proficiency

By Sharon Avni, Sarah Bunin Benor, and Jonathan Krasner

ad51b3ad-195d-4a74-b0c2-6ade23f37fc1Chanichim, follow your madrichim to the teatron for peulat erev.” For those not conversant in the language of many American Jewish overnight summer camps, that means “campers, follow your counselors to the theater for the evening activity.” Why do some camps feature sentences like this, or decorative Hebrew signs, or spirited Hebrew song sessions? How does Hebrew usage differ among the wide variety of Jewish overnight camps? These are some of the questions we set out to address in our study of Hebrew use at camp. While we are working on a book presenting the full study, we want to share some of the results with you: findings from a survey of 103 camp directors of diverse Jewish residential camps across North America, about their camps’ use of Hebrew.

Our findings show that, for the most part, in the minds of camp administrators, Hebrew usage at camp is not about developing proficiency in spoken Hebrew. Rather, it is a vehicle for nurturing feelings of belonging to the camp community and the broader Jewish community, as well as connection to Jewish sacred texts, Israel, and the Jewish people. Continue reading

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Violence in Israel

By Sivan Zakai, director, Children’s Learning About Israel project. This article originally appeared at Forward.com, Oct 19, 2015. Reproduced from here by permission of the Forward.

These are dark days for the Jewish people. In Israel, Jewish children head off to school not knowing when or where the next attack will occur. But Jewish children in the United States are geographically removed from the fray, and their bodies are not on the front lines in this new frightening chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So what do American Jewish children know and feel about the conflict? And how should we — their parents, grandparents and teachers — talk to them about it? Continue reading

Wet, Hot, Hebrew-Infused American Summer

By Sarah Bunin Benor, co-director of the Hebrew in North American Jewish Summer Camps project

Image from "Wet Hot American Summer"What is a Hebrew word doing in an American Netflix preview? Near the end of the official trailer for Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, this appears briefly on the screen: “וגם (featuring) David Wain.” Wain, the show’s co-creator, plays Yaron, the one Israeli counselor at Camp Firewood. The insertion of a foreign word – not decipherable to most prospective viewers – fits in with the absurd, “campy” nature of the film. But as a sociolinguist, I see a whole world of significance in that word and in the Hebrew used in the show. Continue reading

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