Constructs: Building Knowledge of Contemporary Jewry 
January 2010
In This Issue
Searching for the Study of Israel
Expanding the Study of Israel
The New Realism
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I just returned from Israel where I testified about Taglit-Birthright Israel to the education committee of the Knesset and spoke with MKs from most of the major factions. I also met with a number of researchers and policy analysts who are engaged in efforts to reshape the relationship of Israel to the Diaspora. It was an extraordinary set of discussions, and there is no question that the connection, in particular between American Jews and Israel, is in the midst of a paradigm shift. There is broad realization that the relationship needs to reflect mutual concerns and that education--as well as interaction between Israeli and Diaspora Jews--needs to be at the heart of Jewish peoplehood.
 
The dynamic relationship of American Jews to Israel is one of our most robust areas of research, and this issue of Constructs features several recent publications that focus on Israel education and attitudes toward Israel. Searching for the Study of Israel finds that there has been a dramatic increase in courses offered at U.S. universities. According to the report's lead author, Dr. Annette Koren, a process of "normalization" of the study of Israel is underway. A related publication, Expanding the Study of Israel on Campus, examines a program of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) that brings Israeli academics to the United States to teach about Israel and supports American graduate students pursuing Israel-related research topics. The report finds that the program has had a significant, and very positive, influence on host institutions and the field of Israel Studies. The report also includes a directory of Israel-content courses at 316 four-year colleges. Finally, also highlighted is a related monograph, The New Realism: American Jews' Views about Israel. Prepared by Cohen Center researcher Prof. Ted Sasson for the American Jewish Committee, the paper examines how American Jews think about political issues pertaining to Israel and how their views affect their feelings of connection to the Jewish state.

In an environment in which Israel is, too often, delegitimized, it is important to note the ways in which such critiques are being countered by academically rigorous education about Israel's history and culture. 
 
I hope that you find our work of value and, as always, I welcome your reactions.
 
Leonard Saxe, Ph.D.
Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies
Director, Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies
Director, Steinhardt Social Research Institute
Searching for the Study of Israel:
A Report on the Teaching of Israel on U.S. College Campuses 2008-09
 
Annette Koren
Emily Einhorn
January 2010
 
Searching for Study of IsraelAn update of a 2006 report, Searching for the Study of Israel examines the scope of academic courses being taught about Israel on more than 300 leading American college and university campuses and finds that the state of education about Israel has improved since the original study. A comparison of the 246 institutions included in both studies shows a 69% growth in courses that focus specifically on Israel over the three-year period.
 
Read the report.

Expanding the Study of Israel on Campus: The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise 2005-09

Annette Koren
Emily Einhorn
January 2010
 
Expanding Study of IsraelThe Israel Scholar Development Fund of AICE was formed in order to address the lack of scholarly discourse about Israel on campuses in the United States. AICE brings Israeli academics with expertise in Israel Studies to colleges and universities across the country. The report finds that the program has had a significant influence on host institutions and their students, local and national communities, and the field of Israel Studies.
 

Read the report.
 
The New Realism:
American Jews' Views about Israel


Theodore Sasson
Monograph, American Jewish Committee, June 2009

The New Realism
Once an occasion for solidarity, consensus-building, and collective action, Israel advocacy as practiced by American Jewish organizations has become increasingly pluralistic, partisan, and contentious. But what of the Jewish grassroots? Do the divergent viewpoints that increasingly separate Israel advocates also divide the rank-and-file?

Read the report.
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