Israel Education Project
The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies has launched the Israel Education Project (IEP), a new initiative designed to improve understanding of Israeli history, politics, culture, and society among American audiences beyond the university.
IEP focuses on target audiences that are seeking in-depth content about Israel; Jewish community professionals and educators, Birthright Israel staff and alumni, and Public school educators. Our goal is to educate American Jews about Israel in a serious way, to appreciate its richness and complexity while avoiding the oversimplification and distortions of advocacy.
The IEP strategy emphasizes partnering with other organizations to share resources and ideas, as well as building upon successful existing programs. The expected outcome is a growing corps of knowledgeable and Israel-literate educators and community leaders who will contribute to and substantially enrich public discourse on Israel.
The Project’s first-year plan focused on building a strong foundation for long-term success. Key activities included:
• Developing core educational materials through the Israel Literacy Book Project
• Creating a stand-alone test of Israel knowledge that any institution can use to check baseline “literacy” about Israel
• Implementing an initial set of workshops to showcase the materials and explore ways to expand our model and our audience
• Planning an educational web portal on Israel for target audiences
Core Educational Materials
The Project has engaged outstanding public intellectuals and scholars to write essays on current issues of contemporary Israeli society and politics for an American and English-speaking audience. These essays are expected to constitute a foundational text for Israel "literacy."
The subjects include pressing issues addressed in the ongoing debate not only about the conflict, but also about Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, the relationship of American Jews to the state, its Arab citizens, cultural clashes amongst the waves of immigrants, and identity issues as expressed in Israeli arts. The text is being developed in a readable style and format, to appeal to a wide, lay audience, and not as an academic text.
Primarily, the collected essays are geared toward in-service training, professional development workshops for public school educators and Jewish community leadership. Accompanying the compilation of essays will be an online resource located at our web portal, providing supplemental materials and pedagogical approaches for specific audiences and topics.
We are focused on building a platform that has multiple uses. We have already begun ongoing consultations with professionals in the Jewish community on how best to adapt and implement the Literacy Book Project for their constituencies. We will assist them in developing their programs with the expectation that their own organizations or other funders will want to support widespread implementation.
Israel Literacy Test
In collaboration with the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, IEP is developing a diagnostic literacy test to measure and evaluate knowledge of Israel and the ability to interpret information about it. No such instrument presently exists; our aim is to provide a stand-alone product that could be used by any institution seeking to evaluate a target audience’s knowledge and understanding of Israel.
IEP has already partnered with the following organizations to launch its first set of educational workshops: UC Berkeley's History-Social Science Project, Harvard's Center for Middle East Studies, American Jewish Committee, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Scroll below for details.
Educational Web Portal
We are developing a new online resource platform, which will provide meaningful and substantial opportunities for networking, content engagement, and a community of practitioners interested in the advancement and development of the field of Israel education. In addition, we will provide regular opportunities through the portal for workshop participants to engage in-person and virtually with leading scholars, educators, and each other.
The best locus for the initiative outlined is unquestionably Brandeis. We have an extraordinary assembly of talented people in relevant academic subjects (Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and other departments), professional development (the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program), Jewish education (the Mandel Center for the Study of Jewish Education), policy studies (the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute), as well as other centers associated with us. We are proximate to one another on campus and have experience cooperating together. In essence, this enterprise is a product of the extraordinary synergies that exist uniquely at Brandeis.
- On August 12-16, 2013, we led a pilot workshop in collaboration with the UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project. The Schusterman Center and the UCBH-SSP conducted a five-day teacher-training workshop for public secondary school educators. The first of its kind designed for this audience, the program served as a model for high school educators elsewhere.
- On October 17, 2013, we partnered with the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies to offer a continuing development workshop for high-school educators in the Boston area. “Unearthing the Dead Sea Scrolls: Religion, Politics and the Science of its Excavation” provided an opening session and museum visit followed by two webinar programs.
- A workshop for American Jewish Committee Northeast field office professionals will be held in March 2014. This workshop will build on the educational model that Brandeis operates through Brandeis’ Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program.
- Partnering with Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Project will pilot workshops with alumni of Taglit Birthright Israel on Boston-based campuses in cooperation with the iACT coordinators. This laboratory will test the possibility for more extensive follow-up programming with alumni and staff of the Taglit Birthright Israel programs.