Children's Learning About Israel

Kids laying in a circle with Israeli flags

The Children’s Learning About Israel project studied how American Jewish elementary school students think and feel about Israel, and how that thinking changes over time.

Find out more about the findings of this study and view the Zoom video from the workshop, Through the Lens of a Child: Understanding how Children View the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, led by Project Director Sivan Zakai.

My Second-Favorite Country book cover

Available from NYU Press, My Second-Favorite Countrywinner of the 2022 National Jewish Book Award in the "Education and Jewish Identity," draws from the compelling empirical data from the Children's Learning About Israel project. Learn more about the book from our June 2022 book launch webinar.

The American Jewish community is investing unprecedented time and money into cultivating young people’s connections to Israel. While there is an emerging body of empirical research to help us understand the roles that Israel and Israel education play in the lives of American Jewish teenagers and young adults, there is virtually no comparable knowledge about children.

To build this knowledge base, the project made an unprecedented effort to gather data from children as young as five and six years old, through special techniques designed to elicit their associations with images and sounds as well as by using more traditional interview techniques.

Working with a cohort of 35 children from three Jewish day schools in the Los Angeles area, the project tracked the students from kindergarten (the 2012–13 school year) through fifth grade (the 2017–18 school year), and continues to track some of them in middle school. The group of schools is diverse: one is Reform, one Conservative, and one a non-denominational/community school; one has a large Persian-Jewish population; one has predominately Ashkenazi students; and one has a large number of Israeli expatriate families.

The Children’s Learning About Israel project was led by Dr. Sivan Zakai, affiliated scholar at the Mandel Center, and Sara S. Lee, assistant professor of education at HUC, and was conducted at HUC.

This project was supported in part by CASJE, in partnership with the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education.