Children's Learning About Israel

6 children lying in a circle, holding Israeli flags

The Children’s Learning About Israel project studies how American Jewish elementary and middle 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.

Cover of the book, My Second-Favorite Country

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 children from the Los Angeles area, the project tracked the students from kindergarten (the 2012–13 school year) through eighth grade (the 2020–21 school year). These children come from a range of Jewish ethnic and denominational backgrounds. Over the nine years of this study, children attended a range of schools including public, charter, independent, Jewish day, and home schools. 

The Children’s Learning About Israel project is 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. Dr. Zakai continues to publish on the subject.

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