October 7, 2016
Create a new and updated syllabus? Check. Set up the class webpage? Check. Ready to get back in the groove of grading papers? Check. While I have taken a hiatus from the classroom over the past few years, I am honored and excited to be back working with our entire 12th grade this year teaching our History of Modern Israel course.
I began teaching at Golda Och Academy in 2003 as a member of both the Social Studies and Judaic Studies Departments. During that first year we spent a lot of time discussing the need to teach a more formalized Israel curriculum beyond the excellent work being done on our Neshama program and during our Israel Club meetings and activities. The following fall we began offering an elective course for our seniors that I was fortunate enough to be able to teach.
The learning and discussions that went on in those classrooms over the next (almost) decade were vibrant, deep and always interesting. Our students engaged in conversations about Zionism, immigration to Palestine, the development of a new government, war and the growing pains of a young nation, the Arab-Israeli conflict and of course Israel’s many modern cultural and technological developments. In short, the course took the students on a journey through history to provide them with a deeper understanding of a country that they loved so much and cared so deeply for.
I first worked on developing a formal Israel education curriculum during my years of undergraduate study at Emory University while learning with Dr. Kenneth Stein — one of the foremost scholars in the area of Israeli History and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Dr. Stein, who is still teaching at Emory and is now also directing the Center for Israel Education (CIE)
, has been wildly successful in the classroom and has spent the better part of the past two decades working with elementary through high school teachers developing curricular resources to support their work in the classroom.
We were fortunate to have three of our educators — our Director of Israel Programming Rabbi Meirav Kallush, Social Studies Department Chair Heather Mendoza and Gan teacher Yael Safran — attend the CIE Teachers Workshop in Atlanta this past summer and look forward to more members of our faculty attending this upcoming July. The goal behind this participation is two-fold. First, we are working hard to enhance the way we are currently teaching about Israel in grades Pre-K-12. Second, Rabbi Kallush (along with faculty from both campuses) is engaged in a longer process of assessing what we are currently doing in the area of Israel education to ultimately create a comprehensive curriculum map for our teachers to use as a guide in both the Lower and Upper School.
While we consistently review and enhance our Israel curriculum across all grades, I am honored to be back in the classroom working directly with our senior class who will soon graduate and take their knowledge into the next stage of their lives, well prepared to become change-makers, Israel activists and Jewish community leaders. The world has changed quite a bit since the last time I was teaching this class, which is why I am now dedicating more time towards helping our students understand things like the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement and the current feelings on college campuses throughout the country as well as Israel’s place in the world today. It is by no means a simple task, but it is incredibly important if we are to fulfill our mission of helping our students to create a deeper and more “...personal relationship with the State of Israel and its people.”