Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Inside Our Jewish Schools

The Australian Jewish News reported recently (4/4/14) on the publication of "a groundbreaking study," Intergenerational Challenges in Australian Jewish School Education," authored by Professor Zehavit Gross of Bar-Ilan University's School of Education and Professor Suzanne Rutland of Sydney University's Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies Department.

The AJN titled its report Is the 'Jewish' in Jewish Schools working? Given that these schools are overwhelmingly Zionist in orientation, a more accurate title would have been: Are 'Jewish' schools churning out uncritical Zionists?

Happily, the answer would appear to be no. Here are some revealing excerpts from the AJN's coverage:

"The picture [the authors] paint of contemporary Jewish adolescence is complex. The students are an empowered, tech-savvy, analytical and broad-minded bunch... [However] they want to discuss questions of 'why be Jewish' rather than being 'told how to be Jewish'; they want to explore the broader lessons of the Holocaust..."

Hm... broader than the following?

"So when you have difficulty understanding us (Israelis), think about the Holocaust. When you find yourselves searching for our motives, remember the Holocaust. When you try to understand the steps we take, consider the Holocaust."

I should bloody well hope so!

"[A] prevailing insistence on the dogmatic teachings of religion, perpetuating an archaic Hebrew pedagogy, and employing Israeli teachers with little understanding of Australian culture are all areas the academics flag as requiring urgent attention from the school leadership."

Israeli teachers?!  Hello?

"[T]he students are losing patience. 'We have learnt so much about Judaism that I actually hate it now,' one student protested. 'Jewish studies is a class that can be seen as a bludge... we do the same things every year,' another offered. One student reflected: 'We learnt about Amalekites. Our teacher said: 'It's the Jews' job to wipe out, if we could find the Amalekites, it is our job to wipe them out.' So I said: 'Hypothetically, if a Jew became Australia's prime minister and they were able to trace down Amalekites you would say it is okay to put them into gas chambers and do exactly what Hitler did? He said that he would personally do it. That is not okay with me'."

Amalekites?! Are they serious? Is it any wonder these kids are losing patience?

OK, now here's the biggie:

"Changing trends extend to the value attributed to Israel (students are increasingly critical of the Jewish homeland), and the perceived importance of learning the Hebrew language."

There's hope yet!

[*The Holocaust is the 'key' to Israel, Yosef Lapid, Jerusalem Post/Australian Jewish News, 28/4/06. See also my 12/4/10 post Sam Lipski's National Curriculum.]

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