Gaza, the Jewish Educator, and the Moment

August 12, 2014 by Rabbi Laibl Wolf
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When is a Jewish school a factory line instead of a place of education: when it slavishly follows a syllabus at a moment of historical trial.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Now is a good time to check in. Does your high school student participate in a class discussion on why and how the world media has taken a jaundiced (some say, antisemitic) view of Israel’s defence of the lives of its citizens?

You would think that today all Jewish schools around the world would recognise the intellectual challenge its students are facing daily via the ‘news’ visual media and print media. How many times can our sons and daughters listen to ‘intelligent’ westernized newsmen/women describing how Israeli forces are “murdering women and children” and doing to others what the Nazis did to their grandparents – and not be affected?

You would think that all Jewish schools would have immediately introduced classroom settings for important correction of media ‘facts’ and ‘learned analyses’ so that our children do not become self-hating Jews as a result of experiencing guilt and trauma from the insidious lies implied by images of blood-stained bodies littering the larger-than-life screens that decorate home walls.

But my impression is that Jewish schools have not moved into action at all. Could it be that Jewish school authorities are themselves conflicted about Israel’s defence?  Or is it that students’ time to studies would be compromised by extra-curricular time taken to educate about the current threats to our people? Or is it apathy and inertia?

I have no idea which of the above might help explain the strange silence of Jewish educators to practicing their primary role of ‘education’ rather than defending adherence to a fixed syllabus or shifting responsibility to parents (who also must share that role, but who often don’t have the pedagogical skills or access to requisite information to acquit themselves effectively – both of which schools, by definition, possess). At a time of psychological and personal threat it is the educator’s role to rise to the occasion and become a school leader, not a defender of status quo.

So let me speak directly to Principals and Headmasters of Jewish schools: You of all people recognise that we are living at a point in history when parents and community are no match for the profound impact of bloodied images on screen, no match for the lop sided reports by Gaza- muzzled reporters protecting their careers, no match for nascent antisemitism long nurtured by some religious streams and used ‘scientifically’ by contemporary radical Islamists and others, as did the Nazis of a generation ago. Therefore you, the educator entrusted with the growth and nurture of our youth, must rise to the occasion and become the first line of intellectual defence and growth.

My suggestions:

  1. Create a course that, at a minimum, runs one period a week for years 10,11,12, and that introduces students to skills of critical reading and analysis of media reports – visual and written.
  2. Invite a gifted sympathetic journalist to come and teach the course as a special guest, perhaps in tandem with one of your willing teaching staff.
  3. Allow the course to include special guest spots from the Israeli embassy, consulate and dedicated community personnel who have first hand access to the reality behind the smokescreen produced by media talking heads.
  4. Treat the course with urgency and explain to parents the educational rationale and need for its extra-curricular introduction.

Parents have placed their children in your care – spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and psychologically. You are responsible for Jewish continuity – not just a ‘continuity of Jews’. You have an obligation to instil pride, insight, and psycho-spiritual stability to your students. Let it not be said in ten years that through the abdication of school responsibility in the face of a concerted neo-Islamist and antisemitic drive against Israel, you produced a generation of self-hating Jews who dislocated from their roots for all the wrong reasons.

Now is the time for true Jewish educators to stand and be counted – and truly educate.

Rabbi Laibl Wolf, is the Dean, of Spiritgrow – The Josef Kryss Center, Australia


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