Stronger Engagement of US Youth with Israel is Focus of Lookstein Center Session for NY Federation’s Israel Affinity Group

“The Vibrant But Morally Confusing Reality of Modern Israel: How Can We Engage and Educate American Youth?” was explored by more than 50 participants who took part in an interactive session facilitated by Stuart Zweiter and Esther Feldman, of Bar-Ilan University's Lookstein Center for Jewish Education. The session for the UJA-Federation of New York’s Israel Affinity Group took place at the Federation headquarters in Manhattan. In addition, participants from Westchester connected to the session via live interactive videoconferencing.

Designed as a simulated classroom, the session featured two video clips from the Internet depicting the Palestinian and Israeli narratives. Participants were initially asked to react to the video clips by using their cell phones to connect to the PollEverywhere platform. Comments texted from their cell phones appeared on the large video screen in the front of the conference room. These set the stage for a lively discussion during the question and answer session about the importance of offering students a substantive Israel education prior to college.

It was the consensus of the group that students must be exposed, in both formal and informal educational settings, to the complexities of modern Israeli life. Zweiter said it was important for Jewish students in the United States to know both the Israeli and Arab side of the arguments, so that they can better defend Israel in a university setting where they will interact with people from varied backgrounds and who hold different opinions about Middle East issues.

The Lookstein Center is a service and research organization that offers a comprehensive range of programs for Jewish educators and schools. It draws its core strength from the unparalleled pool of master educators from around the globe who now live in Israel, while maintaining a close relationship with educators and communities throughout the world.

The Center has pioneered the development of the first comprehensive Israel curriculum designed for students in grades 1-8, which is currently being used in Jewish schools throughout the English-speaking world. It is now developing a digitalized interactive version of the English language curriculum, as well as a digitalized version translated and culturally adapted for use in schools throughout the former Soviet Union.