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Education Unit Urges Schools to Incorporate Courses on Modern Israel into Curricula

The governing council of the American Association for Jewish Education (AAJE) has adopted a policy statement, which it regards as “major and revolutionary,” calling upon Jewish schools and school systems to incorporate “formal courses on modern Israel into their programs.”

The AAJE, parent body for Jewish education in the United States and Canada, adopted a “statement of objectives” presented by its Commission on Teaching About Israel in America which said that “the reality of Israel” should be dealt with “in a constructive manner.”

On the question of immigration to Israel, the Commission asks that the schools “present to the student, at all age levels, the very real options which Israel offers to him.” It said the schools should “explore the critical question of how the individual Jew can best fulfill himself–whether by enrichment of his Jewish life in America and/or by aliyah to Israel.”

The statement also calls upon the organized Jewish community “to help American Jewish young people enrolled in our high school programs to have at least one summer of personal experience in Israel.”

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, historian, author and chairman of the AAJE’s Commission said the five major objectives of the education program should be: “To familiarize students with the basic similarities between the democratic ideals of the U.S. and Israel; to relate them to the Jews of Israel in firm bonds of kinship; to tie Jewish students more closely to the Jewish people throughout the world; to help them to consider favorably the various opportunities of aliyah to Israel; and to teach modern Hebrew as the living language of the Jewish people.”

The statement was the result of a year’s work by the 50-member Commission and a sub-committee of scholars, educators and lay leaders. The governing council approved it with only one abstention. The AAJE is now engaged in developing curricula and courses on teaching about Israel for Jewish schools–a three-year program for which the Association has budgeted $180,000.

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