Over the past two years, the Jewish community has slowly begun to address that Jewish university students largely lack the knowledge to argue Israel’s case on campus.
Now the community is preparing an even younger group: day school students.
The Solomon Schechter High School of New York and the American Jewish Committee, using a grant from an anonymous donor, are teaming up to offer a four-year program called IKAR: Israel Knowledge, Advocacy and Responsibility.
Monthly workshops and lectures at the Upper West Side school will address the history of Israel and Zionism while also offering training on such skills as analyzing media depictions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The AJCommittee and Schechter see the effort, which begins this month, as a pilot that could be brought to day schools nationwide.
While day school students are assumed to be among the most knowledgeable on Israel, many of the school’s 120 students began clamoring for more training and facts following a speech last spring by Israel Consul General Alon Pinkas.
“Our feeling was if our kids walk off armed with information and knowledge, they’ll be better prepared to confront anger and arguments when they get to college,” said Dorothy Bowser, head of school.
Rebecca Neuwirth, special projects coordinator at the AJCommittee, said teenagers are an important group to work with because they are “open to influences from all over.”
“The day school student will always be the so-called rabbi in any conversation that involves Jewish and non-Jewish students,” Neuwirth said.
But in the absence of comprehensive education about Israel, “They’re sometimes at a loss to speak about Israel in a definitive way.”