Zionism Rooted In Education


Rabbi Avi Weiss’ May 4 prescient, timely and timeless opinion piece (“Israel At 70: Assessing The Dream Of Zion”) highlights the priorities and challenges inherent for a “Doresh Zion” who keeps the Zionist dream and ethos front and center. As always, Rabbi Weiss’ words are a powerful combination of emotion, belief and information. Perhaps because he so naturally “lives” hasbara and chinuch, he doesn’t specifically mention another key factor: education. Each paragraph of Rabbi Weiss’ piece is chock-full of content from Tanach, Jewish philosophy and Jewish history that informs his perspective.

Similarly, the Dream of Zion can grow — and stay rooted — with an eye gazed toward “teachable moments,” informal community education, and traditional Jewish and Zionist curricula in all types of Jewish institutions of learning. Sadly, intensive Jewish education that centralizes deep knowledge and history is not consistently the case in millennial diaspora Jewish education, with its focus on individuality, context, and social justice.

How can I, a person who has never before written to The Jewish Week, be so strident about Jewish education and the Zionist dream? One, because Rabbi Weiss’ effectiveness at “teaching while living and learning” jumps off the page in each of his content-filled paragraphs. And second, because I learned more sheer Judaic content as a fall 1981 student in Rabbi Weiss’ tefillah (Jewish prayer) course at Stern College than I did in an immersive and very well-designed Jerusalem gap year program the year before. Education and investing in our children to truly possess information to then espouse informed opinions will ensure that our children internalize and carry the Zionist dream in the same manner that Rabbi Weiss so effectively has for over 50 years.