|Posted by Ben R on March 21, 2014 at 4:35 PM|
by Ben Rotenberg, Blog Editor
MA students Gabe Miner, Bekkah Gold, Lauren Schuchart, Ayala Wasser, and Julia Siegel organized a lunch in March for students who had been on Visions and Voices, an experiential trip to Israel, organized by Professors Ofra Backenroth and Alex Sinclair. They called the lunch, “Recalling the Visions & Hearing the Voices: Reflecting on our Time in Israel.” Gabe Miner said, “One of the things that was emphasized on the trip was hearing as the diversity of voices and opinions shared. We felt that hearing multiple voices from the Davidson community was a great way to honor the spirit of the trip and connect and share with our community.”
The organizers, in preparation for the program, framed their topic with two difficult questions:
“How do we relate to the word Diaspora?”
“When you think of Israel, what word or phrase comes to mind?”
For me, these questions offered a provocative start for what I thought was going to be a polite lunch-time discussion. Important questions were raised, such as: “Do Jews in North America (or in any place outside of Israel) feel at home or in exile?” “Is there an expectation or hope that Jews living outside Israel will be more connected to Israel?” People shared different views about their sense of connectedness to Israeli culture and Israeli issues, and whether Jews have a responsibility to affect changes on Israel. One faculty member pointed out that lack of Hebrew language skills present a challenge because the language is a powerful bond to the nuances and changes in Israeli culture.
The discussion quickly turned to a dialogue between faculty and students regarding the connections that Jewish educators have to Israel. A great final question was posed - what can we do as Jewish educators to bring the next generation into this discussion? Rabbi Jonathan Lipnick, Rabbi-in-Residence at The Davidson School, talked about trying to engage in conversations with people who find themselves on disparate parts of the political spectrum. I wonder whether the key is the gap that exists between those who live “outside” of Israel, and those who make Israel home. When I asked Gabe a week later what he thought resulted from the conversations, he said: “I was excited by the way people were willing to jump right into these big questions, even in the brief hour we had together. It was great how students and faculty came together as colleagues to pose questions, respectfully challenge, and ultimately try to move a little closer to an answer.”
For me, perhaps Jewish educators need is a third, less polarizing question. This should live in between the two questions posed earlier. It represents the creative space for dialogue between those who live “in the Land” and those who are chutz La’Aretz (literally, “outside of the Land”;). In between the two earlier questions is the space for a conversation which will help us gain an understanding of Israel today.