Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Beinart On Education & Jewish Survival

An inconvenient dose of flu (it's winter in the southern hemisphere) scuppered my intention of attending Limmud Oz last weekend (a three-day one known in Australia as the Queen's Birthday weekend).  Kicking off proceedings on Saturday evening was Peter Beinart, of whom I am deeply wary but who is evidently a hero to certain of the event's organisers.  I won't say another word about that, since I was unable to be present and have only secondhand accounts of what Beinart said in his sessions.

(Those reports, incidentally, were far from hostile to the man and his message.  Obviously, had I spoken to certain writers and commenters on the Jews Down Under online magazine, assuming they were there, I would have received reports of a different kind.)

But, love Beinart or hate him, he has contributed an article to Ha'aretz (a newspaper for which I generally harbour a robust contempt) on the contrast between the state of Jewish education in the United States and in Australia that arguably deserves attention.

Inter alia, he observes:
'.... I’m writing this column from Melbourne, Australia, where last Tuesday I watched hundreds of teenagers from various Jewish youth movements—most of them not strictly observant--stay up deep into the night on Shavuot learning and arguing. They had named the rooms in which they held their study sessions after Jewish thinkers: Rosenzweig, Buber, Spinoza. Watching it all, I kept thinking: How many American Jewish eighteen year olds could identify those names, or, for that matter, identify Shavuot? What is Australia doing right that we’re doing wrong?
Some of it is historical circumstance. Most American Jews arrived between 1880 and 1920. Most Australian Jews, by contrast, arrived after World War II. (Jewish Melbourne is a city of Holocaust survivors and their descendants). Almost all the teenagers I spoke to on Shavuot had grandparents born in Europe; in the U.S. few would. In Australia, in other words, assimilation has had less time to set in.
But it’s not only that. Students who attend full-time Jewish schools are far more likely to live meaningfully Jewish adult lives than those who don’t. (Jewish schools also usher kids into Jewish youth movements, which are far stronger in Australia than in the U.S.) Roughly two-thirds of Australian Jewish students attend Jewish schools. In the United States, it’s about one in four, and among the non-Orthodox, roughly one in ten. That difference can’t be explained by the fact that Jews have been in America longer because American Jews have never sent their children to Jewish schools at anything like the rate in Australia....'
Read the entire article here

3 comments:

  1. Oh please. He's kvelling about Jewish students studying
    NON Jewish philosophy by men who themselves professed no Jewish identity.....just like Peter Beinart. Imagine his shock and horror if those students were learning Rashi, Rambam and the Gaon of Vilna. He'd be screaming they're all hyper-uber-mega-ultra-super right wing racist Zionist Jewish fundamentalists.

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  2. Daphne.
    I've asked someone I know who went to Limmud Oz to do a write up for me.

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    1. I'll be interested in that, Shirlee.

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