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June 06, 1986 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-06-06

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Friday, June 6, 1986

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more recent initiative by
Diaspora leaders, in this
case educators, to strength-
en the Israel and Zionist
elements in American Jew-
ish education was launched
by the Bureau Directors
Fellowship, the association of directors of
bureaus of Jewish education in North
America. This initiative, however, has its
origins in largely fruitless attempts by the
heads of the BDF in recent years to work
through "quiet diplomacy" to secure some
needed changes in the attitudes and poli-
cies of the two WZO education departments.
Late last year the BDF announced that
it was preparing to set up a body to pro-
mote Israel and Zionist education in North
America that would exclude the WZO de-
partments, unless the latter adopted a
more cooperative and professional approach.
The BDF proposal for redefining the
relations between the bureaus and the

WZO departments is guided by the follow-
ing assumptions: the centrality of Israel
and Zionism in American Jewish educa-
tion; the possibility of a major role for the
WZO/Jewish Agency in Israel and Zionist
education in North America; and the need
to eliminate the strains and the lack of
communication and cooperation between
the WZO and the bureaus, in order to de-
velop and implement programs "to excite
young American Jews into a lifelong com-
mitment to Israel as a central part of their
The proposed commission on Israel and
Zionist education would include the BDF
and other professional bodies of American
Jewish educators, and would be based on
the principles of "understanding, respect,
cooperation and coordination" — elements
that are missing now in the BDF's relations
with the WZO education departments.
The commission would also "examine
and evaluate what is now a basically nar-

Mandel stressed that
the components of
"Monism and Israel"
in Diaspora Jewish
education must be
as a
means to ensure
Jewish contimiity•

row and fragmented philosophy and ap-
proach by the departments, and develop a
global approach." The department heads
would be invited to join the commission to
work out a "more effective modus operandi,
and together develop short and long-range
goals and priorities." Should the depart-
mental leaders adhere to their "independ-
ence," the document states, "this would no
doubt deteriorate into isolation. Jerusalem
would continue to be viewed as a bottle-
neck instead of as a hub for international
communication and cooperation."
The head of the BDF, Dr. Sam Schafler
of Chicago, sees this move as an attempt
by American Jewish educators to apply
the principles of the Caesarea Process in
their relations with the WZO professionals,
even if these relations at present are marked
more by discord than by a sense of partner-
The author of the proposal is Howard
Gelberd, director of the San Francisco
bureau of Jewish education. Last year
Gelberd cut off all contact with the depart-
ment headed by Dr. Eli Tavin in protest
against its attitudes, policies and behavior
of its shlichim. Gelberd said that a commit-
tee of the BDF was now discussing ways
to implement the proposal, and would ap-
proach the departments when the details

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eventually like to increase the number that
come each year from the current 20,000 to
The positive effect of Israel experiences
on the Jewish identity and involvement of
young people has indeed been established
in some earlier research on WZO programs,
and the purpose of the Israel Experience
Project is to gain a better and more com-
prehensive understanding of what works
and why, and to devise follow-up activities
that can be introduced •in the home com-
munities of the young people.
Mandel stressed that the components of
"Zionism and Israel" in Diaspora Jewish
education must be strengthened as a
means to ensure Jewish continuity. What
does a "non-Zionist" mean by "Zionism"?
"This means implanting the notion that
Israel is central for Jewish life. But it
doesn't have to conflict with other forms
of Jewish fulfillment. I don't accept the
idea that all Jews have an obligation to
make aliya," says Mandel. "But Israel does
need more Jews, and aliya from the West
should also be encouraged. And if bring-
ing more Jewish kids to Israel means that
more of them will eventually make aliya,
then that's fine too; but it's not our
primary goal."
The recommendations from the Israel
Experience Project will be turned over to
an implementation subcommittee of the
Agency Jewish Education Committee for
deliberation and policy decisions. This
body contains representatives of a broad
spectrum of organizations that sponsor
Israel programs for Diaspora youth, many
of them outside the WZO. The Israel Ex-
perience Implementation Committee is
chaired by Rabbi Richard Hirsh of Jerusa-
lem, executive director of the (Reform)
World Union for Progressive Judaism, and
a member of the WZO Executive; and
Robert Loup of Denver, former national
chairman of the UJA.



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