Monday, February 20, 2012

Mifgash Means Encounter, Part 1

Six months ago, some of us thought holding a day long conference with the Fellows and Mentors of the Leadership Institute and a group of Israel public school principals was not a good idea. We are bringing people thousands of miles for a mere 9 days of traveling and learning in the land. How could we devote more than 10% of that time in classrooms? We were certain there would be a revolt.

Still, the plans progressed. Evie Rotstein - our fearless leader - along with Roberta Bell-Kligler and David Mittelberg and the rest of their staff at Oranim framed the conference around the idea of Jewish Peoplehood.  Mittelberg described the idea of Jewish Peoplehood as emerging from a dialogic discourse. It describes both process and content. He invited the combined American/Israeli group of educators to explore and model what Jewish People can emerge to be. 

Doctor David Mittelberg
He cited two studies (NJPS 2000 and Avi Chai/Guttman 2012) that indicate that both American and Israeli Jews have between an 80 - 93% sense of connection to the Jewish people. So what is the problem with that? Why a conference and a whole department of Jewish Peoplehood at Oranim? Mittelberg says that both Israeli and Diaspora Jewries are partial and incomplete. Neither can do it on their own. Both communities see imparting a sense of connectedness to our children as real challenge.

In Israel, he said, being Jewish is a matter of fact. In the United States, it is a matter of choice. The problem is both in variety of degree and in type. In Israel being Jewish is taken for granted. In the U.S. being Jewish cannot be taken for granted. And being born Jewish in either place is no guarantee anymore that you will stay Jewish. He suggested that only in our mifgash (encounter) with each other can we make up for each of our deficiencies.

He said quite a bit more, and I refer you to the resources at the bottom of this posting for more detail. It was an amazing mifgash. So much so that this is coming in three posts, as I sit at Ben Gurion waiting to go home a week later. I was skeptical about having this conference. It was the highlight of an amazing trip with a wonderful group of educators. Evie, I was wrong. You, Roberta and David were right. Now we need to have more of these mifgashim between American and Israeli educators or it will just have been a great day. It needs to be the beginning of a long and truly essential conversation.

Resources on Peoplehood:
Convergent and Divergent Dimensions of Jewish Peoplehood - David Mittelberg (pdf)
Jewish Peoplehood Education: Framing the Field - Shlomi Ravid & Varda Rafaeli
Towards Jewish Peoplehood - David Mittelberg (pdf)
Jewish Educational Leadership - A Guide to Jewish Peoplehood
ewish Peoplehood

Crossposted to Leadership Insitute: The Blog!

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