11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read

11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read - J.

As we mark Israel's 70th anniversary, I remain awed that a small country with a reconstructed language should produce a literature that is so rich. Below is a sampling of 11 varied titles that give a taste of Israeli literature at its best. 1. "Only Yesterday," S.Y.

‘Yiddish not spoken here’ — but my dad had a different idea

'Yiddish not spoken here' - but my dad had a different idea - J.

I grew up in Israel in a domestic war zone - a "language war" that raged between my parents. The fight was between Hebrew and Yiddish. Ours was not the only household where this war was fought. It was a struggle between the new Israel and the old diaspora, but it was very personal and quite emotional.

Off the Shelf: Authors Offer Differing Perspectives on the History of Israel

Authors offer differing perspectives on the history of Israel

The National Jewish Book Awards were announced last month, and the winner of the Book of the Year award was Rabbi Daniel Gordis' " Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn." Gordis, who made aliyah in 1998, has gravitated from writing on Jewish thought to writing mostly about Israel.

From Israel to S.F., a Palette of Vistas by ‘accidental’ Painter

From Israel to S.F., a palette of vistas by 'accidental' painter

When you ask Shalom Flash about his paintings, he laughs slightly and then corrects you. He isn't painting; he's color-reading. "It's all just spots of color," Flash says about his prolific body of work, a portion of which is currently hanging at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco.

Shalom from Tel Aviv, where life seems to run at 50%

Shalom to all of you from Tel Aviv where life seems to run at 50%. 

Last night we had to rush home in a cab from La La Land, our favorite beachfront cafe, in time to brace the promised barrage of missiles from Gaza. 

They arrived as promised  and the whole experience was very disconcerting. 

It is not that we are scared for our lives, but it takes constant planning of where we'll be and where is the Secure Area (where you need to be in about a minute after the air raid sirens wail). We even have to decide which PJ to wear in order to be presentable if we have to join a bunch of strange neighbors in the stairway in the middle of the night...

We received many concerned emails, Skype and some phone calls from family, friends, colleagues and we thank each and every one of you.

We are definitely OK and doing what all other Israelis do - continue as normal as possible. We are combining work and play, which in my case are sometimes one and the same. 

Today we went to Jaffa's flea market in search of old maps and had lunch at Pua - Chopped liver with horseradish and Challah and lentil salad with Tehini. Delicious!

Our short rest at home was interrupted by another air raid, but we refuse to stay put and are going to a play at the Cameri Theatre tonight. 

Later this week... A graffiti tour of florentine neighborhood, cartoon art museum meeting with the archivist, tour of story gardens in Holon (Classic Israeli tales as playgrounds for kids!), and more!

We miss you and will be happy to come home soon...

An Update from Israel by Vavi Toran



Honoring Their Memories & Moving Forward

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we received the tragic news that Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach will not be returning to their families alive. For the last two weeks we have felt these boys to be our own. We were unified in solidarity with them and their families, and we are unified in our grief.


As educators and as parents, these events pose challenges to us - how do we address such tragedies in our teaching? What do our students need from us? 

We've compiled a few resources that may be helpful to teachers, camp counselors, youth group leaders, and parents. Some of these address helping young people cope with loss and terror, and some of them help to address some of the toughest questions this tragedy raises. Many of these are not explicitly labeled for specific ages - so we must use our judgment as to what is age appropriate.

I'm sharing this with a wider list than only our educators for a couple of reasons. Many of us are parents and these resources could be helpful to parents as well as educators. And, I suspect that young people are not the only ones who may have some difficulty in sorting out their thoughts and feelings. In my experience, we often feel frustrated and powerless in the aftermath of such events, and those feelings of powerlessness can take us in many directions. Not all of those directions are healthy or useful. Some of these resources may be of help to all of us.

And, there is one other reason.

That all of us are in some state of shock or mourning for three boys we never met says something about us, and about our relationship with one another. We all feel this loss; we all feel, in some way, that we lost family. Because, in some way, we did.

We don't have a shiva service to attend and we are not in direct relationship with the Frenkel, Shaar, and Yifrach families. And yet, most of us feel the need to do something, to reach out to someone. I've been struck by all the emails I've received from Jewish organizations mourning the loss of these three boys; and all the Facebook posts of friends. I think, in some way, we all have a need to grieve together, to give and to receive strength and comfort from each other. That is what happens with families who experience loss. That is part of what peoplehood is about.

Location: Israeli soldiers stand near the area where the three Israeli teenagers' bodies were found yesterday.   The rural track is just outside the village of Halhul, a few miles north of the West Bank city of Hebron               Photo Credit: DailyMail

Location: Israeli soldiers stand near the area where the three Israeli teenagers' bodies were found yesterday.
The rural track is just outside the village of Halhul, a few miles north of the West Bank city of Hebron             Photo Credit: DailyMail

So, here's our expression of condolence. Because we are educators, we honor their memory by remembering them and by sharing what knowledge and wisdom we can gather. If you can use these resources - please do so, and, in your teaching or parenting - honor the memory of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal. For those of us who are parents, we might use this opportunity to embrace our children and remind them that they are loved and that they are safe. And for those of us who whose hearts have been broken yet again, may we all be comforted among the mourners of Zion, may we comfort one another, and may the memories of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal be as a blessing.



From our colleagues at the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, this excellent compendium for Responding to Crisis.

From our friends at the iCenter, this guide with resources for discussing tragedy in Israel.

From the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education at Bar Ilan University in Israel, this Islands of Resiliency site focuses on dealing assisting children in dealing with crisis and tragedy.

From Yeshiva University - this article on helping children and adolescents cope with loss and terror.

We hope some of these may help. If you know other other good resources, please let us know so we can share them with other educators.


David Waksberg

Jewish LearningWorks | Chief Executive Officer

Israel Education, Every Day

On Yom Ha’atsmaut our community comes together to celebrate Israel, making now the perfect time to highlight the Israel education work happening here at Jewish LearningWorks each and every day, all year long.

With the support of generous funders including the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Goldman Fund, we have developed innovative new approaches to Israel education, partnering with educators and schools across Northern California.

That work includes:

  • Israel Educators Network – Community of Practice for Israel educators throughout Northern California
  • Summer Israel Seminar for Jewish Educators – brings educators to Israel for an intensive two-week seminar to fuel their pedagogy;
  • Tractate: Independence – ground-breaking  Israel curriculum for teens and young adults.  In pilot phase with nine schools (day and synagogue ) here, in Northern California;
  • Classic Israeli Tales – curriculum introduces elementary and pre-school aged Americans to Israeli children’s stories;
  • Educational exhibits, curricula and resources: Poster Tales, Apartment for Rent, Coexistence, , Tel Aviv Exploration, Theodore Herzl, and more;
  • Israel Education e-newsletter – monthly resources for hundreds of Bay Area educators.

To learn more about this work or to take advantage of support, email

Tractate Independence

Tractate Independence is a collaborative effort between Jewish LearningWorks and the Jerusalem-based organization Rabbis for Human Rights.

Tractate Independence takes a Talmudic approach to the study of Israel's Declaration of Independence. It explores critical issues facing Israeli society through the lens of Jewish history and literature. The curriculum challenges the learner to discover the multifaceted reality of Israel in the context of its founding vision.

The educational program is comprised of two booklets: Text Study Pages and Lesson Plans.  The program focuses on two paragraphs in the Declaration: The first paragraph and the thirteenth paragraph and examines them through different lenses.  

Tractate Independence Sample Lessons
Intended for middle and high school students, this curriculum sample hones in on two lenses: 

Kam - Arose
The first line in the Declaration states:
"The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people." 
And in another translation:
"In the Land of Israel the Jewish people came into being." 
This lesson examines the meaning of the Hebrew verb kam used in the first line of Israel's Declaration of Independence. Though the official translation is "birthplace" and the Independence Hall's translation is "came into being," the word has a wealth of meanings.  Through sources ranging from the Biblical to the contemporary, students are encouraged to explore the connection between the Jewish people and its land.
Sample pages and lesson plans

Dror/Hofesh/Herut - Liberty
Paragraph thirteenth of the Declaration reads:
"The State of Israel...will be based on envisaged by the prophets of Israel".
This lesson explores the different meanings of freedom and its synonyms. A variety of texts from the Torah and prophets, to rabbinic, medieval and modern commentaries, legal covenants and poetry provide an opportunity to explore the value of freedom and its limitations.
Sample pages and lesson plans  

We are currently piloting the program in a few local schools.
To explore this resource, please contact

Playful Art with Piven Testimonial

Read what one educator had to say about her student's experience at an Integration of the Arts Workshop:

I just wanted to share with you a project that I did with my kindergartners at Tehiyah Day School after attending your workshop with Hanoch Piven.   For the past few years, I have been doing an artist/author study of Hanoch Piven with my kindergarten class.   We have been doing a Perfect Purple Feather project and an individual collage portrait project in the past.  But this year, after taking your workshop, I decided to add another culminating project with the children working together in small groups to create a collage about a theme of their choice relating to our school.  I was overwhelmed by how well these 5 and 6 year olds came together with creativity and teamwork to create their masterpieces.   I am attaching copies of these finished projects so you can see that your workshop planted great seeds into the Jewish education community.  Thank you.

Kindest regards,
Ricki Rosenberg, 
Kindergarten Teacher
Tehiyah Day School