Israel Education Initiative

Jewish LearningWorks' Classic Israeli Tales Takes to the Jungle

While on vacation in Belize, Ilan Vitemberg, Director of Jewish LearningWorks' Israel Education Initiative, along with his partner, Peter and their cast of hand-made puppets performed their rollicking Hebrew/English adaptation of a classic Israeli story for school children in a Mayan village. 

Dira Le’haskir (Apartment for Rent) brings to life the most beloved Israeli children story of all time. An allegory to be sure, the story, by Leah Goldberg, focuses on many species of animals who, despite their differences, find a way to live together in harmony. Laden with donations of school supplies from the staff at Jewish LearningWorks Ilan and Peter were received with open arms and ear to ear grins.
This beloved story is part of Jewish LearningWorks' Classic Israeli Bookshelf and is performed all across the Bay Area, in day schools, synagogue schools and at the Jewish Community Library.

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

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit

Leading Israeli columnist and writer Ari Shavit, known for challenging the dogmas of both right and left, is coming to the Bay Area for a discussion on the making of modern Israel the week of Hanukkah.

Shavit, a columnist for Israel's Haaretz newspaper, was born in 1957. He says serving in the Israeli army in the occupied territories left him "morally outraged" and turned him into a peace and human rights activist. But he writes that there are no simple answers in the Middle East, which is why he prides himself on challenging "both right-wing and left-wing dogmas."

Please find a very comprehensive book guide, created by Makom, of the Jewish Agency for Israel, for Ari Shavit's new book My Promised Land.

You can hear a conversation between Terry Gross and Mr. Shavit on  Fresh Air, read excerpt from it in the New Yorker,  Lydda 1948 and read a review about the book in the New York Times.  Also, check out this piece in Tabet in which six authors reflect on and respond to Shavit’s new book.