Responding to this Historical Moment: Jewish Educators, Clergy, Engagement Professionals, and the War in Israel
February 12th, 2024
This report delves into the experiences of Jewish professionals in the wake of October 7th, highlighting their feelings of isolation and confusion. Faced with events of historical magnitude, there is across the board recognition of the need to respond, coupled with uncertainty about the best course of action. Post-October 7th, during the survey period, these professionals were seeking clarity, facts, safety, and hope, while grappling with fundamental questions about the unfolding events and their implications.
The report underscores the inherent difficulties in facilitating conversations about challenging issues; including, but not limited to, those related to Israel. These challenges existed prior to October 7th and in the immediate aftermath were on full display. Issues fundamental to living life in contemporary society at this particular moment in time were raised. For example, in the age of social media as a primary source of information, “what should we believe?” The jarring experience of feeling oneself as part of a persecuted minority, “why do they hate us?”
These experiences and questions lead to a desire to speak and process. Some of the survey respondents provide purposeful responses to the war, which demonstrate how these large existential issues can integrate into a Jewish professional’s repertoire in a manner that overrides narrow disciplinary or context-specific approaches to Jewish education and community. The focus is on responding to this moment and
seeing one’s membership in the Jewish People as an asset for tackling life’s big issues.
In the past decade, various initiatives have emerged, focusing on enhancing the communication ability of Jewish professionals, particularly around contentious issues. These initiatives represent a shift towards acknowledging the importance of talking about and addressing challenging topics as essential components of a vibrant Jewish community. They aim to foster environments where individuals can engage in meaningful conversations about personal and collective issues, thus strengthening community bonds.
The report draws on the answers to the survey questions to propose a framework for purposeful communication to help Jewish professionals navigate the dynamic and changing post-October 7th landscape. This framework emphasizes the importance of identifying one’s professional narrative; including, specifying the big questions posed by learners, educational and institutional considerations, and dilemmas in order to craft an appropriate educational strategy. Ideally this process occurs through discussion with colleagues.
“Responding to this Historical Moment: Jewish Educators, Clergy, Engagement Professionals, and the War in Israel,” Ezra Kopelowitz, Ph.D., Hadar Franco Gilron, Ph.D., Jake Gillis, M.ED, Research Success Technologies LTD. & The Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education, February 2024
Read more insights from this research in this piece in eJewish Philanthropy.