27 Oct Israel turns 70: Let’s Engage!

The Schechter Manhattan students and faculty gathered together on Tuesday morning for our monthly shira b’tsibur, community singing.  As always, it was a joyous communal moment, with the sounds of our voices coming together in Hebrew song.  This year we are highlighting songs from throughout the seven decades of the State of Israel, as we look ahead to celebrating the 70th Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, in the spring.  As we were singing, I reflected on how important our connection to the land, people, and State of Israel is to us and I thought about how approaching the eighth decade of Israel could be an opportunity to engage with Israel in new ways.

For some time now the relationship between the American Jewish community and Israel has been changing.  In his book, Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over IsraelDov Waxman, Professor of Political Science, International Affairs, and Israel Studies at Northeastern University,argues that the era when Israel brought the American Jewish community together in solidarity has been replaced by a time when Israel is a source of division between American Jews.  Israel is a complicated place, dealing with a myriad of challenges, and American Jews have many different perspectives on the right direction for the Jewish State.  While many American Jews stand by the policies of the government of Israel, many others are vocal in their critique, especially about the approach to continued conflict with Palestinians and the place of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism in Israeli society.

The ferocity of these disagreements has made it hard for American Jews to talk with each other about Israel.  Eyal Rabinovitch, a sociologist and scholar of conflict resolution, who has worked with Jewish communities across North America, told me that he finds American Jewish communities are falling into two unhealthy paradigms when it comes to talking about Israel.  We are either yelling at each other across our political differences or, in fear of the reaction we might receive, we are avoiding the topic all together.  I find this troubling because it is in the best interest of the Jewish people for us American Jews to engage with Israel.

I am a Zionist and as such, I believe that Jews have a right to a sovereign country of our own in our ancestral homeland.  I also believe that the Jewish State is necessary for the national identity and safety of the Jewish people worldwide, and love of and commitment to Israel is an important part of a strong and meaningful Jewish identity in the 21st century.  So, I propose that in an effort to both support Israel’s future success and to strengthen our American Jewish identities we view the upcoming 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence as a call to engage Israel in new and deeper ways.

One way that current Schechter Manhattan parents can delve into their relationships with Israel is by participating in the upcoming series of workshops with Resetting the Table.  Co-founded by Eyal Rabinovitch, Resetting the Table is an organization dedicated to building meaningful dialogue and deliberation across political divides, primarily surrounding Israel within the American Jewish community. Drawing from conflict resolution expertise, Resetting the Table’s approach breaks open communication about charged issues among diverse stakeholders.  At the workshops, coming up on the evenings of November 1 and January 23, Schechter Manhattan parents will share their ideas and perspectives about Israel as it looks towards its eighth decade.  Click here for more information, and here to RSVP.

Another way we can engage with Israel is by reading a good new book about Israel and its history.  I recommend Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, written by Schechter Manhattan grandparent, Francine Klagsbrun.  Or, we can take advantage of the topical and interesting speakers about Israel often visiting NYC.  Consider registering to hear Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, discuss the future of the Jewish connection to Israel at the JCC Manhattan on November 28.  As other opportunities to engage with Israel come my way, I will share them in Daf Kesher’s “In The Community” section.

With the leadership of our shaliach to the Upper West Side, Hai Piasezky, Jewish institutions from throughout our neighborhood are planning a big Upper West Side Celebrates Israel event, that will take place on Sunday, April 15 at Symphony Space (mark your calendars!).  The planning discussions have already brought together a group of Jewish communal leaders to discuss how we can come together to both celebrate Israel’s incredible 70 years and talk to each other meaningfully across our political and religious differences.  I am hopeful that our efforts to work together and engage with the reality of Israel in 2017 will strengthen our Jewish community, our relationship with Israel, and the entire Jewish people.

Shabbat Shalom

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair

Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop back next week and see what they are writing and thinking about.


Though fall began on September 21 of the civil calendar, it is on the 22nd of Tishrei that we add meshiv ha’ruach u’morid ha’gashem (the wind is blowing and the rain is falling) to the amidah.This addition to our morning t’flillah gave us an opportunity to discuss the beautiful season and how we experience it through our five senses. The colorful foliage around the city provided inspiration to our first grade poets as each student shared their own vision of Autumn. The work of our young poets will be on display for the month of November on the first grade bulletin board.

Click here  to see the poem by Abigail.
I see roly poly, I hear leaves crunching, I smell hot chocolate, I feel fall coming, I taste hot chocolate.
– Abigail

Click here to see the poem by Alan.
I see leaves changing, I hear the wind, I smell leaves, I feel wind, I taste hot chocolate.
– Alan

Click here to see the poem by Daniella.
I see leaves, I hear birds, I smell hot chocolate, I feel cold, I taste syrup.
– Daniella

Click here to see the poem by Eli.
I see presents, I hear wind, I smell cake, I feel wind, I taste cake.
– Eli



During a recent writing lesson, the 3rd and 4th grade students wrote “Where I’m From” poems

Click here to see work by Adina, Eliya, Dex, David, Jory, and Joey


As part of our year-long cross curricular book publishing project, I asked students to think about what traits they felt should be present in a good candidate for president. Thinking about leaders of a democracy ties into the grade 6 unit on democracy, while thinking about the role of the US president, specifically, relates to the grade 7 curriculum on US politics and government.

A President Should Be…

“I want a president to be grateful. I don’t want a president who thinks that it’s all about them. They also should be kind. They need to have good people to work with and they should treat them all fairly. They should also not be sexist.”
– Malka

“A president should be a kind person, they should care about others and not just about themselves. I think that a president should be fair, for example he should treat every race equally. A president should also be a truthful person and not lie.”
– Odelia

“He(or She) should be truthful because telling the truth is always good. A president that’s dishonest can’t be as well trusted by the people because people want the truth. Other countries might not trust our president and not want to work together.”
– Meir

“A president should be intelligent and decisive so that they can make important decisions wisely and quickly. A president should also be kind and honest, and they should care about all people, regardless of looks, gender identification, or religion. I once heard about a president (I don’t recall who) who, when talking about people buying milk, didn’t know the price. I don’t think that’s good. Any president should know the average price of milk, how to do laundry, and things like that. They should understand the people.”
– Elijah

“A president should be a good decision maker and have emotional intelligence. They should be perspicacious, knowing what’s going on and how to deal with it. They should have equality and treat people the same regardless of gender, color and beliefs. Wars may be necessary but it depends, they should try to stay away from chlorine and illegal weapons. And stay away from nuclear weapons, because it might start a nuclear winter.”
– Ronin