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The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Opting-in to education

In the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, many adult American Jews felt like they needed a stronger under-
standing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington (JFGW) Gil Preuss. Preuss wanted to fill this gap in adult education, so the JFGW approached CESJDS to partner on a course about the history of modern Israel.

JFGW partnered with JDS’ Center of Excellence and Engagement in Jewish History to co-sponsor a new initiative named the “CESJDS Adult Learning Series: The History of Modern Israel,” led by Jewish History Department Chair Dr. Dan Rosenthal (‘00). The series features four sessions from March 11 to April 1 and costs $36 per participant, with the exception of JDS faculty who were offered the course for free.

JDS and JFGW have been in contact for several years about launching a program that can benefit the local Jewish community, so when the Israel-Hamas War began, the program came to fruition.

“Four sessions about Israel is [still] not enough,” Preuss said. “We’re talking about 150 years of history here, and in six hours altogether … [I’m hoping] people are interested in learning more about Israel, [and] the Middle East.”

Preuss and Head of School Rabbi Mitchel Malkus aimed to provide the adult attendees with the historical background for recent events.

“Particularly after Oct. 7, a lot of people felt more deeply tied to Israel in a way that they didn’t beforehand,” Preuss said. “But they also didn’t know enough.”

The virtual course is a condensed version of the JDS Jewish history class, History of Modern Israel. The teacher of the sessions and the junior course is Rosenthal.

“The goal is to provide as comprehensive a picture of the history of both Zionism and Israel as is possible,” Rosenthal said. “There are obviously a lot of misconceptions [about Israel], and we hope that this will provide attendees with a lot of clarity … and a more nuanced understanding of Israel.”

The information about the learning initiative was sent out through JDS and JFGW’s data-bases and social medias, offered to any adults who are interested in learning more about Jewish history. Around 150 adults signed up for the course.

After hearing about the program through social media, JDS parent and high school history teacher Natalie Levitan signed up for the course and encouraged her husband and inlaws to join her in signing up.

“In a lot of conversations about Israel, we always find ourselves saying ‘it’s complicated’ or ‘it’s nuanced’ but then we can’t ever really get beyond ‘Well, what does that actually mean?’” Levitan said. “I felt like this would help fill in some of the gaps of that knowledge.”

This is the first time that JFGW has partnered with a Jewish day school to provide a learning program, and it raises the opportunity for many more partnerships in the future.

“Israel is so much more than a series of conflicts,” Preuss said. “I’m hoping that it also increases their interest in learning about Israel and the Middle East more broadly.”

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About the Contributor
Vivi Ducker
Vivi Ducker, Features Editor
Vivi is very excited to be one of this year’s Features Editors. Eager to continue her journey of conducting interviews and writing compelling articles, Vivi is also thrilled to broaden her responsibilities by designing spreads and assisting upcoming reporters in helping their articles reach their full potential. Beyond the Lion’s Tale, Vivi is on the tennis and dance teams and has started a non-profit called SchoolPENS, that donates school supplies to schools and villages in developing countries, which she passionately works on in her free time. Vivi has a love of travel and spending time with her family and friends. She can’t wait for another amazing year on staff.

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