We recently shared a Shabbat meal with a “gap year” student from Toronto. When I told her I write for ISRAEL21c, she said her history teacher at the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (CHAT) uses material from our website on a regular basis to keep kids informed about Israeli innovation.
So I called Mahra Hart to find out more.
Hart, a Jewish history teacher at one of CHAT’s two campuses, began an Israel Advocacy Club three years ago. “I wanted to inspire our students to speak up on behalf of Israel, especially on university campuses where we know they will come across extreme anti-Zionist propaganda,” she says.
As part of this initiative, she produces a weekly bulletin, “Israel in the News,” for CHAT’s Jewish history teachers to review with the 598 students.
“So that the students don’t come to understand the essence of Israel as a conflict with the Palestinians,” she gathers news of groundbreaking medical, technological, humanitarian and agricultural advances happening every day in Israel, drawing on reports from ISRAEL21c as well as other sources such as the Jerusalem Post and Israel National News websites.
“I just showed the ISRAEL21c video of Happy Tel Aviv-Yafo,” she reported on March 18. “Everyone danced along. It’s so nice to see that dimension of Israel in video.”
She also uses ISRAEL21c in her 12th grade course on Israeli society.
“We do a unit on the economy, and I have each student research an aspect of Israeli innovation from ISRAEL21c specifically,” Hart relates. “They have to prepare an ad for an innovation that they found on ISRAEL21c, and I use these ads to make a wall display, ‘The Wall of Truth,’ for the entire student body.”
Hart says she was inspired to use our website in the classroom because she had detected some indifference among her students toward Israel and toward anti-Zionism.
“Knowing full well they will confront it on college campuses, I wanted to prepare them and inspire their sense of Zionism and ability to speak for Israel,” she says. “I’m not Israeli, but Israel is the Jewish state so it represents me and them. It’s part of being Jewish.”
The payoff is hearing from former students about how the Israel Advocacy Club experience came to their rescue.
“Right after the first year of the Israel Advocacy program, I started getting emails from students about their experiences on campus and how the background they got from CHAT inspired them to be leaders. They tell me of their pride and their successes, or ask for additional resources to fight anti-Zionism. The program has had an immediate and important impact.”
By the way, ISRAEL21c writer and associate editor Viva Sarah Press is a CHAT alumna (class of 1993).
If your school is using our content in a creative way, write to us at info@ISRAEL21c.org.