By Robbie Gringras and Abi Dauber Sterne
There were many good reasons for Makom and Moishe House to work together. There were also many good reasons for Makom and Moishe House to avoid ever working together! Chalk and cheese doesn’t come close.
At Makom we are known for, and even prided ourselves on, our uncompromising commitment to complex Israel education. Moishe House is famous for, and expert in, creating inclusive welcoming spaces for young adults to program for themselves.
Why would Moishe House allow such a divisive subject as Israel to be forced into the flowing comfort of their programming? How could Makom hope to inculcate an approach to Israel that requires the learners’ discomfort, in an organizational culture that rejects the very idea?
In early 2018 we began the courtship, and now at the end of 2020 Makom and Moishe House have just completed a three-year Israel Engagement project.
Three factors led this marriage to take place.
First was the awareness that over 90% of Moishe House residents had spent significant time in Israel, and over 80% of all participants in Moishe House activities had been to Israel at least once. And yet beyond the occasional falafel party, Israel hardly ever featured in Moishe House programming.
This unusual gap between programming and participants met with the adventurous and innovative energy of Moishe House itself. Their openness to experimentation and pushing the envelope found space for Makom’s more radical ideas about Israel engagement in a fission of creativity.
Finally, there was the generous and imaginative support of the Jim Joseph Foundation that was willing to fund such a strange experiment.
The three years have been a fascinating success. Two cohorts of Moishe House stalwarts spent a week on an intensive seminar in Israel, during which time they were introduced to the Four Hatikvah Questions System pioneered by Makom.
On their return to North America, some 72 participants were supported with one-to-one mentoring, a weekend retreat, a flow of contemporary materials from Israel, and generous microgrants – to increase the depth and quantity of their Israel-focused programming. To date (despite the Covid dampener), some 300 peer-led programs have taken place in the Moishe House sphere, none of which would have happened prior to the program.
What did we learn? How did Makom and Moishe House manage to synthesize their strengths? How did comfort and challenge, connection and content, personal and political, manage to work together?
On Wednesday December 16th at 9 am EST, we’ll be talking about just that, and we’d love for you to join the conversation. (There will be a repeat event on the following day for the West Coast).
We’ll be sharing results of the evaluation conducted by Rosov Consulting, discussing responses to participant video interviews, and in particular exploring in small groups four of the key areas of enquiry that arose during this three-year project:
- How can the culture of “community guidelines” and “safe spaces” live with the need for riskier edgier disagreements that deep learning about Israel must entail?
- How can a culture of personal engagement find room for an external “subject”?
- What is more important – meaningful conversations about Israel? Or meaningful conversations about anything at all?
- How can deep, meaningful, informed programming about Israel be run by non-professional, non-educators?
Robbie Gringras is a British-born Israeli educator, writer, and performer. He is the lead educator on the Moishe House – Makom collaboration. Abi Dauber Sterne is the Director of Makom: The Jewish Agency for Israel Education Lab.