The Relations Between Peoplehood Education and Israel Education

Peoplehood Papers 33

Peoplehood Papers is a journal presented by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education, an organization dedicated to building collective Jewish life through education.

Peoplehood Papers 33 is a special issue that examines the relationship between Peoplehood education and Israel education. It explores the rationale, goals, and educational foci of these two sub-fields of Jewish education. The issue was edited by Spertus Institute Dean & Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keren E. Fraiman, Dr. Benjamin M. Jacobs, and Spertus Faculty Member Dr. Shlomi Ravid, Founding Director of the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.

The introductory article is reproduced here. Peoplehood Papers 33 is available in its entirety as a PDF download at

© 2023 Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education. All rights reserved.




This volume brings together scholars and practitioners from diverse settings to address the relationship between Israel education and Peoplehood education, exploring how, if at all, the two are related. The contributors to the volume reflected on the knowledge base required in each field and in bringing them into conversation (or conflict), how these fields intersect with the broader discipline of Jewish education, and how changes in Israel and the Diaspora might impact Israel education, Peoplehood education, and their interactions

Cover of Peoplehood Papers 33, The Relations Between Peoplehood Education and Israel Education. Journal with abstract image of leaves in various shades of green. Contains Spertus Dean and CAO Keren Fraiman's contribution about Jewish Peoplehood.

Throughout the volume, the distinguished contributors have asked us to engage with vital issues and questions that will inform Israel education and Peoplehood education now and into the future.

At times the two fields of Israel education and Peoplehood education can seem, almost simultaneously, distinct, complimentary, or even reinforcing in some ways. What seems clear in the essays in this volume is that the relationship between these two educational areas are complex and layered.

In some ways, the current political crisis in Israel has provided a lens through which potentially latent tensions have been elevated, clarified, and perhaps sharpened. While not all the authors engaged with the current moment directly, their themes interacted and intersected with the realities of Israel, as it is, and Peoplehood, as it is (perhaps in ways different than what we imagined, or told ourselves, in the past). In exploring the spaces where Israel education and Peoplehood education connect, we are required to examine assumptions both about Peoplehood (or perhaps better, Peoplehoods in the plural) and the role of Israel within Peoplehood education. The essays demonstrate the need to explore these fields with the nuance and sophistication that our learners are themselves in fact demanding.

Throughout the volume, the distinguished contributors have asked us to engage with vital issues and questions that will inform Israel education and Peoplehood education now and into the future. For example, several of the essays note that we must critically engage with the diversity of the Jewish people. While the Jewish people have always been diverse in many ways, there was nonetheless (in the minds of many) an imagined unified community – an Am. Perhaps despite the differences, there was an assumption that there were more similarities that would unite the Jewish people than differences that might separate or even pull them apart. Furthermore, perhaps in an attempt to realize this unified Peoplehood, differences were often minimized or eschewed in service of the larger project of unity. However, these differences appear sharpened today and according to some, may prevent a vision of one, actually unified people.

The essays raise many other important questions as well. What does it mean to educate towards Peoplehoods (plural)? What is the role of Israel and importantly Israelis within these concepts? What new, and perhaps deeper and more authentic, connections might be revealed and created when we release ourselves of creating a unified commonality, but lean into both our commonalities and differences? How do we relate to and encounter other Jews, who feel outside, are dissimilar in particular ways, prioritize different values, or have unfamiliar ideas about expressions of Jewish identity?.

The changing relationship between Jews in the Diaspora and Israel featured as yet another central theme in the link between Israel education and Peoplehood education. For some American Jews, Israel sits squarely at the center of their Jewish identity, while for others it serves as a challenge to their Jewish identity and feeling of collective belonging. These challenges are further exacerbated in this political moment, on both sides of the pond. As a result, there is a critical question for some about the centrality, or even necessity, of a commitment to the Jewish state as a prerequisite for a commitment to the Jewish people. Do notions of center and periphery challenge the mutuality of global Jewish Peoplehood and hinder the acknowledgment of the rich and varied global Jewish experience? Furthermore, in engaging with Israel, what is the educational lens that enables a plurality of opinions and an engagement with the nuance and complexities of Israel as it is in reality, while at the same time still supporting and developing meaningful connections?

The essays in this volume pose the question of whether we can engage with the critical questions of the moment that ask us to consider the nature of the Jewish state, its Jewish identity and expression in the state.

Despite the questions and challenges raised, there is a sense across the board that not only are there myriad ways in which Peoplehood and Israel connect to one another, but that connecting to the broader collective or collectives has an important role in Jewish identity and Jewish education more generally.

To meet this moment, many of our contributors have shared educational approaches that could facilitate finding some commonalities, but also productively engage with difference. These approaches include leveraging technology effectively for bridging geographies and providing opportunities for deep individualized connection; empowering educators to engage with challenging topics, but also to bring themselves and their stories more effectively into their educational pedagogy; enhancing educational travel by engaging authentically with world Jewry and Israel; leveraging Israeli Americans as bridge builders; and ultimately, engaging our plurality and pluralism to develop deeper connections. Each of these approaches offer new models for engagement that incorporate the many questions and issues raised above.

Ultimately, by problematizing, challenging assumptions, and elevating the edges of the relationships between Diaspora and Israel and between Israel and Peoplehood, the essays in this volume have invited us to reconceptualize the concept, space, and approaches to both Israel education and Peoplehood education. It urged us to meet the moment in its messy and beautiful complexity, and perhaps recalibrate our expectations and aspirations. Creating meaningful connections, not despite our differences but perhaps because of them, is a challenging task, but as our authors have demonstrated, it perhaps enables us to imagine and create a more open and connected Jewish people(s).

Dr. Keren E. Fraiman is Spertus Institute’s Dean and Chief Academic Officer. She also holds a faculty appointment as Professor of Israel Studies. She serves on the faculty of the iFellows Masters Concentration in Israel Education program, MasterClass Israel, and the Wexner Heritage Program. She earned her PhD in International Relations and Security Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her BA in Political Science and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from The University of Chicago.

Area of Focus: Peoplehood

Print Friendly, PDF & Email