February 2015


The blooming trees remind us that Tu Bishvat ushered in an early spring here in California. Unfortunately, our friends on the East Coast and in Israel are still experiencing extreme winter conditions. The political climate is not mild either, with disturbing news almost daily. Let's hope that the winds will change course and calm the storms.


In this issue we open a window to the upcoming elections in Israel, address the somber side of Purim in light of the recent manifestations of anti-Semitism around the world, offer a few ideas for Purim and to remind you that Israeli culture is all around us twe invite you to several local events.

In addition to this newsletter, we have resources online and for rent, and are eager to share them with you. Please contact us with any requests or questions.


We hope you enjoy these resources and encourage you to forward them to colleagues and friends.



Best wishes,

Ilan and Vavi

Israel Education Initiative

Jewish LearningWorks


electionsIsraeli Elections 2015 
An Educational Opportunity

In the US, presidential elections are held every four years. There are two major parties, Democratic and Republican and a few minor parties.  Parties vote to select their candidate and the people cast their vote for president from among those selected. Once the election is won, a cabinet is announced and confirmed before the Senate. Both Democratic and Republican parties were established during the early to mid 19th century and remain strong today.

In comparison... 

In Israel, elections are held every four years or less. There are at least 12 major parties and several minor parties, each presenting an electoral list for Knesset seats. Often, something called a coalition government is formed, when parties compete for votes on similar platforms. Every few years new parties or new joint tickets pop up in Israel, representing the opportunity to choose a new name - representing an ideology, a stance or an aspiration for the future. 
A few from recent years include: 

The Zionist Camp (Ha'Machaneh Ha'Tzioni), The Jewish Home (Ha'Bayit Ha'Yehudi), Israel our Home (Israel Beytenu), There's a Future (Yesh Atid), All of Us (Kulanu), Vigor (Meretz), Forward (Kadima) and Consolidation (Likud).

Illustration: Amos Biderman


While the Israeli elections might seem messy and complex, they present an educational opportunity.  We've compiled a few resources to support an exploration of the electoral system in Israel, the different parties, their candidates, and educational ideas:

Ma Ha'Matzav
? What's New?
Resources on Current Events in Israel


Election Game workshop 
Understand Israel's unique form of democracy and diversity through this election game.  

Led by: Ilan Vitemberg, our resident expert  
Length: 60-90 minutes. 

Ages:  Middle school to adults.  
Cost:  $360 per workshop.  Contact Ilan Vitemberg



Elections in Israel - From Chosen to Choosing

From the iCenter for Israel Education


For educators, elections are momentous occasions for enabling discussions that relate to our aspirations as a People, our understanding of timeless values and commitments that ought to inform the fundamental conversations about what it means to be a sovereign Jewish State.

Israeli Elections 2015
From Makom of JAFI

An ongoing blog on educational opportunities during the election campaign, including...
Who are the "real" Zionists in this election? A look at the ideological and verbal sparring of Israeli politicians. 
What are the key issues that all Israeli elections attempt to address? The 4 Questions of Hope - Israeli Elections


Monopolity - The Israeli Election Game

From WZO

Do Israeli politics confuse you? What is a coalition negotiation? Should Jews or Israelis living in the Diaspora have the right to vote in Israeli elections? 

ry this dynamic, competitive game to better understand the system of government in Israel!

More info



Electoral System in Israel - Israel Government Portal

Election Lesson Plan - Lookstein Center

The Somber Side of the Holiday


We don't mean to spoil you rambunctious Purim spirit, but this year we cannot ignore the somber side of the holiday. Anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide and acts of terror, violence and desecration are on the news daily. A few years ago, we commented that there are no Jewish communities in peril.  Now, thousands of European Jews are feeling vulnerable enough to seriously consider Aliyah. 


Anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate are difficult issues to discuss with students. We want to foster pride. The story of Purim as told in the Scroll of Esther offers an opportunity to examine these issues.  


To support your effort to introduce these topics, we offer resources:


Educational and Curricular Material

Jewish Education in a Scary World

Jewish Education Project - New York

A panel of educators convened by David Bryfman addressing these questions: 

1. How can Jewish educators respond to recent events in France and around the world?

2. How can we address these sensitive topics with children of various ages and backgrounds?

3. What are the concrete things we can do for our community and our learners?


Confronting Anti-Semitism - ADL


Teaching About Anti-Semitism - US Holocaust Museum


Anti-Semitism Educator ResourcesFacing History and Ourselves


The Scroll of Esther and Anti-Semitism - by Prof. H. Gavriyahu, JAFI


Purim and the Persian Period - JewishHistory.org


Purim: Strangest of Holidays - By Steve Israel & Noam Zion, Shalom Hartman Institute

Purim: Joy in the Midst of Uncertainty - By Rabbi Prof. David Hartman, Shalom Hartman Institute

Purim Resources for Children with Special Needs - Gateways, Access to Jewish Education




Anti-Semitism on rise across Europe 'in worst times since the Nazis' - The Guardian


Jewish leaders call for Europe-wide legislation outlawing anti-Semitism - The Guardian


Purim and Art

Arthur Szyk
Haman hanging on the gallows, 1950

An Artist's View
In this version of the Esther story, Arthur Szyk portrayed himself as the interpreter of Jewish history. The artist gazes at the swastika-bedecked figure of Haman, hanging on the gallows that Haman had built to kill Mordechai. Szyk holds a hamentasch, the pastry traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim, while writing "the people of Israel will be liberated from their persecutors."

Identity in the Story of Purim - An Art Project

Earlier this month we offered a workshop in collaboration with CJM, Havruta in Art and Beyond: Collaboration and Creativity in the Classroom. As an exercise of collaboration across disciplines in preparation of the upcoming holiday, we chose two verses from the book of Esther as text for Havruta study. Participants engaged in text study, identified a "big idea" for Purim and translated it into a collaborative artwork. It was a small example of how to approach any Jewish theme that we revisit year after year, and how to interpret big (and sometime old) ideas in a new creative way. The resulting list of big ideas and art ideas suggested that this year several schools will be engaged in an art activity that is very different than past years.


We are happy to share with you the  text,  guidelines for Havruta study, and a few examples of the artwork done as tunnel books
Please contact Vavi Toran if you have questions or would like to know more about it.


evetsLocal Events

Asaf Avidan
Asaf Avidan
Asaf Avidan "Reckoning Song"

While Asaf Avidan has drawn comparisons to Janis Joplin, Jeff Buckley and Nina Simone, his voice is utterly singular. "If you haven't heard Avidan's music, prepare to be astounded." 

- London's The Independent 


Wednesday, February 18

Thursday, February 19

Doors: 7PM, Show: 8 PM (21+)

Bimbo's 365 Club
1025 Columbus Ave, San Francisco

Diwan Saz
West Coast Premier
Diwan saz concert 2014 Jerusalem
Diwan saz concert 2014 Jerusalem
Direct from Israel, Diwan Saz is a Jewish-Muslim-Christian ensemble performing a rich variety of music from the Middle East. Featuring virtuosic performances of piyutim, (Jewish liturgical poems) Turkish folk songs, Rumi-inspired compositions and Bedouin folksongs by a 14-year old prodigious singer.  

Saturday, March 14 at 8:30 pm

First Congregational Church
2501 Harrison Street, Oakland

The Jewish Music Festival presents its 30th anniversary and final season
February 26-March 22
Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco 
TICKETS: $28 general admission / $24 seniors (65+), full-time students and JCC East Bay members.

Danny, Gidi and Friends in Concert

In Hebrew

Saturday, March 7, 8:30pm

Flint Center, Cupertino

More Info


Jewish Songlines

Judeo-Spanish and Yiddish Music and Dance with Esti Kenan-Ofri and Michael Alpert. A unique encounter between two world-class interpreters of Jewish musical traditions from Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Thursday, March 19, 7:00pm

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

2121 Allston Way, Berkeley

Reshef Levi: Playing With Fire

Standup Comedy in Hebrew

Tuesday, March 24, 8:30pm

Palo Alto JCC

More Info