In a web-only piece for TAP, Dana Goldstein calls for encouragement of more “nuanced debate” on the history and present of Israel and the Occupied Territories. She uses the image of the “curious child — a child who deserves a thoughtful, honest answer” to pose the question of why institutional Judaism, generally, “teach[es] Jewish children about Hannah Senesh, the brave Zionist poet who parachuted behind German lines to warn Jews about the death camps, but not about Hannah Arendt, the Jewish political philosopher who declared herself in complete “opposition” to post-war Zionist politics.”

I like her idea, though I thought she could have gone much further. My own activist roots are deeply embedded with my Jewish education; the (Reform) synagogue where I grew up required all students to attend a lobbying training weekend at the Religious Action Center before we could be confirmed.

I definitely remember classmates being irritated that we were being encouraged to lobby our senators and representatives from positions that had been decided by the movement, and heard more than once that if we didn’t agree with the stated position on a given issue, we should pick a different one for our lobbying efforts, an issue where our views dovetailed more with those of the organization (and the movement). While that’s understandable from a lobbying organization, I often wonder how our educators could have turned those disagreements into more productive discussions. Also, I’m pretty sure they restricted our lobbying efforts to domestic issues, for reasons probably related to those Goldstein cites in her piece.

I’d be interested to hear what others think of the article, and whether it resonates. How much room for debate on Zionism and Israeli politics did you have as a young person in the Jewish institutions or communities where you grew up?