Scholars have spent considerable effort to uncover and explain the unique ways that contemporary American Jews think and feel about Israel, yet the voices of American Jewish children have been conspicuously absent from most research. American Jewish children—like the adults in their lives—have beliefs, opinions, and thoughts about Israel and its role in American Jewish life. This article makes two distinct yet interrelated arguments about the role of children in research on contemporary American Jews. The first is that children ought to be included in research about American Judaism. Second, the inclusion of children in research both widens the scope and shifts the focus of understanding American Jewish relationships to Israel. Children’s participation in research demonstrates how American Jews develop relationships with Israel over the course of a lifetime. In addition, the methodological approaches that allow for the inclusion of children in research shift the focus of understanding away from a “deficit model” that measures participants’ knowledge and connection against an existing ledger, and towards an “inventory model” that takes stock of participants’ cognitive and emotional warehouses. This shift is essential for understanding what Israel means in the lives of American Jews of all ages.
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The Children’s Learning About Israel Project is a project of the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University. The author would like to thank Lauren Applebaum, Laura Novak Winer, Igor Zakai, the participants of the 2018 Inside Jewish Day Schools Conference, and the anonymous reviewers of this article for their invaluable feedback.
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Zakai, S. From the Mouths of Children: Widening the Scope and Shifting the Focus of Understanding the Relationships Between American Jews and Israel. Cont Jewry 39, 17–29 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12397-019-09288-0
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