“Children should not be involved in wars” say Jewish children in America, who are also experiencing nightmares about children held hostage in Gaza.

Leading academics convened last week to discuss the challenges facing Jewish educators in Israel and the Diaspora following October 7. Entitled “Navigating Challenges in Jewish Values Education”, the conference was hosted by Herzog College and the Melton Center for Jewish Education at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, bringing together education experts from across the Jewish spectrum.

The conference opened on Tuesday May 28 with an online Zoom session about how American Jewish Children are reacting to the events of October 7 and its aftermath. Dr. Sivan Zakai and Dr. Lauren Applebaum from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, quoted from their research project “Learning and Teaching about What Matters”, illustrating how American Jewish children (aged 9 – 11) are suffering from “remote trauma”, and expressing concerns about civilians affected on both sides of the conflict.

Professor Rona Novick, from the Azrieli Graduate School at Yeshiva University in New York, shared that many Jewish schools are struggling to find a balance between solidarity activities that promote resilience, and triggering negative emotional responses that retraumatize their students.

Dr. Adi Sherzer from the Melton Center, suggested that children are still relating to the tragedy that they are watching, while their teachers are trying to focus on stories of heroes and helpers. He concluded: “We need to understand how October 7 will impact young people’s faith in Israel as a safe refuge for Jews, because this may shape not only their own identity but also the future of the Israel-Diaspora relationship”.

Conference delegates also heard updates from Jewish schools in France, Australia and the UK. Fear of antisemitism around the world is driving an increase in enrollment in Jewish schools, from Israeli-born parents and unaffiliated Jews who want their children to feel safe. Many Jewish schools have dropped school uniform requirements, so that their students can conceal their Jewishness while traveling to and from school, and there is increased demand for Hebrew lessons from families who are considering Aliyah.

Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes, President of Herzog College, described the ongoing need to educate young people with strong Jewish values of humanity and morality, while Western academia seems to have lost its moral compass. He pointed out that the impressive young men and women who rallied to defend Israel after October 7 are products of Israel’s schools. “If we once doubted the commitment of the TikTok generation, perhaps the education system can take some credit for having taught them to care deeply about their country, and to undertake their mission with clarity and humanity.”

Skip to content