MachloketLogo3 1

Session 4

The Impact of the Culture Wars on the Jewish Community

Participants explore if and how CSJ fuels antisemitism. It also examines various dilemmas facing the Jewish community in an increasingly ideologically charged public sphere, reviewing the California ethnic studies curriculum as a case study. It explores the challenges of bringing our Jewish identity into social action and political spaces.

Meta: How do the culture wars impact the Jewish community and how should we navigate them?

  • Does the alleged ideological binary, oppressed versus oppressor perspective generate antisemitism? 
  • Should the Jewish community try to counter the extreme forms of this ideology or just when the depiction of Jews is as privileged? (The California dilemma)
  • What are the alternative ways Jews can engage in social justice?
Session3

Printed copies or virtual version of SOS cards for part 2 of activity

Download and print SOS cards for activity part 2.

Participants will know:

The basic content and debates regarding the various versions of the California Ethnic Studies curriculum.

Participants will be able to:

Find ways to participate in social justice movements, if they chose to, without having to submerge their Jewish identity or political views. 

Enduring Understanding

  • An understanding of the debate over whether Critical Race ideologies are fueling antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
  • As Jews, we should champion free speech and an open exchange of ideas.  There is no singular way for Jews to live out Tikkun Olam–the Jewish obligation to repair the world–and the Jewish community should encourage multiple expressions

Essential Questions

  • Do Critical Race ideologies fuel antisemitism and anti-Zionism? If so, how?  (what is the counterpoint?) 
  • What role can we–individually and communally–play in influencing progressive discourse on Jews and Israel? What are the inherent dilemmas and how should we navigate them? Should Jews accept the binary framework and try to best realize their own interests, or reject it knowing it will produce ongoing antisemitism?
  • Should Jews participate in social justice movements? What are the potential tradeoffs of being involved or not being involved? Does Tikkun Olam belong to one ideological camp? If not, how might we think about the various ways Jews can express a commitment to making the world a better place?

Watch in-session as a large group: Campus argument goes viral as Evergreen State is caught in racial turmoil – HBO Vice News

Discuss how/if the pre-session materials address the following: 

  • Do Critical Race ideologies fuel antisemitism and anti-Zionism? If so, how?  
  • Should Jews participate in social justice movements? What are the potential tradeoffs of being involved or not being involved? Does Tikkun Olam belong to one ideological camp? If not, how might we think about the various ways Jews can express a commitment to making the world a better place?

Activity

This activity explores what it means to be Jewish and how our Jewish identity as such may or may not be something we bring when engaging in more universal spaces, especially social action organizations. Specifically, we’ll look at the debate over ethnic studies and critical race theory in K-12 education. 

Part 1:
Watch/Read

(0-3:18)

A Case Study

  • Why were Jews and other ethnic minorities troubled/outraged by the original California Ethnic Studies curriculum? 

Pick at least 2 questions to discuss

Group discussion questions: 

  • What are the two distinct approaches that emerged in the California ethnic studies debate in the mainstream Jewish community? What approach do you favor and why? Or do you have ideas for other approaches?
  • What are ways that we, as Jews, can contribute meaningfully to the discussions about ethnic studies courses that will clarify the need for true inclusiveness and critical thinking?
  • Should the Jewish community try to fight CSJ or just CSJ’s depiction of Jews? 
  • When should we fight from within and when from without?
  •  How has being a “progressive” or “liberal” or “conservative” changed in the past two decades? What are the implications of these changes to you and to the larger Jewish community? 
  • Should Jews fight to be included in or joining victimhood or should we try to change the binary of oppressor/victim?

Part 2:

Try to give advice to the people on the SOS cards considering the following questions: 

  • Should the Jewish community or individual Jews go along with progressive notions of power and privilege as the price of admission into social justice causes and coalitions? 
  • Do we engage social movements from within or do we seek alternative approaches? (Within: what’s the price of engagement and should we be willing to pay it? Without: can we really be successful in challenging the overall ideology? )
  • What are ways that interested Jews can participate  in social justice movements without having to bury our Jewish identity?  
  • What role can we–individually and communally–play in the conversation

moving forward?

  • What are your personal experiences with engaging in social justice/political movements or organizations (on any part of the political spectrum)? How, if at all,  was your Jewish identity and/or practice integrated or relegated?

Conclude with the following:

Discuss the following: Do Jews fit into the oppressor vs oppressed binary? What impact does teaching using this lens impact American Jews?

If time permits, watch: Evergreen copes with fallout, months after ‘Day of Absence’ sparked national debate

Additional/optional activity:

Referring to readings/questions in pre-reading/video. Bring the makhloket to light. 

Ask participants to think about David Bernstein’s essay and his approach to Jewish engagement in social/political involvement and the interview with Amanda Berman and her approach through Zioness. Questions to consider (can break down into smaller groups or as one large group discussion:

  • Should the Jewish community or individual Jews go along with progressive notions of power and privilege as the price of admission into social justice causes and coalitions? 
  • Do we engage social movements from within or do we seek alternative approaches? (Within: what’s the price of engagement and should we be willing to pay it? Without: can we really be successful in challenging the overall ideology? )
  • What are ways that interested Jews can participate  in social justice movements without having to bury our Jewish identity?  
  • What role can we–individually and communally–play in the conversation moving forward?
  • What are your personal experiences with engaging in social justice/political movements or organizations (on any part of the political spectrum)? How, if at all,  was your Jewish identity and/or practice integrated or relegated?