Shalom and welcome to this month’s Yesod Newsletter, Iyar 5779 edition!
In this month’s Newsletter we will consider the themes and values found in the biblical festivals of the month of Nissan and the contemporary festivals of Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim that are celebrated in the month of Iyar, and how they are connected. Continuing this theme, we also take a look at two interesting events that have taken place in Israel over the last few weeks – Israel’s efforts to land a spacecraft on the moon, and the elections for the 21st Knesset.
Jews have a deep connection to their history and the messages and themes contained therein, and have always maintained a realistic perspective on Jewish history, which has as many painful dips as jubilant peaks. Pesach focuses on slavery in Egypt as much as the spectacular Exodus narrative, and Yom HaShoah and Yom Hazikaron precede the modern celebrations of Israel’s independence and Jerusalem’s reunification.
“What is it to see the presence of God in history? The question is exceptionally difficult to answer. Ancient societies were interested in the past. They, like we, wanted to know how we came to be here, why society was the way it was, and how the universe was formed. Yet none before ancient Israel saw the unfolding of events as intrinsically meaningful, a narrative of redemption. Indeed, virtually all later societies who came to share this vision did so under the influence of the Hebrew Bible. As the historian J. H. Plumb puts it: “The concept that within the history of mankind itself a process was at work which would mold his future, and lead man to situations totally different from his past, seems to have found its first expression amongst the Jews” (The Death of the Past). In and through their religious vision, “the past became more than a collection of tales, a projection of human experience, or a system of moral examples…. It became an intimate part of destiny, and an interpretation of the future.” Nothing illustrates this more profoundly than the way the story of the Exodus shaped the Jewish imagination, not only of successive generations of those who lived their lives by faith, but even of profoundly secular figures like [the early Zionist thinkers] Hess, Pinsker, and Herzl.” The Jonathan Sacks Haggada, p. 59
Jerusalem U Media Lab have created innovative, substantive, and sophisticated materials to get learners excited and engaged about Israel. The Israel Forever Foundation has developed various educational materials and content for teaching Israel, designed to strengthen and celebrate personal connections to Israel. And also see Yom Ha’atzmaut resources from the National Library of Israel.
As well as these, in the spirit of finding meaning in contemporary Jewish history, we are sharing educational resources on recent events in Israel that you may find useful. Firstly, Israel has just voted in national elections for the 21st Knesset, and while it can be a challenge to understand and find meaning in Israeli politics, the following resources may help you to navigate the vibrant and often hectic Israeli political landscape:
and the National Library of Israel history of Israeli elections through posters.
Sadly, the fairytale ending was not to be, and through technical difficulties the spacecraft crashed as it touched the surface of the moon. However, our pride in Israel and its achievements intensified as the failure was placed in perspective in the media and by Israel’s leadership. This was summed up by the following quote from a journalist present in the control room:
“The heart, the success and growth of Jewish culture has often involved critical thinking. Critical thinking is traditionally a core element of training in the orthodox world, where two people in a Yeshiva would study together and critique the Torah. Through that process, they learn and become wiser.” This is the tradition that Michael Rubenfeld drew from when he established FestivALT, an arts collective that produces an annual program of radical Jewish art initiatives in Kraków, Poland. FestivALT is an alternative Jewish festival that combines theatre, visual art, activist intervention, site-specific performance, and community conversation. It happens at the same time as the popular Jewish Culture Festival and over the past two years has attracted 1,200 participants.
Michael uses arts and culture to attract diverse voices to discuss Jewish identity and history in public spaces. He and his team of friends and volunteers have built an active festival that questions and debates core issues that are not discussed in other parts of the Polish Jewish community. To read the full article click here.
To find more about FestivALT go here.
View Resource of the Month Archive for resources posted in previous months.