Our favorite stories from 5781

This is the end of a year and the beginning of a year. As the school year starts, a new Jewish year begins and the Jewish year 5781 comes to a close, we wanted to share our top 10 most interesting and relevant stories from 5781.

These are stories you can reflect on with your family at Rosh Hashanah, with your students in the classroom, and with friends and colleagues. Here’s the key to discussing controversial topics without creating a family or classroom feud: Let’s not tell people what to think. Let’s engage in conversation as learners, not provers.

1. 10 ways to discuss the current situation in Israel with your students

(Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

When fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, we focused on the following question: What can we do to ensure Jewish educators have what they need in order to discuss this situation with their students? In times like these, your students need you more than ever.

2. Can Israel and American Jews stay together?

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A poll released in July by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 25% of American Jewish voters agreed that Israel is an apartheid state, and 22% agreed that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. We explored the relationship between Israeli and American Jews: how did we get to this point and where do we go from here?

3. Remembering Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Our 10 favorite quotes and teachings

We were deeply saddened by the passing of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks zt’l in November 2020 — and we still are. We asked our team at OpenDor Media to share their favorite quotes and teachings from Rabbi Sacks. Here are 10 inspiring ideas we will always remember him for.

4. Sheikh Jarrah: The story behind the story

How did a small neighborhood in East Jerusalem lead to such a big crisis? We unpacked the complex history of Sheikh Jarrah and how what started thousands of years ago is playing out in real time today.

5. What will relations between the US and Israel look like under President Joe Biden?

Leading up to the inauguration of then President-elect Joe Biden, we asked Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, Yossi Klein Halevi, Sara Hirschhorn and Gil Troy — all experts in the world of politics, history and the U.S.-Israel relationship — for their predictions about the new administration’s Israel policies. What will relations between the U.S. and Israel look like under President Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett?

6. Unpacking the new Israeli government

An Arab Islamist, a self-described “right-wing” religious Jew, and a centrist former newscaster walk into a Tel Aviv hotel around midnight. It sounds like the setup of a good (or bad) joke, but it was in fact the scene that created Israel’s new coalition government.

7. How to respond to the Meron tragedy

(Courtesy: United Hatzalah)

Following the terrible tragedy in Meron, Israel, we offered thoughts and reflections from our team on this disaster. The Jewish response of yefashfesh b’maasav (examining our own actions) is an empowering shift we can all make in a time of tragedy. We may not always have control over the events and tragedies that befall us, but we can control our next steps.

8. Israel’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout: Successes and controversy over access for Palestinians

(Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Israel administered first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to more than 10% of its population in just two weeks, leading the world in vaccinations per capita. Just as the Jewish State was receiving praise for its impressive vaccination campaign, criticism emerged over access for Palestinians. Is Israel or the Palestinian Authority responsible for providing vaccines to Palestinians?

9. Did Jonathan Pollard safeguard Israel or betray America?

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew who served 30 years in prison for spying for Israel, arrived in the Jewish State in December 2020, after completing his parole. We unpacked Jonathan Pollard’s story and why he is regarded as a hero by some Jews and a traitor by others.

10. Five educational themes from the Israeli TV series “Valley of Tears”

Did you watch the Israeli HBO series “Valley of Tears” about the Yom Kippur War? We unpacked five educational themes from this fascinating show.

More from the Unpacked for Educators Blog

Eyal Golan singing with soldiers

Teaching with Israeli Music Post Oct. 7th

Below is a collection of Israeli songs that have been released since October 7th. The songs vary in their themes such as hope, despair, responsibility, victory and unity, amongst others.

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