JSU’s Israel Engagement Week will welcome Jerusalem U educator as scholar-in-residence

Zeev Ben-Shachar

In a rapidly changing world, where people are constantly consuming information and news on their feeds, how can we transcend the catchy headlines and acquire a solid and nuanced understanding of Israel? How do we understand complicated realities and stay interested and engaged, while avoiding drama and dogma? Is it possible for us to identify with, let alone care about, a small country located thousands of miles away?”

These and other topics will be addressed during the St. Louis Community Israel Engagement Week, planned by Jewish Student Union. From April 26 to 30, the St. Louis community will have the opportunity to meet and learn from noted educator and former Harvard scholar Zeev Ben-Shachar, who will facilitate engagement and grappling with a variety of historical and contemporary topics relating to Israel. 

Ben-Shachar is Jerusalem University’s Director of Israel Education. He oversees curriculum development and is Director of Education for the Jerusalem U. Israel Gap Year Course and is a frequent lecturer at synagogues, Jewish federations, Christian communities, college campuses and national and international conferences. 

Topics of the Israel Engagement Week will include an in-depth look at the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, media bias, Israel’s moral dilemmas, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the reunification of Jerusalem 50 years since the Six Day War.  There will also be a “Spinning Through Israel” class — a virtual cinematic tour of Israel at both the Washington University and the Jewish Community Center’s indoor cycling studios. Special Shabbat programming will take place at Kol Rinah and Young Israel as well as special Friday and Saturday night programs for teens. 

The Israel Engagement Week will conclude on Sunday, April 30 with in-depth seminars on “Reunification of Jerusalem and Where We Are After 50 years” which will be hosted by CJL and held at the Holocaust Museum and a special program for teens on the BDS Movement, which will be held at the Jewish Federation building. Most programs are open to the public (for a full listing of events, visit stljewishlight.com/JSU-Israel-Week or see ad on page 24).

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JSU founder and director Rabbi Mike Rovinsky said JSU’s Israel Engagement Week was the brainchild of longtime JSU supporter Bill Solomon.

“Bill was very concerned about the spread of the BDS movement and the false narratives associated with it, especially on the college campus. He wanted to know what JSU was doing to educate and prepare teens and adults for their encounters with BDS,” Rovinsky said. 

For the past several months, JSU has been meeting and collaborating with organizations across the religious and political spectrum to craft a program that would cover a wide range of topics and reach as broad an audience as possible.  

Working with Rovinsky was Center for Jewish Learning Director Cyndee Levy. “We were especially interested in collaboration with JSU on this project because Zeev Ben-Shachar is a much sought-after master teacher,” Levy said.  “His very professional, thoughtful and engaging style makes each experience accessible for all. In addition, Zeev is interested in nuance when it comes to Israel” to promote a “clear and truthful observation of reality.” 

Although Rovinsky met Ben-Shachar for the first time this past September, they had been collaborating for three years on revising and distributing the curriculum for JSU’s Movitz-Danforth Israel Scholars curriculum. 

For more information on Ben-Shachar’s visit, or to organize a visit to your group while he is in St. Louis, contact Rovinsky at 314-498-6279 or [email protected] 

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