Updating the Israel/diaspora relationship
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Updating the Israel/diaspora relationship

Central themes of the iEngage curriculum

1. From Crisis to Covenant explores the foundations of the current relationship between Israel and world Jewry and why the Jewish community is so committed to maintaining it. What directions should a new narrative about Israel take, given new realities that question Israel’s significance and even its legitimacy?

2. Religion and Peoplehood: Israel as the sovereign expression of Jewish peoplehood matters only to the extent that peoplehood is viewed as essential to Jewish identity. In a world of individualism, can Judaism be redefined as a primarily personal experience? How does a sense of belonging to a Jewish collective affect the meaning of contemporary Jewish life?

3. Sovereignty and Identity: The establishment of the State of Israel represents the decision of the Jewish people to grant their collective identity a sovereign form. Is sovereignty significant for Israelis only, or does it contribute to the self-understanding of Jews worldwide?

4. Power and Powerlessness: Like other sovereign nations, Israel uses military power – or its ability to exercise this power – as the foundation of its independence and a means of safeguarding it. In the face of the modern critique of power as a corrupting force, how does Judaism perceive the moral foundations, responsibilities, and challenges of power?

5. War and Occupation: How can Israel respond to the moral challenges of exercising power in a way that is consistent with the highest standards of morality and Jewish and democratic values, balancing its legitimate right of self-defense with values of peace and the rights of others? How should Israel determine what constitutes a just war? What are the moral obligations and consequences of occupation?

6. Morality on the Battlefield: Once in a state of war, the integrity of one’s moral compass shifts to the battlefield. What Jewish values do Israeli soldiers carry with them into battle? How do complex moral responsibilities meet the horror of war and the morally ambiguous reality of asymmetric conflict and terrorist tactics?

7. Jewish and Democratic State: What are the defining features of a Jewish state, and are they compatible with the principles of democracy? How can Israel’s aspirations to be both Jewish and democratic be brought together in the realm of policy?

8. Religious Pluralism and Human Rights: As a democracy, Israel is committed to being religiously pluralistic and to providing equal rights to all of its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike. Does Israel’s Jewish dimension serve or hinder these commitments? What principles and ideas ought to govern Israel’s policies on these issues?

9. Values Nation: Israel is the project of the Jewish people, in which Jewish values and ideals meet the challenges of governance and everyday life. What resources within the Jewish tradition can contribute to the shaping of Israel as a paragon of moral and democratic values and help fulfill the aspiration of Israel to be a nation of values?

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