Dr. Noam Weissman, senior vice-president of OpenDor Media. (photo from OpenDor Media)
King David High School is one of 50 Jewish high schools worldwide participating in Unpacked for Educators, a series of educational videos and podcasts on Israel created by OpenDor Media with the goal of providing a nuanced, thoughtful and thorough approach to Israel education.
“Theirs is high-quality material available for free, and usually those two things don’t go hand in hand,” said Rabbi Stephen Berger, head of Jewish studies at KDHS. “OpenDor Media is passionate about education and Israel and we are blessed to be able to work with them.”
The videos, approximately 10 minutes each, deal with a wide range of material that ranges from lighthearted topics like falafel, Eurovision and hip-hop music to contemporary conflicts, terrorism and the Israeli settlements. The goal is for educators to select the subjects they want to address with their students and use the videos and podcasts as points for discussion, debate and engagement.
“For years, Israel education has been behind other education, so our goal here was to sandwich nuance with love and to educate rather than indoctrinate,” said Dr. Noam Weissman, senior vice-president of OpenDor Media. “We want our students to end their sentences with question marks, to foster curiosity and deepen exploration by showing multiple sides to an issue. We love Israel and, yes, it’s complicated and nuanced, with lots to debate. We have to allow our young people to make up their own minds and deliver good education.”
OpenDor’s mission is to change Israel education the world over and make Jewish and Israel education available and accessible to everyone, regardless of their location. Other participating schools are in South Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Hungary and the United States. In Canada, KDHS is among six participating schools.
OpenDor is working on increasing the number of podcasts and videos in its repertoire, and hopes to reach a point where Jewish schools, of all religious denominations, can be unified about how to engage their students with Israel education. To that end, in terms of sharing resources and improving pedagogy, Weissman said, “We make a whole suite of videos and podcasts you can pick from, so, if you don’t like one, pick another. We’re not telling schools what to teach – we’re trying to help them develop tools for how to teach.”
That’s a great resource at KDHS, Berger said. “Sometimes, our teachers don’t know all the information either, and these videos help our educators develop professionally. The videos are there to spark thought, and then to stop, explain and discuss with students. It’s not a movie. What OpenDor is doing is so well needed.”
Weissman said Seth Rogen’s opinions on the Israel education he received growing up in Vancouver are telling. “The Seth Rogen fiasco is another example of a Jew going through an educational institution and saying, ‘they did a disservice to me,’” he said, referring to a conversation between Rogen and Marc Maron in an episode of Maron’s WTF podcast in July. In that podcast, Rogen stated that he was “fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life.”
“I don’t blame Seth Rogen, but I think the Jewish community needs to look inwardly and ensure Israel content and education is accessible to everyone,” Weissman said. “Israel education is at the point where we as a field know how to do this well. We have the resources, confidence and context to make a nuanced experience possible for all students.”
The videos and podcasts are targeted at ages 18 through 34. They are freely available on YouTube and are an educational resource for Jews of any age seeking to understand events in Israeli history. For more information, visit opendormedia.org.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.