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Ensuring Accuracy When It Comes To Jews, Judaism, And Israel: Targum Shlishi Supports Textbook Review Initiative

December 12, 2011—Targum Shlishi is helping to support the Institute for Curriculum Service’s (ICS) textbook reviews for K-12 education. This national initiative reviews social studies textbooks to ensure that the information about Jews, Judaism, and Israel is accurate. Each year, ICS reviews upwards of thirty textbooks. Since its founding in 2005, ICS’s work has resulted in more than five thousand edits and impacted at least four million K-12 students each year.

By improving the accuracy of textbook content, Jewish and non-Jewish students (and their teachers) learn more accurate and fair information about Jews, Judaism, and Israel than they otherwise would.

“Our work at ICS is vitally important not merely because accuracy is a value in and of itself, but because learning more accurate information about Judaism and Israel is essential to the safety and security of Jews in America and to maintaining a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Given the widespread problems on college campuses and the plethora of misinformation about Israel, ICS believes that providing K-12 students with accurate information is critical,” says Rabbi Douglas Kahn, co-founder of ICS and executive director of its parent organization, the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco.

In 2011, ICS’s textbook reviews have focused on Oregon and Florida, as it is a textbook adoption year in both states. In addition to reviewing textbooks already in print, ICS works with textbook publishers on new textbooks in development and on their digital materials. As ICS has become increasingly well-established, more publishers are seeking ICS’s services during the textbook development stage. During development, ICS is able to not merely review the existing text, but also to enrich textbook coverage of Jewish contributions to Western civilization.

“Combating misperceptions about Judaism and Israel is a large task—providing young students with accurate information is a vital foundation, and ICS is systematically accomplishing this. We are honored to help support this important work,” says Andrea Gollin, program director of Targum Shlishi.

Problematic themes in textbooks

Among the most common problematic themes that ICS has identified in American public school textbooks related to Jews, Judaism, and Israel are:

  • implications that the Jews crucified Jesus
  • depictions of Judaism as a religion whose relevance ended when Christianity began
  • portrayals of Judaism as a religion of harsh justice or violence
  • misrepresentations of Jewish holidays and practices
  • a one-sided perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that blames Israel
  • omission of the fact that Arab countries refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist in 1948 and many still do not recognize Israel’s right to exist
  • dwelling on the plight of Palestinian refugees while omitting the Arab countries’ expulsion of Jews, which created a comparable number of Jewish refugees

An example

Below is a before-and-after example of a correction that ICS made in a social studies textbook.

Before: “Then, in 1948, the United Nations created the Jewish state of Israel in Palestine, a British territory. Arabs living there resented being forced to give land to the Jews. Five Arab countries attached the new Jewish state, but Israel defeated them.”

After: Whereas the original statement depicts the creation of Israel as a “give-away” of Arab land, the change accurately describes the U.N. partition into Jewish and Arab states. “Then, in 1947, the United Nations voted to divide the Palestine Mandate, formerly under British control, into Jewish and Arab states. While the Arabs rejected this decision, the Jews accepted it. In 1948 they created the State of Israel. Arab armies then attacked Israel, but Israel defeated them.”

About ICS

The Institute for Curriculum Services: National Resource Center for Accurate Jewish Content in Schools was launched in 2005 and is an independently funded national project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Supported by direct grants and donations, ICS is dedicated to promoting accurate instructional materials about Jews, Judaism, and Israel. Its work impacts more than fifty million children in American public schools and the millions of others in private schools, who learn about Jews, Judaism, and Israel in social studies classes. For the third year in a row, ICS has been named one of the nation’s fifty most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot ’11-’12, a resource guide for Jewish innovation. For more information about ICS, visit its website at www.icsresources.org or contact Aliza Craimer Elias, ICS director of program development and national outreach at aelias@icsresources.org.

About Targum Shlishi

Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.

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