A New Approach to Zionist Education

Gil Troy

On November 4, 2019, the Straus Center scholars and students in the Graduate Program In Advanced Talmudic Studies For Women of the Graduate Program (GPATS) had the pleasure of hearing from Gil Troy, the Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University. Dr. Troy most recently authored The Zionist Ideas, an expansion of the classic collection of Zionist texts found in Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea. Troy’s work is organized chronologically and expands the voices and viewpoints on Zionism, including women’s voices.

In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary, Dr. Troy undertook a goal of conducting 70 conversations about Zionism with varying audiences and venues. To date, he has conducted well over 100 such conversations, spanning six countries and two languages. Troy’s lecture focused on Israel Education in the Orthodox Jewish community in North America, which Dr. Troy noted, often focuses on an image of Israel’s perfection without addressing the complex and complicated dynamics on the ground. Students who are first confronted with the reality of the flaws attributed to Israel for the first time, particularly on college campuses, are often left dumbfounded and unable to defend the Jewish state in face of its detractors.

In contrast, Dr. Troy described how he prepares students by having serious discussions with them as part of a broader Jewish conversation about Israel. While much of the discussion on Zionism tends to focus on anti-Semitism, and the need to establish a Jewish state in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Troy argued that we must instead concentrate on strengthening our core Jewish identity as well as our love of the Land of Israel and the Jewish. These issues, he explained, should be the starting point starting point of Israel education. These issues were among those discussed and debated among the students during Dr. Troy’s thought-provoking session, which included readings and discussion of selected texts on Zionism.