This past spring Bernard Zell Early Childhood Educators Hagit Lewis, Tami Mizrachi and Abby Aloni, along with peers from three other area schools, participated in a research project to understand how 3- and 4-year-olds think, feel and understand about Israel. The interviews and games they undertook with the children (those who agreed to participate and whose families gave consent) are complete. The interviews have been anonymized and the sessions transcribed. They have worked with their peer schools and the lead researchers to code the data; the lead researchers gathered in the summer to begin analysis. Working together as a team of educators and researchers, the team expects to share the results of their research later this year.
One thing they have already learned: Taking the time to honor children's voices by listening to them and trying to fully understand their thinking is key. Children are remarkable meaning makers and research provides the tools to explore big questions about how children develop a Jewish identity.
This process was coordinated by colleagues at the Jewish United Fund (JUF), in partnership with researchers both from JUF and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, and made possible by a grant by the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education at George Washington University.