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Israeli Journalism Students Think Americans Jews Are Boring

Teaching this semester in the battle-tested Sapir College, near the town of Sderot, I had an interesting experience last week. It is a course in journalism, and Monday morning I have to groups to deal with — one is a … Read More

By / December 1, 2008

Teaching this semester in the battle-tested Sapir College, near the town of Sderot, I had an interesting experience last week. It is a course in journalism, and Monday morning I have to groups to deal with — one is a larger group of students I need to familiarize with "journalism’s basics" (in college they still believe there’s such thing), the other one is the smaller group learning the more advanced "news editing" course.

I have warned them all in advance that there’s going to be a lot of America-oriented material in this course, because these are the topics I’m dealing with on a daily basis. They weren’t quite happy with it — American means reading material in English — but agreed to play along. That is — until they realized that by "America" I often mean "American Jews."

We had a show of hands this past Monday. About 80% of my young, eager to please, enthusiastic, curious, fun-loving Israeli students think American Jews are, well, boring. Not personally boring, just generally so. If they were to decide what to do with them, journalistically speaking, they’d ignore them. And these, mind you, are the journalism students: so, in a short while, some of them will get to decide.

One of them, not long ago, had to write an assignment on some Americans visiting Israel. "It is the most boring piece I’ve ever written," he complained. These visitors were so happy to be in Israel, impressed with its achievement and with its people, so positive. There was nothing to talk about, no questions to ask, no issues to debate. How can one write a piece about such good people?

I asked him to give me the outline of his questioning. It was almost anti-Semitic in nature. All he wants to know — meeting Jews — is about money. How much do they have, how much will they give to Israel, and to what causes, will the financial crisis make them give less, did they give a lot in the past.

This reminded me of an article published last week in the Jerusalem Post – a story detailing the extent to which Israeli media has ignored the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, even though it was taking place in Jerusalem this year:

 

Coverage in the Hebrew media of the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body that represents billions of dollars of annual charity donations from hundreds of thousands of North American Jewish households, was generally limited to policy speeches given at the conference by Israeli politicians.

 

See the problem here?

I think my students, instinctively, do.

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