Sivan Zakai - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Sivan Zakai

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Sara S. Lee Associate Professor of Jewish Education

HUC-JIR/Los Angeles

Schools of Education
Academic Field: 
Jewish Education; Israel Studies
Research Interests: 
Israel education; history & Jewish history education, sociology of American Jewish children

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Dr. Zakai is the Sara S. Lee Sara S. Lee Associate Professor of Jewish Education at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR's Skirball Campus in Los Angeles.

A thought leader in Jewish education, her areas of expertise include curriculum design, history education, Israel education, and teaching controversial issues.

Dr. Zakai serves as the Director of the Children’s Learning About Israel Project and co-Director of Project Orli: Research and Leadership in Israel Education. 

Selected Publications and Edited Works

“I’m going to Israel and all I need to pack is my imagination”: Pretend Trips to Israel in Jewish Early Childhood Education, Journal of Jewish Education, 86(1), 94-119, 2020. (With Lauren Applebaum.) 


From the Mouths of Children: Widening the Scope and Shifting the Focus of Understanding American Jewish Relationships to Israel, Contemporary Jewry, 39, 17-29, 2019. 


“Bad Things Happened”: How Children of the Digital Age Make Sense of Violent Current Events, Social Studies, 110(2), 67-85, 2018. 


When Past and Present Collide: Dilemmas in Teaching the History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. In M. Gross and L. Terra (Eds.) Teaching and Learning the Difficult Past: Comparative Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2018.


History that Matters: How Students Make Sense of Historical Texts. Journal of Jewish Education 84(2), 161-195, 2018. 


Connection and Disconnection: The Paradox of Israel Education in the 21st Century. CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Spring 2018, 121-140, 2018. 


American Jewish Children’s Thoughts and Feelings About the Jewish State: Laying the Groundwork for a Developmental Approach to Israel Education. Contemporary Jewry 36(1), 31-54, 2016. (With Hannah Tobin Cohen)


A Rigorous Dialectic: Writing and Thinking in History. Teachers College Record. 118(1), 1-36, 2016. (With Jack Schneider).


The Stories of Our National Past: History and Heritage in a Jewish High School. Curriculum Inquiry. 45(2), 219-243, 2015.


“Israel is Meant for Me”: Kindergarteners’ Conceptions of Israel. Journal of Jewish Education. 81(1), 4-34, 2015.


“My Heart is in the East and I am in the West”: Enduring Dilemmas of Israel Education in North America. Journal of Jewish Education, 80(3), 287-3182014.


“Now Where Do We Go From Here?”: Separateness, Integration, and Pluralism in Philadelphia. History of Education Quarterly, 53(3), 280-300, 2013(With Jack Schneider).


Purposes and Practices of Israel Education and Hebrew Education: Towards a Joint Agenda for Applied Research. Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education,2013. (With Sharon Avni and Shlomy Kattan).


 Values in Tension: Israel Education at a U.S. Jewish Day School. Journal of Jewish Education, 77(3), 239-2652011.


Selected Public Scholarship:

Here’s How to Talk to Your Kids About the Violence in Israel and Gaza. Kveller, May 6, 2019. (With Ilan Zakai) 


The Other Conflict: Teaching Children to Understand Wedge Issues in Israeli Society. HUC Chronicle, Fall 2018. 


Don’t Avoid Talking To Your Kids About the Pittsburgh Shooting. The Forward, October 29, 2018.


4 Steps for Talking to Kids about the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting. Kveller, October 29, 2018. 


Why Jewish Parents Should Talk About Neo-Nazis with their Children. The Jewish Journal. September 6, 2017.


Four Tips for Talking to Your Kids about White Supremacism. The Jewish Daily Forward, September 1, 2017.


Dialogue Across Difference: The Power of Collaboration When Colleagues Disagree HaYidion, Fall, 2016.  (With Lauren Applebaum.)


Discourse Across Diversity (not Standardization) in Israel Education. eJewishPhilanthropy, September 19, 2016. (With Lauren Applebaum.)


Why Politics is an Important Part of the Kotel Story., September 15, 2016.

5 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Kotel., September 15, 2016.


From Multiple Choice to Multiple Choices: Rethinking Israel Literacy in Our Schools. HaYidion, Spring, 2016.  


Israel Education Needs Coaches, Not Cheerleaders. The Jewish Journal, February 4, 2016. (With Hannah Tobin Cohen.)


My Grandfather, Rabin, and Me: Notes on the Optimism of Youth. eJewishPhilanthropy, November 4, 2015.


Children and the Conflict. The Jerusalem Post, October 28, 2015.


How to Talk to Your Kids About the Violence in Israel. The Jewish Daily Forward, October 19, 2015.


Teaching About Israel After Election Day…And Every Other Day. eJewishPhilanthropy, March18, 2015. (With Lauren Applebaum.)


Talking About Israel with Our Students. eJewishPhilanthropy, September 5, 2014. (With Jonah Hassenfeld.)


Your Kids Are Ready to Talk About Israel. Are You?, August 4, 2014. (With Miriam Heller Stern).


The Opportunities of Teaching Jewish History. HaYidion, Spring, 2014.


Jewish Education Caught in the Crossfire of a Most Uncivil War [op ed]. Times of Israel, November 27, 2012.


Our Divisive Discourse [op ed]. The Jewish Daily Forward, April 20, 2011.