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StandWithUs UK: Pupils and teachers need tools to engage in 7 October debates

This article by our Schools and Youth Director, Yehuda Fink, was published by The Jewish News.

15 February 2024

With an almost 400% increase in demand from schools for Israel educational sessions since the Hamas atrocities, StandWithUs UK is stepping in to fill the void, writes Yehuda Fink.

When I worked as a teacher for several years, I would at times be faced with a question from pupils that I wasn’t sure I had the answer to. Ask any teacher, but that’s a real challenge to deal with, as our pupils rely on us to guide them to an answer. Of course, the best option is to be honest with the pupil, admit you don’t know the answer, but offer to try and find one together.

Since October 7, teachers have been met with a wave of tough questions from pupils, including “why is the IDF killing so many people?”, “aren’t Hamas simply resisting?”, “isn’t this all Israel’s fault”, and one from a Jewish pupil in London, “why does everyone hate us?”

The history of antisemitism and the complexities of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians are topics that are understandably not delved into by all teachers.

This has meant that teachers are finding themselves in repeated situations where they are at a loss for words. For not only do they not know the answer, but they’re also not even sure where to begin to find it.

In the recent report (7 February) from the Jewish News regarding the survey from Hope Not Hate, it was highlighted that only 3% of teachers said they had the training to deal with these sort of issues, and just 11% said that their school had the appropriate resources to support them.

Only 18% of teachers said they know where to go externally to get assistance.

So, what are we at StandWithUs doing to support teachers and pupils?

Since 7 of October, StandWithUs UK has experienced an almost 400% increase in demand for educational sessions about Israel in schools and profoundly engaged with numerous pupils through deep and insightful sessions. These workshops aim to clarify the recent tragic events in Israel and the ongoing hostilities.

Moreover, we recently introduced TeachWithUs, a monthly digest offering educators across the UK valuable information, insights, and materials to aid their discussions on these complex topics. We have just released our second edition, and are offering it to anyone in secondary school education at all levels.

Only a handful of teachers know where to go for external support, and so we are stepping in to fill this void. We invite educational bodies to reach out. Let’s collaborate to ensure our school communities are well-equipped to tackle these conversations with honesty, depth, and engagement.

In an era marked by global unrest, it is imperative our young ones are educated on these matters with a balanced perspective. StandWithUs UK is committed to this educational journey, ready to extend our support to schools throughout the country.

StandWithUs UK is calling on schools to partner in this educational endeavour, aiming to cultivate a generation that approaches global issues with empathy, informed insight, and the bravery to discuss challenging subjects.

About StandWithUs UK:

StandWithUs is an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organisation that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism. Founded in 2010, StandWithUs UK has become a recognised support system and leading resource for students on UK campuses. We empower and energise students and communities with leadership training and educational programmes on both school and university campuses. StandWithUs informs through social media, printed materials, digital platforms, film and newsletters. The StandWithUs flagship Emerson Fellowship programme seeks to raise students into future leaders, equipped to stand strong in the face of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. We believe in the right of the Jewish People to self-determination in their historic homeland of Israel. We educate the facts in an unbiased and holistic manner, with an open mind, reflecting on views from all sides of the political, social and humanitarian spectrum whilst promoting peace. StandWithUs UK believe the current discourse surrounding Israel on campus all too often crosses the line between legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and the dangerous, mainstream, antisemitic rhetoric which stands contrary to the IHRA definition of antisemitism. We work to educate on that distinction, encourage civil discourse on legitimate criticism of Israel, and to fight antisemitism wherever it emerges.


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