1. What do you think is the role of Tikkun Olam in informal education? 
Indispensible. If one believes that being Jewish — even in part — is related to reflecting and acting on moral convictions, then Jewish education without serious engagement with this truth is sorely lacking. What’s more is that Jewish moral luminaries don’t merely express the need for upright behavior; they offer tremendous insight on broad and specific levels as to how one might go about behaving morally. This is complicated, nuanced, layered and fascinating – and as much a part of Jewish experience and education as what blessing to say over wine. This to say nothing of the moral imperative actually to pursue justice, the practical benefits of deepening the engagement of all Jews through hands-on acts of service, etc. etc. — come to my session to hear more!

2. What is the greatest challenge for Tikkun Olam? 
Tikkun Olam is the challenge. Every issue in the world a person rolls up their sleeves to address is a complex monster; whether it be finding employment opportunities for synagogue members, helping one’s younger brother with his homework, or fighting for the rights of the marginalized peoples of Uganda. Tikkun Olam as a concept faces many challenges: the perception of it being a “watered-down” form of Judaism, a lack of serious engagement in the philosophical underpinnings of the idea, a strong difference of opinion among those who use the term as to what it actually means, etc. But the greatest challenge I see is that the concept literally takes on the whole world – and therefore sets people up for a constant, unrelenting challenge. Incidentally, this is probably also Tikkun Olam’s greatest strength.

3. What are you most looking forward to at YouthCon? 
Swag. YouthCon has the snazziest give-aways. A close second is the incredible opportunity to connect with really really thoughtful, cutting-edge experts in their fields; and really really inspired, striving, impassioned educators looking to learn from one another and bring each other to greater depth and heights — at the conference and afterwards. I couldn’t be more pleased to be returning!

Ilan Caplan is a program associate in American Jewish World Service’s department of education and community engagement. He is excited to return to YouthCon, having presented at last year's YouthCon plenary about "productive discomfort" and approaches to nuanced education around the intersection of Jewish values and social justice. Ilan attended Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, NJ, and graduated from Harvard College with a BA in Music and Religion. He has been working as an educator with AJWS since August 2010.


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