Israel Ed. teacher Hannah Tobin Cohen will not return

Students said Mrs. Tobin Cohen showed them multiple sides of the Israel issues they discussed.

BP Archive Photo by Alyssa Wallack

Students said Mrs. Tobin Cohen showed them multiple sides of the Israel issues they discussed.

Benjamin Gamson, Staff Writer

Israel Education teacher Mrs. Hannah Tobin Cohen, who sometimes used uncomfortable ideas to encourage students to develop their own opinions, will not be returning for the upcoming school year. 

Mrs. Tobin Cohen has taught the SAS History, Culture and Politics of Israel class since arriving at Shalhevet in 2018.

Students described Mrs. Tobin Cohen’s class as a place where they would discuss different kinds of source materials, share their thoughts and get to see both sides of whatever conversations they had. 

“She really emphasized a mature Zionism approach,” said junior Sivan Karz. “So we weren’t just reading like pro-Israel pieces, but we were also reading things like the Hamas Charter and different Palestinian narratives. 

“I think the fact that she pushed us to read these pieces that often made me uncomfortable ultimately made my connection with Israel and my Zionism stronger and definitely more nuanced,” Sivan said.

Mrs. Tobin Cohen said she had challenged her students deliberately, so they would develop a wider range of possible opinions and thoughts. 

“Watching the students every year go from thinking in kind of a very black-and-white perspective and moving toward understanding that there’s much more of a spectrum” was something she loved to watch, she said. 

“That’s always a challenging process,” Mrs. Tobin Cohen said, “but it’s also very rewarding and satisfying to see.”

Mrs. Tobin Cohen grew up in London, where she said school had a different mood than what she encountered at Shalhevet. The first Shalhevet assembly that she attended, she said.

“I come from England, where everything was very formal and quiet and I suppose uptight, and that’s how our schools were conducted and our assemblies were conducted,” she said. “I see Shalhevet and they were like a pep rally and with loud crazy music, and they were firing shirts out of the T-shirt gun machine.

“People were standing up and whooping, and it was like a totally different atmosphere and experience,” she said. “In England it’s much more what you see in Harry Potter.”

Mrs. Tobin Cohen said that she has various other job commitments which she will be continuing next year. These include being an adjunct professor at American Jewish University, where she teaches Israel Education to graduate students, as well as being the director of marketing, design, and social media at a development company. 

She also is working on a longitudinal study through Brandeis University which tracks how elementary and middle school students think and feel about Israel.