This past week the Boston-Haifa Connection hosted an inspiring delegation of educational leaders from Haifa, as part of the Jewish Education and Identity Committee’s professional development efforts.
Among the educators there were middle school and high school principals, as well as representatives from the Haifa Municipality Department of Education, the Ministry of Education and the Hartman Institute.
The delegation came to Boston to learn and immerse itself in our systems of strengthening Jewish identity and commitment to peoplehood, as well as our efforts to carry on the Jewish traditions and values for our youth in meaningful ways. Our Haifa guests engaged in our warm Jewish community and began to develop valuable relationships. They were able to experience and better understand American Jewish life by hearing from a diverse group of rabbis from different denominations, and the opportunity to visit a range of Jewish institutions including Gann Academy, Rashi, the JCC, CJP, JCRC, Hebrew College, as well as Facing History and Ourselves and Mayyim Hayyim.
Another day was dedicated to learning from our public education model and its challenges by visiting both urban and suburban public schools.
Jewish education and community was a centerpiece of their focus, with visits to several Boston-Haifa partnership congregations for both Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat Services and for Sunday morning Hebrew school visits. Understanding synagogue life and its role in our community was crucial and very different from their experiences in Israel. As a group they attended Shabbat morning services at Temple Emanuel of Newton, including an aliyah to the Torah and opportunities to address the congregation.
These are the inspiring words that Ofra, the principal of the junior high school in Kiryat Haim, Haifa, had to share with all the people in the congregation:
I am very excited to be standing here OLAH LA’TORAH with my friends, something that is not ordinary for us but feels right, more than right.
The last few days here in Boston have been an outstanding experience for me and for my friends. We met here warm community and wonderful people who have been doing everything to make us feel at home. People who work hard to do things to make the world a better place.
Together, we faced questions and dilemmas which concern the Jewish people but beautifully enough, touches the future of the rest of the world. It inspires us to see the way you cope with the Jewish identity.
I would like to tell you that we will take with us, back to Israel, things we learned from you: the way you keep strong bonds with Israel over the years. Your loyalty to Israel. Your persistence in building bridges between the diverse denominations of Judaism and the fact that it is all done with so much sensitivity respect and a lot of thought.
As educators, it is our obligation and privilege to bring all this to our students and to try and make a change in the next generation. We promise we will do everything and work very hard to keep this beautiful partnership. You are important to us.
On behalf of the rest of the group coming with me from Haifa, I would like to thank CJP, the Boston-Haifa Connection, the Jewish community and all of you for inviting us, for the warmest hospitality, and most of all, for opening your hearts to us.
Jewish education, Jewish identity, peoplehood and pluralism are at the top of the agenda for CJP. At the Boston-Haifa Connection we have been developing dozens of partnerships and models for students, institutions and families to explore together, something that over the years created a Jewish renewal revolution in Haifa. One of the biggest takeaways is that investing in educators with meaningful professional development can yield positive results that impact entire institutions, thousands of students, and overall society.
The model of cooperation between Boston and Haifa can only happen with the unparalleled effort and dedication of our valued volunteers who constantly pour their heart and soul into these programs. We owe a debt of gratitude to Pam Weil, chair of Boston-Haifa Connections’ Jewish Education and Identity Committee, and Maxine Zarchan, former chair of the Committee, for their devotion to making this program, and the entire agenda, a huge success. With the educational support and expertise of Marla Olsberg and the many contributions of committee volunteers and partner educators, immersive experiences like these bring our communities closer together.
This avodat kodesh (holy work) is the driver behind the Boston-Haifa Connection, something that these educational leaders as well as all the educators we touch will always appreciate.