BHC Elementary Educators’ Mifgash – June 2, 2015

All Around Haifa: Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton - The Degania School, Kiryat Chaim

This blog entry was written by Leann Shamash (Educational Director) and Waky (Synagogue Educator) from Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton.  This is the first year of their exciting partnership!  Both sites have been very creative in their approach to the partnership, using technology (videos) as a way to share their lives and Jewish identity. After this week we are certain that their partnership will deepen even further!

All Around Haifa: Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton - The Degania School, Kiryat ChaimVisiting the Degania School

We are sad that our trip is almost over and we are so glad to return to our school, Degania, tomorrow. It was just a few days ago that we met them for the first time and it already feels like we have known them for years. For the past ten months our schools have exchanged fun introductory videos created by the students, which illustrate our lives in our respective communities. We have even Skyped together.  From these videos we learned that the Degania School is located close to the beach and in turn the Haifa students got to see a lot of snow and winter gear that the students wear in Acton.

The Degania School, located in Kiryat Hayim, is immediately recognizable by the colorful games painted onto the spacious outdoor recess area. Students at Degania learn through creative games both indoors and outdoors.

After warm greetings from the staff we met the fifth grade class and worked on presenting a lesson about Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of being able to accomplish great things if we only have the ability to dream. The students added to an “I Have a Dream” quilt which our school had prepared for our friends in Haifa.

We look forward to our visit on Wednesday when we will complete our planning for the year to come!

All Around Haifa: Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton - The Degania School, Kiryat ChaimWe have also visited schools which pride themselves on their physical education program, the environment, gardening, ecology, Jewish heritage and today we visited the Habonim School, who pride themselves on creative pedagogy.  As a result of their program, The Habonim School wants their graduates to be “creative, happy and self-confident.”

In order to achieve these goals, different types of teachers are paired in the classrooms. One day a gym teacher might pair with a math teacher or a language teacher with an art teacher for integrated lessons.

We were all drawn into the singing and dancing at the school and were happy to discover that the community of parents are actively engaged in the school community.

Alarms going off today!!!

Today at 11:00 AM and at 7:00 PM security drills were conducted throughout Israel. Unfortunately, we were between visits, so we were unable to participate in the drill with the Ahamadia School, but we arrived soon after and had a fascinating visit.

Did you know that…

  • Greeting us on the walls at the Ahamadia School were posters of Leonardo Davinci, Mozart and William Shakespeare?
  • That the eighth grade English language lesson was on the universal declaration of human rights?
  • That Israeli Arabs go to school five days a week, from Sunday until Thursday? Friday is their Sabbath and Saturday is off for them.
  • During Ramadan, which is starting soon, student’s classes are shortened by ten minutes each?
  • That the Ahamadia School partners with two Jewish schools in Haifa to engage in multi-cultural activities and has a sumptuous garden complete with fig trees, olive trees and an overflowing herb garden?
  • That Druse have almost no marriage outside their community?
  • That 65% of all academicians in the Druse community are women and that women can be religious leaders in the community?

All Around Haifa: Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton - The Degania School, Kiryat Chaim


Visit to Haifa University

After a sumptuous lunch at the University of Haifa, we went up to the 20th floor in an academic building to discuss a new exciting program at U of H on the topic of American Jewry. It surprised us to learn that the Israeli population knows virtually nothing about the history of the American Jewish experience. Various students are studying about the huge immigration of Jews to the US at the turn of the last century and American Jewish culture and religion. Their master’s program concludes with a ten day trip to NYC, which includes visits to the Tenement Museum and Ellis Island.


All Around Haifa: Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton - The Degania School, Kiryat Chaim


The Question of a kippah?

Each day Waky has received questions and comments from Israeli children and adults about her practice of wearing a kippah while studying and teaching. The discussions about a woman choosing to wear a kippah, which we are accustomed to at home, have reminded us not to take this practice for granted.