Jewish peoplehood (amiyut in Hebrew) is defined by Wikipedia as a “value that describes the feeling of belonging and commitment to the Jewish people.” With this definition in mind, 19 educational leaders from Haifa recently visited Boston, their sister city, to learn about the Boston Jewish community and to develop a stronger relationship through CJP’s Boston Haifa Connection school-to-school partnerships. These educators from Haifa and their partner educators from Jewish schools in Boston gathered together at Hebrew College, with anticipation, to listen to another well-respected educational leader speak. This was Rabbi Marc Baker, and it was his first time speaking with educators since fulfilling his new role as CEO and president at CJP. He discussed the emphasis of a partnership with schools in Boston and Haifa, sharing that the two need to be in communication, especially in these times. Rabbi Baker stressed the importance of having not only students from both Boston and Haifa talking, but their educators too. As he stated simply, “If you aren’t getting closer to the issue then you are getting farther away.”
After the inspiring discussion with Rabbi Baker, the teachers divided up with their counterparts to brainstorm techniques to build on the work their students do together. A few of the educators shared success stories from prior years. One of the projects that was highly regarded among the educators revolved around Israel’s 70th celebration. In each of these partner schools, fifth- and sixth-graders in Haifa and Boston worked on this project simultaneously using Google Docs. The assignment was to research and present through PowerPoint presentations important things or people that happened in Israel within each of the seven decades that Israel has existed as a country. For example, they researched Eurovision, Soviet immigration and Ilan Ramon, to name a few. They focused on societal accomplishments and innovations, rather than looking at Israel’s history through the lens of wars fought, which is a common strategy in teaching about Israel. This is a beautiful way to present Israel to young kids and to work with students who live thousands of miles away, and the schools finished the project by filming both their presentations and sending them to one another.
The morning with Rabbi Baker was a highlight of numerous meaningful encounters, projects and programs that our Boston and Haifa Mifgash educators shared. The morning’s dialogue connected with a sense of urgency for the Boston and Haifa partner educators, and thus will encourage students from each city to learn and work together. By focusing on the prize of Jewish peoplehood, the ultimate goal will be forming lasting connections that foster deeper understanding, friendship and support for our two communities together.