(March 8, 2022, JNS Wire) “We are at an inflection point in the way American Jews look at Israel,” remarked Peter Eckstein, VP, Jewish Education at Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, and graduate of the George Washington University’s Graduate Degree in Israel Education, offered in partnership with The iCenter. “We need to find new ways to engage the Jewish Community on Israel because the old ways don’t work. That’s what led me to this graduate program.”
It was for this reason–with seed funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation–the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development partnered with The iCenter in 2018 to launch a one-year Certificate Program in Israel Education. Shortly after, the program expanded to include a two-year Master’s Degree in Israel Education, thanks to the generous support of the Marcus Foundation. Grounded in 21st-century educational principles, the degree offers professionals the inspiration and strategies to place Israel Education at the heart of Jewish communal life.
“The program allowed me the opportunity to join other professionals in the field and learn how to teach Israel using the best educational means possible,” said graduate Liz Paige, Director of Ethics & Community at the McGillis School. “The program allowed us to make a personal connection with Israel and be in conversation with Israel, thereby equipping us with the tools to empower our learners to do the same.”
All students enroll as one-year certificate students and then have the option to apply for the year-two master’s program. Through a hybrid learning model–including in-person intensives, online seminars, and Israel-based experiences–students receive training in the academic discipline of Israel studies combined with the practice of experiential Jewish education, all taught by a world-class faculty. As graduate Melissa Cohavi, Associate Director of Education at the Park Avenue Synagogue reflects, “The Graduate Degree gave me the full package — academic rigor, cohort learning and gathering in-person, learning from and with top educators in the field of Israel education, and of course, travel to Israel. I find myself regularly going back to my learning.”
Integral to the program’s success is the cohort model. Now in its fourth cohort, the program has matriculated over 100 Jewish professionals, all of whom are now collectively and independently making an impact on the field. “The cohort experience is integral to the experience and is 100% intentional,” said Nate Strauss, Assistant Director of Michigan State University Hillel. “The individuals in my cohort are lifelong connections. I now have a network, not only of my cohort but the cohorts before and after. Together we are an amazing network of Israel educators with a shared language and vision.”
While still in its early years, the impact of the program’s graduates and students on the field is already evident, “The influence the graduates and students are having on the field is already apparent, as Tilly Shemer, E.D. of the University of Michigan Hillel remarks, “Having our staff participate in the degree elevated the caliber of programming our Hillel could provide our students. Our staff gained skills and confidence as educators which in turn gave our students the language and confidence to bring their own voices around Israel to their peers and the broader community. The ripple effect was incredible to witness.”
The graduate degree program is currently looking for the next cohort of movers and shapers in the field of Israel Education. Applications are now being accepted through April 1st. For more information, or to apply, visit theicenter.org/GW or contact Erika Vogel at email@example.com.