Everyone agrees that educating the next generation of leaders is of paramount importance. But who’s educating the educators? How do you inspire those whose job it is to inspire others? For a delegation of teachers, principals, and other educational leaders from across the U.S. who attended Jewish National Fund-USA’s recent Educator’s Mission to Israel, these were the questions asked—and answered, as they received a “behind the scenes” tour of the Jewish Homeland while getting a crash course in education leadership.
Held from July 10-17, 2023, as part of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael’s World Education Conference, participants had the opportunity to network and learn alongside 250 industry professionals from across the globe. One of the recurring themes of the mission was the impact and benefits of an inclusive society and how Jewish National Fund-USA’s various initiatives improve the quality of life for people of all abilities.
Participants visited a state-of-the-art rehabilitation village in southern Israel supported by Jewish National Fund-USA which supports Israelis with disabilities. In addition to caring for and empowering more than 300 residents and special education students with severe disabilities, the expansive village known as ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran pioneers cutting-edge services, cultivates empathy and acceptance through education, and provides individuals with disabilities with a framework for personal advancement, social integration, and gainful employment. Here the educators saw firsthand how no two people are alike, and therefore you cannot expect to teach children in an identical way.
The group also met with soldiers from Jewish National Fund-USA affiliate Special in Uniform, a world-first program that integrates teenagers with disabilities into various sectors of the Israeli military, where they serve according to their unique talents and abilities — also helping its graduates integrate into the workforce and Israeli society in meaningful ways.
“As an educator at a Jewish Day School, my goal for joining this mission was to strengthen the work that we are doing at Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis, Tennessee, and I came home with much more than I had anticipated,” said Daniel Weiss, Head of School at Bornblum. “I find that it is my responsibility — no, my privilege — to find ways to include every student, every child who wants a Jewish education in the framework of our school. I have often found that when including those with different needs in a classroom, the impact is on every other student and educator in that classroom. We learn empathy, we learn that it is our responsibility to take care of one another. What I took home from this mission is a deeper appreciation for what Israel does for all its citizens and for all of us committed to its values.”
While visiting Israeli Gaza Envelope communities that face ongoing attacks from rockets and terror balloons, the group met with the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief Education Officer, Brigadier General Ophir Levius, who discussed topics from education to social integration, and how the IDF works with everyone from Ethiopian Jews to lone soldiers, making sure they all work together as a cohesive unit.
“My recent participation in the Educator’s Mission to Israel has left an indelible mark on my heart and soul,” said Sandra Kopp, Director of Early Childhood Education at Beth Torah’s Suzy Fischer Early Childhood Academy in North Miami Beach, FL. “As educators and leaders in our communities, it is our duty to nurture not just the minds of our young learners, but of our teachers and school families. Visiting the sites supported by Jewish National Fund-USA and learning from the presenters who inspired us as they shared the incredible programs developed in Israel has ignited a new spark within me. The impact this mission has left will, without a doubt, extend far beyond the walls of our classrooms and will spread to the community at large, and I am committed to passing on this light to my community, nurturing their curiosity, and fostering a strong sense of identity and belonging.”
The group also visited Alexander Muss High School in Israel (Muss), Jewish National Fund-USA’s college-prep, study abroad in Israel experience for American teens that recently expanded its facilities to include a second campus in Be’er Sheva. Here they saw how Muss’ unique blend of traditional classroom studies and experiential Israel studies creates lifelong connections between students and the land and people of Israel while ensuring they excel in their academic studies.
Other highlights from the mission include: Hearing from Alon Wald at Ammunition Hill, a heritage site commemorating a crucial battle during the six-day war that led to the reunification of Jerusalem; a tour of the old city of Tzfat, an ancient city that blends mysticism, history and modernity; visiting Jewish National Fund-USA’s 9/11 memorial, the only one outside of the United States that lists the names of all the victims.
Visit jnf.org/travel to view all opportunities to travel to Israel with Jewish National Fund-USA or register for the first-ever Global Conference for Israel taking place November 30-December 3, 2023, the closest you can get to Israel without actually being there. Learn more at jnf.org/global.