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Specially trained Birthright Israel trip staff ready to lead and engage at home

Birthright Israel Fellows program raises quality of educational experiences on trips and in communities.

The Birthright Israel Fellows at the Kona Kai Resort in San Diego. Credit: The iCenter for Israel Education.
The Birthright Israel Fellows at the Kona Kai Resort in San Diego. Credit: The iCenter for Israel Education.

More than 90 current and future Birthright Israel trip staff learned together at the Kona Kai Resort in November as the newest cohort of Birthright Israel Fellows. The program, run by The iCenter for Israel Education, deepens the skills, knowledge, and confidence of Birthright Israel staff to create inspiring and meaningful educational experiences for Birthright Israel participants during their trips.

“Birthright Israel Fellows are deeply committed to helping their participants build meaningful relationships with Israel and Israelis both on and beyond their Birthright Israel trip,” adds Ari Berkowicz of The iCenter. “We want to provide the Fellows with the skills and educational language necessary to facilitate nuanced and sophisticated experiences that are relevant, authentic, and have a long-lasting impact.”

Fellows are largely young North American professionals with a passion for Jewish continuity and Israel that work within the private sector, as well as Hillels, Federations, Maccabi USA, and elsewhere. During the four-day intensive training, Fellows learned from and with experts in Jewish, Israel, and experiential education. The program’s interactive and dynamic workshops were designed to inspire and challenge Fellows’ thinking, and to help them engage with anyone on a Birthright Israel trip. Sessions covered areas such as how to build effective relationships, understanding blind spots as educators, making space for a diversity of perspectives, and more.

“Birthright Israel Fellows provided me the ability to come together with other peer leaders and educators from the Jewish community to talk about practical programming and things we can do on the ground in Israel,” said Alex Reiss from Vermont.  Alona Izkovitz, Israeli Tour Educator, from Hadera agreed, “I’m amazed and shocked by the amount of things that I’m learning each and every moment, and it’s opening my mind to so much more about what I’m going to do next.”

Birthright Israel Fellows are committed to staffing at least three Birthright Israel trips following the training. Now in its 10th year, the Birthright Israel Fellows program develops an elite cadre of North American experiential Jewish educators to enhance Birthright Israel experiences and the broader field of Israel education and Jewish education. Through this personal and professional development program, these educators have the tools to help young Jewish adults develop deep and meaningful connections with Israel and Israelis. Cohort 12 participants will begin staffing trips this winter.

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The iCenter for Israel Education envisions a world in which every Jewish child develops a lifelong relationship with Israel. We are passionate people with dreams, interests, and beliefs. We care about Israel and Israelis. We are educators: rabbis, lay leaders, teachers, students, parents, teens and youth. Our work is across North America: in day schools, public high schools, summer camps, synagogues, youth groups, universities and beyond. Founded on these passions in 2008, The iCenter strives to transform the professional field of Israel education. We focus on the learners, helping them develop their identities and build relationships with Israel and Israelis. We also focus on the entire system, creating a dynamic ecosystem of passionate and knowledgeable educators, rich and nuanced content, and institutions centered around their learners. With these two approaches, The iCenter continually moves Israel education to the heart of Jewish life.
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