Online Middle School Israel Educational Program

By Ferne Hassan

A new middle school curriculum, “LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is now available nationwide. The 6-lesson unit allows students to explore the historic Jewish roots to Israel while discovering their own personal, modern connection.

Through a sophisticated, interactive, on-line application, LINK was developed by teachers, curriculum writers and internet experts who understand the need for a dynamic, educational experience of this kind. The outcome is a platform designed to enable students to determine for themselves, through experiential and project based learning, their own, unique Israel connection.

Students discover an Israel not usually found in traditional Jewish curricula; an Israel whose actions are informed by Jewish values and reflect the best of what matters to today’s youth. They learn about an Israel that is diverse, where humanitarian aid is a priority, and where there are opportunities for refugees and economic migrants. They are inspired by an Israel whose innovations and technologies are improving and saving lives throughout the world.

“LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is headed by Mina Rush, Director of Middle School Education and programming for StandWithUs, a sixteen year-old, international Israel education organization. Mina’s background includes being the Director of Outreach for Jewish World Watch where she also did programming in Jewish education.

“The motivation behind this endeavor was to create a program that could reverse Jewish students’ diminishing relationship to Israel as evidenced by recent polls. My experience showed that traditional methods of teaching did not always achieve the desired results. I realized that students are best able to connect when the material represents their core values. This realization led to the direction that LINK has taken,” explains Rush.

A year-long pilot program of 20 schools across the US was completed in July, 2017. Jewish day schools and Jewish supplementary schools participated in the study, representing all Jewish denominations. Data was collected from teachers and students to measure progress and to determine if educational goals were being met.

Data analytics revealed that after participating in the LINK program:
– Students showed a 45% increase in knowledge and understanding about Jewish continuity in Israel.
-Students showed a 55% increase in knowledge, understanding and challenges of Israel’s size, demographics and location.
– Students showed a 75% increase in knowledge and understanding of Israel’s diversity.
– Students showed a 78 % increase in knowledge and understanding about Israel’s role in global humanitarian and disaster aid as well as efforts Israel makes at home with refugee and economic migrant populations.

– Students showed a 60% increase in knowledge and understanding about the global impact of Israeli advances in technology.

Teachers reported that students readily engage in the lessons and look forward to their experience with the curriculum. They articulate not just an increase in knowledge, but pride in and a connection to Israel.

“The use of technology and the presentation of the information truly honors today’s teen. When our students in the school were surveyed, many stated that the LINK program was the favorite part of their school day,” states Sandy Borowsky, CJE, MS.ED, Educational Director Orangetown Jewish Center in New York.

Israeli Avocado Salad

Photo by T.Tseng https://www.flickr.com/photos/68147320@N02/

While the guacamole craze has not spread to Israel, avocados are one of its important crops with trees that produce beautiful, plump fruits. Israelis have cultivated their own methods of preparing and using avocados, including avocado salad.

Avocados are native to Mexico. The first avocado trees were brought to Israel by the monks of the Latrun monastery, who grafted them in the monastery garden, in 1908. It took until 1927 for these trees to produce fruits. Upon seeing the success of the monks, people started planting avocados in their gardens. In the 1950s avocados were planted in commercial orchards for the first time. Today, most of the avocados planted in Israel are for export. Israelis have also grown to love them. The most popular way to consume avocado is as a salad, in a vegetarian sandwich.

Avocado season is in full swing now, and ripe avocados are widely available. This simple avocado salad uses local ingredients, and appeals to the Israeli palate. You may serve it with a fresh baguette, or sliced bread.

Israeli Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 lemon or lime, squeezed
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Preparation:

  • In a large bowl, combine the mashed avocado with the minced onion.
    Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and black pepper.

Middle East Expert David Makovsky Speaks at Gratz Gala

The crowd of 260 that attended Gratz College’s Jeffrey B. Plevan Annual Gala must have left the event with a spring in their step. From the videos during the cocktail hour to the accolades for the honorees – board member Leon Levy, retiring professor Dr. Saul Wachs and former College President Joy Goldstein – the whole event was supercharged with gratitude, positivity and optimism. Even the keynote speaker, David Makovsky, the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute, offered a rather upbeat assessment of Israel and its relationship with its Arab neighbors, a topic more often described in terms of deep-rooted problems. [Read more…]

Schumer Speaks at AIPAC Policy Conference

On Tuesday, March 28, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took to the podium at the AIPAC Policy Conference. In a heartfelt address peppered with personal anecdotes, he spoke to the strength of the bond between the United States and Israel. He discussed the recent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and the United States. He also characterized the campaign to delegitimize Israel — waged by movements like BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) and by the United Nations — as a “cloaked” form of anti-Semitism. Finally, he called for unified support for Israel across the American political spectrum, and pledged, “[A]s long as HaShem breathes air into my lungs, I will fight to make Israel a safer, more secure, more prosperous nation.”

The transcript of Sen. Schumer’s speech, as provided on the AIPAC Policy Conference website, appears below. [Read more…]

Pelosi Addresses AIPAC Policy Conference

Minority Leader of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed the crowd on the last day of the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington. In her speech, she covered a lot of ground, from her family’s longtime commitment to Israel — referring to her father as a “Shabbat goy” — to her support, and that of many of her colleagues, for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She mentioned anti-Semitism and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, the Iranian challenge and her abiding respect for the late President Shimon Peres. She also described the creation of the state of Israel as “the greatest political achievement of the 20th century.”

The transcript of Rep. Pelosi’s speech, as provided on the AIPAC Policy Conference website, appears below. [Read more…]

Learning From the Past to Change the Future

By Laurel Fairworth

16107464_1852348398343930_3795405131184417547_oIn light of recent developments it is more important than ever to remind people about what can happen when anti-Semitism is left unchecked. Recently, cemetery stones have been overturned, bomb threats made against synagogues and we have seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Jews. To combat that a new pilot program called Eitanim (which means the strong or steadfast ones), is encouraging teenagers to use technology in a novel way to share what happened in the past to deepen connection to Israel in the future. [Read more…]

Nostalgic for Last Week’s America?

oathSo much of the America I had taken for granted as recently as last week has disappeared.

President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” feels increasingly appropriate, leading many Americans wonder if Trump will really remain President for four years of will one of the many scandals swirling around him lead to his impeachment, or if Trump’s erratic behavior and plummeting popularity will lead his cabinet to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
[Read more…]

Here There It’s That Time of Year

Ist candleIt was almost imperceptible as a lone snowflake lazily fell to the ground and vanished. Soon a smattering, then a flurry of like-minded flakes blanketed the countryside in a glistening quilt of white.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where it’s not about snow it’s about oil, wax and paraffin. The first of many lights will soon appear bathing the landscape in an ever increasing glow of flickering lights.

 

The first strains of familiar seasonal songs arrive too soon; they are a harbinger of the coming of the familiar time honored perennial winter chorus.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where every town, village and hamlet sprouts their own eight branched lights of freedom and the sound of Rock of Ages is still a week away.

 

Trees shorn at their bases, tied down atop cars heading for their final resting places soon to be laced in tinsel and adorned in strings of multi-colored bulbs.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where trees are planted, nurtured and protected to celebrate the rededication of the land and its people, their history and their future.

 

A rather emaciated looking man with a white beard sporting a red suit and hat trimmed in white ermine sauntered down the aisle of a toy store. It was quite early for him to be out and about; perhaps he should have taken more time to fatten up.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where men in black attire with starched white shirts hurry and scurry here and there, their destination is not of this world but of the world to come.

 

Drummer boys in splendid uniforms march in perfect cadence while merry greetings of joy fill the air.

That was there but now I’m here.

It’s different here; where boy scouts in the square are hawking their wares like seasoned professionals. Candles and oil for sale; the innocence of youth coupled with unabashed enthusiasm are their marketing tools.

 

Whether here there or anywhere it is that time of the year to renew that part within each of us that finds peace through respect for those with whom we differ.

How ironic that during the darkest days of the year invoking time honored traditions enables us, with light, song and hope, to dispel despair.