Voices from the field

With All Your Strength

By Michael Zeldin
May 18, 2016

As I am preparing to step down from my positions as Senior National Director of the Schools of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and DeLeT (our credential program preparing teachers for Jewish day schools), I have been thinking about what my colleagues and I have accomplished through the partnerships we have forged with foundations and other institutions committed to Jewish education. Our relationship with the iCenter and the iFellows program stands out.

I remember getting a call from Barry Chazan a few years ago. I could tell by the tone in his voice that he had some trepidation about the call. He was calling to invite HUC to join the new program the iCenter was starting to help aspiring Jewish educators become Israel educators. Maybe he thought I would say no because of the Reform Movement’s earlier ambivalence towards the Jewish state or maybe he was unsure of my own personal commitment to Israel. What he may not have known was the HUC has the only School of Education that requires its students to study in Israel for a year, and what he may not have remembered was that I was in the first class of students to study in that program (where Barry himself was one of our teachers!). So he was surprised and delighted with my enthusiastic YES. Each year since, HUC has sent the largest delegation to the iFellows program, including 15 in the incoming May 2016 cohort.

Each year I am more and more impressed with the iFellows program and what our students are able to bring back to HUC as a result of their participation.  Our students bring various passions to their work as Jewish educators. Some are passionate about social justice, some about camping, some about music. As a result of the year they spent at our Jerusalem campus, all of them bring a passion about Israel to their work. What the iCenter does so beautifully is to provide a forum for students to marry their personal passions to their passion for Israel.  For example, one student who is a talented musician and a gifted songleader, made a movie about Ha'tikvah for his iCenter project and then screened it both at HUC and at the congregation where he serves his internship. 

As I near the end of this chapter of my career I find myself turning to Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, for inspiration and guidance. One verse which captures my attention reminds me of the iCenter and the work it does: 

כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תִּמְצָא יָדְךָ, לַעֲשׂוֹת בְּכֹחֲךָ--עֲשֵׂה

Whatever you set out to do, do it with all your strength.  

This verse characterizes the work of the iCenter and the way it inspires the iFellows to approach Israel education with gusto and enthusiasm. Thank you, iCenter, for all that you do with the iFellows to transform them into thoughtful, caring and enthusiastic Israel educators. 

>> For more about Michael Zeldin, PhD