To help more Jewish day schools infuse Israel into all aspects of school life and learning, The iCenter welcomed nine new day schools across North America into its initiative, iNfuse: Israel in Jewish Day Schools. Each school now is creating a plan to make Israel education and experiences a deeper part of all aspects of school life, including classes such as science, the arts, Jewish studies, Hebrew language, all-school Israel engagement, and Israel travel. The initiative, currently with its second cohort, is funded in part by The AVI CHAI Foundation and through matching funds raised in the schools’ communities.
“iNfuse offers a framework for students, educators, and the greater school community to build personal, enduring connections to Israel and the Israelis,” says Dr. Lesley Litman, a consultant with The iCenter. “These connections can be built in so many different settings and experiences – but the critical first step of this process is for schools to articulate a vision for Israel education and turn this vision into measurable and meaningful learner outcomes.”
The nine current schools in iNfuse represent geographic and denominational diversity: 1) Adelson Educational Campus in Clark County, Nevada; 2) Ecole Maimonide in Montreal; 3) Epstein Hillel School in Marblehead, MA; 4) Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit; 5) JPPS-Bialik in Montreal; 6) Milwaukee Jewish Day School; 7) Portland Jewish Academy; 8) Solomon Schechter Academy in Montreal; and 9) Solomon Schechter Day School of Metropolitan Chicago.
Representatives from each school gathered together earlier this fall to begin their work and to create a sense of community among the schools. Along with this in-person convening, iNfuse includes site visits from Israel education experts and other specialists, online seminars, and one-on-one mentorship. Educators will have a range of resources and various approaches from which to draw on to engage their learners in content-rich and contemporary Israel experiences. The initiative frames a school’s Israel trip as an integral component of the curriculum throughout students’ tenure at the school. A school-appointed Israel Coordinator will oversee both the initiative and support the work of faculty and staff.
“While Zionism is a core value of Hillel Day School – and we do a lot to foster a love of Israel in our students – iNfuse showed us that we can aspire to so much more,” says Saul Rube, Dean of Judaic Studies at Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit. “Through our partnership, our whole school community can develop a consistent vision of what we want Israel education at Hillel to be, and then leverage that vision to channel our efforts to achieve our deepest goals.”
The 2016 Hearts and Minds study on Israel in Day Schools from The AVI CHAI Foundation showed that infusing Israel across a school and integrating it effectively into curricula is most successful when a school has an articulated vision. The study also affirmed that even young children can build a meaningful relationship with Israel by blending powerful experiences with strong content.
An evaluation last year by Rosov Consulting on the pilot cohort of iNfuse schools found that the process of helping schools articulate their vision for Israel education and map out where Israel currently was – or was not – in their schools was “the most fundamental contribution” of the initiative and even “eye opening.”
Building on these findings, iNfuse focuses on enriching and expanding content in the primary and middle elementary grades (K-5), not waiting until the middle school years to bring in rich content.
“We bring a learner-centered approach to all of our work,” adds Litman. “And regardless of age, educators can help learners develop personal and authentic connections to Israel.”
Applications for Cohort 3 of this exclusive program will open in the summer of 2018. For more information on becoming part of iNfuse, visit www.theicenter.org/initiative/day-schools.