Jewish Teacher Education students make annual trip to Israel

 York students visit Israel

Above: From front left, Professor Alex Pomson, Koschitzky Family Chair in Jewish Teacher Education and York scholar-in-residence; Shira Zeliger; Yitz (Ian) Brojges; Marcus Benayon; Reuth Abraham; Sharon Blower; Siona Benjamin; Laura Wiseman, coordinator, Jewish Teacher Education Program, Board of Jewish Education; Barry Rubinoff. Second row, from left: Dafna Ross, Tikun Chaim program coordinator, Board of Jewish Education; Yehezkel Jesin; Haim Ben-Ary; Danya Mintz; Rachel Lifshitz; Orly Gazit; and an unidentified Israeli medic in the courtyard of the Israel Supreme Court in Jerusalem

Students in York University’s Jewish Teacher Education Program once again flew to Israel between semesters to complete the intensive portion of a course taken in the first semester at York. “Voices of Israel: listening and learning to teach an authentic account of Israel’s past and present” is offered in cooperation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The syllabus combines philosophies and methodologies of informal Jewish education with on-site experience in Israel. Students learned to use sources, sites and people as resources for teaching about the many faces of Israel.

Participants discovered ways to present aspects of Israeli culture by watching award-winning short films screened by a student-director at the Ma’aleh Film School, and by noting teaching/learning strategies modelled at Elul, a pluralist Beit Midrash (House of Study). The students also studied a contentious narrative, along with the classical and contemporary texts it inspired, by “trying on” the personae of Biblical beings and sorting through a kaleidoscope of emotions and circumstances. They explored facets of Israel-Diaspora relations and worked on their Hebrew, a key to successful restaurant menu navigation during their stay in Israel. Students also surveyed the services of the Marpad, the pedagogic centre of the Jewish Agency’s Department for Jewish Zionist Education.

Other highlights of the trip included a three-day learning tour with captains in the Education Corps of the Israel Defense Forces, an archaeological excavation in a subterranean cavern, and history and geography lessons during a mountain-climbing expedition. The group was invited to “jam” with Danny Sanderson, local lead singer-songwriter of the rock group Kaveret, observe the Sabbath in Jerusalem, and get the lowdown on pluralist education from teenagers at Re’ut High School.

York Professor Alex Pomson, scholar-in-residence with the Faculty of Education, facilitated the Israel-based learning sessions. Michael Soberman and Sharon Schwartzbaum, representatives from the trip provider Canada-Israel Experience, worked on quality of the experience on both sides of the ocean. Chaperones/course directors Laura Wiseman and Dafna Ross of the Board of Jewish Education, had a great time getting to know the students beyond the seminar room.

The trip was funded by the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

This article was submitted to YFile by Anderson Coward, communications coordinator in York’s Faculty of Education.