Network of Specially-Trained Birthright Israel Trip Staff Grows and Evolves
Led by new director, Birthright Israel Fellows program raises quality of educational experience for all Birthright Israel participants
San Diego, CA – As the newest cohort of Birthright Israel Fellows convened in San Diego, the program continues to evolve as it seeks to raise the overall level and quality of the Birthright Israel trip experience. To help affect this change, Birthright Israel has hired a full-time Director of the Birthright Israel Fellows program to engage with the nearly 400 current fellows, as well as the continually growing cadre of specially-trained Birthright Israel staff that will participate in the program in the coming years. During the four-day seminar in San Diego, run in partnership with the iCenter for Israel Education, the latest cohort of fellows will learn from experts in Jewish, Israel, and experiential education so they are ready to play a significant role in the ongoing Jewish journeys of trip participants.
“I have been fortunate enough to personally meet many of our fellows; these are talented, dynamic individuals committed to creating meaningful experiences for our participants, and who will inspire our trip alumni for years to come,” says Birthright Israel President and CEO Gidi Mark.
Included in this group of new Fellows, Lindsay Migdal, IACT Coordinator at the University of Colorado Boulder Hillel said:
“The Birthright Israel Fellows program is already helping me to think strategically about all aspects of my job — from the first interactions I have with my students, to planning the Birthright Israel itinerary with purpose, to the tie-in sessions I lead in Israel after an experience or entire day. And, after attending the Fellows training seminar, I now am part of a talented cohort of peers from across the country with whom I can continue to network and brainstorm ideas. I came away from the training with one key word that I will have in mind for all of my future Birthright Israel trips: ‘Intentionality.'”
Aaron Bock, the new Director of Birthright Israel Fellows, adds, “This program was designed to be a game-changer on a large scale. As the network of fellows grows—and the interactions with Birthright Israel participants and alumni increase—we are beginning to see the deep and long-lasting impact that Birthright Israel Fellows will have. This convening is another critical step for Birthright Israel, bringing together talented, leading educators to work directly with fellows. I am excited to be a part of this ambitious and equally important endeavor.”
The cohort 4 seminar includes a session with Dr. Zohar Raviv, International VP of Education for Birthright Israel, on “Creating a Birthright Israel Culture,” along with skill development workshops in areas such as storytelling, building educational experiences, and facilitating meaningful conversations with participants. All sessions are designed to help fellows gain a deeper understanding of the core educational principles and goals of Birthright Israel. In addition, through engagement with the iCenter’s recently released Aleph Bet of Israel Education – 2nd Edition – which represents a set of 12 core principles, approaches to content, and essential pedagogies that together constitute the building blocks of the field – fellows view and understand their work within a broader context as part of a larger field of Israel education.
“Birthright Israel is a ten day intense, immersive experience absolutely filled with learning opportunities, says Shoshana Gibbor, Director of Birthright & Israel Engagement at MIT Hillel and a member of of Birthright Israel Fellows Cohort 1. “The Fellows program prepares us as staff to leverage every opportunity to help participants develop personal connections to the land, the people, and the state of Israel. That’s what makes this program so powerful, and that is how fellows increase the quality of the Birthright Israel experience and the quality of Jewish life once participants are back home.”
Birthright Israel Fellows accepts up to one hundred participants, aged 22 and above, into the program every six months. Along with the in-person seminar, Birthright Israel Fellows incorporates an online learning component and additional resources in experiential Jewish education. The Fellows now are part of a network of colleagues who have increased their expertise in leadership and teaching practices, as well as their knowledge of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community.
“Because of both the quality of cohort members and the reach of the program, Birthright Israel Fellows is an integral part of the changing culture of Israel education,” says Anne Lanski, Executive Director of the iCenter. “This new culture, led by many of these fellows, places the learner at the center of the Israel experience so they develop their own authentic relationship with Israel. Regardless of ones’ interests, political views, or level of knowledge, everyone can build a connection to the country and its citizens.”
Cohort 4 participants will begin staffing trips this summer. In the sixteen years since its inception, more than 500,000 Jewish young adults have participated on the trips, comprising groups from 66 different countries, and from all 50 U.S. states and all Canadian Provinces and Territories, including students from nearly 1,000 North American college campuses. Counted within these numbers are over 80,000 Israeli participants who have joined the trips.
“We are well on the path to dramatically transform the Jewish journeys for Birthright Israel participants by training highly skilled educators who interact with them every step of the way,” says Mark Charendoff, President of the Maimonides Fund, which is funding the program.
Birthright Israel Fellows seeks to enhance both Birthright Israel experiences, as well as the broader field of Israel and Jewish education by cultivating emerging Jewish professionals as role models and educators. Birthright Israel has a unique, historical and innovative partnership with the Government of Israel, thousands of individual donors and private philanthropists, and Jewish communities around the world through Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency of Israel. Visit birthrightisraelfellows.com.