Twinned schools use technology to stay connected.  Photo: Nir Kafri for The Jewish Agency for Israel
Twinned schools use technology to stay connected. Photo: Nir Kafri for The Jewish Agency for Israel

School Twinning Promotes Jewish Connection

At the Weizmann School in Akko, Israeli children are dressed up and ready, eagerly awaiting a video call with their American peers at a Sunday Hebrew school in Indianapolis. Across the globe, a similar excitement permeates the Indianapolis classroom. 

This is a typical scene from The Jewish Agency’s Global School Twinning Network, which connects Diaspora and Israeli students worldwide. Participating students have the chance to meet each other virtually for dynamic conversations around issues such as Jewish identity and social responsibility. Twinning programs also link educators for professional and personal enrichment.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of hundreds of educators, school twinning has evolved into the flagship program of The Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether (P2G) initiative, which connects 450 Jewish and Israeli communities in 46 city-to-city and region-to-region partnerships. The success of school twinning stems from its ability to engage the school community as a whole (students, educators, parents) in promoting Jewish peoplehood, catalyzing development of new educational programs and pedagogic methods along the way.

Dina David, a school teacher in Indianapolis, describes the special relationship between Akko’s Weizmann School and the Bureau of Jewish Education (a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis), who have partnered for the last four years. 

Students at At the Weizmann School in Akko. Photo: Nir Kafri for The Jewish Agency for Israel.
Photo: Nir Kafri for The Jewish Agency for Israel

“Every year the Bureau and the Weizmann School bring grandparents and parents together to participate in our virtual program with our partners from the Western Galilee,” she says. “In the past four years we have had four virtual meetings during the holidays of Passover and Tu B’Shvat. Our virtual classroom allows students from Indianapolis and Israel to meet each other, collaborate, and interact with one another.”

At the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Tu B’Shvat program this year, the local students shared facts about Indianapolis and sang songs about Israel, while the Weizmann students shared facts about Jerusalem.

“I believe that our program’s success stems from its ability to engage the students, educators, and parents in promoting Jewish peoplehood,” Dina says.

Lyudmila Roainski, an English teacher at Weizmann, describes how new immigrants studying at the Israeli school were able to “recognize the country with all its beautiful sights, to feel in touch with the earth.”

 “This is a very welcome activity designed to give access to Jewish content and education in an experiential way,” says Lyudmila. “The students here and in Indianapolis could feel the holiday and not just hear about Tu B’Shvat. This is ideal not only for children, but also their parents, some of whom only recently came to Israel and knew little about Tu B’Shvat.”

Utah Davidovich Mu’ti, principal at Weizmann, says the Israeli children “benefit greatly from the partnership, they get to know the world. Socially, our students have formed relationships with children in the U.S., and children on both sides of the ocean know they are not alone.”

Eti Salamander, social coordinator at the Weizmann School, recalls that the Akko-Indianapolis twinning relationship was strengthened following an Israeli delegation’s trip to the Indianapolis community.

“We went back to Israel wanting more, to know more,” she says. “It began with an exchange of letters between the schools. I asked myself how to leverage relationships. Then we started to run what we call the ‘evening of sync.’ On both sides of the screen there were students in secondary schools in Akko and Indianapolis. We held events for Hanukkah, Passover, and Tu B’Shvat.”

Eti adds, “It was important for me to organize not only video calls, but experiential activities promoting the Jewish connection between these students to the general public. It is very exciting that the when the children in Israel and Indianapolis wave to each other across the screen, it reduces the distance between them. It is a form of touching.”

Tony Ziv, chairman of the Education Committee of P2G’s Western Galilee partnerships, which include Indianapolis, takes pride in seeing “smiles on both sides of the Atlantic” through school twinning.

“There is a beautiful relationship created between the students—a gift,” he says. “I hope there will be ongoing contact between the children beyond organized sessions, because it allows all sides to feel the love of the land of Israel and their common Jewish identity. It is not only a link between children here and there.”

Learn more about the Global School Twinning Network 

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This article was originally reported by Nathan Roi for The Jewish Agency for Israel.

 

 

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24 Apr 2018 / 9 Iyar 5778 0