Temple Beth El

February 2016

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have had a strong connection to Israel – to the eretz yisrael (the land of Israel), to am yisrael (the people of Israel) and, more recently, to midinat yisrael (the Country of Israel).  Our children inherited this beautiful connection and within our Religious School we nurture this in many ways.  The school’s curriculum has a variety of components related to Israel.  Over the years, students learn symbols of Israel such as the flag, images of the country, the geography, the history (from ancient to modern), and Hebrew as both a language of all Jews and of the Country Israel.  In 3rd and 7th grades the students have extended units exploring some of these topics deeply.

Our Religious School proudly participates in the Education Bridge Project between Rochester and Modiin, Israel, through which our school is partnered with a school in Modiin.  While we have been participating in this project for many years, this year we formed a partnership with a new school, the Karmim School.  This new partnership, guided by the context of the School Twinning program which Rochester and Modiin have piloted and adopted over the past two years, gives us the opportunity to imagine something very different, something that expands beyond the exchange of holiday cards and “my favorite things” worksheets.

During Hanukkah Rochester hosted a delegation of Israel teachers from the partner schools of the participating synagogues.  Among the delegation were Otniel Galili, the Principal of the Karmim School, and Osnat Hen, a 5th grade teacher.  During their visit we spent a lot of time developing our new partnership with the assistance of Lisa Cline and David Zarkowsky, TBE’s 3rd and 5th grade teachers.  Over February break Lisa Cline and I will represent TBE on the reciprocal Education Bridge delegation trip to Israel.

In forming our new partnership, Otniel Galili, the Principal of the Karmim School, and I spent considerable time finding existing similarities between the culture and curricula of the schools.  We found that our schools share values and that we could overlay values on other elements of the schools’ existing curricula to use as points of connection.  This allows for the schools to easily integrate the partnership into the full school in a way that maximizes meaningful exchanges within the limited class time.  We created an exchange timetable, general topics for exchange and began to create details for the exchanges.  The exchanges will be built around a variety of methods that can utilize different learning styles, technology and areas of student interest.  With the assistance of the teachers over the next two to three years, all of the exchanges will be fully developed and integrated into the regular work of each school.

Anyone who would like to see some of the work of the Education Bridge is invited to visit the Religious School.  We have a bulletin board in the hall showing some of the exchange work and teaching a bit about Modiin in general.

The formation of this strong connection with the students of the Karmim school will help our children connect more deeply with Israel – the people, the heritage and the country – as they appreciate and value this religious and cultural inheritance.

Samara Sofian