As the newest cohort of Birthright Israel Fellows convenes this week 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 will learn from experts in Jewish, Israel, and experiential education. The participants will begin staffing trips this summer
According to Aaron Bock, the new Director of Birthright Israel Fellows, “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.”
The seminar includes a session 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.
Shoshana Gibbor, Director of Birthright & Israel Engagement at MIT Hillel and a member of the 1st Birthright Israel Fellows Cohort, tells eJP, “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 Birthright Israel Fellows program is generously funded by the Maimonides Fund.