When word got out about the success of the “Israel at the Center Kallah,” the inaugural program of the iCenter, many wanted to know more about it. What made it so exciting? Who was there? And, why the emphasis on Israel? For Anne Lanski, President of the iCenter, the answer was simple: Israel ignites my heart and your heart and should be an integral part of everything we do in Jewish education.
The iCenter serves as a national address for meaningful and innovative initiatives in the field of Israel Education aimed at elementary and secondary aged students.
Bringing together front-line Jewish educators and lay leaders, the iCenter’s inaugural kallah provided an opportunity for many talented educators to create a vibrant community and forge new and exciting partnerships. “The Kallah enabled us [Israel educators] to come together, teach and learn from one another. Israel was our common language and the energy and excitement was ever present. The iCenter can hardly keep track of all of the exciting ideas and initiatives that were inspired by just coming together.”
Beit midrash, general Israel learning, exposure to technology and arts and culture in Jewish education, and yes, Israeli wine tasting and jugglers too, filled the Kallah with a well-rounded experience of Israel education. Incorporating SIT – Systematic Inventive Thinking – to provide participants with a systematic approach to breaking “fixedness”, participants were able to think differently in their own approach to Israel education. The conference, Lanski said, focused on the “i” in the term “Jewish educator”.
“It was a wonderful experience to learn more about Israel’s culture and history through art, poetry, music, photography, technology, etc. with so many excellent speakers and presentations. Meeting and connecting with other Jewish educators was a lifetime experience sweetened with the outstanding hospitality at the location itself,” shared one participant.
The Israel at the Center Kallah will expand to regional events during the year.
The kallah represented the approach and initiatives that are going on at the iCenter. Anne explained, “We strive to infuse young Jews with both a personal connection to and knowledge of Israel. We’re not only teaching about Israel, which we are, but we also aim to integrate it into who they [the students] are and who they will become.”
This is also a chance to take back Israel education from the media, Lanski says. Exposure to Israel for many young Jews is too often through the media. That is not Israel education, that is news reporting on Israel, she says.
When asked what are the biggest challenges facing Israel education, Lanski replied “when it comes to Israel education, I don’t see challenges, I see opportunities.”
As the co-sponsor of Project InCiTE, as well as launching an MA certification program for Israel educators, the iCenter continues to push forward full force with their mission to engage young people around Israel. The vision and commitment of the iCenter’s founding funders, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation, inspires and enables this important work.
“We are going to add a whole lot of heart, a whole lot of passion and a whole lot of meaning into the Israel identity formation of these young people. In 5-10 years, we’ll be in places we can’t even imagine. The iCenter is building a community of people who see opportunities. The most exciting thing about the iCenter is that by 5 o’clock, another opportunity will have risen,” Lanski says.
Monica Rozenfeld is a freelance writer and works for a Jewish non-profit committed to innovation and best practices in Jewish education. Monica is the founder of The Jew Spot – a labor of love that has taken up most of her free time (happily) – and an occasional contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.