“Our research over the years shows that the single most important factor determining
the quality of the trip is the strength of the educational staff.”
Gidi Mark, CEO Taglit Birthright Israel
The second cohort of nearly 100 Taglit Fellows convened last month in San Diego for four days of learning with experts in Jewish, Israel, and experiential education. “Taglit Fellows” is the professional development program launched in 2014 by Taglit-Birthright Israel and implemented in partnership with the iCenter for Israel Education as an educational intensive for exceptional Jewish leaders and aspiring Jewish educators looking to staff Taglit-Birthright Israel trips. These newly and highly trained educators will increase the quality of the Taglit-Birthright Israel experience, play significant roles in the ongoing Jewish journeys of young adults at home, and have a long-lasting, deep impact on the future of Jewish and Israel education.
As with Cohort 1, the Fellows were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants to form an elite cadre of American Taglit-Birthright Israel staff. The four-day seminar included interactive trainings and in-depth conversations with master Israel educators focusing on a range of areas, including how effective storytelling is a tool for education and engagement; how to create ritual moments with personal meaning; and what experiential education might look like at Independence Hall, Masada, and other sites in Israel. Additional learning sessions focused on everything from using music and poetry in educational experiences to key strategies for facilitating small group discussions.
Mark Charendoff, President of the Maimonides Fund, which is funding the program through a $4 million grant over the next six years, said, “We are investing in this initiative because we feel that American Jewish educators have a critical voice that needs to be heard on the trips and that they can also play a vital role in the lives of Taglit-Birthright Israel participants long after their trips conclude. Our hope is that because of the scope of the program – and the Fellows’ reach – this initiative will be felt in Jewish communities across the country.”
Along with the in-person seminar, Taglit Fellows includes online learning and additional workshops in experiential Jewish education. The Fellows now are part of a nationwide 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.
“I’ve been to many Jewish organizational gatherings before, but Taglit Fellows left me with a whole new resource and support system,” adds Jaimie Krass of Muhlenberg Hillel in Pennsylvania. “We shared our stories – personal and professional – and that level of sharing created an important bond of trust within our cohort. This was an incredible opportunity to come together with peers and Israel educators to be inspired, and to ask ourselves how we can help create the most meaningful and impactful Israel experiences.”
The majority of Fellows are either professionally or personally – and in many cases, both – leaders, educators, and connectors in their Jewish communities. Taglit Fellows accepts one hundred participants, aged 22 and above, into the program every six months.
“The Fellows are incredibly talented individuals, equipped with new strategies and skills to offer Birthright Israel participants experiences that will deepen their personal connection to Israel and the Jewish people,” says Anne Lanski, Executive Director of the iCenter. “And because of the Fellows’ own personal and professional backgrounds in teaching and leadership positions, they will utilize these skills in their home communities to further engage and educate countless numbers of Jewish youth and young adults.”
The first graduates of the program began staffing Winter 2014/2015 trips; Cohort II participants will begin staffing this summer. Taglit-Birthright Israel has sent more than 400,000 young Jewish adults to Israel from more than 66 countries and from all 50 U.S. states, including students from nearly 1,000 North American college campuses accompanied by more than 70,000 Israelis.
Taglit Fellows seeks to enhance both Taglit-Birthright Israel experiences, as well as the broader field of Israel and Jewish education by cultivating emerging Jewish professionals as role models and educators. Taglit-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. For more information visit: taglitfellows.com.