Nearly 100 Jewish professionals and leaders gathered earlier this month – along with experts in Jewish, Israel, and experiential education – at the third Birthright Israel Fellows training seminar. This cadre of specially-trained Birthright Israel staff continues to grow and play a significant role in the ongoing Jewish journeys of trip participants. Implemented by Birthright Israel in partnership with the iCenter for Israel Education, the professional development program aims to increase the quality of the Birthright Israel experience through more highly skilled staff with better tools at their disposal.
The four-day seminar in Chicago included interactive trainings and in-depth conversations with master educators focusing on a range of areas, including how effective storytelling is a tool for education and engagement; understanding group dynamics and the importance of relationship building; how to create meaningful ritual moments; and how themes and values can be incorporated into site visits in Israel. Additional learning sessions focused on everything from different profiles of Birthright Israel participants to key strategies for facilitating small group discussions.
“Observing and learning with a range of expert educators makes it so much easier to utilize different educational approaches and styles on Birthright Israel trips,” says Judith Wertheim, a member of Cohort 3 and Associate Regional Director of BBYO Ohio Northern Region. “As a trip leader and in my job with BBYO, different moments call for different strategies – sometimes I need to lead the entire group through an exercise; other times I need to facilitate personal reflection time. Birthright Israel Fellows examines all kinds of scenarios so we can help trip participants have the best and most personally meaningful moments possible.”
Launched in 2014, Birthright Israel Fellows was developed after research demonstrated that the strength of the educational staff is a key factor in determining the quality of the trip.
The majority of all Fellows from across North America are either professionally or personally – and in many cases, both – leaders, educators, and connectors in their Jewish communities. 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 includes an online learning component and additional resources in experiential Jewish education. The Fellows now are part of a 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.
Cohort 3 participants will begin staffing trips this winter. For more information visit: birthrightisraelfellows.com.