Lisa Micley with colleague John Englander, Associate Dean of Humanities at VHS Learning
The Prizmah conference in Atlanta, Georgia on March 10-12 was full of ideas, spirit, dreams and plans for Jewish day schools from all parts of the world. For me, the conference was a chance to network, listen, share and learn with my colleagues. The Conference theme was “Dare to Dream” and I really focused on the dream and reality of Israel.
The Online Judaic Studies Consoritum (OJSC) table in the Dreamlab was next to the iCenter for Israel Education’s table and, consequently, from the minute I arrived until the minute I left the conference, I was thinking about Israel and Israel education. I heard my colleagues from the iCenter explaining how to use the Israel Resource Cards in schools, at camp, and on the bus on an Israel trip as I spoke with educators about our unique online judaic studies courses which connect students with Israel. The chorus of my voice and my colleagues’ voices reminded me how our work connects with the work of so many wonderful programs in our field.
I presented at a session titled: Building Relationships Between Students in Israel and Abroad. While preparing for the session, I learned from my colleagues and co-presenters, Yael Katz, Education Director of the Global School Twinning Network of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Reut Noyman, Director of the Education Department of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. Participants in the session came from schools in North America, Mexico and South Africa. All of us had the same goal: to help our students to develop a strong connection with students in Israel.
I invited two guests, Hadas Sadero and Tali Ben Senior, to present with me about a course we developed and offered to The Epstein School of Atlanta and a middle school in Yokneam. These educators have been a part of the process since this idea was first formed and now are seeing the fruits of their labor as students from Epstein and Yokneam work together in the course we developed just for them. The students will meet each other when the Epstein students visit Yokneam, their sister city, on their eighth grade trip to Israel. They have learned together through our online platform in a course in Hebrew and English on the topic of Digital Citizenship and Jewish Values. Mifgash is such an important part of Israel education and we are excited to help students begin that shared learning experience in an online mifgash before their in person mifgash.
The final session that I attended at Prizmah was called: Identity Development and Connection to Israel: A New Approach. Presenters were from Jerusalem U, the Center for Israel Education and Charles E Smith Jewish Day School. I attended this session because of my interest in this topic and the work we have done at the OJSC on this subject. The vibrant complexity of Israel and the new reality of Israel education was a focus of the session. The goal of all the educators attending the session was to develop meaningful and honest educational experiences for their students. Such experiences are exactly what our online course, Preparing for Life on Campus: The Complexities of Jewish Identity and Israel, offers and accomplishes. I am proud that the OJSC is engaging with such wonderful educators and initiatives to work to address this incredible challenge.
I left the Prizmah conference knowing that there is a lot of work to be done in Jewish day school education in general, and in Israel education in particular. I learned that there are incredible educators working side by side to create programs and resources to meet the needs of our schools and our students. I am humbled and honored that the OJSC is among those working towards the goal of creating new materials in Israel education which will help our students create a lifelong attachment to Israel and the Jewish people.
Lisa Micley, program director of the OJSC, has been working in Jewish education for more than four decades in positions ranging from teacher to program director. She is excited to be working with VHS Learning on this AVI CHAI funded project. The OJSC is designed to offer Judaic studies courses online to help schools enhance their curriculum and expose students to online learning.