Golda Och Academy in West Orange is one of six day schools — the only one in New Jersey — chosen to pilot an iCenter for Israel Education program designed to build “personal, enduring” relationships between Jewish students and Israel.
The goal of the 18-24 month iNfuse program is to have the institutions “emerge with robust and well-integrated Israel learning opportunities,” according to the center’s website.
Although GOA already provides its students with extensive Israel education, the iCenter has helped in the creation of standards and benchmarks to ensure “that the school and curriculum have systematic and intentional Israel learning and education that complements the already rich engagement,” said Aliza Goodman, iCenter director of professional development, in an e-mail. “Through this process, they were also able to identify holes in their program — areas where students actually were not learning about, nor engaging with Israel, but could and should be.”
Schools in the iNfuse program are provided with an adviser, on-line support, and information about what other schools in the program are doing, said Rabbi Meirav Kallush, GOA’s director of Israel engagement.
The program is set to begin implementation at GOA in September.
Goodman said the initiative is looking to inject the history and culture of Israel into every area of study, from science and literature to clubs and recreational activities. Each participating school will develop an individualized plan reflecting its own mission and vision, to be implemented in stages.
Kallush said that in June five GOA teachers will be sent for training to the iCenter, based in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook.
She said GOA also offers “informal” Israel education through clubs and activities, some run by three rishonim — young Israeli shlihim, or emissaries — spending a year in the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ region before entering military service.
“We are bringing a set of tools to day schools…to engage hearts and minds,” said Adam Stewart, a senior educator at the iCenter, which receives support from the Avi Chai, Jim Joseph, and Schusterman Family foundations.
The iCenter’s programs operate through what it calls its “Aleph Bet of Israel Education.” Its initiatives include iCamp for Israel Education, Birthright Israel Fellows, and the iFellows Master’s Concentration in Israel Education.
The other iNfuse pilot schools are Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Chicago; Saul Mirowitz Jewish Day School, St. Louis; Donna Klein Academy, Boca Raton, Fla.; Jacobson Sinai Academy, North Miami Beach; and Hochberg Prep, Miami.