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Zionism Today: The 2012 School Twinning Program Joint Teachers’ Seminar

“Whatever you do in the School Twinning Program, bringing together students and families from Los Angeles and Tel Aviv is much bigger than you think. You bring back the collective memory… from sharing the same religion to being part of one nation.” These words were spoken by Professor Avraham Infeld, President of the Chais Family Foundation and President Emeritus of Hillel, in his opening remarks at this summer’s annual Joint Teachers’ Seminar welcome reception.

From June 28th through July 5th, 50 educators from The Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles School Twinning Program gathered together in Israel for an intensive eight days of learning, bonding, and delegation planning. The Joint Teachers’ Seminar (JTS) has been a key element of the Twinning Program for the past 10 years. This unique seminar is the only Twinning activity in which all 41 participating schools, from Los Angeles, Tel Aviv and one in Vilnius, are represented at the same time, fostering the development of a shared language for the examination of significant Jewish themes. Promoting wide-ranging debate, discussion, and reflection, it is a critical “greenhouse” for incubating new ideas, perspectives, and approaches to teaching topics impacting Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora. While deepening the interpersonal ties of coordinators through dialogue and shared experience, the JTS provides a platform for coordinators to share ideas, learn from each other, and plan their annual student delegations and joint programs.

The topic for this year’s JTS was “Zionism Today: Evolution of a Dream,” which explored historical perspectives of Zionism, as well as new forms that are taking place today. The educators heard from experts in the field, offering new ways of conceptualizing how Zionism fits in to our modern world, as well as different ways of thinking about the relationship between Israel and America. As Dr. Tal Beker, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute said, “We live in a historical time; there will either be a separation between the two communities, or we will change our perspective and come to the realization that we are both part of the Jewish world but from two different environments.” The seminar also included many tours, including a visit to David Ben-Gurion’s house in S’de Boker to learn about his vision of the Negev; Shabbat in Mitzpe Ramon, and seeing the work of social activists there; a visit to Ashalim and Dimona and a meeting with the new young Zionists of Federation partner Ayalim Association; and volunteer work at an army base.

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, said that Jews from America and Israel need each other; not to save one another, but in order to live as equals together. He also mentioned that the School Twinning Program is “a gift for the Jewish people” and the program creates deep relationships across countries and borders. As he noted, one single teacher can have an impact on hundreds of lives. Consider the impact of all 50 of our educators gathered together in that room…

Yael, a teacher from Tel Aviv, said, “It was a high quality seminar: diversifying, challenging, enriching, teaching, and intensifying. I realized how much I was longing for information and interaction with wonderful people. Everything that I learned will find a way to impact my work with my students.”

Yoav from Los Angeles said, “I would like to congratulate the staff, and to thank the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, for a superb 2012 Joint Teachers Seminar. The topic was directly relevant to us both as educators and specifically as coordinators of the program. The integration and quality of the field experiences, speakers and materials were first-rate.”

We are thrilled to announce that in 2013 the Joint Teachers’ Seminar will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania!

The new 3-way “twinning” with Lithuania is an extension of The Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership School Twinning Program, the only initiative in existence that connects schools in Los Angeles with schools in Tel Aviv. This powerful program has made an impact on the lives of 60,000 students, parents, and faculty through jointly prepared curricula, teacher training, and delegation exchanges. The program strengthens our shared Jewish identity and destiny, while fulfilling our Federation’s mission of ensuring the Jewish future. For more information, contact Ahuva Ron at (323) 761-8332 or ARon@JewishLA.org.

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