Diaspora School Principals on Learning Journey in Israel

Principals from 20 Jewish day schools around the world came to Israel in April for a transformative learning journey sponsored by the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs.

The Herzog-UnitEd Fellows Program was initiated in September 2023 in recognition of the critical necessity to support the Heads of Jewish day schools, in order to strengthen Jewish education around the world. Reaching across geographic, denominational and ideological boundaries, the Fellowship brought together exceptional educators from Jewish communities worldwide in a pluralistic professional development initiative. It is a joint project of Herzog College, UnitEd (an initiative of the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs & Combatting Antisemitism), the Jewish Agency Department of Education, and Israel’s Ministry of Education.

The first 20 Fellows to join this initial program are heads of Jewish schools from 12 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Mexico, Paraguay, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK, and 8 states of the USA. They are led by an international team of experienced educational management professionals, drawing on the expertise of a team of mentors who are experts in the fields of education and coaching: Dr. Ray Levi from New York; Rabbi David Meyer OBE from the UK; Raizi Chechik from New York; Rabbi Dr. Barry Kislowicz from Passaic; Aliza Eskenazi from Argentina & Colombia, and Pearl Mattenson from Jerusalem.

The year-long program is designed to create and support a professional network of school principals, and help them address the key educational challenges they are currently encountering. It involves mentor-facilitated work group sessions to enhance individual development and foster collaborative learning, regular group meetings for sharing and peer learning, and the development of a project aimed at addressing a specific school need related to effecting meaningful change.

The Israel Seminar (March 31 – April 4) was originally included in the program to deepen the Israel-Diaspora relationship. Following the October 7 massacre, it became particularly meaningful as an expression of solidarity with the people of Israel. The visiting Fellows met with educators and community leaders in Ofakim, visited the Nova Festival Memorial, and heard from eye-witnesses. They also visited various schools in Israel to discuss how educators have been dealing with the trauma of war and displacement.

Rabbi Dr. Howard Deitcher, chair of the planning team, said: “We came together to work, to laugh and to cry. To express our solidarity and to celebrate the glory of Jewish life and education around the world. The Israelis we met on our journey really appreciated that busy and influential heads of school took the time to visit and strengthen the partnership between Israel and diaspora communities. This is a year-long program and our work continues, as each principal returns to their school to navigate the complex challenges inherent in Jewish education today.”

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