Staff Training in the Taglit-Birthright Israel World

June 9, 2013

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


Sharna Marcus, Director of Education at Shorashim addresses a key question: "How do you better train morei derech and madrichim to increase their effectiveness on the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip?" with a comprehensive answer.


She writes:

"There are four areas in which Israeli and American staff could use significant professional development across the board. Those areas include presentation, facilitation, communication and execution of evening activities and Jewish rituals.


  • Presentation: I have had the opportunity to work with incredible Morei Derech in Israel. The best ones, mostly unknowingly, incorporate Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences when they guide a site, specifically visual and musical tools. However, those who do not, and just drone on and on, are ineffective. On a meta level, the reason Israel trips and Jewish camps are so much more effective than regular schooling in terms of Jewish continuity is that by nature they speak to numerous sets of intelligences such as kinesthetic, naturalistic and interpersonal skills. Shorashim also asks its American staff to lead two sites or portions of two sites. This is very difficult for some staff. They need support and resources to develop these skills.
  • Facilitation: An integral part of a Birthright trip is the formal conversations take place at the end of the day. Facilitating a discussion between 40 Americans and 7 Israelis is challenging for even the most experienced educator and is a skill that needs to be honed before, during and after the trip.
  • Communication: A challenging part of leading a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip is managing some of the cultural communication differences between American and Israelis. This complicates staff-staff relationships and staff-participants interactions and decreases the effectiveness of the trip.
  • Planning Evening Activities: After a long day, evening activities, if not executed very well can cause resentment among the participants and are indeed a waste of time. The time that is spent with these 47 participants is holy and what they encounter on the trip must live up to this high standard.
  • Shabbat and Jewish Rituals: Staff struggle with planning a great Shabbat for their participants. Going to the Western Wall or a synagogue is often impossible for trip providers, because hotels in Jerusalem are cost prohibitive. Groups often end up staying on the outskirts of the City or on kibbutzim. However, Shabbat is so important! It could be the first Shabbat that some participants ever experience in their lives, and unfortunately maybe the last. The same is true for bar and bat mitzvahs and naming services on the trip. How do you facilitate these rituals to be meaningful, long lasting and impactful?...

Staff training is not a one-time event or even a series of classes. American staff need ongoing conversations to help them especially with mastering the itinerary. Both American staff and Morei Derech need to engage in reflective practice through follow up feedback session with constructive feedback, not necessarily criticism. This feedback should be mutual where the staff can discuss with the trip organizer areas that need to be improved by their direct supervisors as well as Taglit-Birthirght Israel."


Read Sharna's article on eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Jun. 18, 2013