One, Two, Three: Increase Your Congregation’s Israel Engagement

July 11, 2013

Source: eJewish Philanthropy

Hope Chernak shares how she adapted what she learned at the Union for Reform Judaism’s kallah for educators in Israel to further vibrant Israel education in the congregational synagogue setting.

Her three main takeaways from the kallah:

Use music as a soundtrack for Israel’s history.

We can teach the history of Israel using music so it’s important to find multiple ways to incorporate Israeli music into our educational models. Israeli music isn’t just Hava Nagila (still one of my favorites!) or the tunes used for the ever-popular Israeli folk dancing. Rather, this music can be a way to engage students around different eras of Israel’s history. We also can weave it into American history to teach about the influences each country has had on the other.


We are all role models on a complicated Jewish journey.

The Jewish identity journey is a struggle for all of us. During the kallah, we watched as the Israeli staff used a variety of resources and exercises to trigger a range of responses – from easy to emotionally difficult – about their own Jewish identity journeys.

As educators, it’s important that we understand our own journeys so that we can help others to unpack their stories. Use your story as a way to engage members of your community, inspiring them to discuss and explore their own path. For some, this journey includes a connection to Israel, and leveraging these connections can help you teach about Israel.


Israelis are excited to share Israel with you!

Among the kallah’s highlights for me was meeting the young and enthusiastic Israelis who are working as counselors and staff members in our camps this summer. It was a gift to participate in their conversations, and reminded me that Israelis have much to offer us as educators, especially when it comes to cultural differences and Jewish identity.

Building and nurturing personal relationships and ongoing cultural exchange opportunities for Israelis and North Americans are the most effective ways to ensure lasting connections to Israel. Even if bringing Israelis to your congregation and visiting Israel present challenges, it is imperative that the community’s core values and strategies include a focus on Israel engagement. To the extent possible, it’s also important to make connection to Israel a financial value, with members and the congregation as a whole providing support to Israel and her people.


Read the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Jul. 30, 2013