Distance Learning Lets Students See Israel Up Close

April 20, 2011

Source: The Jewish Journal 


Ryan Torok writes, in a Jewish Journal article, about how teachers in Israel bring Israel closer to California day school students by teaching them year-long videoconferenced distance classes. Jerusalem teacher, Semadar Goldstein, brings Israel into her ninth grade Shalhevet Day School classroom every week, covering topics from meaningful Israel experiences to polarizing topics such as IDF soldiers' ideological insubordination. The Shalhevet course is run by the Remote Teacher Program, established by the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education at Bar-Ilan University, via two-way video conferencing from Israel, onto the classroom’s whiteboard. A camera and microphones mounted above the whiteboard allows Goldstein to interact with the students.

Torok writes:

"The program, which is currently in its sixth year, “began as a way to find excellent teachers for schools and communities that didn’t have access to high-quality Jewish day school educators,” said Esther Feldman, information technology director for the Lookstein Center. “But it grew from that. It brings Israel to life.”

Fifteen North American Jewish day schools currently participate in the program, including Shalhevet, a Modern Orthodox high school, and Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, a nondenominational K-12 day school in Irvine.

Offering a variety of classes, including Tanakh, prayer, comparative Jewish and American law, Jewish identity and Israel studies, the Lookstein Center provides instruction for grades 4-12 and works with faculty at the day schools to create the curriculum.

Diaspora schools like Shalhevet and Tarbut V’Torah pay a fee to participate in the Remote Teacher Program, which the Avi Chai Foundation currently subsidizes. Joseph Hakimi-Maghen, Tarbut V’Torah’s Judaic studies instructor, says his school pays a subsidized rate of $2,000 for a class over one year."

Updated: May. 03, 2011