More than 90 current and future Birthright Israel trip staff learned together at the Kona Kai Resort in November as the newest cohort of Birthright Israel Fellows. The program, run by The iCenter for Israel Education, deepens the skills, knowledge, and confidence of Birthright Israel staff to create inspiring and meaningful educational experiences for Birthright Israel participants during their trips.
“Birthright staff are deeply committed to creating meaningful Israel experiences, both during the trips and in their engagement with young adults at home,” adds Ari Berkowicz of The iCenter. “We want to elevate staffs’ skills and approach so they can help any person—regardless of their interests, political views, or level of knowledge—build an authentic relationship with Israel and Israelis.”
Fellows are largely young North American professionals with a passion for Jewish continuity and Israel that work within the private sector, as well as Hillels, Federations, Maccabi USA, and elsewhere. During the four-day intensive training, Fellows learned from and with experts in Jewish, Israel, and experiential education. The program’s interactive and dynamic workshops were designed to inspire and challenge Fellows’ thinking, and to help them engage with anyone on a Birthright Israel trip. Sessions covered areas such as how to build effective relationships, understanding blind spots as educators, making space for a diversity of perspectives, and more.
“Birthright Israel Fellows provided me the ability to come together with other peer leaders and educators from the Jewish community to talk about practical programming and things we can do on the ground in Israel,” said Alex Reiss from Vermont. Alona Izkovitz, Israeli Tour Educator, from Hadera agreed, “I’m amazed and shocked by the amount of things that I’m learning each and every moment, and it’s opening my mind to so much more about what I’m going to do next.”
Birthright Israel Fellows are committed to staffing at least three Birthright Israel trips following the training. Now in its 10th year, the Birthright Israel Fellows program develops an elite cadre of North American experiential Jewish educators to enhance Birthright Israel experiences and the broader field of Israel education and Jewish education. Through this personal and professional development program, these educators have the tools to help young Jewish adults develop deep and meaningful connections with Israel and Israelis. Cohort 12 participants will begin staffing trips this winter.