A group of exceptional Jewish educators from South Africa, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Argentina, Israel, Australia, Panama, France and the United States traveled throughout Israel grappling with critical issues facing Israel and the Jewish People with the Bergman Seminar for Jewish Educators.
Developed by Saltz Educational Director Paul Liptz and Director Rabbi Steve Burnstein, this extraordinary seminar uses the sites of Israel to delve into issues vital to Jewish education, incorporating Jewish texts to include the voice of our tradition.
The program included daily tfila with Rabbi Burnstein. During this time we explored the challenges of making ritual meaningful: trying to balance creativity and innovation on the one hand, with tradition and structure on the other hand. Participants also took an active role leading the tfila allowing participants to share teachings, traditions and melodies from their communities.
On our first morning we explored Jerusalem with master educator Steve Israel who discussed different approaches to Jerusalem, exile and Diaspora. Then we continued to the bustling market of Machane Yehuda where we experienced the frenzy of Shabbat approaching.
For our first Kabbalat Shabbat we joined Rabbi Ada Zavidov, Cantor Evan Cohen and their community at Kehilat Har El for a lively service followed by Shabbat dinner at Beit Shmuel. Our second Shabbat was with Beit Tfila Yisraeli. This innovate community holds spirited tfilot with lively music accompanied by a band at the Tel Aviv Port in July and August.
Exploring the Old City and Market
Exploring Israel’s museums with social historian and Saltz Education Director, Paul Liptz, provided unique insight. Participants visited the Israel Museum, Tower of David, Beit Hatfutsot (Museum of the Jewish People), and Yad Vashem where we explored different methodologies and approaches to using museums in education.
“All participants were extremely enthusiastic about being in Israel and saw the program as having direct importance in their various school environments,” said Paul Liptz. “Their teaching roles cover a wide range of ages from pre-school teachers to those involved in high schools and adult education. As they came from many different countries, they constantly compared their own pedagogic challenges and discussed how they could learn from each other.”
With Guy Sharett (written up in the New York Times) the group explored the graffiti of the Florentine neighborhood of Tel Aviv, gaining insight into some of the current social issues in Israel while learning an unusual technique for reinforcing the teaching of history, culture and Hebrew language.
Tel Aviv Graffiti and Jaffa tours
Educator Shlomit Naor led a session looking at poetry of the 2nd and 3rd aliyas, focusing on gender roles. It was a model lesson on the use of poetry as an educational tool to engage students with Israel as well as other topics.
Sally Klein-Katz welcomed the Bergman group to her home for an interactive session on Israel engagement through the lens of ethical and ethnic dilemmas and introduced the group to the work of some of the leading thinkers in the field of Israel education today.
At the Kibbutz Ein Shemer Greenhouse participants encountered an innovative and inspiring ecological educational project which successfully engages the diverse population of Israeli society: secular, religious, Arab, Jewish, children, adults, and people with special needs.
World Union Vice President Rabbi Joel Oseran focused on our movement and discussed some of the challenges facing the regions of the WUPJ.
"hands-on" at Kibbutz Ein-Shemer and visiting the Museum
Other programs included meetings with Anna Kislanski of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), a visit to the Jerusalem Open House (GLBTQ community center), Mishkenot Ruth Daniel’s dual narrative tour of Jaffa with Jewish and Palestinian Israelis, and more.
Rabbi Burnstein remarked: “One of the most memorable aspects of the seminar is that it empowered the participants to deal with Jewish and Israeli topics in a much more serious manner… It enabled them to appreciate just how important their role is in enabling their communities to understand the significance and centrality of Israel in Jewish life. I’m inspired to know that these people are involved with securing the Jewish future.”
Our participants commented that “it was a thoughtful and insightful program. It aimed to make meaningful connections and it did – with Israel Progressive Judaism and I now have colleagues around the world to keep connecting with”. And "Our Seminar schedule was superbly crafted… encourages me to seek to create novel ways to bring these lessons to my students… rewarding to share this experience with my international colleagues... I will surely spread the message of the World Union of Progressive Judaism…I am still feeling the buzz and energy from my trip and know it was an experience I will always carry with me."
The Bergman Seminar for Progressive Jewish Educators is sponsored by the Bergman brothers, Stanley, a long time supporter of Progressive Jewish causes and president of the AJC (American Jewish Committee) and Leslie, President of the European Union for Progressive Judaism (EUPJ).