SAE’s Education 3.0 Symposium Explores Challenges, and Innovations, in Israeli Education

Experts on education, religion and social issues participated in the day-long Education 3.0 – Innovation and Challenges in Israeli Education symposium on November 5, 2019 at the UJA-Federation of New York.

The speakers, from both Israeli and the U.S., focused on the current situation, and initiatives to make positive changes, in the Haredi and Arab communities, and in efforts to advance gender equity in all academic settings.

Sponsored by the American Friends of Kidum (AFK) and the Society for Advancement of Education, Jerusalem (SAE), more than 60 educators, non-profit organization leaders, foundation decision-makers and change-advocates were on hand and actively participated in question and answer session with the panelists.

The SAE academic team in Israel created a special 36-page English language magazine addressing the issues discussed at the Symposium. This was distributed to all attendees. View or download the magazine at Education 3.0 Magazine.

Rina Shkolnik, Co-Chair of the American Friends of Kidum, offered greetings, explaining that “this unique symposium has been designed to be a day of shared experiences, stimulating ideas and thoughtful discussion.”  Dr. Cheryl Fishbein, President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, set the stage with a keynote address that stressed the need to work closely with local communities to affect change. This theme was reinforced by speakers throughout the day.

Roni Rubinstein and Eitan Moran

Eitan Moran, Executive Director of SAE, shared his evolution into a pioneering educational leader in Israel in conversation with Roni Rubinstein.  Eitan credited the success that SAE has had in opening new schools with new educational models for Haredi and Arab students and for Israeli girls to his outstanding leadership team and close cooperation with parents, communities and municipalities willing to consider change.

During a unique panel entitled Where Vision Meets Impact, American foundation leaders David Mallach, Managing Director of the United Israel Appeal, Debbie Niderberg, Executive Director of the George Rohr Foundation and Alan Divack, Program Manager at the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation explained how donors work with grant recipients to maximize the impact of their grants.

Ambassador Ido Aharoni, left, and David Mallach

Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Global Distinguished Professor at NYU, stressed the continuing importance of America support of Israeli institutions. He cited as an early example of the current trend toward targeted giving,  Los Angeles real estate developer Louis Boyar who, in the early 1960’s funded the establishment of SAE’s first school – the Mae Boyar High School and Residence in Jerusalem, now one of Israeli’s most respected high schools.

From left, Khadiji Taha, Liron Shoham and Ali Haider

Two Israeli based experts joined moderator Liron Shoham, Executive Director of The Inter Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues for a discussion on Advancing Leadership and Excellence among Arab Youth.  Khadiji Taha, Mentor of School Management Development, Avnei Rasha Institute, told of her personal efforts to become the first woman principal of an Arab school in Israel and to establish a principal training institute for other Arab women to follow in her footsteps.

Ali Haider, Adv., SAE Director of Initiatives and Projects in the Arab Society, explained the process he and others used to involve Arab communities as full partners and stakeholders in the establishment of Sindiana, the first Arab Youth Village for Leadership.

Professor Shulamit Reinharz and Shelley Klein
Rabbi Diana Fersko, left, and Yael Boim-Fein

The next panel session dealt with a challenge common to academic institutions around the world — Advancing Gender Equality in the Educational Arena. Yael Boim-Fein, Director of the Israeli Institute for Gender Equality in Education, SAE, both moderated and participated in the discussion with Prof. Shulamit Reinharz, Jacob Potofsky Professor Emerita in Sociology at Brandeis University, Rabbi Diana Fersko, Director of Moving Traditions based in New York, and Shelley Klein, Project Manager of New Models in Gender Equity at the Jewish Education Project.

While the panel recognized that achieving gender equity was a universal challenge and an issue not easily addressed, they believed that it was often unintentional and a consequence of general societal mores. They advised taking small steps in classrooms and other academic settings to make sure that girls had the same opportunity for participation, recognition and leadership as boys.

In the afternoon’s final session experts from Israeli and U.S. discussed the challenges of Creating Educational Bridges to Integrate Ultra-Orthodox Students into Israeli Society.  Moderator Marc Charendoff, President of the Maimonides Fund led a knowledgeable panel consisting of Shana Novick, Past Executive Director of the Hebrew Free Loan Society Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, Chair, Department of Talmud, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and Rabbi Bezalel Cohen, Founder of Hachmey Lev Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Katz

There was general agreement that expanding the educational curriculum for Haredi boys to include a greater proportion of practical subjects, such as English, History, math and science, would improve their chances of getting meaningful jobs and better supporting their families. There was also recognition, expressed from personal experience by Rabbi Katz, that it was and continues today to be very difficult to remain within the Haredi society while pursuing professional opportunities outside the Haredi community, both in the U.S. and in Israel.

Rabbi Cohen

Rabbi Cohen explained how important he thought it was for Haredi boys to receive a broad-based education so they could be effective leaders and provide for their families.  He founded the Hachmey Lev Yeshiva, at which students participate in both traditional Jewish studies and learn secular subjects and earn an Israeli bagrut, to make his vision and reality. “Learning English is a key to success in Israel is a key to success,” Rabbi Cohen explained, “and starting to study English at age 25 is too late. I know from my personal experience,” he said.

Jessica Lawson Stein, the SAE Development Director who served as Master of Ceremonies, concluded the symposium by thank all speakers, all attendees and the leadership and staff of the UJA-Federation of New York for graciously hosting the event in their conference center.

Here are other photos of speakers and attendees at the Symposium:

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