Israel Education in North America: A Landscape Analysis of the Field

This report summarizes the status of Israel education in North America in 2023. It is based on information gathered during website reviews, interviews with 43 key Israel education leaders and staff, and selected reviews of research studies. Data gathering occurred primarily before the events in Israel that occurred on October 7, 2023: priorities for Israel education may have shifted after this event as did thought leaders’ visions for the future. The data gathered for this report show the following:

Israel education in North America is thriving. There is a growing number of organizations provide Israel education and an increased amount and quality of the materials and professional development available to educators. There is strong evidence of Israel education being incorporated into preschools, K-12 settings, colleges/universities, summer camps, synagogues, and other settings that serve Jewish people. Many settings have a dedicated Israel education professional that provides Israel education or supports educators in their integration of Israel education into their teaching and learning approaches.

Israel education is increasingly being viewed as a vital part of any Jewish education endeavor. There is a growing belief that connection to Israel is a critical part of Jewish identity/identities formation and that all Jews should be exposed to Israel education activities.

Israel education is being professionalized.
Over the past 5-10 years, the field has developed certifications, Master classes, Master’s degrees, and advanced learning opportunities and has increasing numbers of participating educators and students.

Israel education has increasingly featured high quality educational experiences for its participants.
Several leading Israel education organizations provide opportunities for deep learning, immersion, active engagement, and multiple learning styles. Evidence shows that these pedagogies produce greater retention of knowledge and skills, confidence in teaching, and adoption of strategies in educational settings. Israel education is becoming more learner centered and more often recognizes the complexity of Israel as a country and people.

Israel educators agree that Israel education is integral to Jewish education. They also agree on many aspects of Israel education that should be included in any approach being implemented. However, they disagree on many aspects of Israel education, including the ways to address complexity, and other field-building aspects, such as the need for standards, multiple narratives, and collaboration.

Israel education is being offered as a key component of most Israel travel experiences for all ages. There is evidence that nearly all Israel travel experiences increasingly include meaningful and engaging programming to promote a sense of belonging to Israel and to see the connection to Israel as part of one’s Jewish identity. The number of the travel experience organizations has grown and has attracted a more diverse set of travelers. Participation is strongest among Jewish teens and young adults.

Israel education is integrated with most advocacy organizations. Most have some components of Israel education, enlightening others about history, culture, and need for preserving Israel as a homeland.

Israel Education in North America: A Landscape Analysis of the Field, Shelley H. Billig, Ph.D, January 2024

View the additional Field Analysis here.

Aliza Goodman of The iCenter provides additional analysis

One2One: Online Encounters Between Jewish Teens Around the World

Started in 2021, in the midst of the global pandemic, ENTER: The Jewish Peoplehood Alliance (ENTER) launched One2One, an online mifgash (educational encounter) between Jewish high school aged teens who live in Israel and North America. To date 7,200 teens have participated in an online mifgash, which involves two teens, meeting once a week, over five weeks for at least 30 minutes each meeting.

This report focuses on One2One’s development of “the online mifgash” since its inception in 2021, the contribution to the field of Israel education, to One2One’s strategic partners and the participating teens.

The Virtual Mifgash
“The Mifgash” is an educational methodology developed in the 1980s by travel programs bringing Diaspora Jewish teens to Israel. The Mifgash has since taken root as a basic component in many of the educational venues involving Diaspora Jews traveling to Israel, and Israelis traveling abroad, including programs aimed at adults.

One2One’s innovation is the development of an online mifgash. The in-person mifgash requires travel, which is costly and involves high levels of organizational and communal investment. The goal of the online mifgash is to enable the beneficial outcomes associated with in-person mifgashim, without requiring international travel. Until One2One there was no systematic development of the online mifgash in a manner that can reach large numbers of participants.

The report shows how One2One utilizes three elements to enable online mifgashim, 1) technology to enable the online meetings; 2) organizational partnerships which are essential for recruiting the participating teens and enabling the online mifgashim to contribute to broader educational processes; and 3) appropriate educational design.

One2One: Online Encounters Between Jewish Teens Around the World, Ezra Kopelowitz Ph.D., Research Success Technologies, Ltd., July 23, 2023

Learn more about the program’s impact and its contribution to the broader fields of Israel and Jewish education in this essay in the Peoplehood Papers by Yael Rosen, One2One Program Director, and Dr. Scott Lasensky, One2One Senior Advisor

 

Getting There: Challenges, Opportunities, and Outcomes – RootOne 2022 Evaluation Report

RootOne was launched in 2020 with the goal of maximizing the number of Jewish teens who participate in an Israel experience and maximizing the impact of those experiences. In its first two years, RootOne has approached these goals by means of three primary strategies: providing eligible teens with vouchers that make programs financially more accessible and incentivize participation; building up a continuum of newly-created educational and social experiences before and after the program in Israel; and investing in the professional development of the educators who staff the programs.

Since its inception, RootOne has committed itself to developing a robust program of research and evaluation. For 2022, the scope of this endeavor has included: surveys of participants shortly before and after their time in Israel, as well as a year after their return home; a post-trip survey of trip leaders; real-time observation of Early Experiences (pre-trip programming) and on-the-ground, in-person observations during participants’ time in Israel; observations of staff training; content analysis of program itineraries; and interviews with program staff and organizers, North American participants and their parents, and some of the Israeli teens who joined programs. These efforts have been designed not only to document the immediate and longer-term outcomes produced by programs, but to identify what impedes or enhances those outcomes, with the goal of enabling the RootOne team to continually improve its efforts.

This report synthesizes the data collected during the 2022 calendar year. It provides a sense of who the teens are that RootOne currently reaches. It describes how recent changes in the social-emotional needs of teens both challenge and provide opportunities for RootOne and their partners. This document unpacks the narratives conveyed about Israel by immersive summer experiences, and some of the logistical and educational logjams associated with those narratives. And, against this backdrop—one that depicts the challenges RootOne seeks to overcome—it charts the positive Jewish, Israel-related, and personal outcomes being created by programs supported by RootOne. The report concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for those partnering and planning to partner with RootOne as RootOne seeks to turn its aspirations into reality.

Simon Amiel, Executive Director of RootOne, adds, “By design, this report leads with lessons learned rather than with accomplishments because if we’re going to be a leading organization, we must first be a learning organization. The insights in this report help us chart our path forward as we engage a more diverse population of Jewish teens to connect meaningfully with Israel and their own Jewish identity.”

Getting There: Challenges, Opportunities, and Outcomes – RootOne 2022 Evaluation Report,” Rosov Consulting, April 2023

 

The iCenter Impact Study 2018

Israel education begins with passionate and knowledgeable educators who can tell their own stories about Israel and ends with learners whose stories live in dialogue with the story of the People, Land, and State of Israel.

To mark the occasion of The iCenter’s 10th anniversary, RMC Research was commissioned to conduct an impact study. It found that The iCenter has made a powerful and comprehensive impact on those who work directly with young people of all ages in all frameworks.

The report details The iCenter’s impact in shaping organizational cultures and supporting educators who directly reach learners.

Full Impact Report, October 2018

Abridged Impact Study, October 2018