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Rethinking the ‘Yoms’ in a New Time: The M² Yamim Project

April 17th, 2024

In a couple of weeks, Jewish communities around the world will mark Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut—Israel’s Day of Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror, and Israel’s Independence Day, respectively. This will be the first time marking these holidays, which are so central to the contemporary Jewish narrative, since October 7th. Much of the responsibility to lead meaningful ceremonies and learning experiences about the Days will fall to Jewish educators. To help them do this at such an unprecedented moment, M² launched the Yamim Project, a professional development initiative providing new educational frameworks and support in designing and planning high-quality, meaningful, and engaging Yamim programs for students and communities.

The Yamim Project built on M²’s past success supporting Jewish educators, while also leveraging the organization’s strong partnerships with local agencies in six cities in North America. In total, more than 500 educators and education leaders participated in the Yamim Project’s in-person, day-long workshop (at no cost) and two online workshops for the Prizmah Heads of School gathering and for alumni of the Wexner Fellowship.

“I found this to be the most helpful professional development I have been to in years. The varied methods, the opportunity to take time from our busy schedules to really think about this moment and how we want to program the Yamim, and the thoughtful bank of resources were spot on. – Yamim Project Participant

In these sessions, youth group advisors, rabbis, shlichim, teachers, Hillel professionals and others learned from, and with, M² leaders and other experts in Israel and Jewish education. The participants explored some of the most complex educational questions the Jewish community is facing today, including:

  • What does it mean to celebrate Israel this year, during an ongoing war, in the midst of enormous trauma and pain?
  • What is developmentally appropriate and relevant for learners of all types and ages?
  • Is it possible to build a commemoration that does not erase the suffering happening in Gaza, and/or includes those with multiple political views?

In each Yamim training, M² crafted a deliberate and curated experience, from the design of the space – which was set up like an art gallery – to the balance between theoretical knowledge and hands-on work. Participants were introduced to the core idea of the training: using values to guide them through crafting the messages they want to convey in their commemorative ceremonies. The afternoon was dedicated to a lab session where participants crafted Yamim lesson plans, working collaboratively to brainstorm and test their ideas with each other.  The centerpiece of the training was the Yamim Journal – a beautifully designed booklet curating about 100 different resources from both M² and other organizations, featuring lesson plans, art, media, music, conversation prompts and even step-by-step instructions for planning Yamim ceremonies. Participants said they appreciated its focus on art and poetry as points of entry for authentic discussions on difficult topics.

“I love the idea of how stories help us make sense of our experience, and the stories we tell center on values we can choose to focus on for our programs. Using this lens immediately helped me feel more comfortable in envisioning a meaningful and educational program.” – Yamim Project Participant

Around North America, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremonies will have a different look and feel this year. Hundreds of educators now have new knowledge, skills, and resources to craft these ceremonies with meaning and learning, speaking to this unique and challenging moment.

Learn more at ieje.org/events/the-yamim-project/. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of M² and the Yamim Project. Photos courtesy of M² and Jewish Teen Initiative at CJP.