By Robbie, NIFC Education Intern

This summer, the New Israel Fund of Canada is taking big steps forward in building a new approach to Israel education, starting with staff at Jewish summer camps. The New Israel Fund has recently developed a new Israel educational framework, rooted in shared community values and critical analysis. Designed specifically with North American Jewish summer camps and educational institutions in mind, the New Israel Fund curriculum focuses on three core skills: Holding Multiple Narratives, Values-Based Inquiry, and Normalizing Complexity.

This curriculum offers an important opportunity for NIFC to partner with camps, educational institutions and Jewish educators — to support education in particular during this pandemic, when educators are being pushed to their limits, and the need to think outside the box is greater than ever.

A large part of the pilot program with the New Israel Fund curriculum this summer has been our partnership with the Camp Shomria Canada community. Despite the limitations of the pandemic, the Shomria staff (Hadracha) were engaged and committed to ensuring a great summer for their community.

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In the initial trainings of the New Israel Fund curriculum, staff participated in an activity brainstorming how to run the worst possible Israel education imaginable, so they could identify how to build an Israel education that they would be really proud of. Amazingly, their final list of goals lined up so well with the New Israel Fund content, including the following suggestions for themselves: “take a values based approach”, “meet people, explore narratives and testimonies”, “make Israel education throughout our experience [across all ages]”, “stop simplifying the stories”, “admit what we don’t know”, and “stop being afraid of hard conversations”. Staff shared stories of times they’ve been surprised to learn something about Israel/Palestine, and then we walked through the curriculum together as developed, discussing how they might adapt it to their roles and to the Covid-19 context.

Discovering such an alignment between what NIFC could provide and the Shomria staff’s goals and needs was very energizing. Since the staff-wide training sessions, I have been working with the Shomria staff in their co groups to implement the curriculum into campers’ summer activities, from music as expression, to storytelling, to learning about the stories of different Jerusalemites. As the partnership and education unfolds, we will be sure to share what is coming next.

Robbie is an educator, project and peer coach, community builder, and facilitator of all kinds, currently working in a summer internship with the New Israel Fund of Canada. He grew up in Hashomer Hatzair, and studied Societal Entrepreneurship through the International Youth Initiative Program (YIP); more recently he organizes learning journeys with Classroom Alive and supports a multitude of other projects.