Professional Development program leads to collaboration and innovation

By Raquel Binder--On February 15 and 16, over 750 Jewish Day and supplemental school educators, youth group professionals, and community leaders gathered for a ground breaking, city-wide professional development opportunity organized in partnership by UJA’s Israel Engagement, Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, and the Nadav Foundation.

The PD program was developed after the 2016 Israel Engagement Mission (UJA’s largest annual mission to Israel), when 60 community educators and lay leaders participated in a day-long professional development series with senior educators from Beit Hatfusot. They were so impressed by the experience that, together with UJA’s Israel Engagement Department, they committed to bringing the educational experience of Beit Hatfusot to the GTA. This was the collaborative effort of the Israel Engagement Committee of UJA, Beit Hatfusot, Shana Harris (Head of School, Bialik Hebrew Day School) and Claire Summerlus (Head of School, Robbins Hebrew Academy).

This week, throughout the two-day plenary and break-out sessions, participants grappled with the essential questions of what it means to be a part of a people and how this understanding of peoplehood strengthens our community (both locally and in Israel). In addition to participating in innovative sessions lead by the Beit Hatfutsot educators, the Toronto schools came together to strategize how to elevate their Jewish Peoplehood curriculum and continue to push the envelope as educators, helping to shape the hearts and minds of young Jewish Canadians and maintain Toronto’s position as a leader in Jewish education.

“The term Jewish Peoplehood (the concept of Jews as an identifiable people linked by a common history, language, and value-set) has become a key pillar of contemporary Israel Engagement and Jewish education,” says Ryla Braemer, Director of UJA’s Israel Engagement Department. “These initiatives function as an on-ramp in our community’s Jewish Peoplehood journey. This Professional Development day - through creative collaboration and intentional people-to-people opportunities - support’s UJA Federation’s strategic priorities.  Through engagement opportunities like this, which forge strong connections with Israel, young generations are able to embrace Jewish life and ensure a Jewish future.”UJA’s Israel Engagement Department. “These initiatives function as an on-ramp in our community’s Jewish Peoplehood journey. This Professional Development day - through creative collaboration and intentional people-to-people opportunities - support’s UJA Federation’s strategic priorities.  Through engagement opportunities like this, which forge strong connections with Israel, young generations are able to embrace Jewish life and ensure a Jewish future.”

Raquel Binder is Manager, Israel Engagement & Program Director, Diller Fellowship, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.