Connecting Israeli and Diaspora Schools

The Global School Twinning Network was awarded the Jerusalem Unity Prize for its work in promoting unity between worldwide Jewish communities and Israeli society

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Published: September 2nd, 2016

by Ilana Messika

The Jewish Agency Global School Twinning Network Program has succeeded in pairing more than 600 schools in advance of the new academic year.
The program,which runs in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Education is geared to connect Jewish youth in Israel and the Diaspora. It pairs 325 schools in Israel with Jewish schools around the world, such as Uruguay, Peru, Hungary, Russia, and Azerbaijan and keeps growing.
“We believe that Jewish students who are more connected to Israel and more knowledgeable about the country will also be better positioned to share their love of the land with others,” Amihai Bannett, a program coordinator in the Twinning Network Head Office, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
The Global School Twinning Network is part of the Agency’s “Partnership2Gether (P2G)” family of programs, which share a goal of bringing Jewish Federation communities together with Israelis and cultivating relationships through joint projects and shared experiences.
The network has grown from 360 schools to 650 schools in less than five years, with 52,000 students participating in the program last year. 
Participating Israeli schools may be either religious or secular, and the schools abroad represent a wide swath of the various streams of Judaism in the Diaspora. The program is available to all ages from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We match schools that have similar interests and ideologies,” explained Bannett. “For example, we are launching a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Twinning program this year with a shared curriculum of science and technology that will highlight Israel as a ‘start-up nation.’”
Students in the program will improve their English and Hebrew together with regular meetings via Skype and Facebook, share school projects, travel in joint delegations and visit each other’s homes. Virtual classrooms are also created to enable students to connect even if they are not in the same time zone.
The Ministry of Education has given resources in order to enable the success and to professionally develop the twinning program.
Teachers also engage in a joint training program and plan content and activities for the new school year together.
“We have been collaborating in recent years with the Israeli Ministry of Education to offer teachers, both Israeli and internationally, an introduction to dilemmas faced by Jews in the Diaspora and in Israel and to give them content they can use to help their students connect to their peers in the twin school,” Bannett said.
The ICT administration in the Education ministry created virtual classrooms where the Jewish students all around the world meet and discuss the joint values and also the differences between them and their peers from the twin school.
Ronit Maor, national guide of Collaborative learning in the Ministry says “School Twinning is one of the best ways to learn and use the skill of working and learning together with people of different cultures and countries, which is an important skill in the 21st century. Because of the importance of connections between Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, The ministry provides the best curricula available and  the most up to date technology to support and enhance the success of the program .
Another fruit of the collaboration between the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Education is the annual conference, in which hundreds of educators from twin schools meet, learn and think about ways to create and improve the school twinning programs. Roni Dayan, head of The Information Technologies Department says “school twinning enhances the use of digital platforms and collaborations between students internationally, which is one of the goals of our department”. The 2016 conference will take place on November 29th in Tel Aviv’s Bet HaTfutzot.
Simcha Abergel, head of Judaic studies and Hebrew at the Sir Manasseh Meyer International School of Singapore, says that her school’s partnership with the Israeli Ahiya School of Avnei Hefetz in Samaria presents her students with a unique opportunity of learning and collaborating.
 “Several of our students are Israeli, but our goal was specifically to target the non-Israeli youth in order  to actively experience the Israeli system of education and to understand how Jewish tradition is put into practice in a Jewish state,” she said.
The Global Twinning Network was awarded the Jerusalem Unity Prize on June 1 for its work in promoting unity between Jewish communities around the world and Israeli society.
“Unity is achieved by creating relations between people,” program director Hagar Shoham-Marko concluded. “The wider and deeper the network of connections, the closer are the different parts of the Jewish people.”