[by Phyllis Shaikun]
Thanks to Partnership 2Gether, (formerly Partnership with Israel), a Jewish Agency for Israel program that has spawned cooperative ventures between Jewish communities in the Midwestern U.S. and in Israel’s Western Galilee area, five preschool teachers were able to come to Louisville March 27-30 to meet and share with early education teachers in our Jewish community. This is the third year of the project, which has proven to be beneficial on a number of levels.
“We have two purposes for visiting several cities in the Partnership,” lead teacher Efrat Srebro began. “The first is to show the way we provide early childhood education in Israel; and the second is to share the ways we celebrate the various Jewish holidays in our schools. This time, our focus is on Passover.”
There is a third reason as well. The five participants want to let local teachers and parents know about Hava Nagila Gan, an Internet program the consortium developed to reinforce the Partnership with Israel’s mission of providing ongoing, mutually beneficial educational programs. They are eager to reconnect with Louisville, which has been an active participant in early childhood education efforts over the years.
According to Srebro, the new website, http://p2g.jewishagency.org/english/partnerships/westerngalilee/havanagilagan, currently provides a forum for some 200 teachers from the U.S, Toronto, Istanbul and Singapore to share early childhood education ideas and resources designed to empower our youngest generations through Jewish identity curricula. They also receive valuable feedback on their ideas.
Hava Nagila Gan fosters strong relationships among educators and parents alike. Srebro, who speaks several languages and is fluent in English, receives all the visual documentation teachers contribute to the website and translates it into Hebrew and English to promote communication.
She notes the Western Galilee consortium is the only Partnership group doing early childhood education because their teachers feel an early start helps children make a better connection to Israel and to Judaism.
The program is working, and parents have become involved as well. Teachers send materials to families and can arrange visits for teachers, parents and children in the participating communities. Educator Idit Dado, from Matte Asher, says they have learned from experience how to make the program work, and she thinks it is “great for all of us.” Children and families send e-mails to teachers, and the new “My Jewish Family” project has encouraged youngsters to submit photos that are put up for display in Israel.
Teachers from Dallas and Austin have visited Israel, and Srebro, who teaches music, sends a song to an Omaha teacher for every holiday. Dayton has scheduled celebrations and sent follow-up letters to the website, and Austin sent photos of a tree that was planted with love to Israel.
In some cases, an American community has had students write half of a story in English and their Israeli counterparts have written the ending in Hebrew. Teacher Margalit Fogell reported that Louisville’s Cantor Sharon Hordes and flutist Kathy Karr came to her class and put on a concert for the children.
Srebro gets emotional while relating how grateful she and her group are to know they have friends in America. They feel those relationships strengthen everyone and connect us as “one Jewish family.”
Fogell was excited that a family from Austin was coming to Israel for Passover, and Erela Paz is thrilled to fulfill her dream of coming to America. She wants to assure everyone that those living in the Western Galilee area have a good life much of the time. “The media makes things sound worse than they really are,” teacher Roni Turgenan agreed.
At their visit’s end, Paz says our community’s children loved the Israeli atmosphere the teachers created. They watched the children dance for the seniors at the JCC and they visited preschool classes at Adath Jeshurun, Keneseth Israel and The Temple. Dado proclaimed the children they saw “beautiful and smart.”
Allison Schwartz, JCL outreach coordinator, commented that the community’s teachers were impressed and moved by their visit.
The Jewish Community of Louisville and its predecessor organizations have been part of the Midwest Consortium since the inception of the Partnership program in 1997. Jon and Laura Klein are Louisville’s Partnership chairs.