Feb 10, 2021 Jerusalem Post

First cohort of 31 announced; hundreds more anticipated to engage with program this year

Chicago, IL—The iCenter’s new program offering a Certificate in Experiential Israel Education welcomed its first cohort of participants from across the country and from a wide range of educational settings for Jewish teens and youth. This cohort, known as “Leaders Lab,” is the first of seven planned cohorts for 2021, each of which will include 30-40 participants. While planning for the Certificate program was underway for years, the pandemic accelerated the final planning and launch of the entirely virtual program. Support for the program comes from Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, the Jim Joseph Foundation, and the Paul E. Singer Foundation through the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund.

“The sessions are so incredibly thought-provoking and are certainly allowing me to explore different perspectives and lenses while continuing to develop my Israel story,” says Leah Kaplan of the UJA Federation of NY and a member of the Leaders Lab cohort. “I’m looking forward to bringing this content to our teens in the future.”

Over the course of six weeks in both small and large groups, participants will explore content and practice new skills to move them further on a pathway to literacy in Israel and education, and to engage their learners in meaningful Israel educational experiences. The Leaders Lab cohort will offer vital feedback to shape the content and experience of future cohorts and to help identify other educators and who would benefit from this training. The iCenter also believes that this first cohort will be instrumental in creating support within institutions for future, larger cohorts to thrive.

“Israeli culture is so dynamic and offers many ways for educators to tap into young learners’ passions, enabling them to build their own relationship with Israel,” says Anne Lanski of The iCenter. “Yet this opportunity can be overshadowed by political polarization, toxic campus environments, and hesitation among Jewish educators to embrace Israel–and its educational possibilities– as integral to their work. This new program will help train educators and engagement professionals, and instill in them the confidence and depth of knowledge, to support Jewish students before they go to college.

In addition to accepting individual participants, The iCenter will work closely with organizations that want to build their own cohort for their professionals. The Certificate program is designed for early to mid-career professionals for whom Israel education is a part of their work, but who do not necessarily see themselves as Israel educators. In particular, professionals who work with teens and young adults, both in North America and in Israel travel programs, will find the program useful in charting their path to engage young people in Israel. The Certificate program also welcomes applications from teens who are responsible for Israel education in their youth groups, summer camps, synagogues, school Israel clubs, and more.

The new Certificate is the latest addition to the array of opportunities from The iCenter that are professionalizing the field of Israel education.

“With the Certificate in Experiential Israel Education, educators have a new way to elevate their skills, knowledge, and network of peers in the field” adds Lanski. “We’re thrilled to kick off the program with the Leaders Lab cohort, and look forward to engaging hundreds of other professionals in the program throughout the year.”