THE iCENTER’S iCON 2023: WHERE ISRAEL AND EDUCATION MEET
Mar 28, 2023 Jim Joseph Foundation
We engage with Israel today not only as subject matter, but as part of who we are, who we wish to become, and who we wish Israel to become. In 2009, 18 educators convened to explore what a field of Israel education could be. If someone would have said then that in just over a decade there would be a professional field of Israel education, as it is today, it would have seemed far-fetched. And so I reflect with gratitude to everyone whose collective efforts are helping lead to a steady, yet remarkable evolution of the field.
– Anne Lanski, Founding CEO, The iCenter
As the field of Israel education continues to grow and advance, more than 500 Jewish communal professionals, day school educators, camp professionals, youth group leaders, lay leaders, and others gathered together at iCON 2023: Where Israel and Education Meet. Hosted by The iCenter, participants experienced iCON as a laboratory, infused with the curiosity and courage to discover something new and to deepen relationships with one another, with Israel, and with education. Due to the pandemic, this was the first iCON since 2018.
iCON was curated to challenge, to provoke, to open new perspectives, to raise important questions, and most importantly, to inspire participants. We want people to embrace a diversity of perspectives and opinions; so we designed the convening to be a catalyst for meaningful conversations and transformative learning experiences. We hope these experiences enable participants to better understand Israel, its place in the world, and its place in our hearts in our lives.
– Aliza Goodman, Director of Strategy and R&D, The iCenter
iCON participants engaged with leading-edge thinking about Israel education today, exploring the newest frameworks for integrating Israel into Jewish learning experiences, while also networking with a diverse crowd of practitioners and leaders in the field. Featured speakers included international figures in arts and culture, sports, nonprofit, education, science and technology, and more. Participants learned about the complexities of history, present, and future—because Israel education covers all of this and more.
Anyone who cares about Israel is filled these days with concern, even angst, in light of the recent political and social turmoil. I believe staunchly that our educational work should rise to this occasion and address this complex reality thoughtfully. This could be the finest hour for us educators. We are not only capable of transmitting ideas, concept, values, or information; our deeper potential is to explore and traverse times, spaces, ideals, concepts, and values, and to share a story that is worthy of being remembered as a memory and creating a desire of learners to become a member of that story. In order to realize this goal the educator needs to think of themself first and foremost as a perpetual and passionate learner. The task before us is to flesh out and articulate the unifying foundational values that bind us together as a community and cement them as the stage upon which disagreements can be played out respectfully and responsibly. Let us remind ourselves, and the ones with whom we are in contact, that the purpose of education is neither resolution of conflict, nor the alleviation of all ambiguities; rather, it should focus on laying the ground upon which non-uniformity may exist, and be celebrated without threatening our sense of unity. Perhaps I dare say, where politics might divide, education may unite.
– Zohar Raviv, International VP of Educational Strategy, Taglit-Birthright Israel
The iCenter works with and supports educators in nearly all settings. As just a few examples, it offers a Master’s Concentration in Israel Education, which brings together graduate students at 14 different universities from North America and Israel. It offers a Graduate Degree in Israel Education in coordination with George Washington University. It provides expert training for Birthright-Israel staff who influence tens of thousands of trip participants. And it has numerous ongoing initiatives and resources, including its new Conflict Education toolkit and its long-standing Aleph-Bet of Israel education core principles.