Thursday, December 30, 2010

Judaism or Democracy: What Would You Choose?

By Rabbi Reuven Spolter Judaic Director of Recruiting and Judaic Studies Instructor

In the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, signed on the eve of Israel's War of Independence, the founders of the State tiptoed around a fundamental paradox. Their attempt to evade this glaring issue, probably because they could see no ready solution to the problem, has been the root of many, if not most of the major debates in Israel and across the Jewish world.
It's worthwhile to spend time studying the document in its entirety, but I'll focus on two small sections for now.
השואה שנתחוללה על עם ישראל בזמן האחרון, בה הוכרעו לטבח מיליונים יהודים באירופה, הוכיחה מחדש בעליל את ההכרח בפתרון בעיית העם היהודי מחוסר המולדת והעצמאות על-ידי חידוש המדינה היהודית בארץ-ישראל, אשר תפתח לרווחה את שערי המולדת לכל יהודי ותעניק לעם היהודי מעמד של אומה שוות-זכויות בתוך משפחת העמים.
The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.
Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.
I need to make a small but critical point here: there's a problem with the translation in the text. I didn't translate here. The Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did. Notice the section that I've highlighted in bold and red: "the problem of its homelessness", which is a paraphrasing of the words, בעיית העם היהודי. While technically correct, it's missing the critical nuance of the language that the framers clearly intended. When we translate the words בעיית העם היהודי literally, we find that this phrase means "the problem of the Jewish nation." This is clearly a reference to the "Jewish Problem" articulated by Nazi Germany. See also here. As we all well know, the Nazis came up with a rather ingenious solution to the problem. I see this minor translation (or the lack of nuance) as critical, because it highlights how strong a role the Holocaust played in the creation of the State of Israel, not only in the minds of the members of the international community, but also in the minds of the founders of the Jewish State.
With this is mind, we can begin to get a sense of the urgency of creating a Jewish State. Jews were slaughtered by the millions, with nowhere to run for refuge. The founders of the State declared openly that this would never happen again. Israel would stand ready to accept any Jew running from persecution. It would be a haven for Jews fleeing from the rampages of antisemitism. It would do so, by definition, by creating itself as a Jewish State: by the Jews, and for the Jews.
But then, later on in the document, the framers make another important statement:
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
In other words, Israel would be a democracy, granting full rights to all of its citizens. Sounds great. But there's only problem. How do you ensure that the State remains Jewish if it truly adheres to the principles of democracy fully? If you grant "complete equality" to all citizens, what do you do if a minority grows to the point that it threatens to overtake the Jewish minority?
Let's leave the territories of out the equation. What do you do when you see secular Israelis fleeing the country, while the Israeli Arab population explodes? Would the State of Israel still be a Jewish State if its Arab majority voted for an Arab Prime Minister? How then do you guarantee that the State remains both Jewish, and a democracy?
In a word, you can't.
Until now, we've been avoiding this internal contradiction. We haven't had to confront the truth: a Jewish State and true democratic values might not be completely compatible. Something has to give.
So you've got to choose. Which are you willing to sacrifice? Are you willing to risk Israel's status as a Jewish State for the sake of the principles of democracy, equality and fairness, hallowed and sacred and important values? Or, will you sacrifice that equality for all to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish country?
That's the choice. Which would you choose?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Special Education Certification Course for Paramedical Professionals

By Dr. Avia Gutman
Chair, Department of Special Education

Orot Israel College became the first religious college in Israel's history to offer a course in continuing education for professional working in fields related to paramedical therapies.
The program began in October with more than twenty students who hold bachelor's degrees – and some even master's degrees – in the fields of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and the creative therapies (art, movement, music, drama, and psychodrama). Successful completion of the course will qualify the participants for a special education teacher's license in the school system.
The course will teach the theoretical principles and practical aspects of special education, in order to help promote the careers of paraprofessional staff already working within the education system. In addition, Orot's religious outlook adds special value to the program by providing a spiritual and religious perspective on special education to complement the therapeutic training.
For example, instructors often insert examples from Tanach and stories from Talmudic sources to illustrate how tradition teaches us to relate to children with special needs.
The continuing education course was designed according to the Ministry of Education requirements in coordination with the ministry's Special Education Division for those seeking to advance their careers in the education system. The course offers the best lecturers in an interdisciplinary approach combining special education with the therapeutic professions. The curriculum includes:
• Therapeutic intervention with children of special needs (learning disabilities, autism, mental retardation, etc.)
• Lesson plans in special education
• Learning environment design
• Working with parents
• Dealing with discipline problems
Students who complete the course will receive a certificate from the Orot Israel College of Education, recognized by the Ministry of Education for credit toward achieving a teacher's license, tenure or career advancement in the educational system.
Orot is extremely proud of this exciting new program, which furthers its mission to train qualified and dedicated educators devoted to the values of Torah and the Land of Israel, ready to develop the next generation of Israel's youth.

Training Better Teachers with Technology

New on the Rehovot Campus: Virtual Fieldwork Instruction

By Nathan Fried and Adiel Brodman
Orot Israel College, Rechovot Campus

Of the many challenges administrators faced in helping students complete their training, the most common obstacle was distance. Student teachers found positions in schools quite far from the college campus – most often in or near their home town – and these student teachers found themselves having the travel often up to four hours at their own expense each week in order to participate in a 2-hour seminar at the college. Thus, they were tempted to ignore the seminar requirement and save themselves precious time and money, while gaining an additional day of work per week.
Fieldwork instructors at the Rehovot campus put their heads together with the Distance Learning Unit's staff and came up with a novel solution for student teachers in the periphery – a virtual fieldwork instruction seminar. The students no longer have to spend hours commuting to the Rehovot campus to meet with their fieldwork supervisor. Armed with the tools of advanced computer networking, the fieldwork seminar comes to their computer anytime, anyplace.

The final year of academic training in the teaching profession is traditionally a year of field work for the student teacher. The year is comprised of three components:
1. Work as a classroom teacher (of at least 1/3 position) in a recognized school
2. On-site supervision from an experienced teacher from the school staff
3. Participation in a 56-hour fieldwork seminar at the college
While all three components are of equal importance, it is imperative that they be coordinated to maximize the value of the fieldwork experience during the student's first teaching year.

Since the Ministry of Education and the college see the fieldwork experience as an integral part of the professional training process, a solution had to we found for the well-meaning student teachers who found it too difficult to attend the seminars. It should be noted that this problem could lead to the delay of receiving one's teaching certificate and any further professional specialization certification as well, especially for elementary school teachers in the "Ofek Chadash" (New Horizon) framework.

To solve this problem, Orot administration established an Internet communication framework that interfaces the student teachers and their seminar instructor via a virtual platform. About 20 participants were chosen (with their agreement) according to their distance from the Rehovot campus. Using the HighLearn computer software application as an Internet platform, the Distant Learning Unit at the Rehovot campus set up a virtual seminar classroom with each of the participants.

How does it work? The semester is divided into sections of 10 workdays, with each section assigned to one student. During each 10-day period one student is expected to post an actual dilemma from his experience in the classroom for feedback from the other students. The chat room discussion that follows examines the problem and alternative solutions offered by the group. The student is expected to answer each comment posted by the group members, thus sharpening his didactic judgment. The seminar instructor monitors the discussion, posts links to salient academic papers and carries on a private email dialogue with the student offering insight and supervision. The student is then expected to produce a term paper based on what was learned in the process of the group discussion on his chosen dilemma.

Orot staff sees this program as an important step in improving teacher training, especially in light of the positive initial reactions to the innovative new system. While a complete evaluation will be conducted at the end of the year, Orot sees this new program as another important tool in the training of Israel's future leaders.

In the Wake of the Independence War Fighters: A Campus Wide Tiyyul

By Dr. Yossi Spanier
Chair, Department of Eretz Yisrael Studies

Orot's first campus-wide tiyyul - required of all Orot students to instill in them a love for the Land of Israel - concentrated on the story of Jerusalem in the War of Independence, with emphasis on the route into the city. This year's topic on which Orot focuses - "הנני שלחני" ("Here I am. Send me"), which emphasizes contribution to society and volunteering for the country, received a special meaning by learning about the contributions of the fighters on their way to Jerusalem.
Guided by students of Orot's Department of Eretz Yisrael Studies, who prepared intensely over the three weeks leading up to the trip, Orot's student body learned first-hand about the challenges that Jerusalem's 100,000 faced during the city's siege and how the Palmach and other fighters risked their lives in order to save the city from hunger.
Orot's student guides also prepared a theoretical research in the library as well as aids in the pedagogical center to clarify the subject matter. Students appreciated their considerable investment, excellent guidance and mastery of both the material and the field as they utilized a variety of sources and training methods,
The field trip included a visit to the "Masrek" nature reserve, where we climbed to the ridge of the convoys with its stunning view on the Sha'ar Ha'Gay and on the main road to Jerusalem (Route 1). Only when looking at this angle from the top of the ridge can one understand the importance of the main artery of Jerusalem then and today. Students reconstructed the events that took place at the beginning of the Independence War along the various stations, some of which were positions from the war.
The preparations for the field trip also included a preliminary lecture given by Yehuda Ziv, a Palmach fighter who shared with us his experiences the way he felt them as a fighter in those days. To listen to Mr. Ziv's talk to the students (in Hebrew) click here.
A tour in the center of our developing country reminds us how difficult it was at the beginning and that the generation of the Independence War who fought for us gave us the independence from which we enjoy to this day.
Yasher Koach to the students of the Eretz Yisrael Studies Department and to the teachers Dr. Yitzhak Sapir and Naama Bindiger whose considerable investment yielded an interesting and enjoyable tour.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

B.Ed. Graduation Ceremony

By Asher Parshani, Administrative Director

On Tuesday, the 25th of Cheshvan, 5771 (October 2, 2010), Orot Israel College officers and lecturers, Ministry of Education officials, graduating students and their family members and guests gathered in the Elkana Campus auditorium for the Bachelors of Education graduation ceremony.

The degree candidates marched into the hall to the sound of musical accompaniment and ecstatic applause from the excited audience after which Rabbi Chaim Fogel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Dr. Shraga Fishman, College Provost offered greetings.

President of the College, Rabbi Prof. Neria Guttel, welcomed MK Zevulun Orlev, Chairman of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee, former MK Nissan Slomiansky, Mr. David Buskila, representative of the Ministry of Education Teacher Training Department, Rabbi Chaim Fogel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Rabbi Chaim Saban, Vice President of the College, lecturers, guests and graduates. His address was seasoned with insights to the week's Torah reading, and underscored the graduating class's commitment to the teaching profession as a personal mission. Rabbi Guttel wished them much success in their important careers as educators for the entire Jewish people.

MK Zevulun Orlev's keynote address, "Official and Recognized Education – Hand in Hand," traced the history of religious Zionist private schools, their constituent population and the difficulties faced by the official State Religious School system throughout the years. He pointed to problems, offered critical analysis and suggested possible solutions, concluding with his best wishes to the graduates for successful careers as educators in the religious Zionist educational system.

Valedictorian Rinat Avraham, representing her classmates, impressively articulated her educational philosophy, freely quoting from Rabbinic literature.

As always, Master of Ceremonies Zion Sasson conducted the proceedings with style and grace, accompanied by the serene musical piano interludes by Eviatar Lieberman.

New Bina & Josef Cymberknopf Dormitory Wing Dedication

By Asher Parshani, Administrative Director

On Monday, the 10th of Cheshvan, 5771 (October 18, 2010), Orot Israel College dedicated a new student residence wing in the name of Bina and Josef Cymberknopf.

Mrs. Shumacher-Cymberknopf was joined for the ceremony by her family and friends, as well as by College officials and students residents of the new dorm. The honored guests sat on lawn chairs under white shade umbrellas outside the new building as Mrs. Shumacher-Cymberknopf began the ceremony by unveiling the dedication plaque at the building's entrance.

Mr. Joel Koschitzky, Chairman of the College Board of Directors, read the plaque's inscription and briefly described the College and its divisions offering B.Ed. and M.Ed. degrees, as well as the wide array of activities on both the Elkana and Rehovot campuses for the benefit of the guests visiting Orot Israel College for the first time.

Mr. Kurt Rothschild, President of World Mizrachi, was honored with the affixing of the mezuzah on the new building. Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Felix, founder and original head of the College, praised Mr. Irving Cymberknopf z"l for his determination to promote the construction of the dormitory, recalling the difficulties encountered in finishing the project.

Mr. Michael Shumacher, representing the family, described Mr. Irving Cymberknopf z"l, his unwavering dedication to his parents and family and his life story until he made aliyah to Israel. He pointed out that Mr. Cymberknopf passed away only months before the completion of the building, and regretted that he did not live to see the opening of the new facility in all its glory.

The second half of the ceremony took place in the graduate school's main lecture hall where dozens of students joined the guests. Mr. Jerry Rosenfield, a friend of Orot College and of the family from Toronto, mentioned the many families of the Toronto community who helped in building the Elkana campus: Koschitzky, Weinbaum, Sokol, Maierovitz, Khan, Schwartz, Rosenfield and others. He singled out the important work of Mr. Kurt Rothschild, who invested much time and effort into ensuring that the building became a reality.

Rabbi Prof. Neria Guttel, President of the College, warmly thanked Mrs. Shumacher-Cymberknopf and her family, and Mr. Kurt Rothschild, who has worked day and night for decades to strengthen education and promote religious Zionism in Israel and abroad. His address focused on the religious injunction to show appreciation for good deeds, sharing insights into passages from the weekly Torah reading.

The ceremony concluded with words of gratitude to the family from Hagit Rimon, representing the students already living in the new dormitory. The ceremony was MC'ed by Mrs. Nomi Spanglet, Director of Development and Alumni Relations. The dormitory is the first of 19 planned to be built on the land currently occupied by caravan trailers.

Shehechianu, veki'imanu, vehigiyanu lazman hazeh.

שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Exciting New Programs for the Upcoming School Year

As students return to Orot for the upcoming school year, they will find several new and exciting programs which offer them broader educational choice and a richer learning experience during their studies. Orot opens a new M.Ed. program in Educational Administration for both men and women; student residents will enjoy the use of both a brand new residence hall and a completely refurbished student residence; the college will highlight an exciting theme focusing on klal yisrael, and several new courses will highlight Orot’s commitment to academic growth and achievement while adhering to the exalted values of the Torah.

New M.ED. Program in Educational Administration: The 5771 school year marks the opening of an exciting new secondary degree program, as Orot offers an M.Ed. program in Educational Administration in separate classes for both men and women. The program, geared towards current teachers looking to enter the ranks of school administration, will include courses on educational leadership, administrative skills as well as decision making, scheduling, and other relevant topics. Developed under the guidance of Dr. Shraga Fisherman, head of Orot’s Graduate School of Education, Orot’s third M.Ed. program will allow the college to continue to serve the Israeli community by providing badly needed administrators for Israel’s education system. “This new M.Ed. program will give future administrators the knowledge, skills and experience they need to succeed as principals in the Israeli school system,” said Rabbi Prof. Neria Guttel, president of Orot. “We see this program as a further fulfillment of Orot’s mission to train the next generation of Israeli educators.”

New and Updated Student Residences:
Students residing in Orot’s dormitories during the school year will arrive on campus to find new and refurbished residence halls. Workers are currently putting the finishing touches on the new Cymberknopf Residence Wing. In addition, an existing residence building was recently upgraded and refurbished.

College-Wide Yearly Theme – Hineni (Here I Am): Each year, under the direction of Dean of Students Rabbi Dr. Moshe Rachimi and Director of the Advanced Institute for Contemporary Education and Religion Rabbi Yona Goodman, Orot chooses a broader theme that students and faculty focus on throughout the year. This year they have chosen the theme of Hineni-Shalecheini ("Here I Am - Send me"), highlighting the importance of serving the greater good and devotion to the Jewish people. Writes Rav Goodman, “We have merited living in a generation when the Nation of Israel has returned to its Land and itself, and God willing, to its Torah as well. We seek to educate both ourselves and our future teachers towards an idealistic life of action, each according to his strength and capabilities.”

New Interdisciplinary Courses:
To address the conflicting values that students often confront in their studies, Orot will offer two exciting interdisciplinary courses that address the confluence of Torah and Jewish thought with academic and secular pursuits.
  • Dance and Judaism: Students in the Dance Department can take an exciting new course in “Judaism and Art” which will explore how Jewish thought relates to art, the limits of art, as well as spiritual benefits to artistic expression. In addition, students will receive vital rabbinic guidance to assist them in developing new dance programs and initiatives in the spirit of Torah values.
  • Judaism and Communications: The instant world of communications we live in today raises challenging ethical and halachic dilemmas. Where are the boundaries of journalism and lashon hara? What can a Torah-true film accurately portray within the limits of tzniut? A new year-long course will address the many halachic and hashkafic issues that arise in the area of communications, and provide Orot students will critical guidance for both their educational and professional careers.

A Visit to the Therapeutic Horse Riding Center

First-year students in the Special Education Department (1st year) visited the Therapeutic Horse Riding Center in Tel-Mond during their week of practical work, opening a window to an additional field of treatment for Special Education children. The Israeli Center for therapeutic horse riding implements advanced treatment methods through animal therapy in order to improve patients' physical and motor skills as well as their self-confidence and self-image.
Orot’s students learned about therapeutic horse riding and dog therapy designed to meet the various needs of the patients that are treated in the center. These patients include autistic children, children with cerebral palsy, special education children, populations at risk and in distress, people with mental deficiency, children with learning disabilities, road accident victims, disabled IDF veterans, rehabilitating drug addicts, and the elderly.
Many people with special needs suffer from muscle degeneration. Horse riding improves motion and activation of most of the muscular limbs that are not being used by these patients. In addition, people with various disabilities often find themselves being led instead of leading themselves. Horse riding contributes to patients' self-confidence by giving him a sense of control and independence. Although each patient is accompanied by four instructors during horse riding, he feels that he is the one who is leading the horse and he is ultimately in charge.
In recent years, dog assisted therapy has been accepted as an efficient treatment method. Working with dogs and their trainers helps patients and highly improves their condition. Even when other conventional treatment methods have failed, the warmth, the loyalty and unconditional love that the dogs give patient can have profound effects on their recovery.
Through excellent lectures and a tour of the center’s modern and sophisticated site, students gained new appreciation for the benefits of animal therapy. One student after visiting the center said, "I really would like to specialize and work in animal therapy.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Seminar on Judaism and the Environment

By Dr. Yossi Spanier
Head of the Department of Land of Israel Studies

In the framework of the Rosh Chodesh forum for first-year students, Orot conducted a seminar on the subject of “Judaism and the Environment”. Organized to develop awareness of the issue of the environment and its relationship to the Jewish world, the seminar encouraged students to lead an attitude change towards environmental issues in the educational system.
A team from the organization "Teva Ivri" (Jewish Nature) led the seminar. Among the coordinators was Hadas Yelnick (Zagury), an Orot graduate who studied in Orot’s Department of the Land of Israel Studies and later earned her Master's Degree in Environmental Studies . Hadas returned to Orot as an active member of “Teva Ivri” in order to help promote the importance of environmental issues in educational institutions.
Following an opening lecture by Rabbi Prof. Neria Guttel, Hadas described what she called a “global environmental crisis.” After the lectures, the students split into two rounds of Beit Midrash study on the subjects of “birkat ha'ilanot” – “Blessing of the Trees,” and “Preservation and the Value of Nature.” At the same time, there were two workshops: the first highlighted the importance of producing compost and recycling. The second presented numerous products in daily use and contrasted many products which contain dangerous toxins and should be avoided, with others made from healthy components that are safe to use.
This interesting and informative day concluded with a call to students to join the framework of Israeli environmental activism.

“Srugim at Orot”: A Meeting with Scriptwriter Mrs. Hava Divon

By Dr. Yaron Katz,
Communication Department Head

Students of the Communication and Dance departments met with Mrs. Hava Divon, the creator and scriptwriter of the popular Israeli television series "Srugim". During the meeting they screened her movie "Happiness", as well as a section from the series "Srugim". After the screening, she spoke with the students and presented some of the dilemmas she faces as a religious creator in the secular Israeli media.
She described various considerations the series creators’ grapple with in the process of producing her show, including the selection of actors, production and filming challenges, as well as halachic dilemmas and how she deals with them. Many of Orot’s students questioned the inappropriate behavior which clearly violates halachah, present in the series. Mrs. Divon explained that these scenes demonstrate the complexity of the series and reflect reality, including many of the doubts, dilemmas and the situations that religious youth encounter in their lives.
During the discussion, the students wondered whether, despite the accurate portrayal of reality, if it is appropriate for a religious producer to depict personal stories that illustrate non-halachic male-female relationships. Different students articulated a wide range of views on the issue during a lively and important debate. Dr. Dvori Hendler, co-director of the Communications Department said that only halachic boundaries can determine whether the script falls within the framework of Jewish law. She pointed out that she expects the producer to deal with her work from a religious perspective and find solutions within halachic boundaries.
The students asked Mrs. Divon if she could not have coped with the reality within the framework of halachah by finding creative alternatives to portraying prohibited behavior. Mrs. Divon replied that she didn't hide and didn't cover up reality, and that is actually the complexity of the series. She pointed out that while she lives in a religious society, doesn't have non-religious friends and is cut off from the non-religious world, it is important to her to show the reality as it is. Mrs. Divon claimed that the whole script is based on real situations and that the series describes only a small part of what happens in reality. She described the halachic dilemmas that occurred during the filming, including cases in which she turned to rabbis and asked for their advice how to present certain dilemmas.
Student reaction was mixed. Some felt that because the debate mainly dealt with halachic dilemmas, there was not enough time for the guest to explain the professional considerations in editing the series. Others felt that the meeting with a religious producer was in itself very important in order to understand the challenges she faced and how she copes with them.
After the meeting, the students continued the discussions independently, but added that they hoped for additional input from rabbis and spiritual leaders in order to learn how to cope with such dilemmas for themselves in the future.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Korach and Hamas: Sharing PR Tactics

Following the recent flotilla fiasco facing the IDF last week, Israelis are wondering: Is Everyone Crazy? How is it that only we can appreciate the missiles raining down from Gaza, even today? How can the world watch Hamas continue to vow to destroy Israel, send terrorists to attack civilians, holds Gilad Shalit hostage – and still consider us to be the villain. In the words of Yossi Klein Halevi in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, "Has the World Lost its Mind?"
No, it hasn't lost its mind. Rather, to our great dismay, the Palestinians have long last learned the media savvy and publicity techniques of Korach.

Click here to download a pdf version of Rav Spolter's Dvar Torah.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Celebrating Yerushalayim

Each year, Orot's student and faculty gather together for a lunch celebration called "Bein Cheirut L'charut" which connects the freedom (Cheirut) that we achieved when we recaptured the city of Jerusalem celebrated by Yom Yerushalayim, and the gift of the Torah, symbolized by the words that were hewn (Charut) into the Tablets given to Moshe on Har Sinai.

At Orot, we emphasize the proximity between these two seemingly unrelated holidays to highlight our strong belief that our return to Yerushalayim directly relates to the Jewish nation's continued connection to the Torah. Without the continued revelation that Shavuot represents, there would have been no Yom Yerushalayim. And because of Yom Yerushalayim, we now connect to the Torah in profound and powerful ways.
The yearly program begins with a festive lunch on the lawns of Orot's campus, followed by scholarship presentations in the auditorium as well as the awarding of honors for student academic achievement. This year following the presentations, the students enjoyed a concert by the popular Vach family, whose beautiful musical arrangements and multiple harmonies have wowed audiences across Israel. The second half of the concert provided a special treat for Orot's students who enjoyed a women-only program that featured both the men and women of the Vach family.
This unique, yearly celebration of both the holiness of Matan Torah as well as the miracle of Yom Yerushlayim and the scholarship of Orot's capable students, underscores Orot's special mission of combining Torah, academics, scholarship and a love for Eretz Yisrael to educate Israel's next generation of teachers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

English Champions on a Treasure Hunt

by Dr. Vitela Arzi
Head of the English Department

If you happened to visit the Elkana campus on Jerusalem Day and wondered why children's shouts of joy were heard all over the campus, it's because they were "scavenging" for clues for Jerusalem's Old City Gates. This unique adventure was part of a whole day experience, organized by students of the English Department, for the English Champions of "Nahalat Binyamin" elementary school in Ofra.

This special group of Hebrew-speaking pupils who excel in English, is supervised by teacher Shira Hoffman, a graduate of Orot's English Department . Shira, with whom the English Department maintains constant connections, like with other graduates, had approached Dr. Vitela Arzi , Head of the Department and asked whether we could help out in organizing a special study event for the Champions group. Pedagogic Instructor ("Madafit") Dr. Chaya Katz, enthusiastically rose to the challenge of organizing a full and creative study day, revolving around the topic of Jerusalem.

The new challenge met our on- going credo that relevant Jewish content should be integrated into the teaching of English , and that English lessons should enhance educational , cultural and Jewish values. Over the past few years, Orot has declared an annual educational topic that would be incorporated across the curricula. The topic selected this year is the "Circles of the Jewish People", and the idea of "Am Israel and the Diaspora" is but one aspect of that vast topic. The English Department has chosen to focus on Jerusalem's central role in the bond between the people sitting in Zion and the Diaspora. What could be more representative of that bond than the vision established in the Amidah prayer recited three times a day?
"Return to Your city Jerusalem in mercy, and establish Yourself there as you promised…Blessed are you Lord, builder of Jerusalem." ?
And what would be more appropriate for the English Champions group than to lead them on a journey of discovery scheduled on Yom Yerushalaim?
Dressed in blue and white, a group of excited boys and their teacher -Shira- entered the Jerusalem classroom that had been specially decorated to fit the event , and supplied with light refreshments contributed by the college.
The project had two parts: A Learning Center and a delightful Treasure Hunt.
The Learning Center reflected the idea of a heavenly and earthly Jerusalem, the spiritual and the physical, past and present , and consisted of four "stations" : a) The New Neighborhoods – Miskanot Shaananim ; b) The Western Wall - a remnant of the Temple, and a spiritual center for the entire Jewish world; c) The Tower of David – a symbol of the past; d) Jerusalem's Gates- all roads lead to Jerusalem.
From the viewpoint of language instruction each "station" included a)an authentic text from a newspaper clip or an encyclopedia entry; b) presentation of relevant vocabulary; c) practice of relevant vocabulary, d) relevant application.
Supervised by the professional staff of Orot's pedagogic center, and by Mrs. Adina Salomon in particular, students designed and prepared learning materials, displays , work sheets and artwork decorations .
Each station activated different learning styles and goals, both in the presentation of the material and in the methods used for language practice, ensuring that this study day epitomized a multi-sensory learning experience. The following dimensions were included:
· Visual- pictures, maps, flags in different colors
· Auditory – songs and read aloud texts
· Sensory – displays, matching games, responses to statements
· Experiential (action learning)- role play and interviews
· Analytic- letter writing , decision making and questions.
The second part of the day, included an exciting Treasure Hunt competition focusing on the theme of Jerusalem's Gates.
First, a large scale model of the walls of the Old City with its various gates, was displayed in the auditorium. Each Gate had a text and a clue that the pupils had to decipher in order to progress from gate to gate. Equipped with a map of the campus, pupils chased around looking for clues for the next Gate, till the final clue that led them to the Treasure- a gold key of the Old City – was found. The gold key was the winners' prize, but there was also a second prize – a flag of Jerusalem- for the group that answered most of the questions.
Says Linoy, a first year student : " It was an amazing experience. The boys were cooperative and smart. I learned a lot how to approach children, and how to use various educational methods. I feel lucky that I could partake in this wonderful experience". Dora, a second year student adds: "The children asked questions and were very interested in the material. They enjoyed the game in the learning center and remembered everything they read. They spoke in English and answered the questions in English. It was really great; I felt that the learning center was worth all the efforts. I feel that the children, and we the student-teachers gained a lot from this special day." And Lehava, a second year student, concludes with what seems to be the English Department's credo: " I saw how important it is to teach topics like Jerusalem Day in the English classroom, and not focus only on grammatical rules."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Living and Loving the Land of Israel

Before the Pesach vacation, the entire student body of Orot took a field trip to the mountains of the Lower Galilee, the Atzmon Mountain and the remains of the Yishuv Yodfat. We chose to concentrate on a track with medium difficulty, which included climbing the Atzmon Mountain (547 meters). The top of the mountain overlooks the amazing view of the Beit Netufa valley, the area of the Tzippori yishuv, Hoshaya, Beit Rimon and the Nazareth range from the south. The track included walking in the Mediterranean Sea vegetation and an amazing spring blossoming.
After a rest, the students descended the Atzmon Mountain towards Yodfat. Yodfat is an important city from the end of the 2nd Temple that refused to the surrender to the Romans as other cities had, and chose to fight bravely instead. Sadly, the battle concluding with Zippori's fall at the hands of Roman conquerors on their way to the oppression of the rebellion and the destruction of Jerusalem (in the year 70).
The fieldtrip was led by the 1st year students of Orot's Department of Eretz Yisrael Studies, who were thoroughly prepared by their teachers Dr. Yitzhak Sapir and Naama Bindiger.
Why does Orot insist on conducting field trips for the entire student body? If you don't live the Land of Israel, you can't love the Land properly. And, without that love, how will a teacher communicate the value of Eretz Yisrael to her students in the future? These field trips strengthen and develop the relationship of Orot's students with the Land of Israel, its landscapes and heritage, so that when they become teachers, they will appreciate the importance of field trips in the Israeli school system, and convey the value, beauty and holiness of the Land to the next generation of children.

Taking Responsibility to Prevent the Next Accident

by Dr. Michal Unger, coordinator of the Road Safety Education the Orot College of Education

Schools across Israel place great emphasis on road safety education, investing many hours of class time to train students to function effectively in traffic, teach them principles of behavior based on personal responsibility and instill values of commitment to maintaining human life and respect for traffic laws.
This year, Michlelet Orot conducted two "Road Safety Education" seminars which focused on the themes of personal responsibility and the importance of both awareness and the need to educate the next generation about road safety.
Rabbi Prof. Neria Guttel, President of Orot College opened the series with a talk about, "Caution on the Road – Theory and Practice", as he discussed halachic topics related to issues of road safety. Next, Dr. Dan Link, head of the infrastructure and traffic department at the National Road Safety Authority spoke on the topic, "Personal Involvement in Road Accidents". With the aid of a visual presentation, Dr. Link demonstrated that each student had the power to prevent a traffic accident. A short film titled, "Children Have No Brakes", added a powerful audio-visual message about the road dangers that pose a danger to children.
After a short break, the students heard an emotional talk from Yishai Meir, father of Yaara ע"ה who was killed in a traffic accident. Yaara was in a car on her way home when an exhausted driver collided with the car in which she was riding a short distance from her home. Yishai, Yaara's father, described the solace he finds in perpetuating her name by describing her good qualities and amazing skills. After his talk Yishai distributed Yaara's photo to the students.
The seminar concluded with a viewing of the film, "An Accident in the Arava Desert" that portrays the final minutes of four boys killed on the Arava road in 1994. A follow-up discussion attempted to understand some of the underlying causes for road accidents and how they could have been avoided.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yerushalayim of our Imagination

Thoughts on Yom Ha'atzmaut

Too often, we allow ourselves to see not what we have, but what's missing. This is especially true when we look at the modern State of Israel, and even at the modern city of Yerushalayim. Through a study of Tehillim 122, we can come to a better appreciation not only for Yerushalyim, the subject of that chapter, but also for the blessing of the Medinah which, although not complete, represents a source of great blessing for the Jewish people.

Click here to download the article.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Orot Students Study Medical Ethics

By Rav Uriel Touitou, Excellence Program Coordinator

In the Orot Excellence Program's course on medical ethics students learned about the intersection of medicine, Jewish law, ethics and morals. During a recent tour at the Shaare Zedek hospital as part of their study they observed how professionals deal with real-life halachic and medical challenges presented by the rapidly advancing world of modern medicine.
Created ten years ago, Michlelet Orot's Excellence Program provides advanced students tools and skills to transform their intellectual abilities into tools they can in their educational career. In addition to offering enriched courses that focus on education and teaching, the program looks to expand students' horizons by offering classes on subjects they would not encounter during their normal course schedules.
In a world of instant communications and media, students find themselves exposed to questions about organ donation, pregnancy and childbirth issues including abortion, fatal diseases as well as many others. To address many of these questions, students in the Excellence Program attend a course in medical ethics given by Prof. Menachem Schlesinger and Rabbi Menachem Schahor. Study includes frontal classes as well as a tour at the Shaare Zedek hospital guided by lecturers from the hospital's Schlesinger Institute for Medical Halachic Research.
During their recent tour students met with doctors and nurses and heard proposed medical solutions to address marital problems and pregnancy and childbirth issues. The tour included a lecture on the subject of medicinal treatment for brides before the huppah and an additional lecture on the issue of genetic match between couples. Students learned about genes that might be carry diseases, the identification process and medicinal treatment to prevent possible future diseases, genetic matching between spouses and coping mechanisms for couples where both spouses are genetic carriers of the same disease.
In the Department of In vitro Fertilization students learned about different stages of infertility treatment as well as the challenges that couples face in their quest for pregnancy and childbirth.
The students' final lecture addressed the challenges of running hospitals on Shabbat and hagim according to halachah. Run various systems whose operation requires chillul Shabbat requires hospital directors and poskim to find creative halachic, technological and scientific solutions.
Student responses to the course were excellent. They found that this special course opened a window for them to an important and fascinating world which they would not have been otherwise exposed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The English Department goes to a live performance of "My Fair Lady"

Dr. Vitela Arzi
Head of the English Department

No study in the field of Foreign Language Teaching would be complete without a viewing of the classic film "My Fair Lady." This film encompasses the linguistic sub-fields of socio- linguistics, psycho- linguistics, and of course practical linguistics in the form of phonetics, diction, syntax, lexis and more. All of these components are studied within the context of Introduction to Linguistics and Applied Linguistics as taught in the English Department at Orot College of Education.

However, says David Wapner, instructor of the Linguistics courses, "there is a vast difference between "simply" teaching these linguistic topics within a formal classroom setting in a theoretical sense, to that of actually seeing them in "play" in the practical forum and in an extra curricular venue. "

We were fortunate indeed , as a live production of "My Fair Lady" in English, performed by the Light Opera Group of the Negev, has come to theaters in Israel at the time that our students were just wrapping up the study of the aforementioned components in class. Mr . Wapner contacted the producers and we were given tickets at a special discounted price; we received some additional assistance from the Dean of Students Rabbi-Dr. Rachimi, who helped to defray some of the students' expenses.

The students were abuzz with excitement awaiting the date and then the hour, and finally arriving at the theater in Mody'in.

Says Shira Tzubeiri, a second year student: "It's the first time that I'm watching an English speaking play, and it was an unusual and challenging experience. It was very special to meet my friends at a location other than the classroom, and it contributed to our social integration as a group". Her friend Shulamit Isaacs adds: "This magnificent well produced play was a fantastic learning experience, which brought alive all the theoretical knowledge that was amassed in the classroom . Seeing the material come to live on stage validated everything that we had studied on a purely theoretical basis."

Watching the play together with other extra-curricular activities initiated by the English Department , reflects a holistic approach to the learning experience in general , and to language learning in particular which the English Department advocates and practices.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Students of the Department of Counseling and Social Education Visit the "Retorno" Rehab Center

The "Retorno" drug rehab center, located near Beth Shemesh, provides treatment for tens of adolescents (boys and girls) and many adults from the orthodox and ultra-orthodox backgrounds who sought an escape through alcohol, drugs, gambling or other additions.
Accompanied by their teachers Limor Tal and Bella Even-Hen, the Orot students visited the center during a week of practical work to witness the staff's professional work and devotion to their patients. The students heard personal stories of several patients, some of whom themselves became part of Retorno's training staff and administration.
Students absorbed a number of critical messages during their visit. They witnessed the catastrophic results of destructive parental and educational behaviors, including a lack of attention, sensitivity, and a failure to understand the child and teenager's soul. The students learned that drugs and alcohol represent an attempt at a permanent escape for pain. Often, teens mask this deeply hidden pain because they lacked an outlet to express their feelings in conversations with any meaningful figure in their life. Students were introduced to some of the treatments as well as to the complex challenges that the center addresses, and also learned about various methods of support and reinforcement, such as sentences that express love ("we love you") to someone who addresses the group, or a physical hug (or virtual hug in case there is prohibition of touching between man and woman).
One of the highlights of the tour was in the quarried cave of the Retorno site where meetings are held at candlelight, in group dynamics style. These experiential and powerful meetings enable both individuals and the whole group the ability to develop trust, support, acceptance, belonging, identification, intimacy and development of self-awareness and awareness to others.
The students left the center with tears in their eyes and a heart full of excitement and gratefulness for "a most instructive experience and memorable lesson for life".

Teaching the Value of Freedom at the Seder

An Article By Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Director of Recruiting and Special Projects

Should we cause our children to suffer in order to help them fully appreciate the Redemption we're supposed to relive on the night of the Seder? Maybe we should. After all, as parents, we cause our kids to suffer all the time.
You can download this article in pdf format by clicking here.

Along the same lines, my wife Rena shared with me this story of parents outraged an an educational attempt to help kids appreciate the suffering of the Holocaust. Do you agree with the incensed mother at the end of the story? I'm not sure.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Becoming Better Teachers at the Sands of Nitzan

Orot has always considered field trips an integral part of teacher training, founded upon the basis of "ארץ ישראל על פי תורת ישראל" - “Eretz Yisrael in accordance with Torat Yisrael”. Orot realizes that for graduates to effectively communicate a love of the Land to their own students, they must invest their time and energy acquiring knowledge of the Land and appreciation for it.
We believe that a student that experiences preparation and guidance of a field trip will regard the issue of field trips as a school teacher in a different way from a teacher who didn't have the same experience. For this reason, as part of their educational program, all Orot students participate in a number of yearly tiyulim, giving them a deeper and broader appreciation for the Land of Israel.
These college-wide field trips represent a unique phenomenon in the world of teacher training in Israel and are led by first-year students (with the help of 2nd and 3rd year students) in the Department of Eretz Yisrael Studies, who invest great effort preparing to guide their fellow students during the tiyul. Watching students integrate with each-other and their instructors while travelling the land and learning from fellow students brings Orot’s administration great pride.

Trip to the Sands of Nitzanim
A month ago, about 350 students of Orot visited the sands of Nitzanim, located along Israel’s coastal plain along the Mediterranean between Ashkelon and Ashdod. Nitzanim is close to Nitzan, a town where some of the former Gush-Katif families reside following their uprooting four years ago.
The tour began with a history of Nitzanim during the War of Independence, when it served as a critical strategic Israeli stronghold. Although ultimately abandoned, Israeli forces at Nitzan succeeded in stopping the Egyptian troops advance to the North, preventing them from conquering the coastal plain and the Tel-Aviv area. The students then visited the residents of the nearby Yishuv Nitzan, hearing the sad and moving story of the uprooting of Gush Katif.
After the stop at Nitzan, the students proceeded to the sands of Nitzanim, beginning with its fascinating and historical cemetery. They continued to the west to the sand dunes, one of the last and largest remnants of Israel's coastal sand dunes with its attendant animal and plant life. They then enjoyed a two-hour hike through the sands to the sea-shore.
This trip to a site close to the center of Israel, combined history related to the founding of the State of Israel, the story of the Gush Katif expulsion and physical exercise through the sand dunes, to produce a wonderful, educational experience that not only enhanced our students’ year, but will make them better teachers as well.

Israeli Filmmaker Speaks to Orot's Film Students

Director and scriptwriter Shoshi Greenfield recently joined the students and faculty of Orot's Department of Communication Studies for a discussion of her film, "The Rebellious Son."
The well-received film, screened in community centers and theaters across Israel, tells the story of Greenfield's brother, a "hilltop youth" coping with the pulls of Israeli life and family and social pressure, all while trying to integrate these into a religious and Zionistic worldview. In addition to the personal story about her brother and his struggles, the film presents a unique perspective on the nuanced and complex relationships between Jews and Arabs, the settlers and the state, and between the founding generation of the settlements and the generation that grew up there.
After a screening of the film, the director told her personal story upon which she based the script and explained some technical aspects of the film's production. She described some of the challenges of producing a feature film, as well as some of the techniques that would be useful to students creating their own films.
Students currently studying in Orot's Department of Communication Studies found the meeting with the scriptwriter important for their practical training. "She had a lot of courage to do this production, and it was important to hear from her how she overcame the challenges that arose during productions. As someone studying communications she represents a model to emulate."
To learn more about "The Rebellious Son" visit the film's website.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Orot Graduation Celebrates 104 New Teachers

Orot awarded B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) degrees to over one hundred students at a recent graduation ceremony held in mid November. The graduates, who entered the auditorium to the sounds of a Turkish Marsh, were welcomed excitedly by excited parents, husbands, extended families, as well as Orot faculty members who came to honor the graduates.
Guest of honor Prof. Amos Altschuler, chairman of the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, delivered a talk on the subject of "What Can be Done with a Triangle that Doesn't Exist?" Orot President Rabbi Prof. Neria Gutel welcomed the graduates, their guests and families, and congratulated the graduates, wishing them success in the field of teaching.
The graduates also received congratulations from Rabbi Noah Greenfeld, director of the teacher training department in the Ministry of Education, Rabbi Haim Fogel, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Prof. Elazar Tuitou, Vice-Chairman of the Academic Committee.
A graduate representative delivered a dvar Torah and expressed her thanks on behalf of the graduates, after which the graduates received their diplomas.

Growth Through Adversity - Thoughts for Parshat Shemot

Devar Torah by Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Director of Recruiting and Special Projects

Here in Israel, communities tend to segregate themselves voluntarily. Chareidim like to live with fellow Chareidim, Secular Jews live with other Secular Jews, and Religious Zionists build communities with like-minded RZ's. We don't mix very much. We tell ourselves that we do this for our children. After all, what could be bad about living in a community that meticulously adheres to the Shabbat? Why not choose to live in a place without the enticements of the outside world? What's wrong with insularity?

And yet - the facts don't seem to justify our choices. Speaking anecdotally, it's well-known here in Israel that many of the most religious yishuvim struggle with children who question and abandon their religiosity. So is our desire for uniformity and insularity necessarily a good thing? Or are we somehow doing more harm than good?

Click here to read Rav Spolter's full article.