Monday, April 18, 2016

Mazal Tov Nissan 5776

Mazal Tov To: 
Natalie (Gavzey) Halachmi (5765), Shayna (Aster) Weisz (5756), Tanya (Weisenberg) White (5758), Leora (Sonnenblick) Roth (5763) and Ora (Bartunsky) Rubin (5768), upon the birth of their daughters.

Ayelet (Roche) Myers (5758) Miri (Prensky) Gertner (5765), Shira (Sokol) Herskovitz (5765), Mirie (Wiesenberg) Mahpour (5765), Aylana (Reiss) Mandel (5765), and to Andrea (Weiss ) Alter (5766) upon the birth of their sons.
שיזכו לגודלם....

Golda (Margolese) Zacks (5756) upon the Bar Mitzvah of her son Naftali
שתזכה לגודלו.......

Our sincere condolences to Liz (Shelton) Towb (5764) upon the untimely passing away of her Mother.
המקום ינחם אתכם תוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

An Exhibit of Haggadot in Jerusalem: Our National Past and Future

By Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Judaic Studies Lecturer

If you suddenly found yourself stuck on in a foreign country and a business trip with Pesach approaching, what would you do? You'd probably seek out the local Chabad, and that would be that. But what if you lived hundreds of years ago, before Chabad? Aside from the basic needs of matzah, wine and maror, where would you find a Haggadah to celebrate the night of the Seder? This isn't a new problem at all. In fact, Jews throughout history found themselves in need of a copy of the Hagadah text for family use. While most communities could rely on the communal Siddur for prayer in shul, we conduct the Seder home, necessitating a copy of the text available to every household. This resulted in an unusual plethora of texts of the Haggadah, offering a fascinating view of Jewish history though these amazing book.

A Facebook post from my friend Dr. Yoel Finkelman (whose ridiculously cool job involves buying historical Jewish artifacts for the Library) shared information about a new exhibit at the National Library of Israel (neatly tucked into the Hebrew University Campus in Jerusalem) displaying a series of handwritten Haggadot that span some eight-hundred years of history. Rena and I decided last Friday to visit, and we were quite glad that we went. When we first got there, the room was locked (I guess no one had asked to get in. But, to our pleasant surprise, the librarian on duty was great; she found the person who had the authority to tell the security guard to open the exhibit space, and we were in. She also gave us a nifty full color guide of the exhibit, bookmarks, a brochure about the library and its 1960s exhibit upstairs (which we went to see), and even emailed me a virtual tour of the Hebrew U. campus! The space of the exhibit is actually a small room which you can peruse slowly in half an hour. And, in truth, you can see pictures of the Haggadot on the exhibition website, which is well done. Nonetheless, in person you can better see the little hand-written drawings that were drawn usually by artists, but sometimes by an amateur, which add much color and character to each Haggadah. Even more importantly, there is something incredibly powerful about being in a room with Haggadot that were hand-written literally around the world over the course of centuries, from the Cairo Geniza all the way to a 1942 hand-written personal Haggadah written in Mozambique by a family fleeing from Belgium during the Holocaust. While we couldn't actually touch them, their physical presence conveyed a tangible sense of living history.
The Really Nifty Exhibit Brochure - for Absolutely Free!
If the Hagaddah is the story of Jewish redemption, the story of these books is the tale of our national travails around the world, as the People of Israel fled from way station to way station, searching for peace and stability, while yearning truly to reach the final destination of our exile in the Land of Israel.  At every stop we celebrated our past and future redemption. And if we lacked a text, we either hired a professional or wrote one ourselves by hand. Looking at this small collection of books, I couldn't help but think of them as clues in a centuries-long search for Home. Standing over the display cases in that tiny room in Jerusalem, I found myself feeling a sense of closure: these books, that had for so long guided our people on a path towards Redemption, had finally made their way to the rebuilt State of Israel. As they rest in the National Library of the Jewish State, they remind us not only of the many places and eras that came before us. They also remind us of the many centuries of yearning and prayer - of reciting the blessing at the conclusion of Maggid of which begins with the words, אשר גאלנו וגאל את אבותנו - "that God has redeemed us and our forefathers"...but then adds, "כֵּן ה' אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ יַגִּיעֵנוּ לְמועֲדִים וְלִרְגָלִים אֲחֵרִים הַבָּאִים לִקְרָאתֵנוּ לְשָׁלום, שְׂמֵחִים בְּבִנְיַן עִירֶךָ וְשָׂשִׂים בַּעֲבודָתֶךָ" - "So too Lord our God and the God of our fathers shall bring us to additional holidays and festivals that will come upon us in peace, joyous about the building of Your city and rejoicing in Your worship..." This blessing was recited over the Haggadot in the exhibit and many thousands like them around a table of Jews - sometimes small, sometimes large - who actually can ever know - but those families throughout the ages always expressed a yearning and a hope for a future of Redemption, rebuilding and renewal. While the individuals around those tables may not be here, their Haggadot remind us that their dreams and prayers and yearning propelled our people to rebuild, reconnect and renew. We have yet to arrive at the realization of the final stage of the blessing: וְנאכַל שָׁם מִן הַזְּבָחִים וּמִן הַפְּסָחִים אֲשֶׁר יַגִּיעַ דָּמָם עַל קִיר מִזְבַּחֲךָ לְרָצון - "and we will eat there from the offerings and the Paschal lambs whose blood reached the walls of your altar according to your desire..." Not yet at least. Still, hidden in those Haggadot is the reassurance and the knowledge that the Jewish Nation will fully realize the truth of the Haggadah, if not this year, then Next Year in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bachelor’s Degree Commencement Exercises at the Elkana Campus

 By Shabtai Teller, “Kol HaOrot”

At a moving ceremony, attended by a large crowd of many parents, spouses, relatives, and other guests, 150 graduates of Orot Israel College recently participated in their commencement exercises at the Elkana Campus. Degrees were conferred in the following fields of study: early childhood education, special education, secondary education, and dance and movement. The exercises began with introductory remarks from President of the College Rabbi Professor Neriah Gutel, and these were followed by blessings from Chairman of the Academic Council Professor Yisrael Rich.
Rabbi David Boskila, representing the Department for Training Teaching Professionals, also offered blessings to the graduates. The guest of honor at the festivities was the Chair of the Administration for Religious Education and the Rabbi of Ofra, Rabbi Avraham Gisser. His address focused on the ethical-educational advantage of private colleges over other institutes of higher learning, emphasizing that the graduates’ principal function as teachers is to serve as spiritual role models for thousands of Israeli children.
Distinguished awards were conferred upon the graduates Rivka Artzi, Hen Ben Hamu, Reut Nussbaum, Lital Edot, and Adi Feldman. The graduate speaker was Michal Landau, who currently serves as a homeroom teacher and instructor in media studies for the tenth grade at the AMIT girls’ school in Beer Sheva. In her address, she highlighted the profound investment that the College and its staff have made in their pedagogical methods and their Torah-ethical approach.
The College’s graduates serve in numerous, varied educational roles, in diverse sectors and educational institutions throughout Israel.

Bringing the Theory to Life

By Dr. Haim Shaked and Dr. Hodaya Hoffman,
Lecturers in the Graduate Program
for Educational Administration and Organization
Recently, first-year students in the Graduate Program for Educational Administration and Organization conducted in-house school visits at the yeshiva high school AMIT Amichai in Rechovot, and at the Gvanim School in Sitriya. These visits served as visual labs, bridging the gap between the theory learned in the classroom and the application out in the field. Accordingly, the graduate students met with school administrators and educational staff, who exposed them to the ins and outs of real, hands-on educational administration.

Over the course of their visit to AMIT Amichai, the students encountered pedagogical innovation from up-close, witnessing how it is practiced. Pedagogical innovation is one piece of the school’s comprehensive program of Identity-Building Learning, the school’s unofficial guiding principle. This unique concept is built upon a renewed perspective on the role of the educator, and the building of a new kind of conversation within the yeshiva. Our students met with teachers, staff, and students, and learned about the school’s program from the perspective of each. Complementing this, the meeting with the rosh yeshiva (head of the school) demonstrated the administrator’s key role in bringing about pedagogical innovation.

The tour of the Gvanim School focused on the concept of dispersed leadership, according to which the ins and outs of leadership are accomplished through a system of mutual and shared leadership between the directors and the directed. Over the course of their visit, the graduate students saw how this leadership model is applied in the school, through discussion groups, meetings, and more.
These tours are a new version of a practicum course, part of the study for a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Organization. The schools hosted us warmly, investing in an open dialogue between the academy and the educational field. These visits left a strong impression upon the students and provided them with much to consider, with respect to both pedagogical practice and proper management. The tour opened a new vista for the students, to ideas, approaches, and initiatives which they had not yet encountered, but most of all, it showed how to bring theories to life!

Ochs Foundation Scholarship for Outstanding Students

By Rabbi Dr. Yohanan Kapah,
Dean of Students, Rechovot Campus

On Monday,March 6, 26 Adar I, two students from the College were awarded prestigious scholarships from the Ochs Foundation, at a ceremony for the conferring of degrees for outstanding students in the field of education. The Ochs Foundation, which was established in memory of Rabbi Dr. and Mrs. David Ochs, annually awards scholarships to education students. This year, the foundation’s administration decided to award a number of scholarships to outstanding students, and these were ultimately awarded to two students from Orot Israel College, as well as one more student from another college.

The two students chosen from Orot Israel College were Idan Caravani, from the Rechovot Campus, and Avital (Hertz) Weinstock, from the Elkana Campus. The scholarship was awarded on the basis of academic diligence and achievement, demonstrated pedagogic skill, conducting an educational project, and leadership abilities.

The ceremony was held before an impressive audience at Bet Shalom in Tel Aviv, in the presence of the foundation’s officers; the Ochs family; Rabbi David Boskila, the representative of the Ministry of Education; the winners of the scholarships and their families. The speakers at the event spoke in praise of Rabbi Dr. Ochs and his wife, emphasizing the importance of education, which they held so dear. Rabbi Ochs dedicated his life to education and the dissemination of Torah in his community, such that his family considered it naturally fitting to establish a memorial fund to assist exceptional students in their development as educators. The event also featured a fascinating lecture by Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom, on the topic of “Identification and Identity.”

Off The Sidelines

By Naomi Kohn (Klians) 2001
Bogeret Bat Zion Program 

I always tell people that the reason I made aliyah is because I went to Orot. Rav Shvat, in his inspiring Torat Eretz Yisrael class told us to always remember במדבר ל”ג נ”ג, and remember I did. It took 11 years, marriage, four children and the purchase and sale of a house, among several other hurdles, but we made it. When asked by Nefesh B’Nefesh why we chose to make aliyah, my reply was obvious - because Hashem said so.

The past 3+ years of living in Eretz Yisrael have been filled with moments of intense happiness, sadness, anxiety, fear, wonder, questioning, yearning, excitement, and now most often thankfulness. There is nothing like waking up to run with the sunrise in the Judean Hills where our forefathers created history. I now have the zechut to daven at the Kotel, Kever Rachel and Mearat Hamachpela all within a short drive. Upon completion of learning the entire Sefer Bereishit in Kita Aleph, our children recite the Birkat Yaakov by heart in the very spot where it all took place.

As each year passes that I am here in our land, I am continuously amazed by the people of Am Yisrael - by their strength, conviction, caring for each other, and open ruchniyut. Unfortunately, in recent times there have been tragedies one after another. We are told that Am Yisrael is one body, and when one limb is injured, the entirety of us feel its pain. This is what it means to be part of Am Yisrael. A nation that davens for each other, cares for one another, lives for one another and dies for one another. Never before have I felt so much a part of Am Yisrael.

Baruch Hashem we were recently zoche to have our first sabra. As I am now a mother of four boys and one girl, I know that IY”H the time will soon come for my sons to give back and battle for our nation. We are intensely proud to no longer be sitting on the sidelines just learning about Jewish History, but actively taking part in shaping Jewish History. In this zechut may we merit the coming of Moshiach- אחישנה.

Orot (Lights) in Civics

By Dr. Yossi Londin,
Chair of the Program for Extending Training in Civics and Lecturer in Department of History, Rechovot Campus

It seems that no field of study in Israeli schools stirs more controversy in public opinion than the discipline of civics. Playing its part, Orot College Israel also participates in the battle over the shape of this discipline. Over the last winter, the matter was again at the center of controversy, while it is clear to everyone that the current round of debates is simply part of an ongoing, multi-year conflict surrounding the curriculum for the field of civics.
What is it about this discipline that attracts so much more friction than all the others? The answer would seem to be self-evident. Studying the discipline of civics is meant to train Israeli students to understand the governing of the State of Israel and Israeli society, as well as to give them the knowledge, skills, and values which will turn them into better citizens. It goes without saying that the debate over defining the “knowledge, skills, and values” in this context is incomparably explosive. If we add to this the fact that the current curriculum is identical in the government schools serving all sectors (general, religious, and Arab), we come to the perfect recipe for an ideological and political battlefield.

The truth is that, until recently, the discipline was less a battlefield and more an area prone to full usurping by the academic establishment of the political left. These ideologues simply developed a curriculum according to their world view. In this way, generations were raised with an understanding of democracy as rooted in a discussion of rights without responsibilities, an understanding of the Jewish-Arab conflict as one of two competing and equal (or worse) narratives, and a minimizing of the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish State.

A change began to come about in recent years. Teachers, academics, and politicians from the nationalist and the religious camp began to reclaim the dignity of the discipline. They sought to change the discipline to one which represents the consensus among most of Israel’s citizens, a majority which firmly believes in democracy and the rights of the minority, while demanding that the students are taught about a Jewish State and about man’s responsibilities as well as his rights; that the Jewish-Arab conflict is taught from the perspective of Zionism; that judgmental activism is tempered; and that they are taught other subtopics which are not currently part of the curriculum.

The conflict concerning the teaching of civics has found expression in debates over textbooks, appointments to key positions in the educational establishment, and the design of curricula. However, ultimately, the most important point surrounds the issue of who are the teachers of this discipline.
Over the last five years, Orot Israel College has been operating a program for extending teaching licenses to include the instruction of civics. Teachers and yeshiva educators of various disciplines enrolled in the program located on the Rechovot campus are studying the field and gaining accreditation in civics, in addition to their original accreditations. Within the framework of the program, students are learning the fundamentals and didactics of political science. In addition, they are gaining specialized enrichment in this area, particularly as it interacts with the Torah tradition and the related issues disputed in the public sphere. All of this is conducted from a nationalistic and religious perspective, and according to the highest professional standards.

The students are constantly updated concerning the various developments in the discipline, and they prepare the relevant learning materials. Tens of them are already working in the school system, some in advanced positions, and they are helping to influence the students of Israel, to better prepare them to be better citizens. Some of the graduates also serve as yeshiva educators, passing on the values related to our mission as a “mamlechet kohanim vegoy kadosh, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, with an impact far beyond the simple principles of civics. All of the various teachers offer their special contribution to the struggle over the shaping of the discipline. The continued development of the program, with respect to both its quality and its quantity, will allow for the continued revolution of teaching civics, a revolution in which the College is proud to take part.