by Ilana Messika
The Jewish Agency Global School Twinning Network Program has succeeded in pairing more than 600 schools in advance of the new academic year.
The program, geared to connect Jewish youth in Israel and the Diaspora, pairs 300 of the 4,900 schools in Israel with Jewish schools around the world, such as Uruguay, Peru, Hungary, Russia, and Azerbaijan.
“We believe that Jewish students who are more connected to Israel and more knowledgeable about the country will also be better positioned to share their love of the land with others,” Amihai Bannett, a program coordinator in the Twinning Network Head Office, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
The Global School Twinning Network is part of the Agency’s “Partnership2Gether (P2G)” family of programs, which share a goal of bringing Jewish Federation communities together with Israelis and cultivating relationships through joint projects and shared experiences.
The network has grown from 360 schools to 650 schools in less than five years, with 52,000 students participating in the program last year.
Participating Israeli schools may be either religious or secular, and the schools abroad represent a wide swath of the various streams of Judaism in the Diaspora. The program is available to all ages from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We match schools that have similar interests and ideologies,” explained Bannett. “For example, we are launching a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Twinning program this year with a shared curriculum of science and technology that will highlight Israel as a ‘start-up nation.’”
Students in the program will improve their English and Hebrew together with regular meetings via Skype and Facebook, share school projects, travel in joint delegations and visit each other’s homes. Virtual classrooms are also created to enable students to connect even if they are not in the same time zone.
Simcha Abergel, head of Judaic studies and Hebrew at the Sir Manasseh Meyer International School of Singapore, her school’s partnership with the Israeli Ahiya School of Avnei Hefetz in Samaria presents her students with a unique opportunity.
“Several of our students are Israeli, but our goal was specifically to target the non-Israeli youth in order for them to actively experience the Israeli system of education and to understand how Jewish tradition is put into practice in a Jewish state,” she said.
Teachers also engage in a joint training program and plan content and activities for the new school year together.
“We have been collaborating in recent years with the Israeli Ministry of Education to offer teachers, both Israeli and internationally, an introduction to dilemmas faced by Jews in the Diaspora and in Israel and to give them content they can use to help their students connect to their peers in the twin school,” Bannett said.
The Global Twinning Network was awarded the Jerusalem Unity Prize on June 1 for its work in promoting unity between Jewish communities around the world and Israeli society.
“Unity is achieved by creating relations between people,” program director Hagar Shoham-Marko concluded. “The wider and deeper the network of connections, the closer are the different parts of the Jewish people.”