Photo Credit: Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education

Real education is about more than what happens in the classroom. When a school partners with the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE), its students experience hands-on learning, experimentation, and vibrant inter-school events that bring their learning to life.

More than 30 high school students from CIJE-network schools came home last week from their “Journey to the Startup Nation.” Each year, CIJE brings a cohort of students and teachers to Israel to meet entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and teams at successful startups and companies. Together they learn how engineers and business people approach problems and find marketable solutions in industries such as solar, agrotech, biomedical, and artificial intelligence.



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“Being able to interact with high-level executives and experts across multiple STEM fields was definitely the most valuable part of the trip,” says Mikaela Sosland, a senior at The Frisch School. “It’s an experience high school students couldn’t get anywhere else.”

“It’s hard to overstate the impact this trip has on the kids,” says Orly Nadler, CIJE’s Director of Innovation. “They travel and bond with students from different schools. We use our contacts to get into hard-to-get-into locations and meetings. They see the concepts they’re learning in school as part of a bigger picture.”

Back in the United States, CIJE-network schools from Florida to New York have been intensely immersed in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) culture. Building a school culture around innovation and hands-on exploration is a big job that requires intentionality and partnerships. Thanks to their schools’ partnerships with CIJE, hundreds of students from myriad Jewish middle and high schools competed in Drone Olympics, VEX robotics tournaments, and hackathons – just this past month.

Jewish students from many local high schools gathered in Industry City, Brooklyn to spend a full day creating prototypes of products that would benefit people living in the global south.

CIJE’s 5th annual hackathon kicked off with a presentation about the work of Innovation: Africa (IA), a nonprofit organization that brings Israeli solar and water technology to villages across African countries to deliver first-time access to clean water and light. Students were then tasked with developing a new product for the people served within these villages that would continue to improve their quality of life.

The project “introduces the connection between STEM and Israel and Tikkun Olam to the students,” said Andrea Wolf, head of community partnerships at IA. “The founder, Sivan, was also only 20 years old when she saw a problem and addressed it. She has now impacted more than 4 million people. That’s inspiring for these students.”


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While circling the tables of equipment, student teams brainstormed product ideas and gathered supplies ranging from pool noodles to Arduino boards.

“The CIJE Hackathon gives students the opportunity to experience real-life engineering design in an innovative and stimulating environment,” says Adam Jerozolim, Director of Curriculum Development. “It gives students the confidence to believe they can innovate and produce when they devote their full potential to a task.”

“As usual the event today was fabulous! ” said Dr. Bracha Erblich, of Bruriah. “The kids can’t stop raving about the experience.”

Meanwhile, in Florida, drones were taking off and robots were dueling. Teams of middle school students analyzed an obstacle course and programmed drones to autonomously complete the course. CIJE robotics league teams from middle and high schools worked together to build robots that could complete specific challenges in record time.

“It is thanks to CIJE that we have these STEM events for our students. Without CIJE, our students would not have such hands-on STEM events nor the STEM exposure they need,” said Shira Butman, General Studies Principal at Katz Hillel Day School of Boca Raton. “CIJE has changed the landscape of STEM education in our Jewish schools in my nearly 12 years of partnering with CIJE!”


To learn more about CIJE and support this important work of preparing Jewish day school students for successful futures, visit today.


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