Ezra Academy recently welcomed the Center for Israel Education’s Dr. Tal Grinfas-David as part of an ongoing partnership to boost the school’s Israel education.
Ezra Academy is one of three recipients of a grant from UnitED, a global educational initiative of Jerusalem-based Herzog College in partnership with and funding from Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. During a visit in February, Grinfas-David conducted workshops and seminars with school faculty and leadership to deepen knowledge, improve skills and ultimately deliver excellent educational outcomes for students.
“Our goal is for our students' learning about Israel, its history, and culture to be folded into all of the subjects taught at Ezra and to provide our students with real opportunities for discussion and discourse,” said Ezra Academy Head of School Tani Cohen-Fraade.
The sessions led by Grinfas-David included time and space to talk about the challenges of teaching about Israel, work on Ezra’s Israel curriculum development, as well as workshops which focused on integrating S.T.E.A.M. learning and Israeli art into lessons and school events and celebrations.
“I was very inspired by Dr. Grinfas-David’s professional development. I am implementing one of the units we discussed for the 7th and 8th graders from now until the end of the year,” said Ezra Academy teacher, Rabbi Amanda Brodie. “Over the next year, I will be creating units for the 7-8th graders which integrate language arts, civics and Israel,” Brodie continued.
Grinfas-David, the vice president for outreach and pre-collegiate school management initiatives, traveled from CIE’s Atlanta home as part of the center’s Day School Initiative, which helps Jewish day schools add Israel content to their curriculum and enhance teaching methods. The mentoring and professional development Grinfas-David provides remotely and in-person on an ongoing basis are crucial elements of the initiative.
“Dr. Grinfas-David’s passion is catching and we are very enthusiastic about rethinking our Israel curriculum,” said Brodie.
As one of 14 participants in the Day School Initiative, Ezra Academy is embracing CIE’s approach to Israel, which focuses on teaching facts with context through primary sources and other. This approach positions faculty to be unbiased facilitators of learning, and allows for safe spaces for students to consider sources of information while building their critical thinking skills in age-appropriate ways and learning to engage in dialogue and discourse.
This school year, when Israel is marking its 75th anniversary as a state, provides a particularly rich educational opportunity for students at Ezra Academy to look at Israel’s growth and evolution in areas beyond conflict and politics in an age-appropriate way. Students can compare the Israel of today, what it has achieved and what remains unresolved with other countries at only 75 years of age, such as the United States in 1851.
“We are so incredibly privileged to have been selected as a participant in this CIE cohort and for the ongoing support and coaching that our faculty are receiving and will continue to receive over this multi-year process. Dr. David will also continue to work with our faculty and staff about how to have and facilitate challenging conversations about Israel, particularly given the need in the current political climate,” said Cohen-Fraade