Today was a beautiful warm fall day in Israel and the students spent most of it outside. It is Election Day in Israel and the country’s schoolchildren had the day off, and many adults as well. They encountered several people on holiday as they traveled. The students began their outdoor adventure with a hike at Mount Carmel.
They learned how to create a map of Israel with their bodies.
They challenged themselves to scramble up rocks and wrote letters to their future selves.
They saw beautiful views when they reached the end of their hike.
Some of them biked and others found a different trail to reach the swimming hole to cool down.
Then, they continued their lessons about Israeli history and geography at Mount Gilboa where they saw the sunset.
Tomorrow they go south to the Negev desert. For more photos and updates, check out
Imagine a group of awkward teenagers forced to interact with peers they never met. Do you remember being this age? One school has students wearing their school uniform, while the other school wore sweatshirts and jeans. One school from Brooklyn, NY and the other from East Brunswick, NJ. Both from different worlds but have two things in common – both are from one school network, Hebrew Public and are traveling to Israel.
One of the most exciting ways that our students learn about Israel and the Hebrew language is by taking our 8th graders on a trip to Israel— what better way to learn and experience one’s culture, than to visit the country!
Last year, we took our first cohort of 8th graders on a once in a lifetime trip to Israel. They ate Israeli food, practiced their Hebrew, visited the Dead Sea, rode on camels and completely immersed themselves in Israeli’s deep and rich culture. This year, Jessica Lieberman, our Director of Israel Studies decided to spice things up and do things a little differently. The two schools taking the trip – Brooklyn’s Hebrew Language Academy Charter School and Hatikvah International Academy in East Brunswick, New Jersey – had the opportunity to meet one another prior to their trip! We incorporated lessons from last year and added a pre-trip orientation focused on global citizenship, Israeli culture and what to expect when traveling to another country.
We invited Sarah Stone to facilitate, trip chaperones from each school and our keynote speaker for the day was Jamie Williams. Ms. Stone is an American-Israeli educator/facilitator dedicated to bringing youth together to develop empathy and advocacy skills to enact change in their society. Jamie Williams, a member of the NYS Assembly joined us to speak to our students about diversity in Brooklyn and their upcoming trip.
Ms. Stone had the students participate in icebreaker exercises by asking them to stand next to someone that they didn’t know, share their name and a characteristic about themselves. She asked questions to prepare them for their trip; which languages and religions they will learn in Israel, what can they expect to learn from other cultures and a challenge they may face on the trip. The best response was being without Wi-Fi or the video game, Fortnite – what an ironic answer coming from a 13-year-old!
These exercises and questions required the students to step out of their comfort zone and connect with students from a different school and background, which is essentially what they will be asked to do while in Israel. As we observed the students during these exercises, you can see that they began to feel more at ease when they realized that students they never met before had the same responses to how they feel about the trip and what they wanted to learn or experience.
Thank you, Jessica, Sarah, and Jamie for your encouragement and support, and for ensuring that our students are prepared to embark on this journey that we are sure they will never forget.
Stay tuned for blog posts and photos of our students making their way through Israel’s most prominent cities!
By Elisabeth Castera
One summer morning in August, a group of diverse, eager and excited educators gathered together in one room for their first network-wide professional development meeting. The meeting took place in New York City’s Hunter College. As more staff members arrived, you could hear many conversations – curiosity about what to expect, introductions with new staff members, excitement about a new school year, and the chance for a fresh start; began to fill the room.
Joining us, we had our first cohort of Arbel Fellowship teachers from Israel – (Arbel Fellowship is a program that provides an opportunity for Israeli teachers to teach Hebrew in our schools for two years), we also had our director of Social and Emotional Learning (a new role created to focus on the launch of our social and emotional learning initiatives), and Reverend Linda Tarry-Chard – a Board Member of Harlem Hebrew Language Academy and an Ordained Minister, just to name a few. The group learned about Hebrew in our curriculum, initiatives towards Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and what our goals were as a network. SEL is a hot topic in schools and is central to Hebrew Public’s mission to prepare students from all backgrounds to become global citizens.
During our meeting, Reverend Linda asked the group to remember a time when we first crossed paths with someone from a different socioeconomic class, at that moment the tables were turned, it was our time to self-reflect. As teachers, these are the types of questions we generally ask our students, not necessarily taking the time to ask ourselves these same questions. From this exercise, we pressed the rewind button to a time when we were our students’ age, a time where life seemed simpler, or at least we thought it was. Some stories shared were experiences from traveling to a different country and seeing other children who were less fortunate than they were – asking for food or money, or interacting with someone from a different background, who spoke a different language. This exercise made us think about diversity and when we first acknowledged it in our lives. And for most of us, the answer is, it began as children. It was an excellent exercise as it made educators and teachers to analyze the questions, we are asking our students. It starts in our schools and with our teachers.
When educators practice SEL skills in the classroom, studies have shown it to have a positive impact on academics. Successful, evidence-based SEL starts with adults, who practice and purposefully cultivate their own competencies first, then expand SEL practices to reach students. When adults try these practices for themselves, it builds self-efficacy and their own SEL competencies. Citizenship means belonging and welcoming rituals help all members of the community feel a sense of belonging.
Since our meeting, welcoming rituals have been implemented in our schools. Staff members greet children and parents at the door to create a sense of belonging. By doing so, families feel valued as a member of the community. We strongly believe that when you combine a diverse-by-design community and SEL skills in a school, extraordinary things can happen. Despite living in a time of inequality and racial economic disparities, sitting in Hunter College that morning in a room with diverse educators and leaders, there was a feeling of hope – a feeling that our students will continue to reach academic excellence and become successful global citizens.
Thank you to all our wonderful teachers, staff and leadership teams that joined, participated and showed their support at Hebrew Public’s first PD meeting. Here’s to a new school year, a willingness to understand and accept one another’s differences and lead by example for our students.
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James A. Baldwin.
By Elisabeth Castera
We are thrilled to announce that one of our amazing teachers is also an author! Tara Drouin from Hebrew Language Academy Charter School shared her wonderful book named “One Heart” with us. Tara has been teaching for ten years and has been a musician for twenty. Growing up in a family that played musical instruments and sang, music was embedded in her life at a young age. Tara was inspired to write the song “One Heart” that incorporates her experiences with diversity from being a teacher, a mom and musician.
Tara strongly believes that there needs to be more unity and kindness in the world – that is how “One Heart” originated. The song speaks about how we all may have our differences, whether it is a different eye color, skin color or hair color but inside, we all have one heart. Tara believes that this message needs to be shared with children at a young age.
Aside from writing such an inspiring song, Drouin has written a book that incorporates the lyrics to the song with lovely illustrations by Nancy Noskewicz – an art teacher that Tara used to work with. A free download of the song comes with the book. Tara’s students love singing the song in her classroom and plans on giving a copy of the book to her class. She expresses to them that our differences are what makes us all unique but inside we’re all the same, we are all human beings with one heart and we all need to be unified. Tara says, “If you have friends, family and you’re healthy, you really have it all.”
At her spare time, Tara enjoys yoga, going to the beach, making jewelry and going to the movies with her husband and daughter.
Congratulations Tara and Nancy on creating your first book and thank you so much for being a great example to our students! Tara’s book is now available on Amazon, and can be purchased here.
If you’d like to see Tara perform live, she will be performing children’s songs with her friend Katie at Jones Beach Band Shell and the event is free!
See details below!
July 24th, July 31st & August 11th: Jones Beach Band Shell @8pm. (Field 4)
By Elisabeth Castera
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