Teaching Israel forum follows report showing widespread ignorance of Jewish state


(JTA) — Some 250 Jewish educators, educational leaders and funders gathered in Las Vegas for iCamp, a three-day conference on Israel education.

The  iCamp conference, which launched Tuesday, focuses on strategies for teaching Diaspora Jews about the culture, history and politics of the State of Israel.

The conference comes a week after Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies released a report showing major gaps in American Jewish college students’ knowledge about Israel. More than half of the 628 Birthright Israel program applicants who took a multiple-choice exam designed to assess Israel literacy had scores of 50 percent or lower, the report said, noting that the students are incapable of “contributing to discourse about Israel on campus in a meaningful way.”

READ: Half of Birthright applicants flunked this Israel test — can you do better?

Hosted by the iCenter for Israel Education, the conference seeks to impart “new approaches and skills to help youth in all kinds of educational settings connect to Israel in personal and authentic ways,” according to a statement issued by the iCenter.

“Effective Israel education reflects excellent education,” said Anne Lanski, the iCenter’s executive director. “It starts with talented educators — individuals who are knowledgeable and deft storytellers, who know how to tap into their students’ passions, and are able to bring Israel to life in nearly any educational environment — be it in a classroom, at a camp, on a bus or elsewhere.

READ: Foundations, educators search for innovative approaches to Israel education

“This is an exciting moment for those committed to bringing dynamic and inspiring Israel learning and experiences to today’s youth and young adults. We have more knowledge than ever about what these experiences consist of, and more talented educators in the field than ever before.”

At the conference, the iCenter was set to launch the Aleph Bet of Israel Education-2nd Edition, representing a set of 12 core principles, approaches to content and essential pedagogies that together constitute the building blocks of Israel education.

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