Educators convene in shadow of report showing widespread ignorance about Israel

(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 on 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 got scores of 50 per cent or lower, the report stated, noting that the students are incapable of “contributing to discourse about Israel on campus in a meaningful way.”

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 story tellers, 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.”

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

During 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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