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Building Bridges in Jerusalem

Anneke Silverstein reports on the ‘Teach your Chapter’ trip to Jerusalem...

It’s lonely out there in the desert. What do you say? Lonely? Yes, it can be lonely as a Bnei Mitzvah teacher working in a small Jewish Liberal Community in Europe. We don’t have fancy Hebrew School programs with paid staff, lots of students, classes twice a week, a proper budget and a plethora of educational materials.

BUT we are enthusiastic teachers, teaching mostly a handful of kids of all ages, speaking multiple languages in sometimes very small communities with limited means. We are all working on our Jewish Island, doing the best we can. Some of us passionate - about passing on Jewish knowledge - don’t even have the educational background. But none of us doubt the importance of the work we are doing.

So, no wonder we feel lonely sometimes.

That’s why attending the 16-week online ‘Teach their Chapter’ course, made possible by a grant, was and is such an important and necessary initiative. And it culminated in a trip to Jerusalem in August.

Photo shows Anneke, Nada & Jonathan Joppe with other participants

There we were able to connect with Bnei Mitzvah teachers from all over Europe, 13 different countries to be exact! Rabbi Nathan Alfred, partnering with Shuvi Hofmann, the Global Jewish Education Manager of the National Library of Israel and guest lecturers, led us through the Zoom talks, discussions, lectures, and learning. And finally in Jerusalem we were able to meet our fellow teachers face-to-face.

We shared stories about the joys and oys of our liberal communities, walked (a lot!) and talked, ate and talked, prayed at the kotel, visited the old city, attended a bat mitzvah service, were in awe walking through the National Library of Israel, Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum, sang together, prayed shacharit while watching the sun rise over Jerusalem and finally, talked even more.

We built connections and bridges between teachers from Helsinki to Lisbon, from Prague to Cork and everything in between!! Nothing and I repeat NOTHING beats the value of an in-person meeting and the experience of a trip like this. We were inspired and we inspired each other.

This is the fuel that keeps us going and helps us find higher purpose in the work we do. A big thank you to Bill Echikson for getting this grant, and Rabbi Nathan Alfred for leading the course and the trip.



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