Strengthening the Voices

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“Overall, I have rethought my connection to Israel and want to explore more,” said one participant. Another stated, “So glad I came. I am optimistic about our action plan and think it will turn our school away from just talking, but rather toward doing.” Now, twelve students – and their faculty advisors – are back at their Jewish Day High Schools working to enact the plans they established during our inaugural Be A Voice High School Leadership Seminar. These 10th and 11th grade students from four schools – The Weber School, Frankel Jewish Academy, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, and Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School – arrived at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, MD on Sunday afternoon, January 13th, ready to delve into topics related to Israel and to leadership. They worked together, learned together, taught each other, and challenged each other – all of this in preparation for developing an action plan to enhance Israel’s presence in their schools.

These self-selecting students each felt a void in their schools. They felt that Israel could be made more prominent in school life, and that loving Israel could be relevant and cool. These leaders are taking responsibility for making Israel exciting for the student body, which often expresses apathy toward the State of Israel. The students came to Be A Voice to help create a cultural shift.

After learning communication skills from Washington Improv Theater, discussing vision, mission, and strategy, exploring contemporary Israel (Jewish and Democratic?, and African refugees in Israel), her history (Israel as a part of Jewish identity, and the history of the State of Israel), and the personal connection to and experience with Israel, the participants took their new knowledge – along with their prior knowledge – to strategically plan an approach for their schools. Each delegation came up with something unique that would fit within their schools. The action plans – built from delegation-created vision and mission statements – range  from an interactive and changing mural project to structured educational initiatives to a Yom Ha’Atzmaut color war to lunchtime showings of Israeli sitcoms (happening in a public school space).

The common theme? Get other students talking about Israel more often and with more excitement.

What is your vision and mission for Israel engagement in your environment? Begin with that question and then develop your strategy to achieve goals.

Research has shown that Jewish Day Schools need to integrate Israel into many areas of school life, providing the students with a holistic approach to learning about and engaging with Israel. The holistic experience helps students develop a meaningful connection to the land and State of Israel. Be A Voice High School Leadership Seminar helps to broaden these experiences for the participants and their schools.

Be A Voice High School Leadership Seminar, intended for high school sophomores and juniors, develops students’ leadership skills in the areas of Israel awareness and engagement. Having created action plans for their schools, these students return home with greater knowledge and stronger skills to impact their school environments, helping to bring Israel to the forefront of their peers’ minds.

For more information, contact Stephanie Hoffman, Pre-Collegiate Programs Manager, at sh@davidproject.org.