29 July 2021 Jewish News
Promoted Content / JN Education
JNF UK: Investing in the next generation Over the few past decades, Jews living outside of Israel have seen the country blossom into a thriving regional powerhouse that has made huge strides despite the many challenges it has faced. For many, the continued success of the Jewish national home is a source of great pride, inspiration and comfort.
ow do we make sure that the upcoming generations also share in this appreciation of Israel? In a digital age, how can we give them a grounded understanding of the country despite all the discussion that surrounds it? And how can we make sure they benefit from being fully in touch with their historical, spiritual and cultural heritage? The answer is to make Israel education an integral part of their schooling experience. This is easier said than done. Teachers are under immense pressure to ‘teach to the test,’ with a focus on good exam grades crowding out other considerations. Extracurricular activities, when they are arranged, are also often limited by budgetary constraints. This is why JNF UK decided to step in. Nurturing a strong relationship between the British Jewish community and Israel is part of our DNA. As the oldest Israel-supporting charity in the UK, we have seen first-hand the impact that diaspora communities can have, with our earliest supporters using their donations to lay the foundations for the reestablishment of Israel. For 120 years, we have been building Israel’s future, and intend to keep doing so for the next 120 as well. With this in mind, JNF UK’s Israel education grants scheme was initiated. JNF UK worked in co-operation with each school, who could apply for funding for what they believed would best promote a love and connection to Israel. Rather than enforce a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy from above, we trusted that teachers know best what their pupils need and JNF UK helped them to achieve these common goals. We don’t just hand over the money and then disappear. The schools know that we are always available to offer help, with a
Mathilda Marks Kennedy and Etz Chaim students showcase their Succas
dedicated member of staff always only an email or phone call away. Partnering with so many schools on so many different projects means we are developing a real sense of best practice, with others now seeking us out as a recognised hub of practical support and information for Israel education. Of course, none of this would be possible without the schools themselves. We have been blown away by the creativity, passion, and commitment they have shown in response to the grants. Over the course of several years they have celebrated festivals, organised competitions, arranged trips and run many, many more Israel-related activities. One of the ways they have been able to do this is by using grant money to increase teaching capacity, either by increasing hours for existing staff or even by hiring new specialist staff. Several schools have taken on Shinshinim – idealistic young Israelis, working abroad for a year to help boost diaspora communities. After all, who better to teach and educate about Israel than the Israelis themselves? Given that Israel is the “start-up nation,” some schools opted to use modern technology to aid their pupils. We helped them purchase special iPads, preloaded with Jewish activities to help with studies. These were especially helpful for those who had twinned with schools in Israel. Now children can speak directly to their counterparts across the world, learning from each other. Amazing as this wonderful technology is, it can’t compare with experiencing something in real life. This is why some schools use our grants to help fund trips to Israel, so that their pupils can learn about and connect with the Jewish nation themselves. We also believe that no trip is complete without at least one JNF UK volunteering day, where eager Students at Independent Jewish Day School enjoy the JNF UK Festival of Spoken Ivrit
Students from Gevim School in Be’er Sheva wearing masks designed by UK students
One of our facemask competition winners
JFS students learning about the geography of Israel learners can try out some simple DIY skills. Helping to renovate a playground or give a school a fresh lick of paint in the communities we support gives our UK students the chance to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who re-established the country. JNF UK’s support for schools goes beyond the grant scheme. Whenever we decide to run a new activity, we always make it available to as many schools as possible. A prime example of this is our Festival of Spoken Ivrit, where JNF UK brings over professionally trained Israeli actors from prestigious theatre companies to perform mixed-language plays in schools. Over the last three years thousands of children of all ages have been entranced as the Festival has brought Hebrew to life for them. This dedication to supporting as many schools as possible was especially important during the pandemic. With parents trying to juggle working from home with making sure their children weren’t falling behind, JNF UK was quick to start producing materials to help fill the gap. Regular activity sheets were sent to countless homes, keeping pupils engaged
under unprecedented conditions. Covid-19 also saw children given the opportunity to flex their creative muscles as well, with our facemask competition. Thousands entered, submitting colourful designs that celebrated the connection between the Jewish communities here and in Israel. While the original entries were drawn or painted onto paper, three winners were chosen which were then printed on actual masks. These were then sent to children in some of the schools we support in Israel – physical reminders that even during a pandemic, the British Jewish community was thinking about them. These are just a few highlights, but the truth is that every week we hear about an amazing new initiative that is happening in one of our partner schools. We are so proud of the teachers, parents and pupils who are constantly coming up with new ways to engage with their culture, religion, language and heritage – and JNF UK is proud to support them every step of the way. To find out more about JNF UK please visit www.jnf.co.uk.