New connections between local high school students and their Israeli peers are a likely outcome from a trip to Israel that four high school teachers made last month.
The trip was arranged by the Center for Israel Engagement of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. The teachers all specialize in science and technology, and the trip focused on showing them a variety of Israeli technological educational programs.
The teachers found that when it comes to robotic classes, the Israeli and Bergen County classrooms are not that far apart. Rifkie Silverman, chair of the engineering and computer science department at the Frisch School in Paramus, said, “Some of the students we saw are working on almost the exact same projects we are.” She wants to explore having her students in her robotics course collaborate with Israeli peers.
Emmanuil Galitskiy also sees possibilities of future cooperation between his school, the Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, and students in Nahariya.
“The Bergen County Academies has relationships with schools in China and Japan. I would like to have similar relationships with Israeli schools,” he said.
Mr. Galitskiy had been to Israel twice before, visiting friends and touring. This trip, on the other hand, was largely a working visit, with the teachers visiting several schools in northern Israel.
This was the first time Kelly Chladil, who teaches chemistry at Fair Lawn High School, has been to Israel. She was very impressed with the Israeli students’ English skills.
“It was really fascinating how the students we saw were able to describe their scientific experiments in such short, concise, interesting ways,” she said. “There’s no way I could speak about chemistry in Spanish. They presented their research and data so well.”
Ms. Chladil has taught many Israeli students, so she was interested in seeing the country. “It was really interesting being able to talk to the high school students,” she said. At one point, a group of students told the visitors what Israel meant to them. “They said it’s a big family.”
Ms. Chladil put together a slide show about the trip to show to her students back in Fair Lawn this week. She plans to present it to the school’s science department, and then to the board of education. She already has begun planning for a visit by Nahariya students next school year.
Danit Sibovits, the Center for Israel Engagement’s director, said that the trip provided the teachers a different view of Israel from the one they get from the newspapers. “They got to see how Israel is funding schools and promoting tolerance, providing education to both Jews and non-Jews,” she said. “Israel is really about education and educating the next generation.”
On their return, she said, the teachers “are allowing the next generation of leaders to see Israel through a different lens.”
Students at Frisch, an Orthodox high school, already are very familiar with Israel. But Ms. Silverman believes that an academic classroom-to-classroom connection will help even those students “to really see Israel as not only their homeland, but also a place where ultimately there’s an opportunity for them — that you’re not making a compromise if you study in Israel or go there ultimately to work.”
The trip also has her thinking about possible partnerships closer to home.
“It would be nice as a community to collaborate with other schools, like the Bergen Academy, to share ideas about education and high technology,” she said.