I have just spent a week in Sydney, Australia, on a lecture tour of Jewish Day Schools including The Emanuel School, Masada College and Moriah War Memorial College presenting workshops on Israel education and advocacy. My audiences during the week ranged from students, teachers and Rabbis, parents to Israeli Shlichim (emissaries). Whilst I came to teach them, I received a master class on effective informal Israel education Aussie style. There is an extremely strong bond between the Jewish community in Australia and the Jewish State; I feel it on my frequent visits to the antipodes.

In the special atmosphere of Moriah I felt it very much. In addition to a tenth grade Israel trip, the school not only has a four wonderful “Sherut Leumi” girls doing the second year of National Service for the State of Israel but also five amazing young men on the “Torah Metzion” program, who have volunteered to come out and spread the light of Torah from Zion after they have already completed their military service. The Shlichim are chosen for their communication skills, and the fact that they are aware that they are acting as informal ambassadors for the Jewish State and Zionism. Those who are selected tend to identify fully with Zionist values such as, service to the State of Israel, love of the land and an understanding of the centrality of the Jewish State in Jewish history and its importance to the Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

Madrichim at Moriah 2016

Moriah Madrichim.  Photo: T. Book (c) 2016

The informal Jewish Studies department at Moriah runs regular programs for students of all ages, designed to increase their knowledge and awareness of upcoming festivals and events in Israel. The students look forward to Shabbatonim, Zionist camps and leadership seminars run by the capable, fun and vibrant informal education department. As well as bringing Israel to Australia, the Informal Israeli educators give Australian students an opportunity to increase their Jewish learning and facilitates the forming of timeless bonds with these wonderful young role models and our Jewish homeland.

“Mifgash” is the loosely translated Hebrew word for a “meeting,” that is in this case a direct physical encounter between Israeli and Australian peers.   The Mifgash enables Israelis and Australians an opportunity to spend time getting to know one another in both formal and informal settings.  This is seen as a crucial aspect of the Israel education agenda.  The Mifgash is a uniquely effective pedagogical tool for increasing the participants’ understanding of one another.  It is a structured encounter between individuals and also a meeting of two worlds.  The Mifgash counters stereotypes that are caused by casual encounters.

I ran an extremely emotional session for the Shlichim on the idea of values, service, the importance of volunteerism and cross-cultural peer education. We discussed the ultimate sacrifice that some young men and women make to keep our Zionist dream alive. These fantastic young boys and girls were quite literally moved to tears during our session. It is heart-warming in these times to meet these special Jewish young people who come to give and not to take, and who represent all that is good about our country and the miraculous times we live in.