JETS has just completed another year of Shutafut/Partnership programs, twinning schools in North American with Israeli schools for weekly activities in which the students meet each other through online activities to exchange ideas and learn together.
The Shutafut program will be entering its 4th year for students paired between Birmingham Alabama and Rosh HaAyin Israel, its 3rd year for the partnership between Edmonton Alberta and Emek HaHula and its 2nd year for the partnership between Vancouver British Columbia and Alai Giva which is located along Israel's Northern border. The Edmonton/Emek HaHula and the Vancouver/Alai Giva programs partnered Jewish Day Schools with Israeli schools while the Birmingham/Rosh Haayin partnership included Birmingham public school classes in its program.
While the goal of many Federation Partnership programs involves an eventual face-to-face meeting between representatives of the two partnership communities, the JETS programs encompass entire classrooms in which all of the students are able to participate in the online activities which allow them to meet their peers overseas, ask questions, compare lifestyles and learn about each other's families, cultures, activities and other aspects of their lives.
The students are invited to participate in the decision-making process to help decide which projects and subjects will be covered each year. Some of this year's subjects included discussions about heroes, environmentalism, Tikkun Olam, volunteerism and diversity. Students share their experiences of how they celebrate their own holidays as they learn about how their counterparts across the ocean celebrate the same holidays as well and their own unique holidays.
The coursework for Birmingham/Rosh HaAyin included course material about the arts in recognition of Rosh Haayin's status as Israel's "City of the Arts."
As the school year comes to a close all of the groups participated in sessions that dealt with Holocaust Day, Israel's Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Israel's Independence Day with videos, biographies and additional motivating materials.
JETS Shutafut groups use Wikis, interactive learning platforms that allow teachers to present thoughtful, open-ended questions to the students who then post their own answers on the board for all to see.
The Israeli students are expected to post in English and those North American students who have studied Hebrew post in Hebrew. In this way the students not only cover the course material but they strengthen their language skills.
Plans for Next Year
Six new Israeli schools are expecting to join the Shutafut program next year, three from the Jersualem area and three from the Galilee. This Friends Across the Sea program will pair these schools with six North American Day schools and will explore subject ranging from "The Changing World" to "Jewish Peoplehood."