Yifat Golan, Hebrew teacher and Israel coordinator at Hillel Day School is thrilled to boast about the success of the 7th grade school twinning program between Hillel Day School and Migdal Ha’emek’s Yaarat Ha’emek School in the Michigan Central Galilee Partnership region. The program is sponsored by the Jewish Federation through it’s Partnership 2Gether allocation.
The twinning program is in its fourth year, but this year it is just “phenomenal” says Yifat. The teams both in Detroit and in Israel are seriously committed to the program with a very dedicated staff.
Each week, 90 children meet on zoom and discuss issues that concern them as Jews, Americans and Israelis and the common thread that they all experience. They are divided into break out groups of 8 students and deal with a topic and end with a fun game, quiz or activity in Hebrew and English. They also virtually celebrate Jewish Holidays together, most recently, a multicultural Tu Bi’shvat Seder and at the end of February, a joint Purim celebration is planned with a bi-lingual comedian. As Ben Berman, a seventh grader at Hillel says, “From this program I have learned to make a stronger connection with people that are in a whole different country and a whole different continent and I’ve also had fun with meeting new teachers and meeting new students in small groups and learning about what they like and they learn what I like.”
Strangely, the pandemic of the last year has made a positive difference to the program. As Yifat proudly claims, “Zoom and technology were more challenging prior to Covid; now it’s very familiar and part of the student’s routine. In addition, the Detroiters are doing the program at school in the morning while the Israelis are now set up technologically to do the program from their homes, so the time difference is no longer an issue.”
In the spring of 2022, the current Hillel cohort will end their 8th grade year with an Israel experience. Unlike past years, this group will have had a strong and long encounter with their Israeli counterparts and the organizers are hoping for a multi-day Israel experience together. As one student said, “I really feel that I have friends in Israel.”