The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the Israeli government has agreed to fund a pilot program called Netivei Masa (Masa Pathways) that would bring Jewish teachers and community leaders to Israel, in the hope that they will return to their communities and teach their students about Israel. The program, which is similar to the Birthright Israel program that funds the trips of young Jews, is a joint effort of the government and the Jewish Agency. Israeli cabinet secretary Ovad Yehezkel said " Only 20 percent of the world's Jewish educators have come to Israel, mostly on their own. With this new agenda, we will bring every last Jewish educator to Israel within 10 years".
(Well, that seems overly optimistic to me. I can't imagine that "every last" Jewish educator will take advantage of the program.)
Overall, this seems like a good idea. Educate the educators about the wonders of Israel, then send them home and let them educate their communities. I just think that the premise should be narrowed down a bit. As with any publicly funded program, you want to figure out how to get the most bang for your buck. Is it worth the estimated $5,000-12,000 estimated cost per participant to send all the teachers in a particular school? Why not just select 2 or 3 and allow them to bring the message back to their school? Would it be more effective to include younger teachers over older ones, or vice versa? And what exactly is a "Jewish educator?" Does that include anyone who teaches in a Jewish school, whether they teach Torah or Ivrit or math? Does it include Jewish teachers in non-Jewish schools? Sunday school morahs? Synagogue youth group leaders? The mom who volunteers in the school library?
The idea is a good one; I just hope that poor planning will not result in its ultimate demise.
Weinstein, Mayim Bialik and the Perils of Religious Instruction - *I wrote the following for my Beit Midrash's weekly email, and on reflection I'd like to get feedback from a broader population, so I'm reproducing it here...
5 hours ago