By Marilyn Z. Fine

The Center for Israel Education (CIE) and the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel (ISMI) recently held the 16th annual educator workshop in Atlanta, Georgia. Participants came from communities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Panama, and among them were eight educators from the Greater Washington area.

They were Aaron Bregman and Elizabeth Savopoulos, both from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland; Sarit Cioban-Spector from Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland; Ross Garelick-Bell from Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia; Marc Hershkowitz from Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland; Miles Roger from Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C.; Steven Kerbel, consultant and member of the CIE staff; and myself, from Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland.

Empowering educators, and through them their students, has remained the objective of this exceptional learning opportunity, funded by The AVI CHAI Foundation of North America. More than 800 educators have participated in the workshop since its inception. Throughout the five-day program, participants learned with leading scholars and practitioners in sessions focusing on Israel’s history, politics, and culture.

CIE President and Emory University Professor Kenneth W. Stein, who created the workshop in 2000, opened the program on Sunday, June 25, stating that, “Understanding Israel’s past and present helps to provide a glimpse into who we are as a Jewish people. A common history connects us all, regardless of geography, politics, or flavor of Judaism practiced. We need to know Israel’s story, and that of its people, because Israel is integral to Jewish identity in the 21st Century.”

Sarit Cioban-Spector gave a heartfelt response to Professor Stein’s remarks, noting how they resonated throughout the week. “I’m always proud to be an Israeli, but never have I experienced such an expression of love toward my country,” she said. “About 90 Jewish educators, from all walks of life, kept reminding me how special Israel’s place is in their hearts. At the same time, I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from others about the land of Israel.” She said she is looking forward to returning to teaching in the fall “armed with my new knowledge and skills.”

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