The How, Why and What of Israel Education

Are you struggling with Israel education? Are you looking for a space to explore the needs of your learners, and delve into your own attitudes, and approaches for teaching Israel? Jewish LearningWorks is proud to offer a new Israel learning lab for Jewish educational leaders, led by Dr. Sivan Zakai, Dr. Kathy Simon, Dr. Lesley Litman, and Dr. Kathy Schwartz.

  • Dates: From November 2024 to May 2025.

  • Format: Cohort-learning program. Gathers online and in-person.

  • Registration: Opens on August 6, 2024.

We are teachers of values, of history, and of identity. Yet many of us feel ill-prepared or in need of a refresher to respond to our students at this moment, and to create a new strategy for learning about Israel. 

  • Aimed at: The Israel LearningLab is a collaborative learning platform for Bay Area educators. It is designed to benefit all Jewish educators, regardless of their educational setting, however, the program is geared toward educators of grade-school aged children, and above.

This in-depth learning opportunity will help you explore the way in which Israel learning is part of Jewish education. The lab will cover the how and why of Israel education as well as developmental readiness of students to encounter learning about Israel.

Defining Our Approach for Israel Education

Participants will join a cohort of educators seeking to gain greater understanding and real tools to address the complex realities of Israel education in a post October 7th world. Besides our lab group learning, each participant will work with a mentor who will aid them in applying the learning to their own educational setting.

  • Structure: Cohort learning. Hybrid approach. Online sessions (synchronous and asynchronous), two day-long, in-person sessions, and one-on-one mentorship.

As a cohort, we will create a brave space to explore how we can respectfully communicate with one another, and speak about our own beliefs as we work to develop the skills to understand and employ the various frameworks to approach Israel education.

Program Details

  • Dates: Begins on November 18, 2024, and concludes in May 2025
  • Group sessions: Online and in-person sessions facilitated by Israel education experts Dr. Sivan Zakai, and Dr. Lesley Litman, Jewish educator Dr. Kathy Schwartz, and communication expert Dr. Kathy Simon.
  • Mentorship: One-on-one mentoring to help you develop a clear approach for Israel education, for your program and learners.
  • Enrollment fee: $360 per participant. Jewish LearningWorks is committed to accessibility for everyone who wants to participate. Please be in touch if the fee is a hardship for your organization.

Learning Arc & Expectations

The Israel LearningLab will begin with an in-person intensive session focusing on non-violent communication, laying the groundwork for the content that will follow. Participants will be asked to prepare for some of the sessions with advance reading or brief reflection assignments to enhance the time together.

In the second half of the program, participants will work with mentors to translate the learning into their unique setting. The mentorship paired with expert-led learning, will enable educators to explore and experiment, gaining the knowledge and tools to develop their own confidence to teach about Israel.

Learning Lab Schedule





November 18, 2024 Norms of Productive Engagement: Non-violent Communication Dr. Kathy Simon  In person/ Day-long gathering at the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation (121 Steuart St, San Francisco, CA 94105)
December 17, 2024 Understanding Israel’s Role in Jewish Education Dr. Sivan Zakai Online session / From 11 am – 12:30 pm
January 13, 2025  Productive Engagement, Part II Dr. Kathy Simon  Online session / From 11 am – 12:30 pm
March 24, 2025 (tentative date) Pending confirmation Pending confirmation In person / Day-long gathering at Congregation Beth El (1301 Oxford St, Berkeley, CA 94709)
April 22, 2025  What Israel education means to me, and my institution Dr. Lesley Litman Online session / 90 minutes
May 5, 2025   Siyum Dr. Kathy Schwartz Online session / From 11 am – 12:30 pm


Registration is open, and will remain open until November 4, 2024, or until the program is full.

The cost of the program is $360 per participant.

All trainings at Jewish LearningWorks are subsidized by our generous donors. If the cost is a barrier to your participation, do not hesitate to contact us to arrange an adjustment. Please email


Please contact Kathy Schwartz at for any questions or more information.

About Our Lead Facilitators

Dr. Sivan Zakai

Sivan Zakai, Ph.D., is the Sara S. Lee Associate Professor of Jewish Education at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles. A thought leader in Jewish and Israel education, Dr. Zakai is the director of the Children’s Learning About Israel Project and co-director of Project ORLIE: Research and Leadership in Israel Education. She also serves as a senior editor of the Journal of Jewish Education and as a member of the faculty at the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute.

Dr. Kathy Simon

Kathy Simon, Ph.D., is passionate about teaching skills for communicating across difference, whether the differences arise across the kitchen table, in the classroom, the board room, or across religious, racial, and political divides. Her work draws on the insights of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication and incorporates decades of experience as an educator, non-profit director, parent, and partner. She is a certified trainer with the international Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Dr. Lesley Litman

Lesley Litman, Ed.D., is a faculty member of the HUC-JIR School of Education and Coordinator of Faculty Instructional Support at HUC-JIR. She consults to The iCenter in curriculum design and professional development in Israel education. Lesley has served in leadership positions in a wide variety of Jewish educational settings including founding director of HUC-JIR’s Executive MA program in Jewish Education, congregational education, day schools, youth movement and the URJ. She lived in Israel for ten years and was a founder of Kibbutz Yahel. Lesley holds an Ed.D. from JTS, an MA in Jewish Studies with a Hebrew concentration from Hebrew College and a BA in Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was a Mandel Jerusalem Fellow from 1994-96.

Our Israel Education Stance

Exploring Israel with learners of any age has perhaps never been more difficult. When we teach about Israel, each of us in the room – whether teacher or learner – comes with our own knowledge, experiences, and assumptions. It is in this context that Jewish LearningWorks has developed our Israel education offerings for 2024-25.

We acknowledge that no teacher, and no topic can be value neutral, and we have chosen partners that we believe will create a safe, learning environment for participants. We embrace an approach Rabbi Laura Novak Winer recently termed Yedidat Yisrael/Knowing Israel as we work together to sharpen our content knowledge, and develop the tools required to reach learners with divergent ideas, experiences and positions. Rabbi Novak Winer writes: “Yediat Yisrael more accurately reflects the type of knowledge, understandings, and connections our learners need. Yes, it may lead to ahavat Yisrael, but that is not the primary objective. Yediat Yisrael aims for learners to find and navigate their own meanings and connections with Israel, as the historic homeland, as a global, diverse Jewish community, and as the modern State. Yediat Yisrael aims to build understanding.”

Ultimately, meaningful Israel education (in fact all education) depends on educators bringing themselves to the work. We are committed to taking an intentional, and  learner-centered approach to this topic, and remain always open to your feedback.