Published in The Hebrew Watchman on January 17, 2019
By Michal Almalem and Tamar Hershkovitz
Over the past winter break, Michal Almalem, Bornblum’s Judaic Studies Principal and Tamar Hershkovitz, a Judaic Studies teacher at Bornblum, traveled to Shoham, Israel to continue building the partnership with Memphis’ sister city. The trip was funded by Memphis Jewish Federation’s Memphis-Shoham Partnership2Gether Initiative. These are reflections on their journey.
Usually, when we go to Israel, it is to visit our families, or with our eighth graders’ trip to Israel. But this time was different—it was to work together in our sister city, Shoham, with Bornblum’s twin schools, teachers and classes.
Our visit began in the city hall of Shoham at a meeting with the mayor, the director of education in the city, and all the amazing people who are involved in this partnership between Memphis and Shoham. We learned that Shoham has 4,700 K-12 students. Technology is implemented in every aspect of education. Even the library has books with virtual reality glasses. Design and the creation of an all-encompassing learning environment are highly important in Shoham. This was evident as we walked through the schools. Student art is presented, awards and missions are everywhere. We could feel the pride of Shoham as we walked the hallways of the schools. We found classes designed with a variety of sitting areas to enable working in groups in a comfortable setting. We even saw a roof that was designated to be an agro-ecological roof with a vegetable and herb garden.
Throughout our time in Shoham, we explored the different buildings, organizations and institutions that provide all the services of education, culture, extracurriculars, and entertainment. It was impressive to see how a small city is able to provide a range of experiences and a high level of education for their community, and especially for their youth.
Meeting the teachers and students in our twin classes was a highlight of our journey. We introduced them to our students and to Memphis through presentations and a video clip that our students prepared for them. It was interesting to learn and see both how similar and different Shoham students are from our Bornblum Bobcats. One big difference was in response to a question we asked—What does Jewish identity mean for you? Obviously, living in Israel makes for a different answer.
Our twin class teacher was also our host and it was like magic for both of us. We spent the evenings working on a plan and curriculum for the twin classes. We came up with an experience that will include an exhibit, a discussion about values in Judaism, and a journey to explore how these values came to life or were tested throughout our history. We also chose two days on the upcoming eighth grade Israel trip when the classes will travel together while students from both classes will lead and explain together in English and Hebrew about the sites we will be visiting. We can’t wait to return in the late spring with our eighth graders to visit again with our friends in Shoham.