Global Citizenship: Recognizing the Challenges of our Times

08.12.22

Global Citizenship can be defined and understood in many ways, as more than a dozen delegates from across ORT’s network have discovered at the official launch of the organization’s Global Citizenship program in Israel.

As the first face-to-face teacher seminar organized by World ORT since the pandemic, it felt fitting to focus on global issues and how tools such as Social and Emotional Learning can help us to understand and empathize with others in difficult conditions.

World ORT’s flagship Kfar Silver Youth Village is an example of Global Citizenship in action and was a perfect location for the four-day gathering.

With a student body comprising many demographics, including migrants to Israel from Ukraine and Ethiopia as well as Israeli-born students coming from challenging backgrounds, the village has found a harmony and culture which nurtures growth and understanding.

Participants were warmly welcomed by Amos Gofer, CEO of Kfar Silver, and his staff team and the village’s Young Ambassadors at the beginning of the week.

Global Citizenship Education (GCE) embodies a new approach to education, which aims to meet the challenges of our times. Many models of GCE recognize a need for transformation within the education system to address the fact that our world is more globally connected than ever.

ORT identifies that the seeds of the solutions to global problems lie in empowering teachers and introducing initiatives which nurture and enable the potential of young people. As one of World ORT’s three pillars, this is the hope for the Global Citizenship program.

ORT delegates arrived in Israel from nearly all corners of the network, including Latin American representatives from Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil; European countries including the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, France and Italy; ORT South Africa; and of course from World ORT Kadima Mada in Israel.

The plan was to introduce the teachers to the Global Citizenship concept and then explain the World ORT program over the week while getting a taste of Israel’s unique culture and an insight into social issues. There were also sessions for reflecting on ideas such as identity, sustainability and emotional intelligence.

Participants heard from experts including Professor Miri Yemini, a comparative education lecturer from the University of Tel Aviv; Dyonna Ginsburg, CEO of Olam, an international network of Jewish and Israeli NGOs and aid organizations; and Sharon Carmel, an advisor and facilitator of Non-Violent Communication.

Between these sessions, Eric Schloss and Daniel Tysman from World ORT’s Education Department unfolded a narrative of how ORT would bring students from the network together to discuss perspectives on global issues.

The Education Department has created a pathway for schools which culminates with a series of online International Forums. Along the way students have opportunities to develop competencies and practice skills which are conducive to building empathic, collaborative relationships. The goal is to create a World ORT Global Citizenship Constitution which represents the core values and attitudes of students from across the network, representing the diversity of students across our schools and which can be a foundation for the Global Citizenship program for years to come. To recognize and work through the complexity of so many different perspectives and lived experiences is no easy task.

The group spent a day in Sderot, the Israeli town most targeted by rockets from Gaza. They were welcomed by social worker and psychotherapist Ayelet Shmuel, director of the Sderot Resilience Centre. Participants visited schools in the town to understand how Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is used to address the impacts of living in a conflict zone. That evening, the group visited a Bedouin village and were confronted with some of the complexities of the modern state, including land rights and citizenship of Arab Israelis.

These types of difficult issues and having the ability to engage in dialogue with those who think differently about them, are integral aspects of Global Citizenship and the values which a Global Citizen can aspire to. Although Israel is unique, these are issues which can be recognized in some form all over the world.

The experience of learning about each other’s cultures and schools as well as the diversity of Israel was well received by the teachers and they were enthusiastic to be the pioneers of the World ORT Global Citizenship program in the new year.

The peaceful, just and sustainable world of the future is dependent on young people being empowered and trusted to find new ways forward, where perhaps previous generations have struggled. Education has the potential to help shift perspective from seeing just our own experience to understand that of others and see just how interconnected our challenges are.

Judith, a participant from Olami ORT school in Mexico said: “I am really grateful for the experience and to meet so many intelligent and committed people. I’m convinced now that it’s everyone’s responsibility to understand what it means to be a global citizen and to put that into action.”

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