Naomi Prawer Kadar Foundation and World ORT launch new training seminar


World ORT has held the inaugural Naomi Prawer Kadar International Seminar for Digital Technology in Jewish Education in Moscow “モ a sign of the importance the organisation places on the teaching of Jewish Studies for the continued vitality of Jewish communities in and around the Former Soviet Union.

The Seminar takes the baton from the Terry and Jean de Gunzburg Jewish Education Seminar series, which has concluded after a three-year run, and has been made possible thanks to the support of the Naomi Prawer Kadar Foundation.

Nearly 30 Hebrew teachers from Belarus, Bulgaria, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine and Estonia were brought together for the four-day Seminar at Moscow ORT Technology School. They were joined by guest speakers Professor Igor Zyskin, of the Maimonides Academy in Moscow, and Dr Arye Olman of the Levinsky College of Education in Tel Aviv. “The school is one of the best, if not the best, in Russia in terms of its use of technology in the classroom so in addition to learning from our expert guests participants could also see how their peers were using tools such as Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) and video-conferencing in the teaching of Hebrew,”? said Dr Sergey Gorinskiy, the Director of ORT Russia.

It was certainly effective, as testified by Natalia Spektor, a participant from the Lauder Etz Chaim School in Moscow.

“When I saw [Moscow ORT Technology School Hebrew teacher] Ilya Lerer’s demonstration of the Interactive Whiteboard’s capabilities and how we can apply them to teaching I was dumbfounded!”? she said.

Ms Spektor’s school is not part of the ORT network and her presence at the Kadar Seminar demonstrated World ORT’s commitment to the community at large.

“The participants can be divided into two categories: Israeli teachers working in local Jewish schools as the Israeli Ministry of Education’s contribution to the Heftsiba system, and local teachers,”? said World ORT Chief Programme Officer Vladimir Dribinskiy. “We are addressing the needs of all Jewish schools in the region “モ religious schools as well as our own.”?

And the choice of Moscow for the launch of the successor to the de Gunzburg Seminar was a sign of the importance World ORT places on raising the status of Jewish Studies in the FSU.

“Parents and children are attracted to our schools primarily for the high quality of our secular studies, particularly in science and technology,”? Dr Gorinskiy said. “It’s no secret that some of them want to focus on that and avoid the extra workload of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. By the use of technology in these subjects we make them more attractive and interesting.”?

Mr Dribinskiy added: “We consider it extremely important to employ new technology in Jewish Studies at the same level as other subjects; in doing so we open huge opportunities for inter-curricular projects. Historically, Jewish Studies have benefited less from innovations in educational technology which is why we need these seminars and continual teacher training.”?

And it all contributes to the impact World ORT has been making since its return to the countries of the FSU in 1991 on the revitalisation of Jewish communal life after decades of anti-religious policies.

As World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer said: “On these teachers’ shoulders rests the responsibility for the upbringing of our children and preserving the continuity of our history, culture and traditions.”?

It is an aspect which would have resonated deeply with Naomi Prawer Kadar, z”?l, the accomplished Yiddish scholar and life-long educator in whose name the Foundation which supports the Seminar was founded.

“The Naomi Foundation is proud to sponsor this series of seminars on digital technology in Jewish education, inspired by Naomi’s cutting edge teaching methods, combined with her love for Jewish Studies,”? said Avraham Kadar, M.D., the Foundation’s president and husband of Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D. ” Naomi deeply cherished community among Jewish educators. She understood the importance of creating an environment of academic exchange in which teachers could share ideas, experiences, and best technological practices. In this vein, we believe these international seminars will enrich educators and facilitate the transmission of Jewish culture and tradition within a 21 st century classroom setting. We feel privileged to work in partnership with World ORT, a prominent and inspirational leader in the field of Jewish education and teacher training courses.”

Many of the participants were already technologically literate thanks to the de Gunzburg Seminar series. So the Kadar Seminars, which like its predecessor will be held in different countries, are an opportunity for teachers to focus more on pedagogical aspects.

Ninel Dorfman, a Hebrew teacher at Kishinev ORT Technology Lyceum, said the two seminars were quite different in their approach.

“At the de Gunzburg Seminar in Kishinev we were sitting at the computers the whole time, improving our ICT skills. In Moscow, we could see the theory and practice of improving our teaching of Hebrew with the help of ICT skills. We were particularly impressed by, and interested in, the Interactive Whiteboards and look forward to developing our skills with them in the future.”?

Guest speaker Dr Olman noted that teachers from peripheral regions in particular still had to catch up on technological developments. However, he was enthusiastic about the Kadar Seminar.

“The participants were varied and heterogeneous but one thing united them “モ a desire to study Hebrew teaching in school. Their motivation was very high, the questions asked were interesting and the discussions productive and professional,”? he said.

Mr Singer paid tribute to the Kadar family for their leadership in making the Seminar “モ the importance of which was emphasised by the involvement of representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Education in the closing session “モ a reality.

“I am truly grateful to them for their confidence in this important strategic partnership with World ORT. I am very pleased to work with the Foundation, with which World ORT shares core goals and values, and look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration,”? he said.