The urgency of invigorating Israel’s ailing education system has been brought home to the architects of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) annual fundraising campaign.
Campaign Chairs and Directors from 38 Jewish communities were in Israel this week to see for themselves the amazing contributions made to the country’s well-being and development thanks to their investments “ﾓ among them World ORT’s Kadima Mada programme, which is spearheading the modernisation and upgrading of schools in under-resourced regions.
Members of the JFNA Campaign Chairs and Directors (CC&D) Mission enjoyed a breakfast briefing in Tel Aviv with World ORT Chief Development Officer Jeff Kaye during which they met 15 teenagers from disadvantaged communities who demonstrated robots they had designed, programmed and built with the support of Kadima Mada’s Mabat project “ﾓ Learning Science through Technology. “We have been recipients of the Federations’ annual campaign for decades but we haven’t always had the opportunity to explain to them what we do with the funds or to give them tools to be able to be successful in their next campaign,”? Mr Kaye said after the meeting. “So this was a chance to introduce them to children who personify the sort of people whose lives are impacted with the money they raise. The Federations enabled us to give these kids access to the education they need for successful, independent lives. And by connecting Federations to what we’re doing it should be easier for them to go back to their communities and raise the money again next year.”?
The Mission members were also given flash discs which allow them to see more of what Kadima Mada does on their computers “ﾓ and to share it with others.
JFNA National Campaign Chair Michael Lebovitz said the flash discs were a brilliant conclusion to an excellent presentation.
“It was an excellent presentation; very useful,”? Mr Lebovitz said. “The flash discs are brilliant, giving anyone who didn’t hear what he had to say the opportunity to put one in their computer later and see it all flash up on their screen.”?
The JFNA’s 157 affiliated Jewish Federations and 400 Network communities raise and distribute more than $3 billion a year for domestic and international projects and the CC&D Mission, which this time also included three days visiting projects in Hungary, is a prelude to the annual fundraising campaign.
The Mission is a chance, said Mr Lebovitz, to build trust and empathy between philanthropists and the goals and methods of those in whom they invest as well as providing participants with tools and resources to advance their fundraising efforts.
“There is no substitute for seeing something first hand,”? he said.
The JFNA promises Mission participants that they will return home feeling “inspired, informed, motivated and above all prepared to meet the challenges of the 2011 Campaign”?. But they may also be forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive after hearing Mr Kaye’s overview of Israel’s education system.
The need for World ORT’s Kadima Mada programmes “ﾓ involving major investment in educational technology such as Interactive Whiteboards as well as in teacher training and resources “ﾓ became all too apparent as he shared some startling statistics: in 1964, the International Association of Education Evaluation ranked Israel first in maths ahead of countries such as Sweden, Britain and Japan; in 2006, Israel was ranked 39 out of 57 developed countries in science and 40 for maths and reading comprehension.
“And the further away from the centre of the country you live, the worse it gets,”? he told the JFNA Mission. “And who is living in these peripheral areas It is many low-income families and particularly the new immigrant population brought to Israel by our Federation system.”?
Should this trend continue, the net result, Mr Kaye warned, could be not only a dearth of Israel Nobel laureates but the undermining of Israel’s high-tech industry and the technological supremacy of the IDF. World ORT’s Kadima Mada programme has been designed to reverse this dangerous situation.
“In only four years we have begun to see the results of this work,”? Mr Kaye said. “We are involved in 65 schools, trained and assisted 3,280 teachers and served to date over 46,000 pupils. And with your help we intend on doubling these numbers in the next two years. In schools such as Kadoorie [Agricultural High School] in the Lower Galilee and the Shifman High School in Tirat HaCarmel, matriculation results are dramatically improving. Kadima Mada is beginning a revolution and we are preparing for the tipping point.”?
And for every dollar the JFNA provides Kadima Mada, Israel’s Ministry of Education and Ministry for Development of the Galilee and the Negev provides a further three.
“They consistently seek to work with us because they trust us and know that we deliver,”? Mr Kaye said.
He concluded by drawing Mission participants’ attention to the name tags worn by the students they had met that morning.
“They had in large letters the words “ﾘAll Access’. In this case, the access is not backstage to a rock concert but All Access to life’s opportunities. That is what the [JFNA] annual campaign does for them. The strength of our partnership is directly correlated to the number of students who will benefit from the educational gifts of World ORT. Each child is another step towards the critical mass that will improve Israel’s results internationally and bring us closer to our Nobel Science Laureate.”?