ORT breaks new ground in Mexico


Training has been the top priority for ORT in Mexico recently with two firsts: a summit meeting for NGOs and a Naomi Prawer Kadar International Seminar for Digital Technology in Jewish Education. The four-day Naomi Prawer Kadar seminar attracted 25 Jewish Studies teachers to CIM-ORT, Mexico’s first World ORT-affiliated school.

The seminars, which have previously been held in Moscow and Johannesburg, are a sign of the importance World ORT places on raising the status of Jewish Studies.

“It is about keeping Jewish people Jewish,”? said World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer.

The latest seminar brought experts Eitan Steinfeld and Benyamin Yogev from Israel to lead teachers from CIM-ORT, and other Jewish schools in Mexico City, El Salvador and Ecuador in an exploration of how the Teaching for Understanding framework can be used to teach Jewish festivals and commemorations creatively.

Teaching for Understanding is an educational pedagogy developed initially by faculty members at the Harvard Graduate School of Education “モ but since adapted by educators around the world “モ that has four pillars for its framework: what topics are worth understanding, what about these topics needs to be understood, how we can foster understanding, and, how we can tell what students understand.

The Naomi Prawer Kadar seminars aim to help Jewish educators to integrate modern ICT methods into their teaching and at CIM-ORT the upgrading of technological skills was a primary objective.

A website created especially for the seminar using Moodle software remains active to serve the teachers as a meeting point so that they can continue to share and consult with each other; during the seminar it was used to present the teachers with tasks from research to creating programs and designing presentations.

Concluding their report, Mr Yogev and Mr Steinfeld said the seminar had been a very moving experience for them.

“Far beyond its professional and pedagogical value, it was an authentic meeting with a unique and very special group of teachers who managed to create a warm, receptive and safe environment. This environment allowed all members of the group to share thoughts and feelings concerning their deepest dilemmas as educators who are trying to help young people establish a solid contemporary sense of Jewish identity,”? they wrote.

The teachers’ feedback confirmed the glowing evaluation with one saying he felt privileged to have been invited, adding, “It was a pleasure to be in contact with people of the highest quality.”?

Another said the seminar “opened new horizons, leaving us very clearly a new way to teach using technology”?, and several said the seminar exceeded expectations.

CIM-ORT Academic Co-ordinator Amelie Esquenazi said the teachers were committed to meeting regularly in the future to discuss preparations for the teaching and celebrating of Jewish holidays.

“You can’t imagine how inspiring the seminar was!”? Ms Esquenazi said. “It was a very rich group of educators who were searching for new ways of giving Judaism to children because this is what it’s all about: bringing Judaism to life”ᆭ Children have lost the capacity to be amazed so by sharing knowledge and ideas and using technology we will gain new ways of celebrating and learning about the festivities.”?

CIM-ORT Principal Kalya Hilu and the President of the school’s Parents Teachers Association, Zalmen Shor, thanked World ORT and the Naomi Prawer Kadar Foundation for making the seminar possible.

“An on-going training program is essential if a Jewish education institution is to achieve high standards. Your participation was a unique opportunity to prepare and motivate our faculty,” they wrote in a letter to both organisations.

Earlier, ORT Mexico attracted more than 1,400 people to the first Ibero-American Summit of Institutional Development for Civil Society Organisations, which was held at the World Trade Centre in Mexico City in partnership with the Junta de Asistencia Privada, the official regulator of NGOs in the country.

World class specialists in the fields of institutional development and fundraising shared their expertise with representatives of more than 600 organisations through a schedule of 36 workshops, two discussion panels, 10 conferences and two keynote speeches over two days.

“The third sector has a crucial role in the development process of our country as innovational agents of change and social transformation,”? said ORT Mexico National Director Jimmy Salinas. “But everything that led us to where we are now probably won’t be enough to keep us there: we have to adapt to new ways of operating, organising, fundraising and management in order to achieve our objectives in sustainable ways. This summit helped us to recognise and understand our strengths, weaknesses, risks and opportunities so that we can improve our effectiveness as social actors for the benefit of society at large.”?