When it comes to fulfilling their world language requirements, many high school students follow the crowd into Spanish or French class. But a large number of young people - over 600 students - from seven public North Shore high schools (Highland Park, Deerfield, Stevenson, Glenbrook North, New Trier, Evanston and Niles North) are expanding their horizons by opting to study Modern Hebrew and the culture of Israel. In addition to learning Hebrew, students participating in the innovative language and cultural immersion program are afforded one-of-a-kind enrichment in and out of the classroom.
One memorable event recently took place at The Northbrook Theater. The venue was packed with over 400 teens from six North Shore public schools that teach Modern Hebrew.
As Evanston Township High School Hebrew student Elliot Gross shares, "I like to experience the language outside of the classroom. Hearing Israeli music lyrics makes the language come alive." Classmate Danielle Kosover adds, “Having Israelis come to America to events like this brings us together.”
Students listened, sang and danced to an exclusive performance by singers/songwriters Maytal Michaeli and Etzion Mayer, both contestants who met on one of Israel’s most fascinating pop culture phenomena: “THE VOICE,” Israel’s version of the hit TV show.
Mayer comes from a traditional Jewish background. Michaeli was raised in a secular home. Regardless, as both were contestants on the Israeli reality show, the two have become close friends and collaborators. Their performance highlighted the cultural diversity of contemporary Israel. The artists also shared their inspirational story with the students and urged them to realize their future aspirations by giving voice to their dreams.
“We were really thrilled to come to Chicago and excited about the chance to share our experiences on Israel’s ‘THE VOICE’ and everything that’s happened with us since then,” said Mayer. “It’s a unique opportunity to communicate our hopes and dreams through music and words, and see a genuine response.”
The concert featuring Michaeli and Mayer is the latest high-profile event aimed at deepening students’ relationship with modern Israeli culture, and expanding awareness of the Modern Hebrew program among teens attending schools where it is an option. Students were also treated to an Israeli lunch and other cultural activities.
The free concert and cultural exchange luncheon were coordinated by the Shorashim and the iCenter which collaborates with high schools in Chicagoland and other parts of the U.S. to provide modern Hebrew classes with engaging contemporary Israeli culture. All enrichment programs throughout the school year are provided at no cost to the participating high school, township or students that enroll in Hebrew as a foreign language. The program is supported in part by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.
“Authentic people-to-people encounters between American students and Israelis is what Israel education is all about,” said Anne Lanski, founder and executive director of the iCenter. “It’s about connecting young people with the diversity, creativity, and excitement of contemporary Israel. Chicago is leading the way, while also offering face-to-face opportunities for young people to enjoy Israeli art and culture together. No other community has as many public high schools teaching Hebrew.”
Shorashim is a nonprofit organization devoted to building bridges between Israel and North American. Bicultural programs are the foundation of Shorashim. Americans and Israelis travel, live and learn side by side as they explore Israeli culture. By the end of programs, participants are forever changed have a deeper understanding of Israel, not only because of what they did, but as a result of the people they met.
About the iCenter
Founded in 2008, the iCenter is the national hub and catalyst for Israel education in North America. Its mission is to advance high-quality, meaningful and innovative Israel education by building, shaping and supporting the field. The iCenter is dedicated to igniting a passion for and a commitment to Israel in the hearts and minds of young people. For more information call 847.418.8336 or visit theicenter.org.
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