Young educators from the United States have descended upon Israel as part of a summer program to learn about its education system. The free 10-day trip, which reads like a Birthright-for-teachers, is open only to current Teach for America members and is organized in conjunction with the elite American organization’s Israeli counterpart, Teach First Israel (both programs operate under the Teach For All network).
This is the third such trip, formally known as the Reality Israel Experience. Preference is granted to applicants who “have affiliations with or interests in the Jewish community,” and haven’t previously visited Israel with a group, though it’s unclear whether participation on a Birthright trip would necessarily preclude an applicant from being selected. Also, while Jewish teachers would presumably identify themselves as such (and get chosen first), the criteria for establishing interest in the Jewish community seem tenuous at best.
Does the trip work? A study released last year found that it strengthened feelings that service, and religious service, were important in its participants, but that these participants were already inclined to feel this way about service. The selection bias looms large, as does the question that Israel and many more mainstream American Jewish organizations face: How can they involve Jews in Israel and Jewish life who wouldn’t otherwise be involved?