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The Yael Foundation International Conference
The First Yael Foundation Conference in Cyprus gathered rabbis and educators from around the world to address the challenges that Jewish education is facing today.
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The Yael Foundation International Conference is supposed to be the highlight of annual foundation activities. Launched in 2022, it is planned to take place annually and to serve as the forum for the leaders of supported educational institutions.
In the first year, the Yael Conference in Cyprus brought together rabbis and educators from various countries to tackle the challenge of introducing Jewish content to Jewish children in schools globally. The conference participants emphasized the importance of preserving Judaism, especially for Jewish pupils attending non-Jewish schools. Attendees discussed integrating religious content in public education systems, combatting assimilation, and sharing techniques for effective Jewish education.
Held in Paphos, Cyprus, on January 23-26, 2023, the conference marked the first international gathering of the Yael Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting and aiding Jewish education worldwide. With participants from 28 countries across five continents, the event consisted of a comprehensive program of lectures, workshops, and discussions led by experienced educators and professionals.
The conference began with an opening reception hosted by Yael Foundation Chairman Rabbi Shmuel Azman and CEO Eliezer Lesovoy. The first session, titled "Bringing Relatives Closer," delved into the challenge of rekindling connections with community members who felt disconnected from Judaism. Educators and Rabbis shared their experiences in igniting a desire among Jewish children to embrace Jewish teachings in their secular or Christian school environments. Shmuel Kot - the Chief Rabbi of Estonia, and Rabbanit Tzipi Kozlovsky, the emissary in Georgia, presented touching and dramatic cases they face in their day-by- day activities. Brainstorming sessions were also conducted, enabling participants to exchange ideas for improving teaching methods.
Day two of the conference featured a workshop led by change management coach Idan Bitterman, focusing on professional development and effective communication with students. Additionally, Ted-style lectures covered various topics, such as addressing intermarried families, facilitating transfers of Jewish children into Jewish education programs, and making Jewish teachings accessible through innovative methods.
Inspiring and enriching
An emotional gala evening celebrated the invaluable contributions of rabbis and educators worldwide, particularly those working with Jewish children attending non-Jewish schools. Rabbi Mendel Moskovitz shared a video presentation detailing the Yael Foundation's significant activities since its establishment in 2020.
The founder of Yael Foundation, Mr. Uri Poliavich, greeted the guests and thanked them for their dedication to the Jewish education.
Rabbi Azman highlighted the conference's relevance in the "year of Hakhel," urging attendees to broaden their perspectives and involve their respective communities in the mission of preserving Judaism. Appreciative remarks were made by Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, and Gael Grunewald, Chairman of the Mizrachi fraction at national institutions.
The conference also offered a cultural treat featuring a special star performance by singer Shuli Rand, who intertwined his singing with educational insights from his personal experiences.
Attendees had the chance to network, share stories, and strengthen their connections after the formal program concluded.
On the conference's final day, participants engaged in continuous lectures and workshops aimed at improving Jewish education worldwide. Rabbi Schweicki from Buenos-Aires highlighted the importance of a joyous life in fulfilling the educational mission, while Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky stressed the significance of long-term planning for success.
The closing session focused on the challenges of maintaining Jewish education amidst adversities. Ukrainian Rabbis shared their struggles during the ongoing war, emphasizing their commitment to preserving a continuous educational experience despite difficult circumstances.
Concluding their time in Cyprus, participants visited Jewish institutions in Larnaca and received a warm welcome from Cyprus' Chief Rabbi, Arie Zeev Raskin.