Mifgash 2019: A Week of Living and Shared Learning in the Gann Community

Recently, Gann Academy hosted 23 Israeli students during Mifgash, the annual cultural exchange between Gann and Ironi Hey High School in Haifa. This was the third meeting between the Israeli delegation and the now 11th graders, who visited Ironi Hey last year during the sophomore myIsrael trip. Ironi Hey students spent the week of Mifgash living and learning in the Gann community; in addition to attending programming and classes together, Gann students also welcomed the Israelis into their homes.  

Mifgash began with an overnight retreat to Camp Ramah, where students had the opportunity to be together in an informal setting. They strengthened their connections through dances, bonfires, art activities, and discussions. Inbal '21 explained that because neither group had been to Camp Ramah before, it was “a great place for the Americans and Israelis to bond, have fun, and learn something new.” For Shani Winton, Director of Experiential Learning at Gann, the most meaningful moment of the retreat came quietly. “I saw a group of students hanging out together on the field,” she said, “and I assumed it was all Gann students. But then I saw that it was Gann students and Israeli students who had just come together organically.” And that, Winton acknowledged, “was just perfect.”

Back at Gann, students continued their communal learning experience. Mifgash strives to bring Gann and Ironi Hey students together by creating a space for students to share their Jewish identities, learn from each other, and create connections with new students. As students find similarities, they can deepen and expand their conversations about differences. 

It was this kind of communal learning that helped students engage in a discussion of Jewish Pluralism with Rabbis Jethro Berkman, Sara Meirowitz, and Gavriel Goldfeder. Learning about the multitude of ways in which Judaism is experienced and expressed in the United States proved to be an interesting and engaging topic as it encouraged students to reflect on their own Jewish experiences. By approaching pluralism as a discussion, students were able to learn from each other as well as the rabbis, sharing their own reactions and perspectives.

It can be uncomfortable to talk about differences. But as the week went on, and as Gann and Ironi Hey students ate together, attended classes together, and participated in Hakhel, Gann’s weekly student-run all-school assembly, the importance of having these difficult conversations became clear. Talking about differences won’t make them disappear, but it will help us better understand and connect with each other. For Camille Kotton, mother of David '21 and a host parent, it was “one of those trips of a lifetime that really changes life for the better for all of us.”  

myIsrael was co-created by Gann, Israeli educational experts and staff from Ironi Hey High School. 

CJP’s Boston-Haifa Partnership, which has been a leader in fostering connections between young Jews in the Boston area and Israel, has been an important partner in making this program a reality.

CJP Boston Haifa Connection
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