Israeli STEM Delegation Listens, Learns on Cleveland Trip

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas, Campaign24

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A delegation of STEM leaders from Beit Shean, Valley of Springs and Hura met with members of the Cleveland community for Chemistry and Connections at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland welcomed a delegation of 14 STEM leaders from Israel from Feb. 26 to March 2 as part of its partnership with four communities to create STEM ecosystems in Israel.

The delegation visited and met with many Jewish and secular leaders of the Cleveland STEM community, and visited Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland Public Library, Great Lakes Science Center, Davis Aerospace & Maritime High School, JumpStart Verizon Learning Center, The Temple-Tifereth Israel, Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School, Willoughby-Eastlake School of Innovation, Mandel Jewish Community Center, Think{box} at Case Western Reserve University, Children’s Museum of Cleveland, MAGNET, Rid-All Green Partnership and Cleveland State University.

Oren Baratz listens as Netenel Bados, CEO in Beit Shean, gives hi a birthday message. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

“Our STEM program actually began in April of 2017 after a long process of strategic planning of the Federation’s overseas connection committee,” Oren Baratz, Federation’s senior vice president of external affairs, told the Cleveland Jewish News. “And the first year was a year of joint learning and planning with our partners in Israel. And the program actually began being implemented in 2018.”

Oren Baratz, Jewish Federation of Cleveland senior vice president of external affairs, addresses the group. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

Through the partnership, the Federation works with four communities in Israel - Beit Shean, Valley of Springs, Hura and Jerusalem - to create STEM Ecosystems that look at STEM education from kindergarten to employment, he said. With the third delegation to come to Cleveland through this partnership, the mission brought professional leaders from these ecosystems to learn about the connections between education and the workforce.

“Cleveland is a real mecca and a flagship in the United States in the area of STEM education in that there’s a lot to learn here about STEM education and how to develop ecosystems,” he said. “One of the areas we want to begin focusing in Israel is a connection between education process and workforce, and there’s a lot to learn here in Cleveland.”

Mike Stovsky, chair of the STEM subcommittee at the Federation, told the CJN while Israel is well-known for startups and technology, the program came about due to a need for STEM education in the periphery of Israel, outside of the main economic centers of Tel Aviv and Haifa.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to make a difference there in a way that is a little bit different than what we normally do, which is to allocate dollars,” he said. “... Just giving dollars is one thing, but actually having interactions with the people that you’re giving to, and we’re actively involved in their process. We’re not just funding it and walking away.”

As the trip neared its close, the delegates and community leaders came together at the Federation March 1 for Chemistry and Connections as they mingled and enjoyed hands-on STEM experiments such as using chemistry to make ice cream and creating smoke from dry ice.

Zoe Herman, from left, Rena Berkowitz and Eddin Ashwal use chemistry to make ice cream. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

Jan Morrison is the founder and CEO of TIES which is a Cleveland-headquartered company established to design systems, schools and programs to support the teaching and learning of STEM and has been instrumental in the creation and support of the Israeli ecosystems.

“We’re doing the same things in Cleveland for our children and our community that Beit Shean and Valley of Spring and Hura want for theirs,” Morrison told the CJN of the partnership. “And (you) cannot beat that kind of relationship.”

Ofer Ben-Shabbat has been the director of the STEM Ecosystem in Beit Shean for five years and has built an ecosystem of 45 organizations which has given parents and children a dream for the future, opening the doors to gain acceptance into universities.

Yair Lehman, director of STEMaianot, the STEM Ecosystem in Valley of Springs, and Ofer Ben-Shabat, director of the STEM Ecosystem in Beit Shean. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

“First of all, there’s a dream now for parents and children,” He told the CJN through a translator, Sivan Steinberg. “They have a vision for the future (and) a new language of excellence started in the city. The parents and the students believe in themselves and are trying harder to start studying engineering and science.”

This is his second time in Cleveland and while there is a lot he will take with him from the mission, he said the two main ones are the Integrated Project Based Learning system used at Mandel JDS and the Kindergarten class model from the Children’s Museum.

Yair Lehman, director of STEMaianot in the Valley of Springs for the last three years, told the CJN as Steinberg translated a delegation had come to Cleveland five years ago when the partnership began and are still seeing the results from implementing what they learned then.

“It was the beginning of our journey together, and we learned about this whole new world,” he said. “And through the years, and especially during COVID, we took what we learned from Cleveland, (and) we applied it in our community.”

Tomer Blise shows off a dry ice experience. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

From this most recent delegation, Lehman said he is taking the lessons from the educational and workforce partnerships in Cleveland to expand the ecosystem in the Valley of Springs, as well as make connections with the Beit Shean community to build a future together.

“And the third and most important (takeaway),” he said. “The warm hug and loved hug from the Jewish community in Cleveland.”

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