Israeli College President Visits Philadelphia

Sarah Kreimer, director of external relations and resource development at Beit Berl College; Richard Bernstein, board member of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, and deputy president of World ORT; and Beit Berl College President Tamar Ariav. | Photo provided

Located between Israel’s high-tech centers and the Triangle region of Israel’s Arab towns, Beit Berl College is ideally situated to attract diverse students and train them to be the country’s future educators.

On a tour to promote the college, Beit Berl College President Tamar Ariav will stop in Philadelphia on April 12, where she will meet with executives at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, speak at a lunch at the offices of Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller, and touch base with the global office of the University of Pennsylvania.

Ariav is using the tour to build connections and inform Americans of Beit Berl’s impact on Israel’s future.

This impact stems from Beit Berl’s academic college, the largest in Israel. Its graduates comprise 20 percent of secular public school teachers in the country, according to the college. In addition, the institution provides professional development services for about 3,000 practicing educators.

“We are a very influential and cutting-edge kind of college in terms of education, education profession, teacher’s education, school counselors, school administration, special ed,” Ariav said. “I want to get the word across that we are a key player in the society in Israel in terms of shaping its educational system.”

The second message Ariav wants to share is Beit Berl’s role in social cohesion.

Israel’s education system is divided into four segments for secular Jews, national religious Jews, haredim and Arabs. These different groups of students often don’t meet until they get to college. At Beit Berl, there is a special emphasis on bringing these students together.

Shareholder Daniel Segal, who is sponsoring the lunch at the law firm, said Beit Berl’s work in social cohesion is what interested him.

“It seems to me very important to take a diverse group of people, who are sometimes on the periphery of Israel in terms of employment, and put them together to have a greater teaching body and more skilled teaching body,” he said.

Ariav’s entire tour takes place over two and a half weeks, which includes a break for Passover with her family in Chicago. In the past, she has done about two of these tours a year, but hopes to start completing three annually to be able to visit more places. Besides Philadelphia, the tour includes stops in Washington D.C., New York City, Miami and Dallas, among other cities.

The ultimate goal of these tours is to help Beit Berl develop a more global outlook. This became a mission for the college about six years ago, Ariav said. It began by strengthening Beit Berl’s ties with European cities and Jewish communities.

The college started in Europe because  the school was eligible to receive funding from the European Union for student and faculty exchange, and research and development programs. The continent’s proximity was also a factor.

A few years ago, Beit Berl decided to build connections in the United States as well.

“American Jewry is the largest diaspora Jewry outside of Israel, and it doesn’t make sense not to build some bridges with that group,” Ariav said. “In the last three years, we have started to expand and extend our relationships with communities here in the United States, and we are still doing it, and we see a lot of blessing in it.”

Building bridges with Jewish communities in the United States has encouraged American Jews to visit Beit Berl, Ariav said, where they sometimes meet with students and faculty, become advocates for the university or help fund specific programs. It has also provided opportunities for Beit Berl faculty to visit other countries.

“Through the people who already know us, who fell in love with us, they really invite us to meet additional people,” she said. “It’s a big accomplishment to be able to extend and expand the circles of people who know about us and have heard about us.”

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