A little extra excitement took place in the Torah Acadamy Girls School in Johannesburg when veteran photo-journalist, Ilan Ossendryver  showed up to cover the launch of the first South African Eco Connection school for the local media.  Ilan recently returned from Ethiopia, where he was capturing  images of the last Ethiopian Jews to leave for Israel.

SAJewish Report July 29 2011

SAJewish Report July 29 2011

Torah Academy Girls sign their Partnership Poster

Torah Academy Girls sign their Partnership Poster

From the baking heat of Israel’s summer, Sviva Israel’s Director of Media & Technology flew last week to a chilly Johannesburg winter, to launch the Eco Connection in our first South African school.  Despite the cold, she was warmly welcomed by the Israel Centre, under the directorship of Shimon Shamila, and the 7th grade students of the Torah Academy Girls School, who were all very excited to begin their participation in the Beit Shemesh-South African Eco Connection.  The Beit-Shemesh South Africa Eco Connection is supported by the Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda-South Africa Partnership 2Gether of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israel Centre, South Africa.

The Partnership 2Gether South Africa Co-Chairs, Moonyeen Castle and Madeleine Fane, together with Tamar, met with principals in the Cape Town Herzlia schools and the Johannesburg King David schools who expressed an interest in joining the program this coming year.

Making Friendship Bracelets at Torah Academy Girls School

Making Friendship Bracelets at Torah Academy Girls School

Eli Rudolph, Partnership 2Gether South Africa National Director, helped run the first Eco Connection workshop at Torah Academy,in which the students learned about the 3R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – and received repurposed friendship bracelets and personal letters from the 7th graders of Ulpanat Ahavat Yisrael in Ramat Beit Shemesh.  Eli helped the students make their own friendship bracelets from deconstructed sweaters, and took part in the joint poster signing that has become a trademark of the Eco Connection.

Students reading letters from their new Israeli friends

Students reading letters from their new Israeli friends

Girls School Principal, Rebecca Sarchi, received the framed poster, bearing the signatures of all of the students in this partnership, both Israeli and South African.

The students, and their new friends in Ramat Beit Shemesh, are looking forward to videoconferencing together later this year, to learn more about how they can care for the world together.

Rebecca Sarchi receives the Partnership Poster from Eli Rudolph

Rebecca Sarchi receives the Partnership Poster from Eli Rudolph

While in Johannesburg, Tamar, who was a participant earlier this year in a the US State Department IVLP Media Literacy program, gave a luncheon presentation on Media Literacy, hosted by the Israel Center for Jewish community professionals  from a number of different organizations. Using examples from the Eco Campus, Tamar described how we can use online media to reach out and connect to our community audience.

Media Literacy Presentation at Beyachad

Media Literacy Presentation at Beyachad

My Media Literacy Presentation at Beyachad

My Media Literacy Presentation at Beyachad

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind 8-day trip to South Africa to launch our Eco Campus and Eco Connection program there.  I was last there in 1993, a year before apartheid was officially declared dead, and the changes were clear.  Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum makes that point very clearly. And Soweto has become something of a tourist-trap. Unfortunately terrible poverty is still very evident in  many of the neighborhoods, from the tin shacks to people hawking plastic flowers at the traffic lights (called “robots” in SA-speak).

All four of the Jewish schools I visited, in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, have twinning programs with local impoverished black schools.  They visit one another, bike together and are learning to overcome the divides that were created during the apartheid era.

One of the most impressive aspects of the South African Jewish Community is their cohesity.  Many of the organizations are housed in a single, imposing stuctrue called Beyachad.  They share resources and their staff appear in and out of one another’s offices.  They also share knowledge….I was invited by the Israel Centre to give a presentation on Media Literacy, based on what I had learned during my participation in the US State Department IVLP Media Literacy Program earlier this year.  Not only their own staffers were invited, but also professionals from other organizations.  From media novices to media teams, the participants covered a wide range of levels.

Overall, the internet appears to be at an in-between stage of development.  While it is simple to buy an internet SIM Card for your laptop or iPad, and almost everybody seems to carry Blackberries, from schoolchildren to cab-drivers, homes and schools still use veeeerrrrryyy slow connections that are very frustrating to work on, with interminably slow page loads.  Media developers for a South African audience should keep this in mind when designing websites.

One of the ways we connect schools in our Eco Connection program, is through their school gallery on the Eco Campus. Each school can display videos, photos and documents about their school, their projects and special events.

We like to include in each gallery, an interview with the school principal, to learn about the values they strive to inculcate in their students.  Following are Jay Leberman, Head of School at Perelman Jewish Day School, Philadelphia, and Yechezkel Landau, Principal of the Da’at School in Kibbutz Sa’ad, Israel…

 

Hammer Eco Connection students cleaning up their school grounds

Hammer Eco Connection students cleaning up their school grounds

Before the Israeli school year closed, Sviva Israel held a concentrated day of Eco Activities with the 7th Grade students of the Hammer School in Netivot.  Together with their home room teacher, Orli, students learned about sustainable ecosystems, measuring their Ecological Footprint on the Eco Campus and creating their own terrariums from repurposed plastic bottles.

Sviva Israel’s Carmi Wisemon gave a presentation explaining how the special middot (values) of  our forefathers Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov, relate to the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  The students then put their learnign into practice by going outside to make their own school a more natural, sustainable habitat by removing the trails of litter scattered around the back of the school.

The students were particularly excited to receive their new T-Shirts, designed by a student in one of the Philadelphia students in this program, sponsored by the Philadelphia-Sedot Negev-Netivot Partnership 2000 of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Hammer Students and Teachers

Hammer Students and Teachers

Rabbi Glustein and TShirt Winner Dov Sokolin at Politz Day School

Rabbi Glustein and TShirt Winner Dov Sokolin at Politz Day School

Jonathon Feinberg, Coordinator of US Operations, has been on the road to learn about some of the amazing projects created by this year’s schools.

Last month I was out and about visiting the US schools in Eco Connection and learning about their final class projects.  This year’s classes seem to have so many amazing ideas for how to make their own small part of the world a better place.

In case you don’t remember, this year’s Eco Campus connected students in a new way with a global TShirt design contest.  Out of all the wonderful submissions we received, we could only pick one for each connection area.  The Philadelphia-Netivot-Sedot Negev winning design came from Jessica Beaver of Shaarei Shamayim (see earlier post).  The Arad-Tamar/Delaware-New Jersey winning design came from Dov Sokolin of Politz Day School in Cherry Hill.  Both Eco Connections are sponsored by the Partnership 2000 of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

I had the great pleasure of visiting Politz to hand out the shirts and hear about another wonderful class project, tracking personal driving habits to see how much drive-time is spent on unnecessary trips.

Dov was very excited and proud, as was Rabbi Glustein, who got Dov to autograph his winning tshirt.

Any attempt to reduce our ecological footprint has to come from a place of understanding and knowledge: unless we know the ways in which we impact the planet, and to what extent, we can’t look inwards to find remedies.

The Hidden Journey Of Stuff at the SSDS of Greater Monmouth County

The Hidden Journey Of Stuff at the SSDS of Greater Monmouth County

One of the best projects I saw this year came from the students at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County.  Gathering up in teams, these fine young minds studied the ecological impacts of every-day items, such as ipods, baseball caps, and toilet paper.  They creatively connected each report as a car on the “Consumption Express”, a mock train they displayed at a science fair.  This kind of work is fairly advanced, and I’m personally very proud to see such great work from great kids.

If you are a registered school member of the Eco Campus, you can check out their Gallery to see the rest of their projects at http://ecocamp.us/ssds-of-greater-monmouth-county/pictures

Here’s an example:

The Hidden Journey of an iPod - An Ecological Footprint Project

The Hidden Journey of an iPod - An Ecological Footprint Project

After handing out the T-Shirts, the kids were so excited they began signing their shirts like yearbooks to commemorate the year’s achievements.

Great job to everybody on amazing projects, designs, and a wonderful year!

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