Despite the COVID-induced social distancing, participants in the sixth cohort of the Teachers' Lounge rallied to complete the program and celebrated its culmination at a virtual closing ceremony on June 4, 2020, attended by educators, friends, and supporters across Jerusalem and around the world.
Founded in memory of Shira Banki, the Teachers' Lounge is a signature program of the Taube Family Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, engaging Arab and Jewish teachers from across Jerusalem in a year of sustained professional learning and relationship-building around their shared passion for teaching. Throughout the year, the teachers go through a profound process of exploring their personal, professional, and cultural identities and discussing common educational challenges. The experience of meeting with “the Other” is conducted with a variety of tools such as theater, art, and photography, and includes joint tours of the city of Jerusalem.
This year, 50 teachers from 31 different schools across the city of Jerusalem completed the program. Each “lounge” consists of a mix of 15-20 Jewish and Arab teachers, plus two facilitators, one Arab and one Jewish. They meet 10 times during the course of the year. They began the year meeting in participants’ living rooms, on campus, and Jerusalem’s holy sites, but unfortunately were later confined to virtual meetings due to the pandemic.
Founded by visionary educator and professor Dr. Michal Muszkat-Barkan, Director of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem’s Department of Professional Development and Education, the program is directed by Anat Infeld Goodman. Teachers' Lounge is accredited by the Israeli Ministry of Education.
The program builds on the belief that teachers and educators can be leaders and cultural heroes who serve as a personal example in each sector and community; through their relationships with one another, a vision for a more hopeful future can emerge.
The meetings allow for instant personal encounters and for sharing of narratives that create, first and foremost, human and social closeness and a sense of partnership and an educational mission.
Every year the program produces a photography exhibition that captures the relationships and reflections that emerge from this powerful experience. The exhibition has been featured in prominent places in Jerusalem. The annual photography exhibition of the program can be viewed here.