AJU Teaching Israel Fellowship

The AJU Teaching Israel Fellowship brings together a highly select group of educators who teach about Israel at diverse Jewish institutions in the greater Los Angeles area. The fellowship cultivates a cadre of high-caliber teacher leaders and administrators who are enriching the field of Israel education. Under the auspices of American Jewish University’s Graduate Center for Jewish Education, the fellowship provides an opportunity for fellows to:

Learn about best practices in Israel education 

Reflect upon challenges in teaching about Israel and work to improve personal practice 

Build a network of supportive colleagues with a shared commitment to Israel education 

Participate in ongoing educational research and thought leadership about Israel education

To nominate a candidate or apply, please contact Sivan Zakai at szakai@aju.edu 


How do you help Jewish educational leaders become leaders in Israel education?  How do you transform Jewish schools into exemplars of meaningful learning about and engagement with Israel? Through the AJU Teaching Israel Fellowship!


The Teaching Israel fellowship is pleased to be welcoming a new cohort of educational leaders to AJU for a year-long journey of professional learning and exploration. Our new fellows represent a plurality of backgrounds, viewpoints, generations, teaching audiences and subject matter specialties. What they share is a passion for Israel education and a desire to make Israel education relevant, responsive, and meaningful for the students and faculty in their institutions. Led by Israel education expert Dr. Sivan Zakai, the fellows will have an opportunity to examine leading thinking on Israel education, present their own approaches, and work through challenges they face—all with a thoughtful, informed group of colleagues and under the direction of gifted faculty.


The 2016-2017 Senior Leaders Cohort of the Teaching Israel Fellowship includes:


Miri Avraham is a Hebrew teacher at Pressman Academy, a teacher mentor at Gindi Maimonides Academy, and Hebrew coordinator at Kadima Day School.  Her responsibilities include writing curriculum for Hebrew and Israel programs, planning school wide Israel celebrations, and Hebrew immersion implementation. 

Amittai Benami is the Head of School at the Los Angeles Hebrew High School. He has previously held head educational leadership positions and been involved in Hebrew-Jewish-Israel education and Israel trips in U.S. day schools, synagogue schools, and youth groups, as well as the Israeli public school system and Melitz.

Andrea Gardenhour Andrea Gardenhour is the Director of the Center for Youth Engagement (CYE) at Stephen Wise Temple. In addition to overseeing the Religious School, Youth, and Camp Programs, she also manages the CYE’s 3-way twinning partnership between Wise Temple Youth, the Shevach Moffet High School in Tel Aviv, and the Shalom Aleichem High School in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Dalia Golan is the Chair of the Hebrew Language and Zionism department Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy. A veteran teacher, she organizes and leads the school’s twinning program with Zeitlin and the 8th grade trip to Israel.

Sean Herstein is the Middle School Jewish Studies Department Chair at Milken Community Schools. In this role he supports the Israel Education course as well as the extra-curricular Israel Club.

Amir Orbach is the Director of Education at IKAR. He oversees IKAR’s Limudim (pre-K-7th grade), B’nai Mitzvah, and kids’ programming in Jewish and Israel education.

Shara Peters is the Curriculum and Instructional Strategist at Adat Ari El Day School. She oversees both general and Judaic curriculum and coordinates integrated Project Based Learning throughout the school, where the topic of Israel is threaded through the curriculum in every grade.

Avi Taff serves as the day school Rabbi and Director of Jewish Life for Valley Beth Shalom Day School, as well as being an associate Rabbi at VBS. In addition to his other responsibilities as school rabbi, Avi teaches a course in Israel Studies for grade 6 students.

Scott Westle is the Rabbi-in-Residence at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School.  His 8th grade curriculum includes a unit on the diversity of Zionist philosophy that compliments the students' trip to Israel, which he chaperones.

We are thrilled to welcome these thoughtful, talented educational leaders to AJU, and we are excited to begin a year of meaningful learning together!


In addition to our work with the newest cohort of fellows, we are building a robust set of professional development opportunities for fellowship alumni including in-school coaching, one-on-one mentoring, and an alumni writing group in which fellowship alumni publish pieces of thought leadership to set conversations for the field. Recent publications that grew out of the alumni writing group include:


Jason Feld’s What Football Can Teach Us About Israel Education

The Jewish Journal  

Yedida Bassemer's Israel Education: Where are We Going and How are We Getting There?
eJewish Philanthropy

Hannah Tobin Cohen and Sivan Zakai's Israel Education Needs Coaches Instead of Cheerleaders
The Jewish Journal 

Sivan Zakai & Lauren Applebaum’s Discourse Across Diversity (Not Standardization) in Israel Education

eJewish Philanthropy