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Intertwined, Interconnected: JDC Entwine’s New Curriculum

Custom & Craft
Los Angeles, California United States
Leadership team

Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager

Organization website
Prize category
1 – 3 years
Target audience
College Students
Community Building

JDC Entwine is the largest provider of global service opportunities for Jewish young adults. Our purpose is to catalyze the current generation of young Jewish adults—in North America, and increasingly in other centers of Jewish life around the world—to view global Jewish awareness, connection, and responsibility as core to their identity.
How might we shape the Jewish value of kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze (“all Jews are responsible for one another”) for the 21st century? Intertwined, Interconnected is a new, robust, and unique curriculum designed to anchor our platform of learning opportunities across our programs.

What Jewish wisdom do you use in your work?

JDC Entwine is housed within JDC, the largest Jewish humanitarian organization in the world. We leverage JDC’s unparalleled global infrastructure and network of partnerships, built over 100 years. Intertwined, Interconnected features Jewish materials from many genres, locations, and eras to foster a sense of wonderment about the evolving Jewish people. For instance: a 15th century travel account of Shabbat in Alexandria, Egypt, written by R. Ovadia di Bartenura—together with our own participants’ stories about Shabbat as visitors to Jewish communities around the world; a 21st century audio/video ELI Talk “The Jewish Haj” by a JDC Entwine young leader and Insider Trip alumna, Joy Sisisky; history timeline culled from JDC’s archives with examples of kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze (“all Jews are responsible for one another”) in action globally over the last 100 years; photos of global Jewish communities (Indian, Tunisian, Ukrainian, etc.); halachic discussion of kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze by Rav Ezra Bick; various classical Jewish texts from Tanach, Talmud, and Midrash, plus contemporary thinkers such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Art Green—to frame and debrief visits with the elderly, children-at-risk, and young peer leaders abroad; Design Thinking experiment using current challenges facing global Jewish communities.

How does your program work to make that wisdom accessible and directly applicable to your audience's lives?

Intertwined, Interconnected offers participants space to: wrestle with questions and tensions at the heart of kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze; build relationships with each other and with the communities they visit; appreciate the profundity and liveliness of what they experience abroad; consider how they will integrate their learning into their lives upon return home.

As our travelers experience the excitement of intracultural Jewish travel, we offer a multiple paths into kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze:

• Historical: the modern history of Jewish mutual assistance (i.e., rescue operations, welfare relief, renewal of Jewish communities) and one’s own family story within it

• Theological: the origins of mutual responsibility in the covenant at Sinai, in whatever way ‘covenant’ may resonate for each of us today

• Kinetic-Movement: the interconnected relationships of mutual responsibility within the group, through techniques derived from adventure social work and spatial mapping

• Professional Development: an appreciation of what it takes to operationalize kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze on a global scale, one community at a time--no matter what one’s professional skill set

• Creative Design: rather than a singular focus on “Why should our generation be committed to kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze?” we envision the future: “What might we do, as Jews, through kol yisrael areivim ze la’ze?”

Toward the end of the “learning arc” of the curriculum, we ask participants to identify one thing they can do to take action: to build awareness, connection, and Jewish global responsibility at home. We have local Entwine Learning Networks across the United States and in the UK so that alumni can continue to develop their leadership through peer-to-peer education. We also partner with other Jewish organizations locally and globally, so that our alumni can bring what they have learned into other spaces in Jewish life. These organizations are eager for us to bring our new curricular content on kol yisrael areivim ze la'ze for the 21st century to their audiences.

What impact has your program had on your participants?

What started in 2008 with small pilot efforts has quickly expanded to reaching 16,000 young adults (and growing!) who have connected to Entwine across our continuum of programs: weeklong Insider Trips, the Multi-Week Jewish Service Corps, the yearlong Jewish Service Corps, and our local Learning Networks. Most of our participants are North American.

In 2017 we anticipate 700 young Jewish adults will participate in our immersive service experiences abroad. Our participants are from varied Jewish backgrounds (41% come with limited Jewish engagement; 25% mid-levels of Jewish engagement; 24% with higher levels of Jewish engagement). We know that our immersive learning experiences have significant impact. For instance:

“I can articulate how Jewish values, practices and/or texts inform understanding of care for others”--we see a change among those who agree/strongly agree from 51% to 70% before and after going on an Insider Trip.

“I am able to articulate what global Jewish responsibility means to me”--we see a change from 36% to 66% before and after going on an Insider Trip.

This data was compiled before the development of our new Intertwined, Interconnected curriculum. As we build on our success, we wish to deepen the Jewish content of our efforts and crystalize the educational modalities we use; hence, this new curriculum, which we have developed over the last year, with the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation. We expect the impact of our immersive learning experiences to be even more profound as we roll out the full Intertwined, Interconnected curriculum alongside continued training on it for our staff and volunteer young leaders.

We are starting Intertwined, Interconnected with our Young Professionals’ Insider Trips to Jewish communities; our research is both qualitative and quantitative. We should have preliminary evaluation done by the winter. Adaptations of this curriculum are in the works for our college trips, our trips to Israel, our trips to global nonsectarian projects, and our Russian-Speaking Jewish trips. This curriculum also provides the conceptual basis for our Multi-Week Jewish Service Corps fellowship program and with our domestic learning modules for alumni.

What have you learned about applied Jewish wisdom that contributes to your success?

1. Even for young Jews unfamiliar with Jewish sources, we do not simplify Jewish wisdom. Young Jewish adults are smart, savvy, and sophisticated, and we meet them where they are. 2. We incorporate learning with Jewish peers abroad, because if we want to “think globally” through Jewish wisdom, we need as many global Jewish voices at the table as possible. 3. We combine Jewish wisdom with the best of current wisdom, for a globally-minded generation—making Jewish wisdom not only eternal but also future-oriented. For instance we use an interview with Rebecca Chopp (formerly the head of Swarthmore College) on global citizenship and cognitive science research by Paul Slovic about the challenges of global caring. It is also vital to emphasize what is unique and precious about Jewish wisdom. 4. Jewish wisdom comes from many sources, locally and globally. A Jewish building can be “Jewish wisdom.” Jewish food can be “Jewish wisdom.” The kindness of a lonely, homebound Jewish grandmother who offers us a place to rest—even though she has never met us before--can be “Jewish wisdom.” Each of us can discover “Jewish wisdom” and can offer “Jewish wisdom.” That’s how we create the Jewish people. 5. Training our staff and our volunteer young leaders to see themselves and their own stories as sources of Jewish wisdom is not simple or quick; it takes sustained encouragement and deliberate messaging.