Bar-Ilan News

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  • Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy Named One of North America’s Top 50 Innovative Jewish Organizations

    Date: 2017-06-07 Hour: 15:15

    The Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy has once again been named one of North America’s top 50 innovative Jewish organizations in the twelfth annual Slingshot Guide (2017). Lookstein Virtual brings substantive Jewish learning opportunities to students in Jewish day schools, synagogue schools, and public schools worldwide.

    Lookstein Virtual is a new model in Jewish education: an innovative, financially sustainable online school that teaches a broad range of high-quality Jewish studies classes to a wide variety of students. Lookstein Virtual seeks ways to harness technology to improve and democratize Jewish education. It is dedicated to bringing quality online Jewish education to students everywhere, regardless of geographic location or ideological orientation, and to supporting Jewish schools, synagogues, and families by providing affordable, innovative, and flexible instruction.


    Lookstein Virtual has worked with more than 1100 students in grades 6-12 from the farthest reaches of Alaska to suburban Detroit and metro Miami. Participants span multiple locations across the country and work in synchronicity (or not), independently or collaboratively. Its courses are finding a permanent place in the instructional tool box of families and schools alike. For schools, this addition of online options to their course offerings expands their curricular choices, helps them provide individual attention to students, lowers their costs, and increases school capacity.  For many Lookstein Virtual families, the ability to log on at home serves as their primary connector to Jewish ideas, texts, and traditions.


    “[The students] are independent, get to work at their own pace, learn with a master teacher from Israel, and on top of that they get the chance to learn with students from other schools—learning the collaborative skills that go with that—that is really cool,” shared Hadas Sadero of The Epstein School in Atlanta about her students’ experience studying Jewish texts in-depth and online. “We love that!”


    Anna Sokolinski in Massachusetts enrolled her daughter in an Israeli history course outside of a school framework. She reported back, “[She] had a wonderful experience with Lookstein Virtual. She learned so much from this course and enjoyed everything about it - the fabulous instructor, the course materials, the assignments, and live classes. I only heard positive feedback.”


    Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is a project of Bar-Ilan University’s Lookstein Center for Jewish Education and is supported by some of the biggest players in Jewish philanthropy, education, and continuity today. The school’s primary funders are The Avi Chai Foundation, The Kohelet Foundation, and The William Davidson Foundation, and they receive additional support from The Hadassah Foundation, Targum Shlishi, and an anonymous funder.


    Lookstein Virtual was selected from among hundreds of finalists reviewed by nearly 100 professionals with expertise in grant-making and Jewish communal life. According to the Guide, Lookstein Virtual’s “highly interactive learning platform opens the door to all kinds of new learning experiences.” Organizations included in this year’s Guide were evaluated on their innovative approach, the impact they have in their work, the leadership they have in their sector, and their effectiveness at achieving results.


    “We are thrilled to be selected for the Slingshot Guide for the second consecutive year,” said Chana German, Lookstein Virtual Director. “Online Jewish learning is a game-changer for schools, communities, and families of all different shapes and sizes. We are honored to be recognized for our work and to be included among this list of innovative Jewish orgs each doing their part to shake-up the status quo and better the Jewish community.”


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    About Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy

    Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is a nonprofit online school of Jewish Studies created by The Lookstein Center of Bar-Ilan University. Its team of master educators designs and brings to life online courses for students in grades six through twelve to help schools and families add depth, fun, and variety to Jewish Studies. Offered in topics from Tanach to Jewish Ethics, Lookstein Virtual courses can be incorporated flexibly into curricula to expand resources, enrich studies, teach 21st century skills, and creatively accommodate a widening range of student needs. 


    About The Lookstein Center

    The Lookstein Center for Jewish Education of Bar-Ilan University is deeply committed to enhancing the quality of Jewish education in the Diaspora. The Center’s staff works with hundreds of Jewish day schools to identify and solve problems facing the Jewish educational world today, translating innovative ideas into practical solutions: curriculum, resources, programs, and community action. The culture of fostering innovation and championing new ideas in the field has resulted in groundbreaking work including Lookstein's Israel Curriculum, Lookjed, Jewish Educational Leadership journal, and Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy.


    The Lookstein Center has more than three decades of experience in the fields of classical and distance educational programming. Approaching its fourth decade, The Lookstein Center is staffed by a team of senior educators with wide ranging experience in Jewish education, as well as academic consultants.


    About the Slingshot Guide

    The Slingshot Guide, now in its twelfth year, was created by a team of young funders as a guidebook to help funders of all ages diversify their giving portfolios to include the most innovative and effective organizations, programs and projects in North America. The Guide contains information about each organization’s origin, mission, strategy, impact and budget, as well as details about its unique character. The Slingshot Guide has proven to be a catalyst for next generation funding and offers a telling snapshot of shifting trends in North America's Jewish community – and how nonprofits are meeting new needs and reaching new audiences. The book, published annually, is available in hard copy and as a free download.