The Weber School’s dedication to a rigorous and sophisticated approach to Zionism and Israel education shone through at the inaugural retreat of the Michael Kay Israel Leadership Fellows
(MKILF). Beyond a mere introduction, this retreat served as a deep dive into the current issues facing Israel, reflecting Weber’s role as a pioneer in proactive, year-round Israel education—a model for schools nationwide. Incorporating contemporary developments within the larger framework of Zionism and Israeli history, the retreat enabled Fellows to explore the events that have emerged since Hamas launched its war on Israel on October 7, including its representation in social media.
The MKILF aims to equip students with a comprehensive suite of tools and resources for continuous learning, extending beyond the classroom into platforms they engage with daily, like YouTube, social media, and podcasts. This commitment was evident in the educational content delivered by a team of academic experts, including Dr. Noam Weissman from OpenDor Media and educators from Unpacked For Educators, Avi Posen, Sarah Gordon, and Yonatan Buckman. The retreat was organized and designed by Director of Israel and Global Education, Bernadette May-Beaver.
The retreat's sessions, which ranged from "Unpacking Hamas and Gaza" to "Unpacking Contemporary Antisemitism," focused on Zionist identity development, empowering students to assume roles of educational leadership informed by a more mature, reflective, and empathetic connection with Israel and Israelis. The retreat’s profound impact was voiced by students, with a tenth grader saying, "The retreat expanded my understanding, pushing me to critically assess various perspectives on Israel’s current events." Meanwhile, another participant noted the retreat’s role in strengthening their desire to engage in pro-Israel advocacy.
In advance of the second retreat in the Spring 2024 semester, Michael Kay Israel Leadership Fellows will engage in continuing learning opportunities. Ms. May-Beaver reflected on the retreat’s success and the journey ahead: "Our inaugural retreat was grounded in authentic learning, questioning, and reflection. It was a tremendous beginning, setting the stage for the continuous, hands-on engagement we consider essential for informed advocacy. We have much more work to do."
To gain further insight into the mission and impact of the ILF retreat, explore the Unpacked for Educators blog post here
The Michael Kay Israel Leadership Fellows is made possible by a generous grant by Ann Kay and her family in the name of their late husband and father, Michael Kay z”l. A pillar of the Atlanta Jewish community and a long-serving member of The Weber School Board of Trustees, our school is particularly honored to have this new, ambitious initiative in service of Israel and the Jewish people established in Michael’s honor.