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Secular HS principals meet for Judaic learning at Hartman seminar

Be’eri aims to transform secular Israeli high schools into centers of Jewish pluralism by empowering educators, students and parents to serve as change agents and turn Jewish studies from marginal discipline into cornerstone of secular Israeli education


Tel Aviv was setting for weekend seminar - March 13-15, 2008 - of Shalom Hartman Institute Be'eri program participants for Judaic enrichment program for Israeli secular High School principals
Tel Aviv was setting for Be’eri weekend seminar

Principals of schools participating in Shalom Hartman Institute’s pioneering Be’eri program came together for a seminar at Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, March 13-15.

Be’eri aims to transform secular Israeli high schools into centers of Jewish pluralism by empowering educators, students and parents to serve as change agents, and by turning Jewish studies from a marginal discipline into a cornerstone of secular Israeli education.

In its current first phase, Be’eri works with 11 select public (mamlachti) high schools from five regions across Israel, with a combined student population of approximately 11,000. The principals and program coordinators for these schools meet once every three weeks, each time at a different school, in order to maximize the program’s success.

Timely theme

The principals and coordinators learn both from Hartman staff and from each other at these meetings. The weekend seminar focused on the timely theme: "60 Years of the State of Israel and 100 Years of Tel Aviv."

The program is both stimulating and diverse: from learning with yeshiva students to Shabbat morning prayers facing the sea, from a lecture on the attitude of halakhic decision makers to the Declaration of Independence, to walking tours in Tel Aviv. Several Hartman Institute fellows will lecture to the group.

One of the school principals told seminar organizers he was unsure of his ability to arrive at the seminar on time on Thursday – in the middle of the school day before he saw the program. On seeing the weekend program though, he was immediately convinced the benefit he would derive from the activities and lectures justified leaving his school early.

Indeed, the participants thus far in the Be’eri program have displayed much enthusiasm and commitment to the lofty goal of shaping secular high schools to reflect the spirit of Jewish pluralism.

By deepening students’ knowledge of Jewish culture, by empowering them to construct Jewish-Israeli identities, by expanding students’ tolerance and respect for pluralism and by grounding a pluralistic Jewish worldview in the school culture and environment, Be’eri is already on its way to attaining this goal.

Haya Shoham, principal of the New High School, Tel Aviv, and one of the participants in the weekend seminar, sums up what Be’eri has done to her school: "Up until this year, our school’s mission statement was applicable to any teenager in the world. It included many good and important values, but absolutely nothing about the unique cultural identity of Jewish-Israeli youth. Today, that identity stands at the heart of our mission."

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