Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Let's hear it for secular yeshivot (New Israel Fund)

The world's first secular yeshiva in Tel Aviv has been granted "Hesder Yeshiva" status by Israel's Ministry of Defense. The yeshiva is the initiative of NIF grantee BINA: Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, which received a special allocation from NIF to set up the program last summer. Students at the yeshiva combine religious studies with social work in a disadvantaged Tel Aviv neighborhood.

Following the approval of the yeshiva's study program by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), students will be able to combine military service with their studies. The move gives important Israeli government recognition to the Secular Yeshiva, which will become the first non-Orthodox yeshiva in the Hesder program.
The world’s first secular non-religious Yeshiva has opened in Tel Aviv with 150 students registered for its inaugural year. The Yeshiva emphasizes religious pluralism and the connection between Jewish studies and human rights and social justice. Students will divide their time between studying religious texts and social action projects in disadvantaged Tel Aviv neighborhoods....

The feature article about the Yeshiva in the Jewish Chronicle appeared on September 22. Entitled “Tel Aviv’s Non-Religious Launch a Secular Yeshivah,” the article quotes Yuval Yavneh: “Over the past 15 years, aside from learning communities where secular Israelis get together to study classic Jewish texts, there are also many ‘praying communities’ in the country, which hold Friday night services based on the traditional siddur but with added Hebrew songs and poetry. These communities reflect the fact that some secular Jews came to the conclusion that they also needed a spiritual and not just an intellectual challenge. The philosophy is that Judaism belongs to us all, not just to the Orthodox.”

“Judaism is more than commandments,” student Gali Fux told the Chronicle. “I want to be able to read the Talmud and discuss issues like social justice and free will. The Jewish communal way of life is a very socially active one.”

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