sraeli society is so religiously polarized that most people are forced to identify as religious or secular with little exposure to the myriad other ways one can be Jewish. TALI schools show that when given the opportunity to engage in pluralistic Jewish expression, students, teachers and parents are eager to take part in the diversity of Jewish experience.
Previously there was no training for Masorti/Conservative rabbis going into TALI schools. It was assumed they would find ways to connect. Through conversations with rabbis and TALI schools we have now realized that rabbis need to develop specific skill sets in working in secular schools. This new professional development series focuses on giving rabbis, rabbinical students and other liberal Jewish educators the language and vocabulary of TALI schools. They meet with principals and teachers from various schools and learn what issues the teachers are facing while working with students and parents on Jewish subject matter. They are introduced to TALI curricular materials and books so they know what materials they have at their disposal.
After completing the training, the rabbis and rabbinical students will, with the assistance of TALI staff, prepare sample programs and lesson plans that they can offer to schools. TALI regional coordinators will have these offerings as part of the menu of services offered to TALI schools. They will be able to ‘market’ the rabbi’s services knowing the future rabbis have the language and skills to work with TALI school population. As the program progresses, ordination track students will participate in more school ceremonies, activities and bnei mitzvah programs in the public schools.
One participant, Rabbi Gali Snir, was ordained and received a master’s degree in Jewish Thought from Schechter. She has worked in kindergartens and schools in Tzur Yitzchak near Kfar Saba as well as training children with special needs for their bnei mitzvah. Rabbi Snir found the training invaluable: “I learned a lot. Don’t speak about ideas, speak to people. We need to come down from the intellectual space to the actual, the experiential. We found ways to change ideas into activities. One of the lecturers told us to think of our knowledge as ingredients in a cup that need to be stirred around. By stirring, we see things in a new way. All the methods and content are there we just need to change perspectives and find new ways to incorporate them.”
Few of the rabbis participating in the program have previously received training on working with students in the secular public school system. Nearly 80% of students in secular public schools have never met a Masorti Rabbi. The current program will enable the secular public school population to connect with rabbis who are accessible, and speak the language that is clear and encouraging. There are 110 TALI schools and 225 TALI pre-schools serving some 50,000 families and 3,000 teachers all over Israel. This program will provide an entry point for Masorti rabbis into their world. Likewise, future rabbis will strengthen their skills in building connections with a community with whom they might not previously had a relationship. They will get to know students, teachers and in some cases parents, and become their connection for holiday celebrations and life cycle events.
TALI is excited to see the fruits of this new professional development series. As they prepare for the 2018-2019 school year, many more rabbis will have the skills needed to bring even greater meaning and Jewish values to TALI schools.