The start of the 2019-2020 school year brought with it an exciting new collaboration for the TALI Education Fund. TALI is thrilled to be partnering with the Tzav Pius school network- a group of “integrated” schools that has a mixed student body of secular, traditional and Orthodox students. The expression Tzav Pius, literally meaning “Call for Reconciliation,” is a play on words of the Hebrew term for military call-up (tzav gius). Seven “integrated” schools (two in Jerusalem, two in Rishon Letzion as well as schools in Gedera, Rechovot and Binyamina) make up the Tzav Pius network.
“TALI and Tzav Pius are natural partners. It is an opportunity to further widen TALI’s approach to pluralistic education throughout Israel,” says Dr. Eitan Chikli, Susan and Scott Shay TALI Director General. The two organizations stress the importance of Jewish and democratic values, the necessity of cultivating strong Israeli-Jewish identity and an overall commitment to innovative learning. The partnership will allow TALI and Tzav Pius to share educational resources and staff and for more schools to gain the benefit of TALI pedagogical and curricular support.
A research group headed by Dr. Ari Ackerman, Golinkin Chair in TALI Jewish Education, and Dr. Chikli, is currently studying the impact of joint secular-religious education on children and their families, as well as the ramifications of a joint curriculum on the school’s culture.
Tzav Pius was established as an urgent response to the tensions and conflict that erupted between Israeli Jews across the Orthodox-secular spectrum in the aftermath of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995. It works to “develop an Israeli society in which Jews of differing backgrounds along the secular-Orthodox spectrum share a strong commitment to Jewish and democratic values, thus encouraging social and educational changes.”
Integrated schools have a joint curriculum including Jewish Studies and history of Zionism as well as creative arts including music, drama, dance and visual arts. There are school-wide activities with parents, including a joint parent-child beit midrash where families from different religious backgrounds study together. Graduates of integrated schools are exposed to different ways of life and, through this diversity, develop a stronger and more solid identity. They have a greater understanding of the complexity which shapes a multicultural society, and are better able to see an opportunity where many others see only a threat. These parent-child batei midrash and emphasis on open, pluralistic Jewish learning mirrors TALI’s own educational approach.
“In the last few years the secular religious divide has only widened” said Avital Levy-Katz, Director of Integrated Education at TALI and past principal of the Reut Integrated school in Jerusalem. “But even with this divide, the number of schools seeking to have integrated secular-religious student bodies has grown. More communities in places around Israel which have a mix of residents seek schools that reflect the diversity of the neighborhoods and communities in which they live. Many parents see an opportunity for conversation and dialogue when their children are learning in a mixed environment and are exposed daily to diversity and real-world dilemmas.”
Tzav Pius has identified its key strength in bringing together students of diverse Jewish identities, both in formal and informal educational frameworks, via joint religious-secular schools and kindergartens. These offer an important alternative to the divisive public school system that separates children based on religious affiliation. These schools enable children to strengthen their Jewish-Israeli identity, while building new friendships and learning to live the values of pluralism and mutual responsibility. The budding TALI and Tzav Pius partnership is a tremendous opportunity to build relationships, strengthen Israeli-Jewish identity for children and parents and further the great work of the TALI Education Fund across Israel.