Jewish Identity/Israeli Identity for 10th Grade: Fewer than 3% of students in Israeli secular public high schools are currently engaged in serious Jewish studies. In 2017-18 TALI developed and piloted, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, a new TALI curriculum for 10th graders aimed at exciting them about Jewish identity and ideas, and motivating some of them to take a five-unit concentration in Jewish Thought in the 11th and 12th grades. During 10th grade, teens spend 2-hours a week exploring questions regarding the place of Judaism in modern Israeli society, and the ways in which these issues shape Israeli identity. The curriculum is complemented by a 3-day retreat dedicated to the place of Jewish Israeli Identity in the complicated and charged Israeli reality.
The School Rabbis Program adds a critical dimension of spiritual education to the TALI school network by providing non-observant children, teachers, and parents with positive educational and spiritual experiences with rabbis. The rabbis represent a new type of role model for the pupils and their parents – one of a tolerant and open-minded spiritual educator who relates to them in a language and style that is at once inclusive and conducive to their modes of learning. Some schools have a school rabbi assigned to them, and others choose from a menu of services that a school rabbi can provide. TALI provides training for Israeli rabbis across the denominational spectrum giving them tools and best practices to work in secular school communities.
Dialogue and Identity, in partnership with the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue, brings together Jewish and Arab schoolchildren and educators from all over Israel. Jewish and Arab schools are paired, and two classes of 30 children from each school engage in meetings facilitated by their teachers. The program offers the first peek into the life of a religious and ethnic community other than their own. It removes fear and prejudice that is pervasive among Israelis growing up separately in a land of ethnic and religious conflict.
The model trains Jewish and Arab teachers to implement a curriculum stressing “three religions in the Holy Land,” and to jointly facilitate a series of encounters in which their pupils meet and present their religions and culture to each other. TALI initiated the project as part of its goal of strengthening the Jewish knowledge and identity of TALI pupils in the secular public school system. Over the course of the year children spend five days together, hosting each other twice and learning about each other’s way of life.
In 2018-2019, 720 children and 72 educators from 24 schools participated. Over 5,000 students have participated since the program’s founding in 2007. In addition, hundreds of Jewish and Arab schoolteachers and principals have built lasting personal and professional relationships through the program.
TALI Experiential Education emphasizes the combination of knowledge and experiences as being the key building blocks to strong Jewish identity. Experiential and informal educational programs are central to TALI education. They are intensive informal educational frameworks that reinforce values and knowledge taught in the classroom. They engage TALI pupils in enjoyable outdoor seminars and field trips, and bring their families together to share creative learning experiences. These can include Rosh Hodesh assemblies, holiday celebrations, a group Bat Mitzvah ceremony often led by the TALI rabbi, or a school program initiative (e.g. an exhibit of Pesach customs from various ethnic backgrounds prepared by families). Through these activities we build community and identity around Jewish cultural and historical themes.
There are 38 different workshops offered for grades 1-8 and they can range from a 45-minute session to an all-day activity. Teachers can explore the offerings via the TALI website and then arrange with the Director of Experiential Education to see what will be a good fit for a particular school or classroom. For 5th grade and above among the most requested workshops are musical Kabbalat Shabbat services which incorporate music, liturgical text study and Israeli song. Another program on asking forgiveness asks students to role play situations form their own lives where they had to apologize. The students play both ‘sides’ of the situation and explore paths to forgiveness in preparation for Yom Kippur. The workshop “Nice to Meet You Jerusalem” turns the classroom into a street in Jerusalem using pictures from neighborhoods all around the city. Children ‘meet’ different Jerusalem personalities who introduce them to unknown parts of the city.