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TALI’s Halleli Jewish Peoplehood and Literacy Program Experiences Jewish Pluralism in New York

| 05/01/2023


The capstone event of TALI’s two year ‘Halleli’ Jewish literacy, peoplehood, and education program culminated Hanukka 5783 (2022) with a week-long visit of 11 senior Israeli educators to Jewish institutions in New York.

Despite arriving directly into late December’s cold cyclone bomb weather system, Halleli participants found a warm, bright and excited welcome.

TALI brought these Israeli teachers and principals to the city, with the assistance of the UJA Federation of New York, to experience how expressions of Jewish pluralism are created, nurtured and supported by Jewish institutions and organizers. The program enabled both sides to forge forward looking connections for the benefit of the Jewish people’s continuity.

Meant to be a transformative experience, TALI’s delegation to New York integrated a great number of visits to a wide range of institutions, in a small window of time.

The exhaustive itinerary brought participants together with their counterparts in schools and synagogues as well as with organizers and leaders in communal institutions and grassroot initiatives. The group held session in a variety of day schools, a charter school, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform synagogues and community centers.

TALI’s Halleli participants at Heschel School’s library.

The itinerary included learning texts with Ammud’s Jews of Color leadership; meditating with members of the Romemu Renewal Congregation; meeting with the heads of New York’s Jewish Federation to discuss the place of philanthropy for the future of the Jewish people; and eating a communal meal and experiencing Jewish performance art at FED in Harlem, with FED’s founder Deborah Fishman Shelby.

For Avigail Ben Hamu, Regional Supervisor, Early Childhood Education, in the Ministry of Education, Jerusalem, “The beautiful diversity and the communal organization bring different dynamics to Judaism and varied expressions which update, renew and sustain.”

In line with TALI initiatives, like its new Meorot program working to introduce infrastructures into schools for turning them into hubs for community activities, the group met with creative thinkers and doers in the New York area working on similar projects.

Dr. Peri Sinclair, the Susan and Scot Shay TALI Director General stated, “The questions that were raised were about pluralism, shared challenges, and future cooperation showed us the importance of continuity between Israel and the Jews in the United States. Our Halleli trip helps us strengthen the bridges between our two communities, for the sake of a diverse, liberal Jewish continuity.”

For many of the participants, directly meeting and holding discussions with their US counterparts transformed their thinking.

TALI’s Halleli program visiting Lincoln Square Synagogue

“This journey expanded and inspired my thinking about Jewish Identity both of Israelis and Americans,” reported Osnat Kor Chen vice principal, of the Kramim School in Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut, located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Ben Hamu added, “The contribution of diversity to renewal and consideration of the characteristics of how we in Israel live are influenced by what happens in America.”

TALI’s Halleli participants with Judge Rachel Freied, an Orthodox female judge

Creativity in education was a large part of the Halleli process. The program’s participants met in Israel over the course of almost two years, engaging in study, thinking about educational dynamics, discussing educational rigors, and considering their – and their students’ and communities’ identities.

“It opened up for me very deep dimensions of thought processes regarding the paths in my life and will influence my work and my interactions with children and students,” said Rivka Greenfeld, Director of the Ipcha Center for Education and Innovation in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Zeev neighborhood.

The program was built so that Israeli educators can gain a firsthand experience of how educators and thinkers at Jewish schools operate their classrooms, pedagogy, and build curriculum. For TALI’s Sinclair, illustrating the similarities and differences between TALI education and North American Jewish schools, will enable participants to be more influential professionally with their colleagues.

“Halleli is transformative,” stated Sinclair. “Textual study combined with seeing authentic implementation of pluralism on-the-ground is the aim of our experience. Bringing this further into Israeli society and culture is one of TALI’s goals.”

Iris Elbaz, the TALI coordinator and a teacher at the Amirim TALI school, Be’er Sheva, commented, “I saw how communal work and organization was based on meaningful values that inspired engagement. I found that seeking and community are leading values of American Judaism.”

Added Galia Netzer, TALI coordinator and teacher at Zichron Ya’akov’s Ha’Shita School, “This trip to New York stimulated my curiosity and thinking. I only wish that we can bring this type of pluralism and triple tolerance in Israel.”

Halleli participants came from all over Israel including Beer Sheva, Modi’in, Haifa, Zichron Ya’akov and Jerusalem. Some were from schools with TALI programs while others came from institutions that have not yet implemented pluralism studies.


TALI wishes to thank the people and leaders of the UJA Federation of New York for their support of the program.

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