RATIONALE FOR ESTABLISHING A SECULAR YESHIVA IN TEL AVIV

Categories: Jewish Identity
By Tal Shaked

“Torah Lishma” – Jewish study for the sake of study – was part an inseparable part of Jewish culture and life since the time of the Mishnah, over 2,000 years ago.

The modern Zionist movement strived to create a “new Jewish person” and turned its back on the Talmud and tradition Jewish study. Raised and educated in the Land of Israel, the following generation was detached from the world of Jewish texts, traditions and values. The living connection with the Oral Law in Judaism ceased almost entirely. Berl Katznelson expressed this in the 1940’s when he wrote: “we wanted to raise a generation of critical agnostics, but instead, raised a generation of uneducated secularists.”

Following the establishment of the State, the situation only deteriorated. The “yeshiva” Jewish studies were perceived as an irrelevant, parasitic act appropriate for the Diaspora. The political tension between the religious and the secular brought with it a clear separation between those who studied in the yeshiva and those who studied in the academia and any framework that deviated from these clear lines was identified as a threat to both sides. If a young secular Israeli studied Judaism for other than practical purposes (such as for their school matriculation or at a teachers college) they were a clear threat of being a candidate for ‘hazarah betshuvah’ (become extremely religious- observant).

Thus, the Secular Yeshiva serves to restore the living, creative connection between our Israeli culture today and the world of sources from our culture’s past; we are reviving the value of ‘Jewish study for the sake of study’ for secular Israelis in a modern, relevant way.

This new framework of Jewish study is a synthesis of academic study and yeshiva beit midrash style. We adopt the critical academic approach and we present an in-depth encompassing examination of texts using the most innovative tools of cultural critique in order to dissect the context in which the text was written, and to understand its social, political, philosophical and legal aspects, all in order to reconstruct the creative process that the comprised the text. However, we do not leave the text barren on the scientific ‘operating table’. From the traditional methods we take the approach that presents the text in its totality and fullness, inviting the student, his/her values, way-of-life and spirit to encounter the text, but we approach the text as a source of inspiration, and not a source of authority.

Third generation Israelis, most young adults, no longer experience the social cohesiveness and identify with the collective narrative that existed in Israel at the time of the establishment of the Jewish State. Rather, they are exposed to increasing economic privatization and to the bankruptcy of the Israeli government on social, educational and welfare issues in Israeli society.

Therefore, alongside ‘Jewish study for its own sake’, the Secular Yeshiva will foster and implement “study that leads to action” – that is social action, Tikun Olam – focusing on educational, community service and social justice projects in south Tel Aviv neighborhoods striving to make Israeli society a better place for all its residents.

For More information, please contact:

Tal Shaked, Project Coordinator, taltela@bezeqint.net, 972-542-120682

Benjy Maor, Development Director, fundtak@inter.net.il, 972-522-751577

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