Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Only 13 years

The remarkable thing about a recent story in the Israeli press, about "Jewish" education in Israel's state sponsored secular schools is not that it is conservative, one sided, and dominated by the Orthodox - that's no surprise - but that it took the Israeli government 13 years to figure out that this was going on!

In 1994, the Shenhar committee, which examined the manner in which Judaism is taught at schools, submitted its recommendations to former education minister Professor Amnon Rubenstein. The recommendations were adopted and became the ministry's policy on Jewish education in secular schools.

"We are not willing to abandon Jewish studies to those who belong solely to the Orthodox world," Rubenstein said when receiving the recommendations 13 years ago.

Now, according to a governmnet audit report, it turns out that only three of the 25 organizations funded by the Ministry of Education to teach Judaism actually teach "the many faces of the Jewish culture" as demanded by the Shenhar committee's report.

According to the audit, one of the organizations "uses preachy language which tells students about the right Judaism - the Orthodox Judaism. There isn't any reference to secular Judaism at all."

Another organization "stressed that a Jew is someone who has a Jewish mother or who has converted according to Halacka," or Jewish law, the report stated.

The report added that "other alternatives were not addressed" and that "the students were taught that boys and girls should be separated - the former will puts on phylacteries and the latter will light Shabbat candles."

In response to the report, Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center said that that "The schools must be able to teach Judaism and Zionism in a manner that is fitting to the views of the students and their parents, while promoting pluralism in Israeli society."

More importantly the government must be able to monitor and enforce its own policies. But, as with so much else in Israel, official policy is one thing and "facts on the ground" are another. And just as in so many areas of Israeli society, the right and the Orthodox, do what they want, and the government turns a blind eye - often with a wink and a nudge.


Anonymous Joel Katz said...

Shalom Sydney,

Enjoyed reading your comments on the Shenhar Report.

I'd like to send you a copy of the Israel Religious Action Center's weekly e-newsletter "The Pluralist". Please email me at joel@irac.org if you are interested.

Shana Tova,
Joel Katz

9:30 am  
Blogger Sydney Nestel said...


More stuff to read ! So much to know, so little time.

OK, why not.


10:57 am  

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