Between Pluralism and Secularism: An American Jewish Educator’s Journey into the World of Israeli Secular Torah Study

December 16, 2013

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


Rabbi David Kasher, Director of Education at Kevah, an organization with a distinctly pluralistic philosophy that seeks to bring traditional Jewish learning to the whole spectrum of the Jewish community, tells of his journey to Israel this past summer to meet with key figures in the schools and programs in which secular Israelis are today studying Torah – to observe them, to learn from them, and to reach out to them. At Kolot, Atid BaMidbar, ZIKA, the Beit Midrash at Oranim and Bina: The Secular Yeshiva, he discovered the ways in which his Israeli counterparts and he are clearly doing the same kind of work, though the unique characteristics of Israeli society make that work look very different.


His survey of this educational landscape led to an identification of these common themes:

  • Stressing the Multi-vocal Nature of Jewish Texts

  • Facilitative Style of Education

  • Texts are Not Taught as Binding

  • Seeking Personal Relevance

  • Grappling with Questions of Practice

Most important, however, is recognizing the ways in which ‘Israeli Secular’ and ‘American Pluralistic’ Torah-study communities have a tremendous amount in common and are well-poised to partner with one another and grow together. Above all, we share a sense of urgency: in both Israel and the United States, there is a sense of a Judaism in crisis, whether that means the assimilation and shrinking of the Jewish community (U.S.) or the struggle to define Jewish identity (Israel). But on both sides of the ocean, there is a shared belief that a reconnection to the Jewish textual heritage is part of the solution, a belief that the eternal vitality of these ancient words have the power to awaken new life.


Read more at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Jan. 15, 2014