August 16, 2010
Source: Jerusalem Post
A novel program, Hitchadshut, aimed at enhancing Jewish identity in public schools is showing significant success after a two-year pilot in Holon, Israel, ahead of expansion to additional cities.The program, established by the Panim non-profit organization and the Legacy Heritage Foundation, has set out to rectify a key problem of the Israeli educational system, the lack of discourse on Judaism and the significance of being Jewish.
Starting in September 2008, Hitchadshut implemented a municipally supported model of Jewish pluralistic education for some 4,770 pupils in Holon’s public schools, through activities such as studying Jewish sources, conducting religious ceremonies and holding communal events. Preliminary work with the 396 teachers from six elementary and secondary schools had taken place from January of that year.
A study conducted by Research Success Technologies Ltd. among nearly 500 youth from the three secondary schools in the program before its implementation and after its first two years shows a clear shift in the students’ opinions on things Jewish.
If at the beginning of the 2008 school year 37 percent of the pupils said that Jewish identity had a significant or very significant place in their school, in June 2010 some 65% held that opinion. While in 2008 some 56% noted that they’d like to deepen their knowledge of the Jewish tradition and culture to a great extent, 67% felt that way in 2010. The desire to learn more about Jewish values also grew from 60% to 76% during those years.
Besides work in the schools, Hitchadshut also held activities in community and youth centers in Holon, including Kabbalat Shabbat evenings; trained kindergarten teachers on methods of using Bible stories to shape educational agendas, and held a communal bar and bat mitzva ceremony.