Thursday, May 03, 2012

Reviving the Alliance model of education in Israel

The early days of Kiach in Israel: blending secular and religious values (Photo: Shmuel Bar-Am)

In Israel, education is divided between secular and religious streams. A new immigrant to Tel Aviv, originally from Morocco, is trying to help end polarisation by encouraging a project based on Kiach's (the Alliance Israelite Universelle) model of secular education with Jewish values. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Sam Pinto planned everything down to the last detail before making aliya. Regular visits gave him more than a passing acquaintance with the quirks of Israeli society, he made sure he had work waiting for him and he bought an apartment well before getting on the plane. He also had siblings and children anxious for his arrival.

Even Pinto’s choice of Tel Aviv as his final destination was well thought out, for he found it eerily similar to the Moroccan metropolis where he spent a happy childhood. Indeed, both Tel Aviv and Casablanca host their country’s commercial centers, sit on the sea next to well-developed ports, are blessed with sunlight, and have a distinctly international flavor. They also share some of the same architecture, for when German- Jewish architects of the Bauhaus (International) School were kicked out of their homeland with Hitler’s rise to power, many who didn’t come to pre-state Israel moved to Casablanca and built houses with the Bauhaus design for which Tel Aviv has become famous.

“Yet it is never easy,” says Pinto. “True, I didn’t come as a Moroccan immigrant in the ’50s. But I had lived in Paris for over 40 years, knew the city like the back of my hand, had a successful career and a comfortable financial situation. Still, I am so very happy to be here, and to be able to participate in the Zionist dream.”

And participate he does. Besides a part-time job with the Rothschild Group, Pinto hopes to bring about change. To this end he is already deeply involved in two Israeli projects: one with KIAH (Kol Israel Haverim – the Israeli branch of Alliance Israelite Universelle); the other a new program offering advanced education for madrichim (youth workers).

Pinto’s ideas for change have nothing to do with Israeli behavior. In fact, he thinks Israelis are wonderful, and isn’t fazed by the pushing and shoving, the incredible noise level, the lack of courtesy in our elevators and trains, or the way that people drive (“Paris is a driving jungle as well, although here it is worse. But never mind, I drive fast!”). No, what he worries about is the future of Israel as a Jewish state, and the speedy growth of an increasingly extremist haredi movement.

The solution to both, as he sees it, is to put Jewish – not religious, but Jewish – content into Israeli education and to eventually see the emergence of a Jewish movement imbued with Jewish knowledge and Jewish values. He feels that it is important to go against the current trend of polarization, and to build a strong pluralistic foundation in Israel.

Pinto is familiar with both the strictly religious and the secular world: in his family, one sibling is completely secular and one very religious, with their children split between the two as well.

“The extremism here is surprising,” he says. “In our world, in Morocco, this didn’t exist. There was one Judaism with some people more traditional and some less. The rabbi was out in the community helping people, not rejecting them... everyone was praying the same, in the same room, with the same beautiful tunes, nobody was rejecting anybody. You were just Jewish!”

He is just as concerned with a growing ignorance about everything Jewish among our young people.

Read article in full

1 comment:

sylvia said...

"No, what he worries about is the future of Israel as a Jewish state, and the speedy growth of an increasingly extremist haredi movement."
Only the haredi are extremists? He hasn't met the leftist zealots yet.


"The solution to both, as he sees it, is to put Jewish – not religious, but Jewish – content into Israeli education and to eventually see the emergence of a Jewish movement imbued with Jewish knowledge and Jewish values."

I have been grappling with the question myself, as to why the most radical of Sephardis never go as far as their Ashkenazi counterparts. Among the Haredis, there is no Sephardi group like the Slonim for example, or the Niturei Karta. In the same way, I have never seen Sephardi leftist radicals reach the point of insanity and recklessness of the Ashkenazi leftist zealots.

So is it the Alliance, or is it learned behavior, in which case credit should be given to the Rabbis who passed on a tradition of "balanced" conduct and tolerance going back to the Babylonian sages?