TALI network marks 30 years of 'enriched Jewish education'

32,000 students participate in the program, which is a 30% increase from three years ago.

tali school 298.88 (photo credit: courtesy)
tali school 298.88
(photo credit: courtesy)
The TALI network, which provides enriched Jewish studies to some 70 state secular schools and 100 kindergartens turned 30 on Wednesday with a celebration at the Ramat Rahel Hotel attended by Education Minister Yuli Tamir. The network has seen spectacular growth in recent years, with its 32,000 students representing a 30 percent increase in the past three years. "Something has happened in Israeli secular society in the past 15 years," said TALI director-general Eitan Chikli before the celebration. "If once [Israelis] grew up as Sabra Zionists who saw religion as a Diaspora phenomenon, a deep change has taken place. Now there's an understanding, an awareness that we're missing something. People understand that [by leaving Jewish education behind] we've cut off the branch we were sitting on in terms of morals, values and our right to this Land." Chikli said TALI's growth was the result of the desire of "a lot of families to reconnect to a Jewish Israeli life. It's not a search for religion, but for Judaism as part of Israeli identity." TALI provides participating schools with the financial help and expertise to incorporate Jewish education into their curriculum "and into the school's atmosphere," Chikli said. The network offers schools about $30,000 per year for five years to cover the added programming. At the end of five years, a school is expected to offer the "enriched Jewish education" (for which TALI is the Hebrew acronym) on its own. A TALI educator works with teachers on a weekly basis and provides workshops on incorporating the "Jewish bookshelf" and Jewish identity into an otherwise secular curriculum. The fund also provides subsidized books and curricula, sends teachers to master's degree training in Jewish leadership and provides a "pluralistic" rabbi to work with each school. The network hopes to offer a TALI option in every town by its 50th anniversary, Chikli said. This would require a doubling of the number of schools in the network. With a $2 million annual budget, the network must turn down schools seeking to join. Many communities have yet to see a TALI affiliate open, including large cities such as Rishon Lezion, Holon and Bat Yam.