A school for all students

Ra’anana parents celebrate opening of pluralistic, traditional public school.

TALI Frankel School_390 (photo credit: Yosefa Drescher)
TALI Frankel School_390
(photo credit: Yosefa Drescher)
Fourteen years after they launched their campaign, parents from Ra’anana are celebrating the opening this week of a new public school in the city, which they say will fill a glaring need in their children’s education.
The school adheres to the pluralistic yet religiously traditional makeup that is the DNA of the TALI school system.
Nominally affiliated with the Conservative stream’s Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, TALI schools are largely modeled on American Conservative Jewish day schools.
According to the system’s website, TALI “aspires to shape a personality which embraces both Jewish tradition and general culture, and to endow pupils with the desire and tools to confront and deal with contemporary existential issues facing the Jewish people.”
In April 2008, the Education Ministry approved the opening of a TALI school in Ra’anana after two years of petitioning by parents. On September 20, 2010, the cornerstone for the Frankel School’s building was laid, and on Sunday it opened its doors to 257 students from the first to sixth grades.
The first TALI school was founded in Jerusalem over 30 years ago, following a donation from Samuel Frankel.
His son, real estate developer Stanley Frankel, put up NIS 16 million of the NIS 20 million cost of the Ra’anana school.
New Jersey native David Schwartz said the idea to push for a TALI school in Ra’anana emerged one night in 1997 when he and his wife got together with several other couples and concluded that they needed an alternative educational framework for their children. Schwartz said their main need was a school that would be accepting of students from all levels of observance, but would still provide a rich education in Jewish customs, tradition and history.
“We are Masorti [Conservative]. We didn’t want our kids going to a secular school where not all the kids are interested in a Jewish upbringing, and we didn’t want them to go to a national-religious school where they wouldn’t be accepted because they don’t live a religious lifestyle.”
Like others, Schwartz said his background in the American Jewish community influenced his desire to push for a TALI school. He said he and the other parents who supported the school had been inspired by the US Conservative Movement’s Solomon Schechter day schools and were essentially looking to build their own version in Ra’anana.
Schwartz, who made aliya with his wife, Hannah, in 1992, has four children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have studied in the TALI system, which up until this week met at Ra’anana’s Meged School.
He said TALI schools send the message that “there is no coercion. Everyone has the right to practice Judaism as they want and to learn about everyone else’s tradition, and that there is a broader range of practice in Judaism.”
Principal Yigal Ariha said the school had been founded for families “who didn’t see themselves as religious but wanted to give their kids a Jewish education.” He said the students received weekly Jewish studies classes and celebrated the Jewish holidays throughout the year.
Ariha spent three years working at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, Maryland, before returning to work as principal of the Frankel School. He said the Israeli school “has an open atmosphere that accepts each family and where they come from,” and that the student body includes pupils who keep kosher and those that do not, from families that are Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and formerly Orthodox.
He said that even though the initiative had been launched by parents who immigrated from the US, most of the school’s students were native-born Israelis. He believes the school is a model for how the education system in Israel should be, adding that “in particular during these days, when extremism is raising its head, it’s important that the nice, pluralistic Judaism raises its head.”