New kids on the block

Founded in 1976 by Rabbi Professor David Hartman, the Shalom Hartman Institute, which trains rabbis, teachers and scholars, is today considered to be at the forefront of liberal-orthodox education in Israel. Its Charles E. Smith High School, regarded as the center's laboratory for educational development, is the main vehicle through which its ideals are conveyed to the potential educators and community leaders of tomorrow. At present the Hartman option is only available to boys, but that is something set to change in the new academic year, thanks to the establishment of a Hartman girls' school, due to open its doors September 1. "We'll share the principles and outlook of the boys' school," explains principal Chana Kehat. "Our Jewish education will be Orthodox but open-minded." Kehat also identifies, as facets it will have in common with the boys' school, the school's critical approach to the study of Jewish texts, the inclusion of voluntary work in the daily schedule, and the high academic expectations it will have of its pupils. Despite these similarities Kehat is adamant that as a girls' school the new Hartman will have "its own individual character aimed at molding self-aware, modern women equipped to flourish in today's society." "We will cater for the specific needs of young women," she says. "For example, the girls will be encouraged to speak in public so as to gain confidence in their opinions and their ability to express them." She is aware of comparisons often drawn between her school and the progressive, religious girls' school Pelech. Both have a feminist approach to religion, high academic standards and believe in maximizing students' personal responsibilities. "Although there are similarities, there are differences too," she argues. "Unlike Pelech, Hartman will not be academically selective. We believe in striving for high standards for each student according to their abilities." "Our fees will be reasonable in comparison with Pelech's and many other schools in Jerusalem, making Hartman accessible to girls from different economic backgrounds," she continues. "And our approach to religion will be more spiritual than Pelech's. Though we will focus on the academic side of religious study, there will also be a lot of emphasis on prayer and the emotional side of Judaism."