Sunday, July 10, 2016

Orot Family Update Tammuz 5776

Mazal Tov to:
Jocelyn Minsky-Rowland (5765) upon her recent marriage to David Mendelsohn and upon receiving her Ph.d in Philosophy!
שתזכו לבנות בית נאמן בישראל!

Shoshana (Wilk) Lecerof (5752) upon the Bar Mitzvah of Jacob, Sara (Klavan) Zimbalist (5753) upon the Bar Mitzva of Eli and to Naomi (Emerson) Tenenbaum (5758) upon the Bar Mitzva of Yona
שתזכו לגדלם לתורה לחופה ולמעשים טובים!

Devora (Dickstein) Rabinowitz (5761) and Dede (Jacobs) Komisar (5762) upon the birth of their sons and to Nechama (Pressman) Danziger (5767) upon the birth of her daughter
שתזכו לגדלם לתורה לחופה ולמעשים טובים!

Shoshana & David (Brodt) Teichman (5753), Hadas (Even Chen) Pinckovich (5758), Judith (Greenberg) Arkush (5765) upon their recent Aliya!
בברכת ושבו בנים לגבולם
Good luck and קליטה קלה!

Lamed=Koach - 30 Years On: Tales of Strength and Limud

by Rachel (Horowitz) Teitelbaum, BZ 5747

On the 20th of Sivan, June 26th Bogrot of the 5747 Bat Zion Program had their 30 year reunion.  The reunion was held in the evening in Baka, Jerusalem, and many of the Bogrot who are is Israel were in attendance, including our indomitable Eim Bayit, Judy Ford, and Madricha Ruchanit, Rabbanit Idit Itzkovich.  More than half of our Bogrot have made their homes in Israel, and the occasion was also marked by the participation of Bogrot in the greater New York and Washington DC areas in the US, via weblink on what was their early afternoon.

Referring to the previous week's Parsha, Rabbanit Idit reminded us of the fact that we are able to do a tikkun for the Meraglim (spies)  and how wonderful it was to see so many Bogrot choosing to take on a new language, culture, and to build a Bayit Neeman in Israel.  She also encouraged those of us still far away that there is always time to come and people waiting in warm welcome.

Reminiscing over the Lachmaniyot and Charif food we once shared in Orot while enjoying a pot lunch dinner prepared by all, we shared pictures, and Rabbanit Idit even kept letters many of us had written to her oh so long ago, and brought samples to our reunion.

Fond memories of Rena Shvat Zuriel, Chagit Even Chen Samuels and Debbie Brown Baron, zichronam livracha, were shared, and pictures, and hopes that the next reunion will happen that much faster.

In Masechet Avot it says בן 30 לכח, a person of 30 attains strength, and the letter "lamed" has the numeric equivalent of 30, and it was a nice circle to associate a year we dedicated to limud, at our 30th reunion, with our Bogrot and madrichot, still going strong....

And Today!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tasfeh Students Enjoy Enrichment Seminar

Rabbi Dr. Yohanan Kapah,
Dean of Students, Rechovot Campus

This year, Orot Israel has joined other colleges which conduct a Tasfeh program. This program, whose name comes from the Amharic word for “hope,” caters to the Ethiopian community in Israel. In the context of this program, the students participate in enrichment activities in a variety of disciplines.
Recently, we conducted a very full day seminar in the city of Kiryat Gat. We met with Ms. Shulamit Sahalu, a religious woman and member of the Ethiopian community, who currently serves as Deputy Mayor of Kiryat Gat. Over the course of a lengthy conversation, she spoke about the power of meaningful achievement within a municipal system, armed with limited resources beyond personal drive. Ms. Sahalu noted the extraordinary progress the city is currently enjoying, in its transition from a development town, suffering from an unflattering public image, to a city undergoing accelerated development. We saw these changes firsthand, when the City Spokesperson escorted us on a tour of various sites around the city. The tour highlighted the centers of technological development and demonstrated the importance of the earliest possible recognition for future potential.
From there, we visited the Atachlit Farm, a village of “Beta Yisrael” (the adopted name of the Jewish Ethiopian community in Israel), where we were exposed to the cultural richness of the Ethiopian community. At the village, the students were addressed by Rabbi Moshe Solomon, who is an active member of the Ethiopian community; the Director of the organization Hineni, which provides a range of social services within the community; and a lieutenant colonel in the Reserves. Finally, we went to the Tenufa youth center, where we held a fascinating conversation about all the days’ experiences. The day concluded with a conversation with the municipal psychologist, whose responsibilities bring him into contact with the various segments of the Kiryat Gat community.
Students participating in the Tasfeh program represent all the assorted specializations and programs offered in the College: general students, yeshiva students, and students receiving academic retraining. A large portion of these students combine their studies in the College with parallel rabbinic studies. The seminar was arranged with the aim to contribute towards the development of these students as community leaders and educators, and it was clear from the uplifting and positive atmosphere that the seminar had achieved its purpose.

At Orot, We Train Creators

Dr. Zeev Kaim,
Internship Program Coordinator, Rechovot Campus
The conference held in recognition of this year’s new teachers and interns reflected the substantial creative achievement of the interns from Orot College who won a national competition. Their creative works open windows not only into the worlds of their values, but also to the complexity of the task facing those charged with educating the children of Israel. How fortunate we are that these are our alumni!
One of the most welcome initiatives introduced by the Department of Internships within the Ministry of Education in the last several years has been the national competition for creative works related to education, written by teaching interns. The idea behind the competition is to bring out the inner voice of the young teachers and to reflect their vantage points as they begin their paths as educators, through their assorted creative pieces. In this way, the wider public also gains a peek into what happens behind the closed door of the classroom, and to understand, at least partially, the complexity of the new teacher’s world.
In their first year in teaching, teaching interns experience crises and successes, they are faced with educational dilemmas, and they must sustain themselves amidst tensions and adjustments. These interns are involved in numerous events and incidents, they are exposed to complex pedagogical processes, and they are called upon for significant educational decisions. Practically speaking, the life of an intern may be compared to the constantly-changing waves of the sea; one moment, you are riding the wave, and the next moment, the wave slaps you in the face. These interns come to teaching out of a sense of a calling, wishing to contribute to the shaping of the face of the young generation - and the way in which they will experience their first year will shape their educational points of view, as well as their perceptions of their roles.
The national competition was conducted among roughly 7000 new school and early childhood teachers. The interns compete in three categories of expressive works related to the theme of teaching: stories, posters, and videos. Hundreds of outstanding creative works were presented anonymously to the judges. This collection of creative works was meticulously evaluated by teams of judges which included educators and experts from the fields of literature, visual arts, and film.
When the names of the winners were announced, it turned out that, as we have come to expect, Orot Israel was among the schools with the most winners. Two alumni of the College were cited as first-place finishers and another was designated a third-place winner in the category of literary works. Our alumni were also cited for distinction in the categories of education-themed posters and videos.
Among our winning alumni, we met Elad Yehudai, whose story “Remove Your Shoes from upon Your Feet” addresses the role of the educator as a leader. The story explores the tension between the educator’s desire to serve his students as a figure of certain authority and a role model, and his desire to be close to the students and to establish an emotional connection with them. The story of another winner, Shmuel Hayyun, “An Aliya Experience,” relates to the experience of the author’s father, a Moroccan immigrant whose aliya and absorption to Israel was mired with the hardships of the transfer camp-era, and to the extraordinary “Aliya Experience” project that Shmuel introduced into his classroom, inspired by his father’s experiences. The story shifts and turns between the past and the present and concludes in an emotional encounter between the father, his son, and the students. And the story of alumnus Aharon bar-Yaakov, “As Water Reflects the Face,” reveals the change he underwent as an educator, from being rigid, inflexible, and authoritarian, to being sensitive, patient, and charitable with his students. The change came about slowly and progressively, and it brought the educator to meaningful and constructive relationships with two of his more complex students.
In the category of videos, Meir Dadush was cited for his video, “Another Way.” The film described the teacher’s special relationship with Amit, a student confined to a wheelchair, whom the teacher was able to very successfully integrate into the classroom. Last but not least, alumnus Bat-El Mermelstein also received honorable mention for her poster, “You Have Strived and Achieved (with Love) – Believe it”.
The high point of the experience was the awarding of the awards at the Cameri Theater. The ceremony was honored with the presence of the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Michal Cohen; Deputy Director General, Teaching Personnel Administration, Ministry of Education, Mr. Eyal Ram; Chairman of the Teacher’s Union, Mr. Yossi Wasserman; and the presidents of the colleges, including our president, Rabbi Professor Neriah Gutel. The ceremony began with roundtable discussions, in which the competition winners explained their works to those in attendance, and each guest received a book which surveyed the winning pieces. Later in the evening, there was a formal recognition ceremony, and the conferring of awards, in which honorees congratulated us and we were represented in some of the artistic works. Dr. Sarah Zilberstrom, Director of the Department of Internships and Entry into Instruction, presided over the festive evening with a contagious excitement and aptly described the showcased works as “the small-large gifts which the interns have bestowed upon us, through their own creativity.” Indeed, without a doubt, it is a great privilege to produce such alumni!

A Concise Answer to “What’s So Important About Eretz Yisrael?!”

By Rav Ari Shvat 
Dear Bogrot of Bat Tzion,

Recently one of our former students texted me how much she misses the torah which she learned in our Beit Midrash, and how she' like to "have a little taste" once again. So here it is!
When one notices the enormous gap between the stress that the Tanach, Rav Kook zt”l and religious-Zionism places on the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Judaism, in comparison with the relative ignoring of the issue by rabbis in haredi circles and abroad, one can only wonder whether it is we who are exaggerating or they who are vastly underrating! Such a central question and discrepancy cannot remain unanswered, and the following article clarifies, as do the Tanach and Chazal, that the first approach is the original, as opposed to the galuti approach which is the adulterated and in need of revision.

People often ask why religious Zionism and/or Rav Kook make such a “big deal” about Eretz Yisrael? We’ll answer concisely:

1. Just as the Chafetz Chaim explains why he dedicated a significant part of his life to revive the neglected mitzvah of Lashon HaRah, for a Meit Mitzvah (neglected corpse) supersedes other mitzvot because nobody else can do it, so too a forgotten mitzvah which others aren’t fulfilling, should take priority.  For 2,000 years aliya wasn’t practical and accordingly left the agenda for many observant Jews.
2. Chazal declare indisputably that “Living in Eretz Yisrael is equated with all of the other mitzvot combined!”  This clear Tannaic oral tradition from the midrash halacha (!) is explicitly referring to all periods, even when there is no Beit HaMikdash,  and deems the issue of whether it’s officially counted as one of the 613 mitzvot (Bamidbar 33, 53) or whether it’s included in another mitzvah, or if its importance stems from its kdusha,  as academic.  This uniquely places aliya in the category of “super” actions, like Talmud Torah and Shabbat.  It’s superior to most other mitzvot, and there are many ramifications to her unique halachic status.  How much more should we address this issue, when this Super-Mitzvah is neglected by many orthodox Jews.
3. The Rambam writes about the obligation to live in a Jewish State.  Indeed, everyone is influenced by his environment, and therefore must decide by who he is to be influenced- by Jews, Judaism, her values and culture, or by gentiles. Whichever way you check, whether regarding Gedolei HaDor, comparative communities, or on a state or surely a national level, whether measuring quantity, quality, or percentage, there’s no doubt that religiously, Israel today is the Torah center of the world (more than two-thirds of orthodox Jews already live in Israel ).
4. Rav Ya’akov Moshe Charlap, predecessor of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as rav of Sha’arei Chessed in Y’rushalayim, recalls the tradition that every historical period has its special mitzva. We can identify it by what the gentiles try preventing (e.g. in certain periods they prohibited teaching Torah, circumcision, Kiddush hachodesh), for they’re “sent” to help us (!) focus on what is “The” mitzvah of our generation.  Today, even in Russia or Iran there’s freedom of religion and no problem teaching Torah or laying tfilin. The only mitzvah which they and many nations (even the U.N.) wish to deny us today is the return of the nation of Israel to resettle Eretz Yisrael and Y’rushalayim. Accordingly, in our historic period of Kibbutz Galuyot (Ingathering of the Exiles), Israel is “The Mitzva” of our generation and requires special attention.

The question remains: “Why” is this mitzvah equal with all the others combined, and “why” does the Holy Land’s revival and Kibbutz Galuyot begin the redemption?
A. The Torah T’mima likens aliya to learning Torah, that both are equated with the rest of the mitzvot because they enable you to do additional mitzvot.  Just as Torah knowledge facilitates observing the other mitzvot, similarly living in Israel significantly increases the quantity of mitzvot, whether agricultural, national (e.g. army, Hebrew), going to work is a mitzvah, and surprisingly even “every moment and second that you are in Eretz Yisrael one fulfills this mitzvah (of settling the Land)”.  Additionally, the many obligations Bein adam l’chavero (between fellow Jews) can and must be applied to each and every person in the street, any operator on the phone, and everyone waiting on line in the bank.  Even my all-too-high taxes in Israel fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah, paying for the medical, educational, health, security, religious, social and economic needs of our fellow Jews.  
B. Chazal explain that in addition to the greater quantity of mitzvot here, their quality is also much greater, for the Torah and mitzvot were given to be observed in Israel. Outside, they are just practice so that we’ll remember how to do them when we return.  As is often the case, the rabbis here are not innovating but rather embellishing explicit psukim: "ראה למדתי אתכם חוקים ומשפטים... לעשות כן בקרב הארץ אשר אתם באים שמה לרשתה", “Behold, I have taught you commandments do in the Land where you are going to possess”.  The Chafetz Chaim figures that the very same mitzvah when done in Israel, brings 2,000% more reward.
C. The Chatam Sofer extols living in Israel not only because of the mitzva, but because here we are living in kdusha (holiness).  It is clear from the Torah that the natural status of Am Yisrael is that not only your neighbors should be holy (Yisrael Goy Kadosh), but your language (Lashon Hakodesh), army (Tziv’ot Hashem ), coin (Shekel HaKodesh), and even fruit, mud and rocks  should be holy, as well. Similarly the Vilna Gaon says only regarding two mitzvot is a Jew 100% totally immersed: Sukka and living in Eretz Yisrael.
D. The Rivash  explains that the superior halachic status of settling in Israel  is because it is not a short-term mitzvah for the individual (e.g. I shake a lulav and then put it down), but rather an eternal and national mitzvah for all of Israel in your generation and for all future generations. When we chose to move our family tree to its final destination, it’s one of the few resolutions in life where our decision has everlasting ramifications, even 5,000 years from now. When we decided to settle in the Shomron and serve in Tzahal, we are helping define, enlarge and defend the borders of Israel, not as individuals, but for all Am Yisrael, both present and future. This adds special significance today.
E. Growing up in America, Judaism was my religion, but in Israel my Judaism has doubled for it’s also my nationality, giving significance to the mundane and harmonizing the fragmented.
May I warmly suggest seriously considering what I think most olim regard as the most significant and greatest decision of their lives. Not only for religious, but for national, historic, and more spiritual priorities as well, come benefit and contribute and be part of the future of Am Yisrael.

It’s time to come home.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mazal Tov Nissan 5776

Mazal Tov To: 
Natalie (Gavzey) Halachmi (5765), Shayna (Aster) Weisz (5756), Tanya (Weisenberg) White (5758), Leora (Sonnenblick) Roth (5763) and Ora (Bartunsky) Rubin (5768), upon the birth of their daughters.

Ayelet (Roche) Myers (5758) Miri (Prensky) Gertner (5765), Shira (Sokol) Herskovitz (5765), Mirie (Wiesenberg) Mahpour (5765), Aylana (Reiss) Mandel (5765), and to Andrea (Weiss ) Alter (5766) upon the birth of their sons.
שיזכו לגודלם....

Golda (Margolese) Zacks (5756) upon the Bar Mitzvah of her son Naftali
שתזכה לגודלו.......

Our sincere condolences to Liz (Shelton) Towb (5764) upon the untimely passing away of her Mother.
המקום ינחם אתכם תוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

An Exhibit of Haggadot in Jerusalem: Our National Past and Future

By Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Judaic Studies Lecturer

If you suddenly found yourself stuck on in a foreign country and a business trip with Pesach approaching, what would you do? You'd probably seek out the local Chabad, and that would be that. But what if you lived hundreds of years ago, before Chabad? Aside from the basic needs of matzah, wine and maror, where would you find a Haggadah to celebrate the night of the Seder? This isn't a new problem at all. In fact, Jews throughout history found themselves in need of a copy of the Hagadah text for family use. While most communities could rely on the communal Siddur for prayer in shul, we conduct the Seder home, necessitating a copy of the text available to every household. This resulted in an unusual plethora of texts of the Haggadah, offering a fascinating view of Jewish history though these amazing book.

A Facebook post from my friend Dr. Yoel Finkelman (whose ridiculously cool job involves buying historical Jewish artifacts for the Library) shared information about a new exhibit at the National Library of Israel (neatly tucked into the Hebrew University Campus in Jerusalem) displaying a series of handwritten Haggadot that span some eight-hundred years of history. Rena and I decided last Friday to visit, and we were quite glad that we went. When we first got there, the room was locked (I guess no one had asked to get in. But, to our pleasant surprise, the librarian on duty was great; she found the person who had the authority to tell the security guard to open the exhibit space, and we were in. She also gave us a nifty full color guide of the exhibit, bookmarks, a brochure about the library and its 1960s exhibit upstairs (which we went to see), and even emailed me a virtual tour of the Hebrew U. campus! The space of the exhibit is actually a small room which you can peruse slowly in half an hour. And, in truth, you can see pictures of the Haggadot on the exhibition website, which is well done. Nonetheless, in person you can better see the little hand-written drawings that were drawn usually by artists, but sometimes by an amateur, which add much color and character to each Haggadah. Even more importantly, there is something incredibly powerful about being in a room with Haggadot that were hand-written literally around the world over the course of centuries, from the Cairo Geniza all the way to a 1942 hand-written personal Haggadah written in Mozambique by a family fleeing from Belgium during the Holocaust. While we couldn't actually touch them, their physical presence conveyed a tangible sense of living history.
The Really Nifty Exhibit Brochure - for Absolutely Free!
If the Hagaddah is the story of Jewish redemption, the story of these books is the tale of our national travails around the world, as the People of Israel fled from way station to way station, searching for peace and stability, while yearning truly to reach the final destination of our exile in the Land of Israel.  At every stop we celebrated our past and future redemption. And if we lacked a text, we either hired a professional or wrote one ourselves by hand. Looking at this small collection of books, I couldn't help but think of them as clues in a centuries-long search for Home. Standing over the display cases in that tiny room in Jerusalem, I found myself feeling a sense of closure: these books, that had for so long guided our people on a path towards Redemption, had finally made their way to the rebuilt State of Israel. As they rest in the National Library of the Jewish State, they remind us not only of the many places and eras that came before us. They also remind us of the many centuries of yearning and prayer - of reciting the blessing at the conclusion of Maggid of which begins with the words, אשר גאלנו וגאל את אבותנו - "that God has redeemed us and our forefathers"...but then adds, "כֵּן ה' אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ יַגִּיעֵנוּ לְמועֲדִים וְלִרְגָלִים אֲחֵרִים הַבָּאִים לִקְרָאתֵנוּ לְשָׁלום, שְׂמֵחִים בְּבִנְיַן עִירֶךָ וְשָׂשִׂים בַּעֲבודָתֶךָ" - "So too Lord our God and the God of our fathers shall bring us to additional holidays and festivals that will come upon us in peace, joyous about the building of Your city and rejoicing in Your worship..." This blessing was recited over the Haggadot in the exhibit and many thousands like them around a table of Jews - sometimes small, sometimes large - who actually can ever know - but those families throughout the ages always expressed a yearning and a hope for a future of Redemption, rebuilding and renewal. While the individuals around those tables may not be here, their Haggadot remind us that their dreams and prayers and yearning propelled our people to rebuild, reconnect and renew. We have yet to arrive at the realization of the final stage of the blessing: וְנאכַל שָׁם מִן הַזְּבָחִים וּמִן הַפְּסָחִים אֲשֶׁר יַגִּיעַ דָּמָם עַל קִיר מִזְבַּחֲךָ לְרָצון - "and we will eat there from the offerings and the Paschal lambs whose blood reached the walls of your altar according to your desire..." Not yet at least. Still, hidden in those Haggadot is the reassurance and the knowledge that the Jewish Nation will fully realize the truth of the Haggadah, if not this year, then Next Year in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bachelor’s Degree Commencement Exercises at the Elkana Campus

 By Shabtai Teller, “Kol HaOrot”

At a moving ceremony, attended by a large crowd of many parents, spouses, relatives, and other guests, 150 graduates of Orot Israel College recently participated in their commencement exercises at the Elkana Campus. Degrees were conferred in the following fields of study: early childhood education, special education, secondary education, and dance and movement. The exercises began with introductory remarks from President of the College Rabbi Professor Neriah Gutel, and these were followed by blessings from Chairman of the Academic Council Professor Yisrael Rich.
Rabbi David Boskila, representing the Department for Training Teaching Professionals, also offered blessings to the graduates. The guest of honor at the festivities was the Chair of the Administration for Religious Education and the Rabbi of Ofra, Rabbi Avraham Gisser. His address focused on the ethical-educational advantage of private colleges over other institutes of higher learning, emphasizing that the graduates’ principal function as teachers is to serve as spiritual role models for thousands of Israeli children.
Distinguished awards were conferred upon the graduates Rivka Artzi, Hen Ben Hamu, Reut Nussbaum, Lital Edot, and Adi Feldman. The graduate speaker was Michal Landau, who currently serves as a homeroom teacher and instructor in media studies for the tenth grade at the AMIT girls’ school in Beer Sheva. In her address, she highlighted the profound investment that the College and its staff have made in their pedagogical methods and their Torah-ethical approach.
The College’s graduates serve in numerous, varied educational roles, in diverse sectors and educational institutions throughout Israel.

Bringing the Theory to Life

By Dr. Haim Shaked and Dr. Hodaya Hoffman,
Lecturers in the Graduate Program
for Educational Administration and Organization
Recently, first-year students in the Graduate Program for Educational Administration and Organization conducted in-house school visits at the yeshiva high school AMIT Amichai in Rechovot, and at the Gvanim School in Sitriya. These visits served as visual labs, bridging the gap between the theory learned in the classroom and the application out in the field. Accordingly, the graduate students met with school administrators and educational staff, who exposed them to the ins and outs of real, hands-on educational administration.

Over the course of their visit to AMIT Amichai, the students encountered pedagogical innovation from up-close, witnessing how it is practiced. Pedagogical innovation is one piece of the school’s comprehensive program of Identity-Building Learning, the school’s unofficial guiding principle. This unique concept is built upon a renewed perspective on the role of the educator, and the building of a new kind of conversation within the yeshiva. Our students met with teachers, staff, and students, and learned about the school’s program from the perspective of each. Complementing this, the meeting with the rosh yeshiva (head of the school) demonstrated the administrator’s key role in bringing about pedagogical innovation.

The tour of the Gvanim School focused on the concept of dispersed leadership, according to which the ins and outs of leadership are accomplished through a system of mutual and shared leadership between the directors and the directed. Over the course of their visit, the graduate students saw how this leadership model is applied in the school, through discussion groups, meetings, and more.
These tours are a new version of a practicum course, part of the study for a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Organization. The schools hosted us warmly, investing in an open dialogue between the academy and the educational field. These visits left a strong impression upon the students and provided them with much to consider, with respect to both pedagogical practice and proper management. The tour opened a new vista for the students, to ideas, approaches, and initiatives which they had not yet encountered, but most of all, it showed how to bring theories to life!

Ochs Foundation Scholarship for Outstanding Students

By Rabbi Dr. Yohanan Kapah,
Dean of Students, Rechovot Campus

On Monday,March 6, 26 Adar I, two students from the College were awarded prestigious scholarships from the Ochs Foundation, at a ceremony for the conferring of degrees for outstanding students in the field of education. The Ochs Foundation, which was established in memory of Rabbi Dr. and Mrs. David Ochs, annually awards scholarships to education students. This year, the foundation’s administration decided to award a number of scholarships to outstanding students, and these were ultimately awarded to two students from Orot Israel College, as well as one more student from another college.

The two students chosen from Orot Israel College were Idan Caravani, from the Rechovot Campus, and Avital (Hertz) Weinstock, from the Elkana Campus. The scholarship was awarded on the basis of academic diligence and achievement, demonstrated pedagogic skill, conducting an educational project, and leadership abilities.

The ceremony was held before an impressive audience at Bet Shalom in Tel Aviv, in the presence of the foundation’s officers; the Ochs family; Rabbi David Boskila, the representative of the Ministry of Education; the winners of the scholarships and their families. The speakers at the event spoke in praise of Rabbi Dr. Ochs and his wife, emphasizing the importance of education, which they held so dear. Rabbi Ochs dedicated his life to education and the dissemination of Torah in his community, such that his family considered it naturally fitting to establish a memorial fund to assist exceptional students in their development as educators. The event also featured a fascinating lecture by Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom, on the topic of “Identification and Identity.”

Off The Sidelines

By Naomi Kohn (Klians) 2001
Bogeret Bat Zion Program 

I always tell people that the reason I made aliyah is because I went to Orot. Rav Shvat, in his inspiring Torat Eretz Yisrael class told us to always remember במדבר ל”ג נ”ג, and remember I did. It took 11 years, marriage, four children and the purchase and sale of a house, among several other hurdles, but we made it. When asked by Nefesh B’Nefesh why we chose to make aliyah, my reply was obvious - because Hashem said so.

The past 3+ years of living in Eretz Yisrael have been filled with moments of intense happiness, sadness, anxiety, fear, wonder, questioning, yearning, excitement, and now most often thankfulness. There is nothing like waking up to run with the sunrise in the Judean Hills where our forefathers created history. I now have the zechut to daven at the Kotel, Kever Rachel and Mearat Hamachpela all within a short drive. Upon completion of learning the entire Sefer Bereishit in Kita Aleph, our children recite the Birkat Yaakov by heart in the very spot where it all took place.

As each year passes that I am here in our land, I am continuously amazed by the people of Am Yisrael - by their strength, conviction, caring for each other, and open ruchniyut. Unfortunately, in recent times there have been tragedies one after another. We are told that Am Yisrael is one body, and when one limb is injured, the entirety of us feel its pain. This is what it means to be part of Am Yisrael. A nation that davens for each other, cares for one another, lives for one another and dies for one another. Never before have I felt so much a part of Am Yisrael.

Baruch Hashem we were recently zoche to have our first sabra. As I am now a mother of four boys and one girl, I know that IY”H the time will soon come for my sons to give back and battle for our nation. We are intensely proud to no longer be sitting on the sidelines just learning about Jewish History, but actively taking part in shaping Jewish History. In this zechut may we merit the coming of Moshiach- אחישנה.

Orot (Lights) in Civics

By Dr. Yossi Londin,
Chair of the Program for Extending Training in Civics and Lecturer in Department of History, Rechovot Campus

It seems that no field of study in Israeli schools stirs more controversy in public opinion than the discipline of civics. Playing its part, Orot College Israel also participates in the battle over the shape of this discipline. Over the last winter, the matter was again at the center of controversy, while it is clear to everyone that the current round of debates is simply part of an ongoing, multi-year conflict surrounding the curriculum for the field of civics.
What is it about this discipline that attracts so much more friction than all the others? The answer would seem to be self-evident. Studying the discipline of civics is meant to train Israeli students to understand the governing of the State of Israel and Israeli society, as well as to give them the knowledge, skills, and values which will turn them into better citizens. It goes without saying that the debate over defining the “knowledge, skills, and values” in this context is incomparably explosive. If we add to this the fact that the current curriculum is identical in the government schools serving all sectors (general, religious, and Arab), we come to the perfect recipe for an ideological and political battlefield.

The truth is that, until recently, the discipline was less a battlefield and more an area prone to full usurping by the academic establishment of the political left. These ideologues simply developed a curriculum according to their world view. In this way, generations were raised with an understanding of democracy as rooted in a discussion of rights without responsibilities, an understanding of the Jewish-Arab conflict as one of two competing and equal (or worse) narratives, and a minimizing of the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish State.

A change began to come about in recent years. Teachers, academics, and politicians from the nationalist and the religious camp began to reclaim the dignity of the discipline. They sought to change the discipline to one which represents the consensus among most of Israel’s citizens, a majority which firmly believes in democracy and the rights of the minority, while demanding that the students are taught about a Jewish State and about man’s responsibilities as well as his rights; that the Jewish-Arab conflict is taught from the perspective of Zionism; that judgmental activism is tempered; and that they are taught other subtopics which are not currently part of the curriculum.

The conflict concerning the teaching of civics has found expression in debates over textbooks, appointments to key positions in the educational establishment, and the design of curricula. However, ultimately, the most important point surrounds the issue of who are the teachers of this discipline.
Over the last five years, Orot Israel College has been operating a program for extending teaching licenses to include the instruction of civics. Teachers and yeshiva educators of various disciplines enrolled in the program located on the Rechovot campus are studying the field and gaining accreditation in civics, in addition to their original accreditations. Within the framework of the program, students are learning the fundamentals and didactics of political science. In addition, they are gaining specialized enrichment in this area, particularly as it interacts with the Torah tradition and the related issues disputed in the public sphere. All of this is conducted from a nationalistic and religious perspective, and according to the highest professional standards.

The students are constantly updated concerning the various developments in the discipline, and they prepare the relevant learning materials. Tens of them are already working in the school system, some in advanced positions, and they are helping to influence the students of Israel, to better prepare them to be better citizens. Some of the graduates also serve as yeshiva educators, passing on the values related to our mission as a “mamlechet kohanim vegoy kadosh, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, with an impact far beyond the simple principles of civics. All of the various teachers offer their special contribution to the struggle over the shaping of the discipline. The continued development of the program, with respect to both its quality and its quantity, will allow for the continued revolution of teaching civics, a revolution in which the College is proud to take part.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Raising Religious Zionist Children: A Question of Education

Rabbi Reuven Spolter
Judaic Studies Instructor

So much of what takes place in the Jewish world revolves around education – or the lack thereof. The recent controversy surrounding the "Hilltop Youth" is to me, first and foremost, an education issue. Somehow, teachers, rabbis and educators failed to reach these young people before they abandoned home and school for the "freedom" of the hilltop. At the same time, the growing alienation between Israel and America also relates to education and a failure to properly communicate critical values through both parenting, but also our educational system.

Nowhere does education play a more significant role in the Torah than in the story of the exile and subsequent redemption from Egypt. God tells Moshe explicitly that education must play an essential role in the process of the Redemption and the formation of the Jewish Nation. God tells Moshe that He has hardened Par'oh's heart,
וּלְמַעַן תְּסַפֵּר בְּאָזְנֵי בִנְךָ וּבֶן-בִּנְךָ, אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִתְעַלַּלְתִּי בְּמִצְרַיִם, וְאֶת-אֹתֹתַי, אֲשֶׁר-שַׂמְתִּי בָם; וִידַעְתֶּם, כִּי-אֲנִי ה'. (שמות י', ב')
So that you will tell in the ears of your son and your grandson what I have wrought upon Egypt, and My signs which I have placed upon them; so that you may know that I am the LORD.' (Shemot 10:2)
We are also commanded to teach our children about the story of the Exodus on the night of Pesach – the ultimate educational experience.

But what happens when education is missing? What happens when parents and teachers don't provide the education that our children need and deserve? To answer this question, I share a novel answer to a classic question from the beginning of Sefer Shemot.

At the outset of Shemot, we learn that a new ruler arose to lead Egypt, אשר לא ידע את יוסף – "who did not know Yosef." (Shemot 1:8) This raises the obvious question: How could it be possible for a ruler to arise over Egypt who had never heard of the man who single-handedly saved not only their country, but the entire region from starvation? Rashi suggests that, "he made himself as if he did not know Yosef" – meaning that, like so many world leaders that followed throughout history, Par'oh chose to ignore the past in his desire to persecute the Jews. Yet, that's not the simple meaning of the words. Rabbi Yosef Bechor Shor explains simply that he neither "recognized him, nor knew of him." This of course only begs the question: How is this possible?

I found a very simple, compelling answer in a commentary on Chumash called “Meir Einei Yesharim” written by Rabbi Meir Schwartzman, who served for many years as a rabbi and dayyan in Winnipeg, Canada. (You can download the full Sefer on here.) He explains that it is indeed possible that the new king never heard of Joseph. How is this possible? He suggests that a new Pharaoh would never have heard of Joseph because a previous government erased any memory of Joseph’s existence. Rabbi Schwartzman writes,
When a new party succeeds in wrestling the bridle of government from a rival faction...then it removes from their positions all of those officials that were appointed from the previous government and it appoints only those officials who it trusts to fulfill its demands, and all the laws that were enacted by the previous ministers and legislators are annulled...and even the textbooks in the schools are that the students do not learn the story of the greatness of this hero or that warrior…
When Marshall [Jozef] Pidulski was exiled from the Polish government (1923-1926), his adversaries removed his picture from the official schoolbooks... and when Hitler arose at the helm of Germany, they revised and printed new school books and encyclopedias... so that in an instant someone who had been a hero and redeemer was transformed into a rebel against his people and country - a liar and a traitor... those who could not be tainted were totally erased from the historical record, as if they had never been born...
This, I believe, is what happened in Egypt. Even though a new king arose over Egypt, nonetheless he did not know of Joseph and had never even heard of him, for the enemies of Pharaoh who ruled when Joseph was young later took control of the government into their hands...and the entire story of Joseph’s greatness and how he saved the nation from famine, all of which was undoubtedly found in the national record... all of this was hidden or intentionally destroyed.
According to Rav Schwartzman, Par'oh never heard of Yosef because a previous government erased him from Egyptian history. How could Egyptian children know about a man if they were never taught? By that very same token, is it really that surprising to see Arabs refuse to acknowledge Israel's right to exist when Jewish history has been erased from their school curriculum?

Here in Israel, Religious Zionist parents assume that our children will not only assimilate our passion for the Land, but that they will also acquire our love for the State – the government and the rule of law – with all of its warts. Yet, the "Hilltop Youth" are teaching us that while we might be channeling our religious fervor to our kids, for some of them, we are failing to communicate the values of democracy, equality and freedom for all crucial to civil society.

By that very same token, while we might believe strongly in the importance of Eretz Yisrael, I am beginning to think that we don’t teach that passion properly, in a source-based manner, especially in the Diaspora where Zionism and Religious Zionism are often not properly emphasized or valued. I remember a number of conversations with parents who sent their children to non-Zionist yeshivot, and then expressed surprise and disappointment when those children returned home with values that did not include a love for the Jewish State. I would often caution parents: "Don’t send your children to a school and expect them not to absorb the school's ideology." It seems so simple and obvious. And yet, so many parents make this very mistake.

In the end, it boils down to education. If it's important enough, we teach it to our children, with love, patience and clarity. If not, we should not be surprised when we recognize that they lack the passion and love for Israel that we hold so dear.