What is the mission and vision for a Jewish day school that can unite a population with a wide variety of Jewish beliefs, affiliations and practices? Ayelet Lehman provides perspective by describing how this challenge has played out at an intentionally pluralistic school in Israel.
It is important to understand that unlike other schools in Israel, which are established through the education system and the local authority, the Keshet School in Mazkeret Batya was established by a group of parents in order to realize their social-educational goals. Even so, some of the teachers who joined the school were not familiar with the vision of Keshet, its teaching philosophy and educational practices. For this reason, two years after the establishment of the school, various stakeholders undertook a structured process of forming a school vision. The process was led by the school administration, with staff and parents participating.
The implementation of the Keshet School vision was led by staff members together with the parents. The challenge now was to translate the vision into a practical program for all ages. For example, the meeting group (secular) discussed the definition of secular identity that is a mix of Jewish, Israeli and universal components. If so, what is the ratio we expect between those components? To what cultural legacy do we want to expose our children? To what extent will the school focus on Jewish laws and customs? What principles will guide the teaching and learning in this group? During the discussion diverse voices emerged, some focusing on social values, others putting emphasis on experiential learning, some emphasizing critical thinking, learning through asking questions, and examining dilemmas.
Who will teach the complex subjects? It became necessary to find teachers who are familiar with the material, whose worldview is pluralistic, who consider the two identity groups as equals, who are able to accept feelings, attitudes and behaviors different from their own, and who will protect every child’s right to express his or her opinion, even if it contradicts the worldview of another.