Yoga and Tai-chi in the classroom? Not your standard fare for teacher training in Israel. But it is part of the curriculum for Neshama Yetira (An Extra Soul), TALI’s program to train teachers in spiritual education.
The TALI Education Fund offers enriched Jewish studies in the spirit of Masorti Judaism to over 44,000 children in 200 secular public schools throughout Israel, and has started to produce pluralistic textbooks for Israel’s entire state school system. The Neshama Yetira program has recruited principals, teachers, rabbis, and researchers to a unique educational laboratory designed to nurture spiritual educators.
The course tackles the thorny dichotomy that arises between the schools’ need for the humanities and spirituality and its mandate to foster academic achievement; defining the nature of Jewish spiritual education; and most challenging, finding the appropriate way to introduce these subjects into schools and preschools.
“Teachers are no longer willing to accept the traditional job description bestowed upon them by the Ministry of Education, namely, to prepare students for standard tests and matriculation exams,” said the program’s co-director Rabbi Elisha Wolfin, of Zichron Ya’akov’s Masorti Kehillah V’ahavta, who is a graduate of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary. “Educators want to educate. They know that true education must deal with the real dilemmas facing our students, our society and humanity.”