The TALI program is especially significant in that it integrates Jewish studies into regular public school programs, Rabbi Golinkin said. Some 12 per cent of schools have it, with eight new schools coming on board in the last year alone. Children study the weekly Torah portion, learn about the holidays, read Pirkei Avot and even pray in school, he said.
Increasing “Jewish literacy” and core knowledge about Judaism is the first step in demonstrating to secular Jews that Judaism does not belong exclusively to the Orthodox.
“If they know more about Judaism, then pluralism will follow,” he said.
The results of that interest in things Jewish will play out in decisions on important public issues, such as prayer at the Western Wall, whether yeshiva boys should serve in the army, shmittah and even whether it is permitted to eat kitniyot during Passover, he said.
Rabbi Graetz offered a different approach – more of a top-down prescription for the question of “what we do with our religion, culture and how we behave as Zionist Jews.”
While Masorti (Conservative) Judaism focuses on schools and education, it is also important to try to influence Israeli society through the political process, he suggested.