Thursday, February 2, 2012
Ra’anana celebrated a wonderful occasion on Sunday January 29, 2012, the opening of the city’s first stand-alone elementary Tali school. Tali (a Hebrew acronym for enriched Jewish education) is a unique program which combines a secular education, as mandated by Israel’s Ministry of Education, with a program of modern Jewish studies. Tali’s stated mandate is to provide a love and respect for Jewish learning in a pluralistic environment.
The Tali program was established in Ra’anana in September 1998. Until last week, it was housed within a secular public school, Meged Elementary School. On Sunday, the Frankel Tali Ra’anana School opened with the support of a primary benefactor, Mr. Stanley Frankel.
This new school, which is beautiful, functional and modern, was the product of enormous efforts by a group of parental volunteers, the City of Ra’anana, the Ministry of Education and many other groups and individuals. But the official opening ceremony for the school was simply incredible.
It actually began a few days earlier with a ceremony at the Meged School at which Tali expressed its appreciation and thanks to Meged for hosting Tali for so many years.
On Sunday afternoon, the official opening ceremony began with the gathering of all of the Tali students at a park in Ra’anana. Dressed in white shirts and blue pants, some carrying flags, the students formed a procession by class to accompany the school’s Torah through the streets of Ra’anana to the new school. The procession was led by the principal, who played his guitar and sang along with the children as the group meandered along. At the front of the procession were some grade 5 students who were accompanying the Torah scroll which was being carried along under a canopy (a Chupa).
It is of course no coincidence that the Torah was at the beginning of the line. Given that Judaism and Jewish tradition is based on the Torah, it was most fitting for a Tali school that the Torah, representing Jewish education, Jewish values, commitment and tradition would be the centre of the festivities.
When the procession arrived at the school, parents and guests took their places in the brand new Beit Midrash (a combination auditorium, synagogue, hall etc.,). The Tali choir took its place at the front of the stage, first only the younger members of the choir. The students filed in. Then with most of the students in the room already, the remaining students entered the room with the Torah and placed it in the Aron Hakodesh (the Ark). Everyone said the special “shehechiyanu” prayer and the choir began to sing. It was very emotional, particularly to see the tearful excitement of the parents who had worked so hard to bring this project to fruition.
There were many dignitaries on hand including the Mayor of Ra’anana, a representative from the Ministry of Education and the American ambassador to Israel. The speakers offered different words of congratulation to Tali on the opening of the school. But a common theme, which was highlighted by the American ambassador, was the importance of Tali as a pluralistic, tolerant example for other educational institutions in Israel.
Most of the public schools in Israel are either “religious” or “secular.” The secular schools offer very little in the way of Jewish education. The religious schools often downplay the importance of secular studies and separate the boys from the girls with differences in the respective curricula. Tali aims to combine these two opposites by providing a full and challenging, Ministry approved secular education, while also providing a wide ranging, engaging Jewish curriculum.
As the various speakers finished their presentations, the senior Tali choir sang a number of songs. Once the ceremony concluded, the children were freed for the first time, along with their parents, to roam the three storied school and get a good view of the new facilities.
The new facility is truly magnificent, perhaps one of the nicest elementary schools in Israel. But the ceremony, the Torah, and the Tali children’s choir all signified that the educational content will be far more important than the building.