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Study Leads to Action:

As Jews we are continually reminded of our moral obligations. The most common line in the Torah is the command ‘do not oppress the stranger,’ the biblical prophets cry for justice and we have a moral obligation to respond. What initially attracted me to BINA Centre for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture was that, while rabbis in the Talmud debate the value of study VS action, BINA believes that study is best if it informs and leads to action.

BINA was founded in 1996, in response to an increasingly fragmented Israel.  Declaring no one group to have a monopoly over Judaism, BINA’s founders sought to create a new space for Jewish learning, where texts and values could be explored in a pluralistic setting.

Today BINA is the leading organisation at the intersection of pluralistic Jewish learning and social action in Israel. It seeks to strengthen Israel’s future as a just, democratic society by cultivating leaders with strong, informed Jewish identities for whom social action and the value of Tikkun Olam (repair the world) are central.

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Working with Young Adults

I recently spent five months on BINA’s Tikkun Olam programme. While there I volunteered with social justice organisations and studied at their Secular Yeshiva, the only non-Orthodox institute of its kind in Israel. The Secular Yeshiva is based in South Tel Aviv, the epicentre of Israel’s domestic tensions. This location ensures that in-depth Jewish learning and social action are never just theoretical. Like all 200+ students at the Yeshiva I was pushed to put the Jewish values I had studied into practice by working in our neighbourhood with youth-at-risk, migrant workers, African refugees, and more. I quickly found that discussions on biblical passages or the complexities of the Jewish state took on a new and tangible meaning in this context.

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Secular Study

BINA is one of the first and few organisations to bring non-Orthodox Judaism into Israel’s socioeconomic periphery. It is also one of the first non – Orthodox organisations to lead seminars on Jewish topics for secular public schools and the IDF, reaching 20,000 participants each year. In addition, BINA runs five and ten month programmes for English speakers, both postgraduate and gap years.

Currently BINA’s Secular Yeshiva is struggling to attain official recognition from the Ministry of Education, and be granted equivalent status to Orthodox Yeshivas in Israel, which are funded by the government. Until then, BINA relies heavily on philanthropic contributions.

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Why BINA:

At a time when Israel is struggling with so much disunity and fracture, the relationship BINA emphasizes between Jewish life and social action seems all the more important. The work they do has been critical in engaging and galvanising young adults, myself included, to work for an Israel that has strong pluralistic, democratic values and like the rabbis of the Talmud, is open to debate.

 

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About the Author

Stephanie Kennedy is a new intern at NIF UK. She grew up in Australia, and received a BA (Hons) in Jewish Civilisation from Monash University, Melbourne. Stephanie is a graduate of BINA’s Tikkun Olam program 2013/14 and has previously interned with NIF Australia and Windows, Channels for Communication in Tel Aviv.

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