Israel’s newest yeshiva has it all: Hassidism. Kabbalah. Gemara. Halacha. Combining military service and Torah studies. And every two weeks, on-site Shabbat observance. Huh?

If this sounds ideal to you, then consider enrolling in Tel Aviv’s newest yeshiva, along with 150 other non-religious students who have chosen to immerse themselves in a program of religious study that (at least to my Diaspora eye) closely mimics (or perhaps is “divinely inspired by”) the hesder approach to military approach, but with a secular bent.

An initiative of the BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, the secular yeshiva program features one year of study, followed by draft into the IDF “for full military service… interrupted by a one-year yeshiva study break,” according to a Ynet article. The program also contains two days a week of “social activity” in south Tel Aviv. (I assume this means social action activities, rather than sushi with friends or martinis on the tayelet with hotties in handkerchief tops.)

They’re hoping to create a “Tel-Avivi” approach to Jewish study, “like rabbinic study produced the Talmud ‘Bavli and the ‘Yerushalmi’.” But a central goal of this initiative is tikkun olam, and, according to their press release, they also “expect the Secular Yeshiva to will serve as a basis for creating indigenously non- (or Trans) denominational approaches to Jewishness that will be meaningful for Israelis. In addition to creating new forms of community in Israeli society, graduates will connect to existing pluralistic organizations; some may also find their way to the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel.”

They’re seeking funding. But they’ve got an exit strategy: recognition equal to that afforded to Ultra- and Modern Orthodox yeshivot. Wish them luck.

And in related news, I’m declaring myself a 501 C-3 nonprofit organization and also auditioning for American Idol. Wish me luck.

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Esther Kustanowitz

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