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Photo: Yaron Brener
Sagi: New outlook
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Wolfson: I don't believe in God
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First ever secular yeshiva opens
Untraditional yeshiva opens in Tel Aviv. Yeshiva head is female lawyer and students are all secular; some don't even believe in God

The first ever secular yeshiva was opened on Thursday in Tel Aviv. The institute does not offer routine religious studies but is rather a secular yeshiva with Jewish content.

 

The idea to establish the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture first came to the director Eran Bauch about a decade ago, after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

 

Baruch, nicknamed "The Dreamer" by his students, was deeply affected by the murder, as was Tal Shaked, a lawyer who heads the yeshiva.

 

Education Minister Yuli Tamir, attended the inauguration ceremony. "I will do all that I can to promote funding for yeshivas, not only for the Orthodox," she said.

 

"I am a secular education minister and I believe that Judaism is an inseparable part from us… it is close to my heart. I am a secular Jew and Israeli society and the educational system has the capacity for Jewish studies of this nature," she added. 

 

Until recently studies at the center were held sporadically, but upon its inauguration it considers itself an official yeshiva.

 

One hundred and fifty students are currently registered at the institute. Among the teachers are notable Israeli personalities such as Ari Alon, Yona Arazi, Dov Elboim, Muki Tzur. Ocasionaly guest rabbis give lessons too.

 

"I do not believe in the existence of God, and keeping mitzvahs means nothing to me," says Tal Wolfson, a 24-year-old who has been studying at Bina Center.

 

"I like Torah and Gemara and I looked for a place where I could learn Judaism that was not related to mitzvoth. I acquired a cultural package that will always stay with me."

 

Twenty-year-old Ran Sagi, who also studies at the yeshiva, said: "I felt that I was lacking knowledge about an entire world that is part of me. Judaism and Jewish books were basic concepts I knew nothing about. I think that it is important that every Jew should know these things, especially if he/she wants to be an influential member of the Jewish society we live in."

 

Sagi has difficulty answering the question "do you believe in God?" He says: "I do believe, in a way, but the God as portrayed in traditional Judaism is no part of me. My studies here do not effect me as far as observing mitzvahs but effect my outlook on social issues."

 

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