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While Israeli society has taken great strides toward gender equality over the past few decades, a significant gender gap persists. The Shalom Hartman Institute seeks to empower young Israeli women to become confident leaders now and in the future through educational programs aimed at developing women who are confident with their self-image and with their intellect and who have been trained to be at the forefront of changing the Israeli discourse.
Established in Jerusalem in 2007, the Midrashiya has successfully implemented an authentic and coherent educational vision that fuses respect for Jewish tradition and learning with an obligation to halakha and feminist ideology. The school provides a holistic environment in which Orthodox teenage girls can advance intellectually, spiritually, and physically.
In an unprecedented move by the Israeli Ministry of Education, the Midrashiya was given a five-year mandate to independently develop its Orthodox feminist curriculum for use as the model for Orthodox girls' high schools nationwide.
The curriculum dictates five educational areas of excellence in which the young women are trained to become leaders: Beit Midrash studies, state-of-the-art science, a unique physical education program, women's evolving role in religious ritual, and a commitment to social action.
In 2013, the Midrashiya ranked second out of all Jerusalem high schools for student scores in math, science, Hebrew, and English.
Innovative, Experimental Education
The school instills its students with a strong self-image by providing a holistic environment in which Orthodox teenage girls can advance spiritually, physically, and intellectually. The school's Body-Soul-Consciousness Program has recently been approved and recommended by the Israeli Ministry of Education for use as an Orthodox feminist curriculum for the state religious school system.
The Golden Body-Soul-Consciousness Triangle
The Body-Soul-Consciousness Program equips young women to deal with the emotional, psychological, and physical development that they experience in their teen years.
The school offers a range of mandatory movement classes ranging from yoga to hip hop that educate girls not only in the technical aspects of the discipline but also to appreciate their bodies, increase self-esteem, and engage in team work. At the end of every semester, the girls perform as a group. Weekly theoretical workshops focus on themes related to physical development, nutrition and body image, and gender and feminism.
While the Midrashiya is not the first religious feminist school in Israel, it is the first to make participation in daily prayer and reading from the Torah a normative part of girls' education, instilling in them the idea that they are integral members of a religious community whose voices can be heard. This unique approach facilitates the development of values-driven, confident, and socially committed women equipped to serve as leaders in the Jewish community and wider multicultural society.
All Jewish studies classes are taught in the intimate, informal atmosphere of a Beit Midrash, in which a small group of students study together with a mentor. The Beit Midrash format is particularly suited to empowering young women to find their own voices. Students are guided in analyzing subject matter, formulating their own interpretations, and expressing their ideas in a peer setting. These methodologies are also applied to general studies education.
Commitment to Social Action
The Midrashiya instills students with a profound sense of responsibility for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Through yearlong projects appropriate to each grade - from the distribution of food baskets to initiating social activities with underprivileged youth to computer instruction for the elderly – Midrashiya students learn about the challenges facing various segments of Israeli society and develop the initiative and leadership skills to take an active role in response. The Social Action program guides students in developing and implementing innovative, entrepreneurial initiatives that contribute to others.
Merav Badichi, Principal
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