The Yaacov Herzog Center for Jewish Studies

The Yaacov Herzog Center for Jewish Studies is a pluralistic education center which focuses on bringing different sectors of people in Israel together, from teens through senior adults, with the goal of understanding one another better and cultivating a more respectful society.
Location: Kibbutz Ein Tzurim
Year founded: 1988


The Yaacov Herzog Center for Jewish Studies (YHC) has brought value added to Israel for almost 30 years. We are an educational center which focuses on bringing different sectors of people in Israel together, from teenagers through senior citizens, with the goal of understanding one another better and cultivating a more respectful society. Our role has become more significant, especially in the current climate, because we are the voice of a more moderate Religious Zionist approach the values humanism, mutual respect, and pluralism. We are a connector between different segments of Israeli society as there is no commitment to a specific type of Jewish lifestyle required.

Our four main programmatic areas are:

1) Multiple types of educational offerings open to the general public both at our Ein Tzurim campus (on the border of the Negev and the Southern coastal plain) and at many offsite settings

2) Batei Midrash for university students, women, emerging leaders (Reshut Rabim), young adults (Kedma), and social networks (Safa)

3) A variety of seminars for high school students on Jewish identity, leadership, religious/secular dialogue and experience, and values clarification. Activities are on our campus, at youth villages and schools throughout the country

4) Tzahali - a one year pre-army Academy for religious women to prepare them for meaningful army service and to subsequently assume significant roles in Israeli society at large

We are one of the most prominent Orthodox organizations active in the field of Jewish Renaissance in Israel. Founded by the Religious Kibbutz Movement in 1988, the Yaacov Herzog Center focuses on a study method which promotes dialogue between different groups in Israeli society, bonding them together through joint study and sharing of views and sources with fellow students.

We believe that every Jew has the opportunity to make Jewish culture and tradition relevant to their lives through open dialogue between individuals; celebrating what is shared while respecting differences. We work to advance an open, responsive and pluralistic Judaism in the public space, with an emphasis on the southern region while strengthening the sense of belonging of individuals and groups to Israel, Israeli society, and Jews everywhere.

Each week, the YHC convenes hundreds of people (over 7,000 unique participants annually) of all ages – religious, traditional and secular, from urban and rural communities – at its Kibbutz Ein Tzurim campus and at sites throughout the country to study together in a tranquil and inclusive atmosphere that respects the different traditions and cultures of all participants. These students go forth from our classrooms into Israeli society to voice and spread this special message of Jewish cultural pluralism from the country's southern periphery to the wider public throughout the country.

The interpersonal encounter between the students serves to enrich the public discourse in Israel and they become part of the ongoing chain of historical Jewish interpretation. In so doing, the YHC is training ambassadors of an attentive and pluralistic Jewish-Israeli culture.

Jewish and Muslim Student Beit Midrash – Beit Midrash Daroma


Beit Midrash Daroma, a pluralistic "Study Hall" of traditional and current Jewish texts, is a Program we implement for university students on the campus of Ben-Gurion University. The Beit Midrash is open to Jewish students from all backgrounds and provides a space to learn texts as well as how to respect the "other".

Beit Midrash Daroma was established because there was a need for students to have the opportunity to clarify her or his own identity through a personal journey accompanied by study that is respectful and open to a wide variety of approaches.

Other organizations on campus that teach Judaism often do it as a persuasion activity of "kiruv". Those organizations "sell Judaism" on the idea that "the truth is what we believe". At Beit Midrash Daroma we do not require a specific commitment to a lifestyle or social affiliation.

Within this supportive and welcoming atmosphere we developed a project of encounters between Jewish and Muslim students where they meet one another through learning together and discussing texts from both religions. In addition to encountering the texts the students meet religious and spiritual leaders of both religions and are developing a new way of discourse between Jews and Muslims.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The purpose of the Beit Midrash is to:

1)Create a space where Jewish and Muslim students will meet and learn about each other's religion

2)Learn together religious and historic sources

3)Meet with Muslim and Jewish religious leaders from the area who work together

We believe this will lead to greater respect and understanding among the students involved in the Beit Midrash and hopefully have a ripple effect that will positively affect the relationship between Jewish and Muslim students in general.

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Program Description

In this pilot year we had:

  1. Three encounters
  2. Each encounter lasted two hours and included a lecture or general learning, study in small groups, and a summary
  3. The students studied sources of honoring others and human dignity in Islam and Judaism, relations between Islam and Judaism, and the role of prayer in each religion.

The group was made up of 16 students, 8 Muslim and 8 Jewish. They were divided into four sub-groups of 4 (2 Muslim and 2 Jewish students per group) for the small group learning.

With your help we expand the program by offering more sessions, offer more hours, and reach more students.

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Demonstrated Need

Many students want to be connected both to the academic world and to their religious beliefs and build from them their cultural and spiritual world. The years of university study constitute for many also a time for the exploration and clarification of identity.

In addition, we know that the Middle East is stormy. Acts of hatred and racism are occurring everywhere. Many blame radical Islam and fundamentalist Judaism for the extremism on both sides. We believe that religion does not need to be the threat, and it could even become the solution

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Program Accomplishments

In this pilot year the program was able to bring together a group of students who learned Islam and Jewish texts together. Through the joint learning the students showed more empathy, became more respectful towards, and tolerant of the "other". This greater religious tolerance highlights the perspective that religion can be a unifying factor among people.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

The students showed interest in continuing the encounters which is an impetus for us to grow the program.

Similar to other programs our measurement of success, through oral and written feedback, is:

85% of the participants report that they learned new information

70% report an attitudinal change

We reached these targets during the pilot year.

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