After four years of intensive studies that were specially designed to suit their worldview and their aspirations, these young social activists will apply their energy and their talent towards helping create a more equitable society.
The Tarbut Movement is a nationwide organization of artists, cultural advocates and educators promoting social resilience through culture and art. Their work combines grassroots activities, public policy advocacy, and involvement in both formal and informal education. Members typically take part in a year of volunteer work before their army service, then serve in the army as a group, and continue to be active in the movement as young adults.
Beit Berl's Martin Buber Center for Dialogue Education was the obvious academic choice for Tarbut members. Like Tarbut, the Buber Center also aims at bridging socio-economic gaps and providing better opportunities for the periphery's at-risk youth. Students enrolled at the Buber Center earn a B.Ed. in Informal Education along with a teaching certificate, and continue to be immersed in community activism throughout their academic studies. The program prepares them to become tomorrow's community leaders by working in formal and informal education and helping to create new opportunities for Israel's disadvantaged youth.
Sixty-four students were in the first Tarbut group to pursue a degree at Beit Berl's Buber Center, most of whom are talented artists, musicians or dancers in addition to being social activists. They hope to influence children in Israel's socioeconomic periphery by increasing awareness of, and involvement with, art.
"Their degree combined informal education with literature, so that they are also qualified to teach literature in schools. Many of the recent graduates are already enrolled in a variety of Masters' programs, including Dance Therapy, Social Activism and Social Work," says Ariela Bairey Ben Ishay, who heads the program.
A second Tarbut cohort began studying at the Buber Center in the current academic year. This time, half of the group is studying to be high school literature teachers, like all the participants in the first cohort, while the other half is studying art at Beit Berl's Faculty of Arts-Hamidrasha and will be certified as art teachers.
Noam Ben-David, who is 30 and lives in Haifa with his wife and child, was one of the students who recently graduated from the program. He has been active in the Tarbut Movement since he was 17 and has lived in Tarbut communities in Nahariya, Jerusalem and elsewhere. In addition to being the movement's graphic designer, Noam is a poet and the editor of a poetry journal. "Members of Tarbut like to learn together and when we looked for a framework for academic studies, the Buber Center was the best fit for us. The management was amazing and really understood us. We designed the curriculum together," Noam explains, adding that he even met with lecturers to plan the syllabi and choose texts.
Most importantly, the program enabled Noam and his friends to learn through action and to conduct a continuous dialogue with the faculty. "We learned a lot from the lecturers and they also learned from us," he notes. Noam also appreciated the fact that there were thought-provoking field trips throughout the country, with an emphasis on learning about Arab-Jewish shared society. In addition, the group wanted to research the different types of learning practices available in Israel, such as anthroposophist, democratic and community-based education – and this subject was integrated into the curriculum. Noam plans to use his degree to develop his career in both formal and informal education and, though his work, to impact the lives of children throughout Israel.