Hundreds of 12th-grade students filed into an events hall Tuesday for a unique purpose: to teach children about their Jewish heritage.
The event was run by an organization called ZEHUT: the Center for Jewish Identity. The Center is funded by the Department of Torah and Culture at the Ministry of Education, and runs 63 centers across Israel dedicated to Jewish education.
The event was to recruit graduating senior girls for teaching positions, available through Israel's National Service (Sheirut Leumi) program for religious women.
It was attended by Director of Religious Culture for the Ministry of Education, Shmarya Herman; Supervisor of the Centers of Jewish identity in the Ministry of Education, Rabbi Dr. Zvi Rosner; Chairman of Zehut and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Binot in Ra'anana, Rabbi Chaim Rettig; and CEO of Zehut, Itai Granek.
"Children in Israel who do not go to religious schools are very much lacking in their knowledge of Jewish heritage," Rabbi Rosner explained to Arutz Sheva. "We realized that something has to be done and done quickly."
The solution: centers providing informal education to students from non-religious homes - utilizing the volunteer work of young women completing their national service year.
The girls prepare informal activities - plays, games, etc. - which center around Jewish values. They then work in local schools. Feedback has largely been positive, according to Rosner.
Granek opened the ceremony welcoming the girls and introducing Zehut's mission.
"I want to express a huge 'thank you' to girls serving in national service, and who operate Zehut centers throughout the country, from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat," Granek stated, "You, too, are a major and important part of the mission to increase Jewish heritage and identity among the youth in Israel."
Rabbi Chaim Rettig urged the importance of using the experience as a springboard for future outreach.
"Spreading Jewish identity is a national mission of the highest order, and every girl running Zehut centers significantly affects the environment in which she operates," he explained. "Luckily there are now many agencies that work in the field of Jewish identity. Graduates of Zehut centers do not only pass on Jewish values during their national service, but also much later."
"This is important because if we want to continue that eternal message, and are not afraid of a long journey [to that goal], we need to deliver the messages of Judaism and reach every person, child or adult," he continued. "We must preserve and instill Jewish identity wherever possible."