Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Separately and Together

Separately and together: This was the founding principle behind Mazkeret Batya’s pioneering Keshet School. For the last 14 years, Keshet has brought religious and secular students together under one roof, while at the same time making space for their distinct lifestyles and worldviews. It’s a balancing act, that’s for sure, but one these students and their communities believe is well worth the effort.

Take, for example, Keshet’s popular tree-planting activity, by far one of the students’ favorites. Part of a series of activities that deals with Jewish identity, the planting is overseen by two different school coordinators, one religious and the other secular. Since the activity is optional, it takes place after school; moreover, students need parents’ permission to attend. Nonetheless, there are hardly enough saplings to go around: At Keshet, students are excited to put in the extra hours and effort.

The values of inclusion and social equality are woven into the very fabric of the school day at Keshet, beginning with the choice to attend either morning prayers or morning circle — each according to his faith or her level of comfort. The fact there is a choice, Keshet’s leadership and faculty will tell you, is itself a statement about tolerance. And the community that has grown up around the school? It’s growing as fast and as strong as the saplings from each year’s tree planting. It’s a group of dreamers and doers, each with his or her own voice and unique identity, but all joining together in respectful and productive dialogue.