Who We Are | פנים

Who We Are

Getting to know the Umbrella Organization of the Israeli Judaism Field


'Panim' is an umbrella organization incorporating sixty organizations active in the fields of'

Jewish-Israeli education, culture and community activity. The 'Panim' organizations

represent the range of Israel's Jewish sectors: religious, secular, traditional, liberal and

others. For the past 25 years these organizations have been active, each in their own field, in

Jewish renewal and in adapting a Jewish existence to life in Israel. The organizations are

active throughout Israel in running educational programs, community activities, conducting

seminars, festivals and ceremonies. 'Panim' has acquired significant experience in creating

both online and physical platforms aimed at supporting the organizations and leveraging

their activity via the networking and management of widespread collaborations.


Israeli Judaism – An Oxymoron or a Winning Combination?

The concept 'Israeli Judaism' incorporates an internal built-in tension. On the one hand,

Judaism draws on the tradition of the past, and on the other, Israeli-ness, the foundations of

which lie in progress and democracy, turning towards the future. Those active in the field of

Israeli Judaism are attempting, through both study and action, to build unique models that

draw their inspiration from the Jewish world and adapt them to the Israeli experience. Israeli

Judaism is linked to the Judaism of the Diaspora which it views as an important ally.

Israeli Judaism is therefore a combination of traditional and modern-Israeli values –

democracy, equality, humanism and Zionism. The organizations' common objective is to

strive towards easier access for members of the Jewish public to content and traditions not

generally encountered on an ongoing basis.



Central Milestones in the Development of the Field of Israeli Judaism and of 'Panim'

  • 1989 – The establishment of three Batei Midrash in which men and women from a

range of Jewish backgrounds study a variety of texts: Zionist philosophy alongside

bible studies, Talmud, poetry, midrashic and halakhic literature. The Batei Midrash

combined study with social and Zionist activity.

  • The Shenhar Committee Report is submitted to the then Minister of Education,

Amnon Rubenstein. The report outlined ways in which to broaden Jewish education

while adopting a spirit of openness, a critical approach and a pluralistic outlook. The

report stressed the importance of those teaching Jewish subjects in the State

Education system.

  • 1995 – The murder of Yitzchak Rabin marks the low point of Israeli democracy. The

murder exposed processes of extremism and alienation between the different

sectors in Israeli society and served as a motivating force for Israelis from a range of

backgrounds to act in order to curb these processes. In the years following the

murder, joint religious-secular organizations and Batei Midrash revived and


  • 1998 – The 'Panim' organization is founded by prominent activists with the objective

of sharing information and strengthening the many organizations that were

established following the murder of Yitzchak Rabin.

  • 2011 – The 35 organizations re-establish the 'Panim' organization as a

representative union of the field out of a desire to accord it higher visibility among

general Israeli society and decision makers.

  • 2013 – Dr. Ruth Calderon, among the founders of the Elul Beit Midrash and the

founder of Alma – Home for Hebrew Culture in Tel Aviv, is elected as a Member of

Knesset on behalf of the 'Yesh Atid' Party and established the Lobby for Jewish

Renewal in the Knesset. Her maiden speech in the Knesset went viral being viewed

by hundreds of thousands.

  • 2015 – Rachel Azaria is elected as a Member of Knesset on behalf of the 'Kulanu';

Party. Rachel leads the Lobby under its new name, The Lobby for Israeli Judaism, and

raises relevant issues for public discussion.

  • 2016 – The Ministry of Education adopts the Israeli-Jewish Cultural Program in the

State Education system. The program, designed in the spirit of the Shenhar

Committee, infuses values of Judaism and democracy in to the State Education

system which in turn has adopted many of the principles espoused by the pluralistic

Batei Midrash of the Israeli Judaism movement.

  • The Minister of Finance, attending the opening of the Hakhel Festival,

declares the importance of Jewish-Israeli culture to the existence of the State of

Israel and of his intention to provide it with funds as part of the State budget.

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