• “I believe that Sephardic tradition has much to offer to Israeli society and its issues.”

    by Pamela Deutsch

    Eli Bareket was born inTel Aviv-Jaffa and raised in Bat Yam.  He attended elementary school in Bat Yam, and then continued his education at Boyer in Jerusalem as a boarding student.  He served in the IDF in the Golani Brigade later becoming an officer.

    After his military service Eli worked, and eventually began studying Islam and Near Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University.  As a student, he was active in a number of social justice frameworks.  As a member of Students for Social Justice, Eli was involved in efforts to raise awareness develop consciousness to social justice issues.  As a member of the International (Sephardic) Educational Front, he was involved in the creation of a national program called Bridge to College, which worked to assist students not enrolled in academic tracks to improve their matriculation scores and increase their awareness to higher education and the opportunities it could give them. Bridge to College also tried to assist the students in understanding why they were not in academic tracks; exploring issues such as the students’ expectations of themselves and the expectations of those surrounding them. One of the issues that arose from their work is that children are unaware that they are not in academic tracks; they are part of a big push to take and pass matriculation exams but the exams they are taking are not necessarily at the levels that will later allow them to attend university.

    Having attained his BA, Eli then continued studying for a Masters, in an individually designed program on Muslim minorities – e.g. Muslims in the Philippine sand Ethiopia.  In parallel, he worked at Beit Hillel at theHebrewUniversity.  During his ten-year tenure at Beit Hillel, he was involved in the evolvement of the organization from an organization that worked almost exclusively with foreign students, to one whose main goal and strategies was to work with mainly Israeli students.  Eli created a working model and was promoted to program director.  Today, Hillel has expanded to 10 campuses in Israel.

    At the same time,  Eli was active in Mayan Hachinuch Hademocrati.  This organization, founded in response to the Shas initiative to bring religious education to Jerusalem’s weaker neighborhoods, provided informal education and tutoring in weak neighborhoods in Jerusalemfor both Arab and Jewish populations.  In addition, Mayan Hachinuch Hademocrati, worked to empower children, youth, and their parents.

    In 2005 Eli became the director of Memizrach Shemesh.  Founded in 2000, by the Avi Chai Foundation andAlliance“Kol Yisrael Chaverim,  Memizrach Shemesh, is a Beit Midrash (House of Study) and a Center for Jewish Social Activism and Leadership inIsrael. Dedicated to the values of communal responsibility and social action rooted in all Jewish traditions including those of the Sephardi and Mizrachi heritage, the organization cultivates and trains leadership in Israel’s geographic and social periphery, with hundreds of participants every year working towards improvement and change in their communities. Before directing the organization, Eli was part of a group that met to discuss what the Sephardic tradition has to give to Israeli society and its issues and was in that sense one of the founders of the organization.  He participated in one of the first learning groups run by the newly founded organization.

    During his tenure, Memizrach Shemesh has grown from working annually with 170 participants to more than600 ayear.  The organization runs programs from Kiryat Shmona toArad, for different age groups from post high school students to parents.  In addition, Memizrach Shemesh works with the Border Patrol.  In this program, officers participate regularly in a Beit Midrash.  Their participation assists the officers in being able to see themselves as educators, aids their ability to deal with issues such as social responsibility within their units, and helps them understand that as officers they can empower their soldiers to dream of greater things when they finish their service such as an academic education.

    In addition, Memizrach Shemesh is working with Keren Rashi to open Darka, a new network of junior high and high schools in the periphery, designed to educate for excellence – both academic and social, as currently there is no network whose goal is academic achievement. Finally, the organization has expanded its international reach working with communities in bothNew York City and Budapest.

    Eli, continues to be active beyond his role as CEO.  He served, as a member of the Kedma committee for the “poel tedek behinuch” (an education prize), is a member of the international council of the New Israel Fund, and served for two years as the chair of the Association for Batei Midrash inIsrael.   Today, Eli chairs the board of Panim, which is now a federated organization, with each member organization having a vote on the board.

    In his spare time, Eli has begun to write poetry.  He recently wrote a poem for his son to help him understand when you were a kipa and when you do not; something which is clear for someone who is either religious or not, but less clear when you are traditional.

    Eli is divorced and the father of 3 children and lives in Jerusalem.

     

     

     

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