Religious Education Innovator Tapped for Top Israel Education Job

Cabinet approval required before Dr. Moshe Weinstock can take position in charge of pedagogy.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaking in the Knesset, March 28, 2016.
Emil Salman

The Education Ministry has finally filled its third-highest post after eight months in which it stood vacant, appointing a religious Zionist with a history of innovation in the state religious education system and a reputation as a moderate. 

The new head of the ministry’s pedagogical secretariat will be Dr. Moshe Weinstock. The appointment was announced by Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday, but still needs cabinet approval.

Weinstock, a resident of Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, currently teaches at Herzog College, a religious teachers college. His doctoral thesis in Jewish philosophy, which he wrote at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, dealt with how rabbis cope with the changing modern world. He has also written a book on the annual pilgrimage of Hasidic Jews to Uman, the Ukrainian hometown of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.

For the past six years, Weinstock has headed Herzog’s Lev LaDaat program, whose goal is to develop critical, in-depth study in the state religious school system. In this capacity, he has written curricula, developed course material and trained teachers, principals and supervisors.

He has also been active in a variety of organizations. Inter alia, he has served on the ministry’s professional advisory committee on Jewish philosophy and on the steering committees of two schools, the Kedem elementary school and the Oriya high school. He also participates in the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute’s Common Denominator program, which seeks to develop “a consensus on a set of values and moral principles” for both the state secular and the state religious school systems.

In July, Bennett fired the previous head of the pedagogical secretariat, Dr. Nir Michaeli, without explanation, after Michaeli had spent a mere nine months on the job. Since then, the secretariat’s deputy head, Dalia Fenig, has served as its acting director.

A source who knows Weinstock said he has “undergone a process of becoming more moderate and open, and today, one can says he’s a religious moderate. The Lev LaDaat program was a revolution in religious Zionism, which took Torah study in the direction of [in-depth] learning rather than the ultra-Orthodox practice of rote learning.”

Another source acquainted with Weinstock said, “He’s not into revolutions; he’ll foment them slowly and quietly.” Weinstock, he added, “is a religious pluralist at heart, but the question is how much he’ll be able to pound on the table if they do things he doesn’t like. He’s not necessarily the kind of person who embarks on confrontations. But he’s the one who has led all the good things that have happened in religious education in recent years.”  

Weinstock is considered close to Dr. Avraham Lifshitz, the head of the ministry’s religious education administration. Lifshitz is deemed one of the ministry’s strongmen, and a source familiar with the religious school system said Weinstein has often served as his unofficial mediator in disputes among different groups within the religious Zionist community.