About the Shitim Institute
The mission of the Shitim Institute is to preserve - and rejuvenate - the celebration of the Jewish holidays and culture in ways that are meaningful and relevant to Jews from all walks of life.
The Shitim Institute was established in the 1950s by Aryeh Ben Gurion, nephew of the iconic David Ben Gurion. He created an archive in a small hut adjacent to his home on Kibbutz Beit Hashita in Israel’s north, in the Gilboa-Galilee region. Over the decades, that collection has grown into nationally recognized archive. (With a third of a mile of historic publications, photographs and archives). Its lovingly preserved contents are at the heart of the programs offered by educators of the Shitim Institute, who continue to fulfill and enhance Ben Gurion’s vision of both conserving and renewing the Hebrew culture and holiday celebrations that are the spirit of Jewish identity.
Today, the home of the Shitim Institute remains on the grounds of Kibbutz Beit Hashita. Its programs provide training, workshops, and outreach programs for tens of thousands of school principals, teachers, curriculum specialists, army educational officers, and community cultural leaders.
The Shitim Institute enables new generations of Israeli educators and leaders from all walks of life to rediscover their heritage and its relevance to their educational curricula - and the lives of schoolchildren, soldiers and youth.
Study of texts and experiential learning open the door to the recent and distant past—and encourage individuals, teachers, and entire communities to put their own imprimatur on holiday celebrations.
Home for the Holidays Campus
Plans are now underway to consolidate the longstanding ad hoc facilities into a campus to be constructed at the gateway to Kibbutz Beit HaShita.
The campus, to be known as Home for the Holidays, will renew longstanding historic kibbutz structures that have fallen into disrepair.
The campus will include a permanent home for the cherished national archive, a visitors center and an events courtyard. Beyond the Institute’s traditional audiences of educators, the Home for the Holidays campus will also draw families from across Israel to the new campus at the gateway of Kibbutz Beit Hashita, with programs and events to immerse them in the heritage and lore of Jewish holidays, the bedrock of Hebrew civilization from the ancient world to our day.
about our new home at the gateway to Kibbutz Beit Hashita
"The Shitim Institute is creating a Campus that will invite communities throughout Israel and overseas to discover this heritage — and build their own capacities to contribute to a shared Jewish future."
Dr. Ruth Calderon
Founder and Chair Alma Home for Hebrew Culture
Faculty member Mandel Leadership Institute
Founders of the Shitim Institute
Aryeh Ben Gurion
Aryeh, nephew of David Ben Gurion, was inspired by twentieth century Israeli pioneers and their creative efforts to reinvigorate the celebrations of Jewish festivals, the Sabbath and life rituals. His preservation of lore, from hundreds of original Haggadot to the texts and poetry of communal holiday celebration were his life’s work. He was a beloved educator, whose pluralistic approach to sustaining and renewing heritage won him recognition in Israel and overseas, including a lifetime achievement award from the Avichai Foundation.
Azaria arrived in Israel at age seven in 1925. His family had roots in Ukraine, and he moved to Kibbutz Beit Hashita made aliya at age seven in 1925. He moved to Kibbutz Beit Hashita at age 20 and he and his wife raised their four children there . He was a cofounder of the Israel Society for the Protection of Nature, and earned an Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement for his accomplishments as an educator, radio host, and preservationist.
Benyamin was born in Jerusalem to a father who escaped the pogroms of Ukraine and a mother who grew up in Poland. His activism in youth movements, his military service, and his dedication to agriculture all shaped his ethos as an educator. His leadership included engaging new immigrants in the lore of Jewish heritage and holiday celebrations and disseminating knowledge to enrich their renewed Israeli-Jewish identity and cultivate a meaningful and pluralistic Jewish culture.
"I weigh the holidays as I do my daily bread, my homestead. Our week-long labors are in need of
the experiences of the Sabbath and holidays."
Zionist thinker and a founder of the Kibbutz Movement
The Shitim Institute’s website offers in-depth on-line access to content utilized by half a million readers each year.
The Shitim Institute’s Asif (Hebrew for Harvest) project disseminates original holiday materials and resources used by families throughout Israel to add meaning and relevance to their holiday celebrations.