Tzahar – Palm Beach Research Center for Judaism-Based Social Sciences

Tzahar – Palm Beach Research Center for Judaism-Based Social Sciences

Aim of the Research Center 

The Research Center's purpose is intended to advance universal theoretical applied knowledge that connects ideas and principles in Jewish religious writings to all spheres of life – particularly psychology, criminology, law, education and more. The Research Center was founded in 2020 in a collaboration between the Zefat Academic College and the Tzahar (Tzfat, Hazor Haglilit and Rosh Pina) – Palm Beach Partnership – a Jewish Agency program, the main aim of which is to deepen the connection and collaboration between the communities.



The sacred writings of religions and spiritual traditions in general, and those of Judaism in particular contain considerable knowledge consolidated over thousands of years by sages who studied the different sciences, and particularly the social sciences that relate to people’s ways of life. This knowledge was abandoned in the 18th century in the period of the Enlightenment and in the process of scientific research (Scientism) on the basis of the assumption that religious thinking should be replaced by rational thinking. Since that time, academia and the world of research have seemingly ignored this information and its ability to contribute to understanding and solving personal and social phenomena. This disregard illustrates to a certain extent how academia has become dissociated from folk wisdom, whereas an international survey of more than 230 countries found that some 84% of the world’s population, children and adults, belong to a religious group and in practice conduct their lives according to this knowledge (Pew Research Center, The Global Religious Landscape, 2012). 

In recent decades, the first signs of a change can be seen in numerous studies that describe the contribution of religion and spirituality in a variety of fields, such as: improving and maintaining mental and physical health, treating mental illnesses and disorders, rehabilitation of law breakers and crime prevention. The sacred writings of Judaism also attract attention and there are writers who use these writings to present ideas, models and different perceptions in the fields of psychology, criminology, law, education and more. However, it is evident that writers only rarely base their work on the Jewish paradigm, which offers a different perspective, special meaning and understanding of being in the world. The main aim of the Research Center is to create 

universal theoretical applied knowledge from a variety of social science fields based on the sacred writings of Judaism, i.e., rabbinical, Talmudic and Biblical literature (for example: the Tanach, Talmud, Mussar, Kabbalah, halakha, Hassidism and similar).


The Research Center’s activities

  1. Encourage research in the Center’s fields through research grants: Each year four calls for papers will be published inviting researchers working at recognized academic institutions in Israel or abroad to conduct research on various subjects based on Jewish sources. Articles published on the basis of these studies will note the Research Center’s contribution.
  2. Annual international conference: Each year an international academic conference will take place that will highlight studies carried out under the auspices of the Research Center.
  3. Fundraising: The Research Center will raise additional funds from external foundations in order to extend its activity.
  4. Collaboration: The Research Center will seek international collaboration with researchers and research centers worldwide.
  5. Long-term programs for interreligious inclusion: After the Research Center becomes established, we will work to include additional religions and spiritual traditions while focusing on identifying shared ideas.


Members of the Research Center

Dr. Yitzhak Ben Yair – Chair of the Research Center, Department of Behavioral Sciences, Zefat Academic College

Prof. Natti Ronel – Department of Criminology, Bar Ilan University

Prof. Stephen Sussman – Department of Public Administration, Barry University, Florida

Rabbi Dr. Bnayahu Bronner – Head of the Beit Midrash, Zefat Academic College

Dr. Ithamar Theodor – Department of Mysticism and Spirituality, Zefat Academic College

Prof. Rinat Kitai-Sangero – Department of Law, Zefat Academic College 


The Research Center’s Study Center

As well as academic research activity, the Research Center will also be active in teaching and publishing knowledge in the wider community in the fields of social sciences based on Jewish sources. This activity will include joint study meetings between the Tzahar and Palm Beach communities and the commissioning of short opinion articles that offer a unique point of view on different social science topics based on Jewish sources. Details of the spheres of activity in the Study Center:

  1. Publication of opinion articles in the Center’s spheres: Each year 6 calls for papers will be published calling on the general public to write an opinion article on topics of importance from a variety of social science fields from a Jewish perspective. The authors of the selected articles will win a monetary prize. The articles will be published and distributed online (online journal / annual digital book).
  2. Joint online workshops and classes for the Tzahar and Palm Beach communities on the topics researched in the Center. For this purpose, 4 guest lecturers will be invited each year to joint study meetings.


Members of the Study Center

Chair of the Study Center - Dr. Yitzhak Ben Yair, Zefat Academic College

Ms. Iris Posklinsky - Director of the Northern Region Partnerships, the Jewish Agency and a doctoral student in the Department of land of Israel, Haifa University

Dr. Nehora Amar-Gavrilman – Tel Hai Academic College and Chair of Tzahar–Palm Beach Partnership

Ms. Shirel Bakbani Elkayam - doctoral student in the School of Psychology, Haifa University, member of the Tzahar–Palm Beach steering committee