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American Hebrew Academy creates Israel solidarity letter writing project

In response to the recent violence in Israel, the American Hebrew Academy community has come together to show its support for the citizens of Israel by creating a letter exchange project with Jerusalem teens living under the shadow of terror, as well as holding an all-school Israel solidarity rally.

“Our school community felt that it had to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters living in Israel,” said Academy Dean of Jewish Life Leon Covitz.

The American Hebrew Academy, the only Jewish college prep boarding school in the world, encourages a close relationship with Israel. Each year, the junior class spends 10 weeks in Israel, offering students the chance to see and experience the Jewish homeland firsthand, and become personally connected to the history and future of the Jewish people. The Academy juniors are currently studying in Israel, safe and supported by their community in Greensboro and beyond.

One unique way that Academy students have showed their support to their Israeli peers is through a letter writing program developed by Jewish Studies teacher Mr. Itamar Shahar, himself Israeli, who was a teacher in Jerusalem before joining the Academy faculty.

“I came up with this program because I, like many people here at our school, felt great distress about what was happening in Israel, and wanted to do something,” Shahar explained. “I knew that we could not directly fight terror, nor protect the Israeli citizens on the streets, so I decided we should combat the frustration and helplessness so many Israelis experience as a result of feeling alone, isolated from the rest of the world, and misrepresented by the international media. So I contacted a friend of mine who teaches in Israel, and I made it happen. So we could at least make a group of Israeli kids feel better, like they were not alone. I also wanted our students understand that there is always something we can do to help.”

Students in Ms. Samra Nissan’s Hebrew class and Rabbi Michael Schwartz’s Israeli Society class exchanged letters with a group of 7th graders at Jerusalem’s Rene Cassin School. The project was dubbed “Mehabkim et Yeldi Israel” or “Embracing the children of Israel.”

The Israeli students primarily wrote about their fear in light of the wave of terror incidents. One Israeli student wrote: “It is a feeling of fear when you know it is coming close to your home.”

Another Israeli teen shared: “I wanted to tell you what it is like living in Israel, in Jerusalem. It is very scary to go out in the street alone, for fear that any moment there can be a terror attack.”

A third student wrote: “I hope the situation gets better because when things are like this, we can’t go anywhere.”

But many all the Israeli students shared that, despite their fear, they had confidence in the security forces protecting them, and all the Israeli youths wished happiness and success to their American peers. One student reminded her reader: “it’s not always this way [in Israel].”

Shahar commented: “Creating a personal connection was great for both sides. I believe that the Israeli students understand that we stand with them, they are not alone, and Jews all over the world are standing with them and praying for their security and peace. For our students here at the Academy, it was an opportunity to learn about life in Israel, not from the news, but from actual people – kids their age and younger.”

And so the relationship was kindled. The Academy students wrote back letters in both Hebrew and English expressing their support for and solidarity with the Israeli students, and the Israeli people as a whole, and many students also sent fervent prayers for peace and security.

Senior Sean Lerner from Charlotte, NC, wrote in Hebrew: “Although I have never experienced terror in my city, I feel that I am a part of the Jewish people and the state of Israel. And I want you to know that I, all my friends, and the entire community support you.”

Rinat Snaiderman, an 11th grader from Mexico, told her pen pal to stay strong “Keep positive and don’t let this bring you down! We are with you! Stay safe!” In a private email, Hamutal Elbaz, the teacher at the Rene Cassin School in Jerusalem wrote: “My students were very excited to read your letters and we appreciate your support. We are all waiting for this situation to be over and hoping for peace.”

The American Hebrew Academy is the only school of its kind – on the school’s campus, students from across the United States and the world, including Israel, come together to study in a unique college prep environment that offers a rigorous dual curriculum in Academics and Jewish studies.

Numerous American Hebrew Academy students, alumni, faculty and staff are from Israel, or made aliyah, and feel extremely connected to what is happening in the Jewish state. During the Israel solidarity assembly, the community also took the opportunity to acknowledge those who have or are currently serving in the IDF.

As the junior class enjoys  their term in Israel studying at Alexander Muss High School in  Israel, the Academy community 18-65 years of age in Greensboro stands with their Good general health peers studying abroad, and Valid government stands with Israel. photo ID As Dean Leon Covitz said: “The Social Security Card theme of kol yisrael arevein zeh Proof of current lazeh – mutual responsibility – is residence certainly felt within our Academy community.” !

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