In honor of the 66th anniversary of Israel’s independence, the students at HANC High School celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut with an incredible spirited chagigah and concert by Eitan Katz and band. The celebration began with a meaningful video in tribute to Israel at 66 and the student body chanting “Am Yisrael Chai.” The ruach and the achdut among the students and faculty was palpable and continued throughout the day.
The chagigah culminated with a moving kumzitz with the senior class singing Yerushalayim-themed songs. Max Kahn, president of the student senate, expressed in a letter of appreciation, “Thank you all for planning this incredible and memorable chagigah. It really meant a lot to me and my grade to have the last ten minutes alone with the administration and Eitan Katz.”
HANC High School imbues a love of Medinat Yisrael that was evident in the display of passion and love for Israel at the school’s Yom HaAtzmaut celebration. (See the photo on front page of this week’s issue.) v
Yom HaShoah, HaZikaron, And HaAtzmaut At DRS
The days of Sefirat HaOmer are laden with various hallmark days during which Jews around the world remember, commemorate, and celebrate events in our nation’s past and their impact on our future. On Yom HaShoah, we remember those Jews who died al kiddush Hashem during the Holocaust, and on Yom HaZikaron we pay tribute to those fallen soldiers who risked their lives to protect their people and country. We celebrate the independence of the State of Israel on Yom HaAtzmaut, a day on which Hashem blessed us once again with a land to call home.
At DRS, these three special days were highlighted by unique programs this year. On Yom HaShoah, Mr. Davidson, a DRS parent, related his mother’s moving experience surviving Auschwitz and her efforts in building a family after the war. On Yom HaZikaron, several DRS students put together an impressive slideshow, featuring vignettes on various victims of Israel’s wars. As students read short biographies of these treasured heroes, a candle was lit in each one’s memory. On Yom HaAtzmaut, the day began with a festive rendition of Hallel, led by DRS Menahel Rabbi Yisroel Kaminetsky, after which the entire student body burst out into singing and dancing around the DRS beit medrash.
Throughout the day, DRS students learned about Israel in a program entitled “Israel Across the Curriculum.” Each subject focused on a different area of Israel. In Gemara shiur, rebbeim gave lessons on the mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael. Halachah class focused on the laws of Shemittah, while English teachers analyzed famous Israeli poems. Social-studies classes studied Israel’s deserts and U.S.–Israel relations, while the science classes discussed Albert Einstein’s connection to Israel as well as the many Nobel laureates that Israel has produced over the years. The day was highlighted by a festive outdoor lunch. v
Lev Chana Celebrates Israel’s 66th
Excitement filled the air on Tuesday at the HALB Lev Chana Early Childhood Center, as the children dressed in blue and white, alighted from their buses, and were surrounded by waving Israeli flags secured to trees, banisters, doors, and ceilings. The children grabbed their “passports” and headed for the “airport” in the playroom. “Customs directors” welcomed everyone to Eretz Yisrael and stamped their passports.
The first stop after landing was the holy city of Yerushalayim. The children made sure to daven at the Kotel, asking for peace and health for their families and Eretz Yisrael, and to shop at the exclusive silver and olivewood stores. The next stop on the tour took them to Kibbutz Lev Chana. The children had so much fun as they “milked” a cow, viewed vast fields of vegetables, and “picked” and ate delicious oranges. Viewing the beautiful clear waters of Eilat through the glass-bottom boat allowed the children the opportunity to watch colorful exotic fish swimming around. They climbed the vast red Eilat Mountains and relaxed on hot, sunny beaches. The winding, cobblestoned streets of Tsfat enabled them to view the magnificent artwork available for sale and the unique, distinctive, colorful candles of the Tsfat candle factory.
The day continued with so many fun-filled activities relating to Eretz Yisrael as everyone enjoyed scrumptious blue-and-white cookies, counted to 66, sang “Yom Huledet Sameach,” shared personal mementos from previous trips to Eretz Yisrael, prepared and ate delicious Israeli salad, baked blue-and-white cakes, and sang and danced to the festive music of Gary Wallin on the expansive Lev Chana lawn. A fantastic and memorable time was had by all and will remain with the children of Lev Chana for years to come. v
From Commemorations To Celebrations: Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, And Yom HaAtzmaut At SKA
There was an air of solemnity in the hallways of the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls on Yom HaShoah, April 28, as students and faculty members stood for a moment of silence, reflecting on those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. As everyone filed into the auditorium for the program, the SKA choir sang with deep emotion while a PowerPoint presentation of the war years played on the screen.
In a poignant segment, Mrs. Helen Spirn, head of school, and faculty members who are children of survivors lit yahrzeit candles in memory of their loved ones who were killed. The girls were then privileged to hear from Mr. Shimon Felder, a prominent Lawrence resident who was a young child growing up in Amsterdam when the war began. With much hakarat ha’tov to Hashem, Mr. Felder told the story of his life, recounting the many miracles that led to his survival. In a special aside, Mr. Felder noted that two of his granddaughters are graduates of SKA and he has the zechut of having children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are leading Torah lives.
At the end of the emotional program, three ninth-graders read passages from the student-produced Holocaust journal, “A Light Beyond the Darkness,” with original stories, poems, and artwork dedicated to the victims of the Shoah.
One week later, in observance of Yom HaZikaron on May 5, the siren rang again at SKA and the students stood for a moment of silence, this time reflecting on soldiers in Israel who fell in battle and those who were murdered by terrorists. Ms. Raizi Chechik, principal of grades 9–10, spoke of the link between Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut. To convey the impact of each individual loss, the students heard from Rabbi Gideon Black, rabbi at the OU-sponsored JILF (Jewish Learning Initiative) at New York University. Rabbi Black spoke of his Scottish cousin Yoni, killed in a terrorist attack on a bus in Jerusalem in 2002. Rabbi Black recounted how he stood in front of Yoni on the bus, but was left unharmed while his cousin was killed. The loss of an individual became so real to the audience as Rabbi Black spoke of Yoni’s special qualities, how he leined in shul in Scotland and prepared divrei Torah for the congregants because there was no one else in the community to do so. The morning Yoni was killed, he had leined in a shivah house when no one else was available.
After watching a powerful video on the tragedies in Israel, the students said tefillot and Tehillim for those who lost their lives throughout the history of the State of Israel. Chaim Weizmann’s famous comment that “no state is ever given on a silver platter” resonated clearly as the school commemorated Yom HaZikaron and prepared to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut the next day.
With pride, exultation, and thanks to Hashem, SKA welcomed Israel Independence Day with tefillah chagigit, as the whole school joined together for Shacharit in the auditorium. The “Miracle of Israel,” as the day was named, was elucidated in a special program coordinated by Ms. Chechik and Mrs. Elisheva Kaminetsky, director of religious guidance, called “Israel Across the Curriculum”; all the teachers used their classrooms as forums on Israel, utilizing their own subject matter. Topics ranged from “The Ramban’s Attitude towards Yishuv Ha’aretz” to “The Dead Sea: Its Chemical Composition and Therapeutic Benefits.”
An Israeli “shuk” sold refreshments throughout the day while videos of people making aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh played in the hallway. The Yom HaAtzmaut Chagigah, with spirited dancing, live music by Gary Wallin, and blue-and-white cookies, was preceded by a festive lunch of Israeli foods provided by the SKA Parent Council. Special thanks go to Rabbi Zakutinsky, director of student programming, Mrs. Dena Kobre, Mrs. Yafa Storch, Ms. Jorge Bienenfeld, Ms. Nomi Bensasson, and all the faculty and staff members who worked so hard to make all the programs so inspiring.
The ruach all day in the school was incredible; the students of SKA shared their love and yearning for the State of Israel and there was such a feeling of achdut with am Yisrael and medinat Yisrael. At davening in the morning, four girls shared their thoughts with the assemblage.
Here is one junior’s narrative, encapsulating Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut:
Good morning. My name is Adi Penzoh and this is my Israel story. My grandfather arrived in Israel after the war, with only one surviving sibling from a family of 12. The Nazis took away almost everything he had, but could not steal his dream of settling in Eretz Yisrael and creating a homeland for his children where they could live in freedom. He arrived in the fledgling town of Petach Tikva and built his home with his own two hands, brick by brick. He planted his garden, seed by seed. He did this for his mother, his father, and the millions of Jews who did not survive. He did this for me, and for my children, to make our connection to Israel a living vibrant reality. I am Adi Penzoh. I am SKA, and I am Israel. v