Last week, the sixth-graders of Shulamith Middle Division embarked upon their long-awaited trip to Ellis Island. The outing was originally planned for the fall of 2012, but when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, Ellis Island was severely damaged, and the then-fourth graders were disappointed when their trip had to be canceled. After almost two years of renovation, Ellis Island was finally reopened in late spring of this year. The trip was therefore scheduled for October 22, but to the dismay of the students, the weather that day was stormy and the trip had to be postponed once again.
Wednesday, November 5, dawned with partly cloudy skies and mild temperatures, to the joy and relief of students and teachers. As the buses pulled away from the school, the excitement of the students was almost palpable. The bus ride was filled with camaraderie, singing, and lively banter, and before long the girls were walking through Battery Park to the ferry landing. After passing through security, the students enjoyed the ferry ride, which included close-up views of the Statue of Liberty.
They then disembarked on Ellis Island and headed inside, escorted in small groups by their chaperones: parents Mrs. Laufer and Mrs. Schonfeld, and teachers Morah Fischman, Mrs. Goldberg, and Mrs. Steiner. The girls got to see the Great Hall and imagined what it might have been like to arrive and stand bewildered in that room filled with voices in myriad languages from immigrants from around the world. They saw exhibits that explained the examinations prospective immigrants had to face to be allowed to enter America, and searched for the names of their ancestors in the databases available to visitors. The trip allowed the girls to visualize and understand how confusing it might have been for the millions who passed through the Ellis Island, the Gateway to Freedom.
Their visit to Ellis Island was planned in connection with the sixth-graders’ study of Letters from Rivka, a novel about a family of Jewish immigrants to the United States. It was a wonderful outing, and all agreed that the trip was well worth the wait.