Reconnecting With Haifa Friends

by | Mar 23, 2023 | Learning, Our Stories, Middle School

Our eighth graders continue to have an incredible time in Israel! They kicked off their time in Haifa by reuniting with their Leo Baeck School friends (who visited Rashi back in December) and settling in with their host families. As a first project, Rashi and Leo Baeck, along with students from two other area schools, came together for Gemilut Chasadim (loving acts of kindness). “In Haifa, that means that every week, students from different schools gather to pack bags of fruits, vegetables, breads, and dry goods for 300 [local] families who face food insecurity,” wrote Rashi’s Dean of Jewish Learning Rabbi Sharon Clevenger. “They all worked side by side, singing and dancing together at points, and it was a joy to behold.”


Rashi students then spent their afternoon at Yemin Orde, an educational organization that works with at-risk youth by providing classes and jobs such as herding goats, preparing food, and tilling the local gardens. It was an inspiring experience that allowed our students to witness how the unique needs of people in hard-to-reach scenarios can be met while nurturing self-worth and love.  



As they continued their stay in Haifa, Rashi and Leo Baeck students spent more quality time together hiking, shopping, and visiting the Bahai Gardens. “I predict that some of the friendships made in Boston and reinforced here in Haifa will last a lifetime,” said Sharon. By nightfall, the children were all gathered at the Leo Baeck School for an incredible buffet dinner and party.


After teary goodbyes and all the hugs they could possibly get in, Rashi’s Grade 8 class departed from Haifa for their next destination. The second week of the trip was kicked off with a six mile bike ride, followed the next day by a very muddy, yet nonetheless delightful, hike along the Gamla trail. The students then watched a short film about the Yom Kippur war titled Oz 77 before visiting tank memorials at the Israeli/Syrian border. 


“After the movie about the Yom Kippur War battle, we had a very interesting conversation with the person who runs the theater [where we watched the movie]. He had a very clear perspective about Israel and her wars and her rights, and the kids had tons of questions for him. He was very obviously impressed by the level of questions he received from the students,” said Sharon. “When we got on the bus, we offered a different perspective on what he had been saying, encouraging the students to explore multiple sides of every story.”


The next day began early with a two-hour drive to the Tel Aviv stretch of the trip in Ra’nana, where the students had a “very Tel Aviv” experience chock-full of shopping and beach-going, and trying various Israeli foods and drinks. “We got to explore the local streets and saw where the Declaration of Independence for Israel was created,” said one student. 


The final leg of Rashi’s Israel trip will find our students back in Jerusalem after spending time with organizations Save a Child’s Heart and Dialogue in Darkness, both providing unique learning experiences about chronic illness and disabilities. They will visit the Peres Center for Peace, Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust memorial), and Har Herzl Military Cemetery for a powerful, inspiring, and informative close to the trip of a lifetime.