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Voices from the field

Mishpacha L'mishpacha: Reflections on an iChallenge Project

By Anne Stein

This past summer Lena Benson and I went to Israel to meet with the people that we were hoping would be our partners in our Mishpacha l’mishpacha project, a project of The iCenter's iChallenge Ideas Incubator. We had a wonderful meeting and I left feeling good that the program might really work.

We are up and running with the project. So far, so good! We have our own secure website which the children can discuss topics and post videos. We have had a number of assignments for the students to complete so that kids on both sides of the Atlantic can learn from each other.

The December assignment had two parts. The students were asked to write an acrostic poem about some aspect of Chanukkah. The second assignment was about Jewish identity since that is a theme of Chanukkah. It was most interesting to see what the Israelis wrote about what it means to be Jewish.

Here are a few comments from the Israelis:

Clil: To be Jewish for me is to celebrate the Jewish holidays, to eat Jewish food like Falafel, to be proud living in Israel and to sing songs in Hebrew. The most important thing is to remember the history of the Jewish people.

May: To be Jewish is to care about Israel and pray for our soldiers.

Semi: To be Jewish is to go to the synagogue with my family and to pray. I go to the synagogue every Friday night and I love to have the Shabbat dinner with my family.

Nevo: To be Jewish is to go to Jerusalem and pray for peace in Israel.

Lee: To go to the synagogue and pray for peace in Israel.

Zlil and Shahar: To be Jewish is to celebrate the Jewish holidays, to pray, to have a Bat Mitzvah or Bar Mitzvah, to do a Kidoosh, sing the Tikvah and to go to the army.

Dana and Adi: To pray in Jerusalem.  To celebrate the Jewish Holidays.

Amit: To be Jewish is to go to the synagogue, pray for peace and light the Shabbat candles every Friday night.

Asaf: To be Jewish is to treasure Judaism and remember our history.

Roni: To be Jewish is to sing the Tikvah and mean it with all of our hearts.

Most of our Etz Chaim kids wrote about celebrating holidays with family, going to Hebrew school and learning about their heritage.  It was so interesting for our kids to see how the Israelis perceive their Judaism in comparison to them.

Next month the Israelis will share with us how they celebrate Tu B’Shevat. We will continue to share holidays with the Israeli students and learn about each other.  I’m hoping the kids will form long time friendships with their pen pals.

I really owe a debt of gratitude to the iCenter, to Rabbi Tammy Kolberg in Ranana for helping me find our partners at the Meged School and especially to Sandy Elbaz, the teacher who works with the kids to make sure they are doing their part for the project. They have made videos and shared pictures and she has worked tirelessly to make the program a success. I look forward to continuing to work with her on this project.

One parent emailed me to say that her son skyped with his digital pen pal for an hour and, when he hung up, asked when they could go to Israel.

My goal for the project was for our families to begin to feel a real connection to the people and the land of Israel. For some of them this has already happened. Hopefully as we continue, this will happen with many of our families.