06 May Dispatch from Israel

It was a warm night and we sat in a circle on the grass at Kibbutz Degania. The 8th grade students and I were dressed in white shirts and we had just joined the members of the kibbutz for their Yom Ha’Shoah ceremony. We discussed the experience- some students asked questions about the portions of the Hebrew ceremony that they did not fully understand and other students explained. Others commented that it felt different and special to commemorate the Holocaust in the State of Israel, where the events of history that impacted the Jewish people also impacted this nation, the Jewish state.

As we had this important discussion I was moved by how the students were engaging so deeply in the experiences of the Israel trip. This is the tenth time I am traveling with Schechter Manhattan 8thgrade students to Israel and the power of the trip has not diminished. I continue to see the students making connections between what they have learned through years of study at Schechter Manhattan, the powerful experiences on the Israel trip, and their emerging senses of their Jewish identities.

The trip is not all as serious as Yom Ha’Shoah. In fact, the first four days of our trip were filled with fun and joy. We hiked down Mt. Arbel, overlooking Yam Kineret, and then made our way to the sea for a boat ride. On the boat we danced to celebrate the start of our trip. We rafted on the Jordan River. And we picked over three and a half thousand pounds of beets that will feed hungry families throughout Israel this Shabbat. All of this was fun and helped our students build positive associations with their time in Israel. We also connected spiritually, davening in beautiful outdoor locations, looking off a mountain top or under a canopy of trees.

We are also connecting with the people of Israel: the amazing Israeli staff working with us, Ilan, our tour guide, Mikol and Tzvi, our madrichim, Sammy, our bus driver, and Yosef, our armed guard and medic; the students and faculty of the Gvanim Middle School in Rosh Ha’Ayin, where the students had an opportunity to meet and interact with Israeli 8th graders; and with the host families and friends that we are all spending Shabbat with.

While we are traveling, the students back at Schechter Manhattan in grade K-7 are being connected to the 8th grade’s trip through daily updates of photos and a map that the Gan students are using to track our travels. Our younger students have much to look forward to.  The Israel trip is a capstone experience to a Schechter Manhattan education that actualizes our mission to cultivate our students’ Jewish identities through joyful prayer, exploration of the Torah’s wisdom, mastery of Hebrew, and participation in Jewish life.

שבת שלום ממדינת ישראל

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair




Kitah Aleph has been working on writing their own folk tales. Here are a couple of samples. 


“Once upon a time there was a chicken.  She livd on a farm.  She was wite with green eyes.  One nite she fownd out she could tok wrooyd because she does not no if she could toak like a chicken agen.  She couldit tok to her friends.  She went to the chick.  She couldn’t understand ani of the word.  She flat sad.  She called the darker but the doctor said I can’t help a chicken…”



“Once a pon u time in a forist there livd a litte girl.  And she lost her mom.  She was scerd because she lost her mom.  She triyd to find her but she codint so she went further down the forist.  Then she woct for a litte bit but she cudint find her.  So she went evin fartu down the forist.  And she codint find her.  So she went so far down she was lost…”



“Once upon a time there was a little goat.  She lived on a farm.  She wanted to go up into the mountains since she thought it was beautiful.  But the athr anamals said no ivin the dog.  Bicus it was dangaris but she didn’t lisin.  Then the anamals went to slip.  She didn’t lisin and she snuck out.  Then she fawnd a friend…”



“A long time a go in a land far far awae a comyounutee of plesent people lived haplee entil 1 day a ninju frum a nuthr planit urivt and atackt the vilig!  But lucklee thare wr 2 ninjust hoo fot the eevl ninju hoo senst the presits of there owld enume.  The ninju tried to convince the good ninju to become evil…”




The students of Kitah Gimmel learned about different cities in Israel and then wrote postcards about their “visits” to those places.


Dear Mom and Dad,

I just got to Jerusalem.  I went to the Israel Museum and saw the Dead Sea Scrolls!!!! After I got some hot pita bread from the vendors.  I also went to the old city.  It was fun in Jerusalem.


Hannah F., David W., Ben S.


Dear Dad,

I just went to Tel Aviv and visited the Dizengoff mall.  It is very hot today so we also went to the beach.  Then I went to Shuk Hacarmel.  I saw the biggest building in Tel Aviv and ate by the water.

Yoav M., Yadin I., Annabelle A.


Dear Mom and Dad,

Today I went to Tzfat and I had fun.  I drew a lot of pictures.  I saw people who speak Spanish because many of the first people to live here came from Spain.  When I was walking the roads, they were very twisty and steep. I went to the peak of the highest mountain.  I also went to the Kineret.


Maya F., Ella B., Yhonatan Y.



Right now we are having a vacation in the Hula Valley. There are a lot of birds here. Today we went river rafting. It was very quiet in the Hula Valley. We also went hiking. It was very fun. We had a picnic by the river. We can’t wait for tomorrow.


Sarah, Talia and Ari

Hey Mom and Dad,

Today I was in Eilat.  I went swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling.  I also saw a lot of birds while I was up parasailing!  It was very hot in the desert and I saw palm trees.  Lastly, before I went back to my hotel, I went for a night swim in the Red Sea with lots of fish.

Arielle, Nathaniel and Simon



Today when we were driving around Haifa looking for the Bahi Gardens, we got a roller coaster feeling because the roads are windy. When we arrived, we saw that the gardens were on mountains. We saw lots of Jews and Arabs getting along here. Afterwards, we rode the cable cars a bunch of times because we liked the view. See you soon!

Abby, Rafi, Nina


Kitah Heh has been studying immigration. Recently they wrote about the difference between the American Dream and the American Reality. 


The American dream was a fantasy compared to reality. You had religious freedom, yet you had to assimilate to American culture. They expected amazing homes and jobs but they were wrong.The streets were not paved with gold and people lived in poor conditions and worked in horrible factories. They lived in two room apartments with a shared bathroom. The truth is, the American dream was just a dream.



The American dream was much better than reality on the Lower East Side. When people thought about immigrating to America, they thought about wealth, good jobs, and nice houses. They also thought about religious freedom. In reality, there was religious freedom, but may family dropped part of their religion to assimilate into American culture. There also was no wealth and low paying jobs with poor working conditions. SInce there was no money, there were no big houses. Although reality didn’t compare with the dream, it was better than their home countries. .



The American dream was different from the reality in many ways. One way was that immigrants thought the streets were paved with gold. They weren’t. In fact the streets were far from gold. The streets were noisy, crowded, and dirty. Another way was that immigrants believed that there would be good working conditions, but there were horrible working conditions. As a matter of fact, not only the were the conditions horrible, they were dangerous for there were nto safety rules. The reality was different from the American dream, but people stayed.



After reading and analyzing various short stories, the students in Kitah Zayin created their own narrative short stories. Students learned how to identify and incorporate plot diagram, theme, mood, tone, setting, and character development. The stories could be about anything, and the only requirements were that they must be in first person narrative form, and five to seven pages long. At the end of each story, you will find an “About the Author” page, where students wrote a little about themselves in the third person.


Click here to read Annie S.’s short story.

Click here to read Hannah D.’s short story.

Click here to read Noah S.’s short story.