Monday, January 24, 2022

(Courtesy of BPY) Ben Porat Yosef (BPY), a yeshiva day school specializing in providing students with immersive educational experiences, has taught students an innovative lesson about expressing hakarat hatov through a patriotic Veterans Day program that paired them with relatives, school employees and special guests from the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, who served in the military and told their stories of sacrifice for their country and freedom.

During the course of the afternoon, students spent time with retired service members including U.S. Army Sgt. Milton Levy; U.S. Army Medical Corps Capt. Ted Tobias; U.S. Army Col. Rabbi Ira Kronenberg; U.S. Air Force Col. Willie Bruenner;U.S. Army Col. Carl A. Singer; Ph.D; and U.S. Air Force Pilot George English. The veterans presented to small groups of students who listened attentively as they shared their experiences and the life lessons they learned while in the service.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Willie Bruenner beamed as he shared his military experiences with a fifth-grade class, proudly presenting a framed photo of the EB-66, the aircraft he had navigated during the Vietnam War. Bruenner, also a survivor of the Holocaust, addressed the students, saying, “This country saved me and my family and I thought I could help repay that debt.”

The entire yeshiva came together to pay tribute in a schoolwide assembly that honored veterans related to the BPY family. On the stage stood proud family representatives surrounding their heroic grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as student ambassadors who warmly welcomed our special guests from the Jewish War Veterans of the United States as well as our beloved staff members who are veterans. Joining them onstage were students and parents honored to represent their relatives who could not participate in person.

Each veteran was introduced, highlighting the momentous roles that he played in the United States military, and given the respect that he so truly deserved. Some of the veterans in attendance wore their respective ceremonial uniforms, dog tags and other mementos that reminded them of their service. The student body responded with a standing ovation for the veterans, both present and not, and then Mrs. Maron led the students in singing “On Veterans Day” by Karl Hitzeman, a beautiful and powerful song that thanked the veterans for their service. The veterans were beaming and were so moved by the sweet voices and sincere appreciation. The family representatives, especially the parents, were touched by the respect and honor given to their families.

BPY Head of School Rabbi Saul Zucker passionately spoke about his father who had served during World War II, and grandfather (and namesake) who served in World War I. “Freedom is not free. It doesn’t just come because we want it,” he told the students.

The ceremony concluded with veterans, students and staff singing “God Bless America.” Before departing the auditorium, the third-grade class presented the veterans with handwritten letters thanking them for their service.

“Veterans Day is an incredible opportunity to teach our students the value of recognizing those who have sacrificed to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today,” said Rabbi Zucker of the day’s events. “We live in the United States enjoying many different levels of comfort and religious freedoms which have only been made continuously possible by those who’ve risked their lives to protect us. Recognizing our veterans and showing our appreciation to them is a critical developmental milestone for students, which trains them not only to be better citizens of our country but better members of society as well.”

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