June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

RKYHS Visits St. Benedict’s Prep School

Over the past few years, Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and St. Benedict’s Preparatory, in Newark, New Jersey have had the opportunity to discuss current topics focusing on racism and antisemitism, and how we can become allies to stop their perpetuation. Abigail Diamond, RKYHS senior shared, “I had one very memorable conversation with a Muslim student about the Palestinian conflict in Israel, which is obviously a very serious and sensitive situation that can cause tension, but instead we had a productive discussion and we’re able to sympathize with both sides of the conflict, and appreciate each other regardless of our roots. We also discussed how this was both of our first times having a conversation with someone of the opposite person’s religion, which goes to show how meaningful this experience of meeting people with completely opposing backgrounds can be.” We typically meet weekly over Zoom; however, recently, we were graciously invited to visit their school and sit in on some of their classes. They welcomed us with open arms as we entered their school, even singing a rendition of the “Shema.”

After a short introduction, we made our way to convocation [a large formal assembly]. The sincere and overwhelming passion the students demonstrated was inspiring; arms over one another, exuberantly singing together, they started their day. It also happened to be the birthday of their Head of School, Father Ed, who is beloved by the students. As everyone gathered in the gym and sang “Happy Birthday,” the celebrity NDO made a surprise visit, striding triumphantly into convocation, kicking a birthday cake sky high, and doing pushups for Father Ed. The room was electrified! Students streamed down from the bleachers, swarming around Father Ed and NDO. The love and respect they had for each other, and among the students, was evident.

Kushner teacher Ms. Orens described convocation, saying, “The enthusiasm of convocation (especially on Father Ed’s birthday) was palpable, and Kushner students were included in the joy of song and laughter of dance contests. Through both the ice breakers and serious discussions it was clear that there is more that unites us than divides us.”

After convocation, we all got together and chatted over breakfast, and we became more than just partners, we became friends. A primary purpose of the program is to encourage unencumbered dialogue that fosters authentic relationships and builds friendships. Then we had the opportunity to sit in on a class. Treated as fellow classmates, we freely participated in their active and lively discussions. Senior Gila Klibanoff said, “I am always so impressed by the respect that the SBP students have for their teachers and peers. The simple act of being quiet when a hand is raised amazes me. In Ms. Searcy’s class, students worked together to form ideas and learn from each other. I think both of our schools have a lot we can learn from each other.”

The program concluded with a riveting discussion about Ye (formally Kanye West) and his history of inflammatory rhetoric. We discovered that revealing our feelings did not separate us, but brought us closer together, promoting a roomful of boisterous dialogue that was respectful of our various backgrounds. Our group realized that we have much more in common than anyone would have thought. St. Benedict junior Kymberli Davis shared, “From the first meeting, ‘The Perils of Indifference,’ to our most recent, ‘Cancel Culture,’ Kusher, alongside the students and faculty of SBP, has continually given me a whole new perspective on cultural and worldly problems that I thought I already knew a lot about. From our passionate debates over Zoom to our sometimes humorous meetings in person, I’ve enjoyed every minute of this opportunity. I hope our amazing relationship with Kushner continues to blossom and I am excited to see what our next meeting(s) will entail.”

This sentiment was shared by all. Overall, the program was genuinely inspiring, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit SBP and look forward to the next time we meet them again.

By Avi Wagner, RKYHS student

 

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