July 14, 2024
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SAR and WDS Students Welcome Israeli Classmates

SAR Israeli students.

Since October 7, SAR has been fielding requests from many Israeli families looking to temporarily enroll their children into the school. Head of School Rabbi Bini Krauss said that most of the requests came from families who had some type of family connection to SAR. Some requests came from families who were unable to return home after spending the chagim here, while others needed additional support from family here, either because they had a spouse in the reserves or were seeking some respite from the constant barrage and threat of rocket attacks.

“We basically said yes very quickly when families asked to come,” Rabbi Krauss explained. “We thought it was important to service the families, and those are small things that we can do to hopefully make life a little bit more bearable for people.”

The rabbi has been to Israel twice since October 7 and the theme that keeps emerging is the incredible hishtadlus and inspiration of the Jewish people. “At the same time, it also shows the resilience of the people and the unbelievable strength and will to do something and offer support in any way we can that has been so remarkable. At the beginning the question was, ‘What are you doing?’ Whatever the answer was, we knew that we are always doing it with each other.”

SAR has since taken approximately 15 Israeli students ranging from early childhood to middle school, and Rabbi Krauss says the kids are doing well. “I think that they found this to be a warm and comforting environment.” The fact that SAR boasts a large percentage of fluent Hebrew speakers certainly helped make the transitions easier for both the students and their parents. “The UJA reached out to offer financial support and we’re grateful for that. But it’s just nice to see how when people are down, the community steps up.

“The students here are amazing,” Rabbi Krauss continued. “They are so welcoming, and the kids really rose to the occasion.” They know that through this endeavor they are doing something to help the situation in Israel. “That’s characterized a lot of what we are trying to do at school, whether it’s writing letters, sending money or going on missions—all of it has just been about feeling like you want to play whatever role you can play.

WDS Israeli students.

“It’s just like when we gather on the steps every morning to say Tehillim—that’s one of the messages of the time—that the things that you do matter. In classes where they have new classmates from Israel, they are able to experience that.”

Like most schools, he said the end of October was when he was receiving the most inquiries. The inquiries have slowed since the schools in Israel reopened, and some of the families who had enrolled have since returned. But Rabbi Krauss believes that taking part in this temporary enrollment initiative will be deeply felt and vividly remembered by the faculty and students for years to come.

Westchester Day School was also deeply moved and thrilled by the opportunity to temporarily enroll some students from Israel. From early childhood all the way up to sixth grade, WDS has hosted about 10 students, although some of the families have gone back to Israel.

“It’s been wonderful,” said WDS Director of Admissions Sari Linder. “There’s a lot to it and we are giving a lot of support but just seeing the faces of the families and seeing how our permanent students respond to these visitors, welcoming them with open arms, has been amazing and it has been so fulfilling to know that we can help.”

Linder said it has been a collective effort with neighboring schools, including Westchester Torah Academy and SAR, figuring out who has space and where a family would be best served. Although a typical enrollment process takes months, the school has been working all hours to make it happen in just a matter of days.

But it has been worth every second, Linder said, for both the teachers and the students. “When I brought a new student into a classroom, one of our teachers asked, ‘Is she for me?’ When I said yes she replied, ‘This is why I work here.’

“We are really lucky to have such wonderful educators.” Linder added that WDS is doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that their Israeli families feel supported. “We are always making sure that the kids are included in after school and weekend activities and letting these families know they are an integral part of the community.” Inviting the Israelis out for Shabbat meals and encouraging their participation in school and neighborhood events are just some of the ways WDS is helping them get acclimated to their new environment.

“We’re a really strong community and we are just chipping in wherever we can,” Linder said.

We’re very lucky. It has been terrific having them here and it has been great for our permanent students. Everyone is committed to this cause.”

Head of School Rabbi Daniel Rockoff said, “It has been incredibly enriching for our community to welcome students from Israel during this challenging time. While we are not the soldiers on the front lines, we do feel blessed to have the opportunity to contribute in a positive and meaningful way.  Each of the students and their families have been welcomed with open arms, and our teachers and administration have gone above and beyond to make them feel like they are a part of the WDS family.”

To learn more about SAR visit https://saracademy.org/

To learn more about WDS visit https://www.westchesterday.org/

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