April 21, 2024
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Students Share Interactive Candle-Lighting Ceremony With IDF Widows and Orphans

On Tuesday, December 27, the seventh-grade students of Ben Porat Yosef had the unique opportunity to participate in a Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony via Skype with children of the IDFWO Organization. The IDF Widows and Orphans Organization is a non-profit organization that was established in 1991 as the sole group recognized by the State of Israel to represent the widows and orphans of Israel’s fallen soldiers. Their mission is to support and advocate for families that have lost loved ones who sacrificed their lives for the State of Israel. IDFWO hosts about four events per year and Chanukah is one such occasion. Children have vacation from school so the organization hosts a camp experience where the kids can come together and spend holiday time with one another. At this camp, there is an annual candle-lighting ceremony that incorporates various institutions around the globe.

BPY was one of five organizations asked to participate in the “around the world” candle-lighting ceremony this year. Yiska Klein, a Hebrew-language teacher at BPY, worked with students to compose letters containing supportive messages to offer to the children of IDFWO. Klein, like many of the Judaic studies faculty at BPY, is a shaliach, here not just to offer a comprehensive Judaic education but also to really nurture a connection to Israel along with its heritage and culture. The students are taught Israeli Hebrew from the first grade on and truly receive an enriched education fostering a closeness to the Land of Israel. Students are exposed to many Israeli organizations and participate in a large public event each year on Yom Hazikaron. Many faculty members themselves have served in the IDF and have shared experiences with their students. Being both Hebrew-speaking and immersed in Israel-related events made BPY students an ideal choice to participate in this momentous occasion.

BPY has recently increased the use of technology within the school, which allowed them to participate in this event through those resources. “Once the invitation came our way, it was easy to say yes because the technology was already in place,” explained General Studies Principal Rebecca Hirschfield.

It appeared on the screen that at least a couple hundred kids were in the audience during the ceremony. BPY students were able to watch the chanukiah being lit, and through Skype technology truly felt as if they too were part of the live audience. Students prepared messages and addressed their counterpart students from IDFWO with tremendous care and consideration. “Our students expressed that we are one nation and one people, and we stand with you in our minds and hearts,” articulated Ruth Roth, director of admissions and PR at BPY.

Students conveyed their messages completely in Hebrew, and while this was done through an interactive form of technology, it can nonetheless be quite stressful. Seventh grader Gabriella Sebbag explained what it felt like for her. “We were nervous to speak because we couldn’t see how many people were in the audience. We saw that they were listening and we tried our best to speak well. Also, we tried to say things that would make them happy because we know that it’s a sad time for them to have a holiday without a parent.” The BPY students all agreed that it was a heartfelt experience for both them and the children of IDFWO. “It was nice that we could do this and be a part of helping make Chanukah special for these families, because they have all lost someone important to them. We knew they were listening, and at the end they applauded us after we spoke,” seventh grader Jamie Orgen told The Jewish Link. While BPY was honored to be selected as a participating organization to offer words of encouragement to Israeli kids at this event, it became clear from the get-go that the students themselves were the recipients of a truly meaningful experience.

By Andrea Nissel

 

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