Solomon Schechter Montreal Pupils Host Afik Beer Sheva Peers

by Galit Suissa Antebi (A grade six Solomon Schechter Academy parent)

It’s like a fairy tale… It all began on February 15th 2012.  29 Solomon Schechter Academy (SSA) students flew to Paradise: our country Israel. 29 excited adventurers ready for their mission… explore sites and breathtaking desert landscapes, discover new and historical places and finally put in practice their Hebrew. After many years of studying at Solomon Schechter Academy about Israel’s rich history, they now had the opportunity to walk in the path of our ancestors and practice their Hebrew in our Holy Land.

On the first chapter of their journey, our Solomon Schechter children were welcomed by Afik students: they bonded so quickly, they exchanged words, smiles and of course Facebook addresses! This trip was a lifetime experience, filled with great memories and it will remain a lifelong attachment to Israel.

What our kids didn’t know is that this fairy tale would have more than one chapter … (Dr. Shimshon Hamerman, Head of School of Solomon Schechter Academy)  Shimshon the Wizard, spread the news with a single e mail: 11 Israeli friends from Afik School will be visiting Montreal soon and he needed host families. SSA kids were so excited at the thought of seeing their friends back and on March 27th they were ready to welcome their Israeli guests.

Leor, my daughter was so happy to have two friends from Beer Sheva staying in our home. She wanted to have time with all of them and suggested that we plan a nice gathering in our house. We wanted to share with Afik a nice, fun Shabbat dinner, knowing that their reality is different from ours.  Our children live in a safe environment; they are awakened in the morning by the gentle voice of their parents and on top of their heads only snowflakes are falling from the sky. In Israel, this past month, the children have been awakened by loud sirens followed by big Booms.   Rockets and missiles were their day-to-day reality! So we decided to have a small get together in their honor, inviting some of SSA “explorers” and the Afik guests. When we discovered that many kids wished to participate at this Shabbat, we decided at the last minute that the entire group that travelled to Israel was welcome and we invited them all.  We were thrilled to see kids responding to our invitation enthusiastically and spontaneously.

It was quite an unusual but fun Shabbat. All the girls who arrived before sunset sang together the candle lighting prayer to welcome Shabbat. The boys had the Kiddush and the challah duty. They conducted the Shabbat prayers with ease and confidence. After the dinner the very talented Sam played and sang at the piano. It was so much fun to see all the kids around him, dancing and singing. To our pleasant surprise, we had many talented guests that also performed. Then, our Israeli guests showed us some dancing moves, I bet very soon all grade 6 will practice those dances.  In between the hopping, jumping, dancing and singing, we had the time to play musical chairs and “the Mummy”: we chose 3 teams that had to wrap their mummy using the whole roll of toilet paper. They needed to present the most original mummy in 5 min. So we had 2 mUmmies and 1 mOmmy!

We were so pleased to see the children bonding.  As parents, we realized how quickly our kids grew up. They became independent and didn’t need much of our help. They already have their own agenda, their own lovely and creative ideas to entertain.

The moral of this fairy tale, our kids understood how important it is to open their heart and give Love and attention to others. It felt great to receive when we were in Israel but it felt greater to give back when the Afik students came to visit our school in Montreal.   This is a great lesson that we need to impart to our children.  The notion of community needs us to feel good about giving back and about community building.  It is one thing to give.  It is quite another to feel good about doing so.  What a great lesson to emphasize on the eve Passover. Our children learn that sharing a meal or just a smile helps brighten the lives of others.

We wonder…What is the next chapter of this fairy tale and when will it be?

Hopefully next year in Jerusalem!

The exchange of visits and the entire project is part of the Partnership 2000 of the Jewish Agency for Israel conducted in Montreal by Federation CJA.  Solomon Schechter Academy’s mission was sponsored by the Jewish National Fund.  The partnership of two schools began 14 years ago as a vision of  Dr. Shimshon Hamerman of Solomon Schechter Academy and Dr. Aviva Almog of Afik School.  In addition to the vision of the community agencies and the two Heads of School, the project thrives thanks to the support of the parents on both sides of the ocean.  To see Solomon Schechter students at all grade levels converse in Hebrew over the internet with their peers at Afik is a thrill that cannot be taken for granted.

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