Thursday, March 29, 2012

Synthetic Biology Science Fair Project

I am excited to share this blog written by some of our 7th graders for the science fair! I am so proud of the amazing experiments that they are doing and look for more information about our school-wide science fair on April 20 and the Jewish Day School Science Expo on April 29.  Both events will feature the amazing work that our our students are doing this year in Science!

Marc Medwed, Head of School

by Emily, Sarah, Josh and Aaron
As students of the 7th grade at Kehillah Schechter Academy, we are participating in the school science fair.  This year, our grade’s topic is “Bacteriology in the 21st century”.  Our two science fair groups, consisting of Joshua, Aaron, Emily, Sarah, Mira, Leah, Erez and Jerry did a project on synthetic biology.  Synthetic biology is about engineering and redesigning biological systems to construct or produce new functions.
Our specific project is genetically engineered bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics and bioluminescent. We asked if we can reverse the ability of the DNA to bio luminesce by mutating it, using UV irradiation.  We transformed bacteria with DNA that was either not treated (control) or exposed to UV irradiation. Transformation means, making bacteria permeable so they can uptake foreign DNA. When the bioluminescent bacteria were exposed to a handheld UV light in the dark, we could see all of the different bacteria colonies light up (A- look below).  Bacteria that were transformed UV irradiated DNA did not glow (B-see below). We thoroughly enjoyed our science fair experiment, and we were extremely happy with our results.

Figure A - Control                                
Figure B – UV irradiated DNA

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Letter from the Board and our Head of School

Dear KSA parents,

We would like to communicate with you, our parents, directly, openly and honestly about important developments at KSA.

KSA is Academically Strong
We want to frame our comments with the fact that KSA is thriving educationally. Under the guidance of our outstanding faculty, our students are achieving magnificently and we maintain our reputation in the community as a school that serves a wide range of learners in innovative and engaging ways. As a result of our strong academics, we look forward in the coming months to sharing some exciting and significant initiatives we are undertaking as a school in the areas of educational technology, science, project-based learning and Judaic Studies.  These initiatives are products of our extremely creative, thoughtful and forward thinking faculty. 

We are Still Recovering from the Economic Downturn
Within the context of this warm and caring community, the school is facing financial challenges.  Much of this was explained in communications from the Board of Trustees, in parlor meetings, and on the school blog.  Since the turn of the economy in 2008, our school has managed to weather the downturn and support and retain all families who wanted to be a part of our school community, regardless of their ability to pay the tuition.  We did this with the hope that the economy would turn around and that the families who lost the ability to pay the full tuition would soon be able to do so again.  Unfortunately, although the economy is beginning to show signs of recovery, we as a school have not yet fully recovered and can no longer provide the kind of financial aid that was given in the past and still be fiscally responsible.  Because of this, the Board of Trustees instructed school leadership to create a sustainable budget moving forward to strengthen the foundation of the school and limit its vulnerability going forward. 

Each and Every Family is Significant to our Community
We hope every family in the community recognizes how valuable we feel each and every one is to the fabric of our school.  Russ Lavoie, our Director of Finance and Operations and Sandy Spector, our Business Manager, are meeting one on one with families to make every attempt to keep each family in the school.  The Board and the school leadership are working together to actively seek additional scholarship support from inside and outside the community; we have some promising leads. We realize that despite these efforts some families’ needs might not be met and they will feel the need to make the choice to leave.  This concerns us greatly and is a situation we bear with a heavy heart.

Ensuring Long-Term Sustainability
These circumstances will likely result in a lower overall school enrollment and therefore require a concomitant right-sizing of our faculty and staff.  Out of respect for our current faculty and staff, we have already been talking about staffing changes. We want to give as much notice as possible to those affected so that each can make the best decisions for him/herself and his/her family.  We are deeply saddened to see any of our faculty leave us and we well understand that it is upsetting for many in the community.  We recognize that in order for our school to emerge from this economic downturn stronger we must be fiscally responsible and sadly this is one of the areas where change will have to occur in order to provide for future sustainability. 

Honoring our Faculty and Staff
Later in the year, at the appropriate time, we will honor and more publicly express our deep appreciation to those who have given so much of themselves to our children.  We will always be grateful for their contributions to the life of our school.

Mobilizing Regional Support
With all of the challenges we are facing, we want to reassure the community that our school leadership and Board are working tirelessly to secure the future of the school.  Through our efforts, we have been able to open doors to supporters of Jewish education in the Greater Boston community.  Our unique role in the rich landscape of Jewish day schools in the region is highly valued by these community leaders.  We have made new inroads with these donors and are receiving significant interest and support. We are confident of the community’s commitment to our continued growth and success.

Looking Ahead
At KSA, our strength is our Kehillah, our community.  Although change is hard, we know that together we will secure our future as a premier Jewish day school in the greater Boston and greater Providence areas. Together we will continue on the path with an engaging and vibrant Jewish and secular education in a warm, nurturing environment.  Please know and remember that our core, our essence, and our mission are not changing. 

Call to Action
Finalizing our student enrollment for the coming year is critical for our planning efforts.  Our staffing is driven by confirmed matriculation (actual signed tuition agreements and financial aid awards). So what we are asking you to do is the following:
•             Complete and submit all necessary forms for enrollment now
•             If appropriate, schedule an appointment with Russ Lavoie to engage in the financial aid process
•             Join us at Chaijinks as we celebrate our community
•             Engage with us as we recommit to a culture of philanthropy

We look forward to a bright future together and as always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to be in touch with us, as we would love to speak with you.

Kol tuv,

Marc Medwed                                                            Michael Agus
Head of School                                                          President, Board of Trustees

Friday, March 16, 2012

8th Grade Israel Reflection: My Experience at the Kotel

On Friday night in Israel, every member of the class had a choice of to either pray at a Synagogue in Jerusalem, or, to pray at the Kotel. The teachers told us that it would be immensely crowded at the Kotel, and that it might not be the best experience. Putting that aside, I decided to go. In early evening, Jared, Wesley, Eric, Mr. Pankin, Rabbi David, Adam B., Gabe, Jonah, Sam R., Daniel and I began our walk to the Kotel. When we arrived and looked at the area surrounding the Kotel, we were all in awe. We saw hundreds and hundreds of Jews praying there. In fact, there were so many Chasidic Jews there; it looked as though the area neighboring the Kotel was completely covered with beautiful black carpet.
            As we entered the main area, in front of the Kotel, I started to feel more and more like I belonged. As I looked around, I noticed that there was so much spirit in those who were praying. For instance, I noticed one minyan with around 60 or 70 Jewish men, and they were dancing and singing with all their hearts, as if they were the happiest men alive. Once I saw this, I felt like I was just truly accepted into the most prestigious club that is Judaism. Once we arrived at the Kotel itself,  Rabbi David then told us to go out and find an area at the Kotel, or a minyan to join. Then someone asked, “Why don’t we have our own minyan?” and, since we were ten Bar Mitzvahs, we made our own minyan.  We started singing and dancing just like the other people around us, and I, for the first time in my whole life, felt proud to be Jewish. At that moment, I wanted to pray, I wanted to wear a kipah, and I wanted to be Jewish. 
            This moment meant just as much to me then as it does now. At the very moment when I was singing with all my friends at the Kotel, I felt the spiritual connection that I have been reflecting on since that very day. When I was at the Kotel, I just remember thinking about how much fun I was having, and how I should not take that moment for granted because it was such a unique experience.  In addition, I was thinking about why all the Chassidic Jews, wearing long black coats and black hats, were looking at us so strangely. We were Jews just like the rest of the Jews there; we just didn’t look like them. Perhaps, in their eyes, one has to look Jewish to be Jewish. This moment is important for me because it helped me connect with my Jewish identity, in the spiritual sense. It helped me discover what it is like to have a true connection to ones religion. This moment proves that all opinions can change, and that no matter how confident one is about his religion, all his opinions are subject to change. I will always think about my faith differently because of this moment. However, this moment has not made me feel more religious, it has made me feel more connected with my religion.
            Traveling to the Kotel is one of the most beneficial opportunities in life. This is so, because it is a site that can teach people how to understand themselves and their religion. Every person who visits the Kotel will have a different experience. One may discover his true Jewish identity and perhaps become more observant.  One may not have any meaningful experience at all. My personal experience, however, has taught me to feel pride in my religion, and to truly grasp the importance of being a Jew. The Kotel is a place where one can truly discover his true identity as a Jew and as an individual.   “The real meditation is... the meditation on one's identity. Ah, voil? une chose!! You try it. You try finding out why you're you and not somebody else” (Ezra Pound). Ezra Pound is saying that finding out who one is really, or finding one’s true identity, is the greatest source of meditation, and the Kotel is one of the places that helps accomplish that goal. 

By Jacob, 8th Grade Student 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Breaking Through the Wall

Late on our first Thursday night in Israel, the sky was dark but the Kotel was brightly lit and surrounded by Jews. With my friends, we made our way down to the women’s section of the Kotel. I stepped up to the holy wall, and placed a hand lightly on the cold stone. At that moment, I realized that the entire Jewish population is connected and we give each other strength. We all come from different backgrounds but we are all united by our beliefs, our history, and our home: Israel. 
            The Kotel is much more than the only remaining wall of the temple; it is the holiest place on earth for Jews. The scene can not be compared to any other; the joy and sadness can not be described with the words in the English vocabulary. Hope-filled notes poured out of the cracks of the sacred western wall and crouching women prayed silently, tears streaming down their faces. Standing a few feet away from the wall with my fellow classmates, I was starting to wonder if I should come closer. I felt God’s presence at the wall, and each step I took brought me closer and closer to God. This new feeling scared me; nevertheless, I pushed myself towards the holiest place on earth. I clutched my note, folded it twice, and made sure that I had remembered to include wishes for my entire family. Carefully, I placed my note into a crack that resembled a broken star. Studying the wall carefully, I noticed scratches that came together to take on the image of a chickadee on a perch. I ran my hand cautiously along the indents. The uneven, cold stones felt smooth against my palm. Quietly, along with all the praying women, I began to cry. For some reason, being close to God in a way that I had never been before was too much for me to handle. I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and began to pray. 
            At that moment, the amount of anxiety and delight of this new experience prevented me from understanding the connection I had found to my history and my home. Looking back, I can see that the Jews have made it, against all odds. Many others have tried to destroy our religion and erase our beliefs but we have always chosen to rise above them. Twice Israel’s largest temples have been demolished and yet we still have the Kotel and may freely pray there. In Russia, my family was denied freedom of religion and were kept from studying Jewish history. They were persecuted and robbed; nonetheless, they combined their strength and survived multiple pogroms. Prior to my visit to the Kotel, I was sure that there would always be certain obstacles that I could not tackle, situations I could not change. Now I know that Judaism gives one power to prevail.
            After long thought, I made sense of all that I have learned on my Israel trip: trust in God and knowledge of history lead individuals onward. Not only did I discover my relationship to Jewish peoplehood, I also discovered the link that I created between my family’s history in Russia and the new generation. Similar to the Kotel’s role in Judaism, I am the only piece of the puzzle that is left. Daily, I must feed information from the Torah to those family members who never had the opportunity to learn. Not unlike Elie Wiesel’s responsibility to share the knowledge of the Holocaust, I must be the messenger maintaining belief and hope.

By Sasha, 8th Grader

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Climb up Masada

            Who knew Masada could be so hard on your thighs? Well I sure didn't! Each step I took up the rocky, steep Masada killed. It was around 9:30 in the morning, deep in the Negev. Despite it being very chilly outside, as I was walking up Masada, I was sweating so much that I didn't even realize it. Talya and I were behind the rest of our class, which was about five minutes up the mountain from us. Climbing Masada made me realize the climb was the easiest part of Masada, and well of Judaism. The hardest part was ignoring the temptations of sitting down or drinking water. Similarly in Judaism the hardest part is ignoring the temptations of the modern world.
            We woke up very early at 9:30 in the morning and had breakfast at the Masada Guest House. We then proceeded to hike towards Masada, and then eventually, we were at Masada. It was very cold. I remember asking myself how could I ever scale Masada in this weather! As I took my first step I was overwhelmed with pride. I felt like I could do it easily. I was wrong. About 3 minutes in I fell behind my friends. I watched them continue their gossip without me. They were walking so normally, not even flinching, while I was struggling to keep myself walking at a normal pace. I found myself talking with Talya. I remember I could hear the wind as I got higher and higher up Masada. It was almost like I could feel the wind dancing around me, and at the same moment cooling me down. I refused to drink water while going up Masada because I felt it was immodest. I wanted to experience the full climb, without any help whatsoever. I could feel the sweat trickling down my head, but at the same time I couldn't feel it. It was like I was aware, but I wasn't. Those of you who have climbed Masada will know what I mean. Every step I took brought great pain to my body, but I knew I had to keep on going; I couldn't give in to the temptation, I had to keep a steady pace. So I decided to run ahead of my group, and then in less than 5 minutes, I was ahead and on my own. It felt so liberating, running up Masada.
            Running up Masada, and not giving into the temptations of sitting down, or drinking water really changed me. It let me know that I had the stuff in me. I thought to myself whenever I saw a nice looking rock to collapse on, "I can do this. This is nothing to what the Jews during the Holocaust had to suffer through." Since I am currently studying the Holocaust in Humanities with Ms. Novick, that statement I made was very powerful for me. I decided that I was going to do this climb for me, and also for the Jews who suffered through the Holocaust. I had to not think about the burning pain that I endured after each unbearable step that I took. 
            I feel that in our school we are very much sheltered. All we know is the Israel we are taught about in class. All we know is the Judaism we are taught in our class. But once you travel to Israel, the way you look about Israel and Judaism changes drastically. Israel becomes so much more than Israel. Israel becomes spiritual, and almost like a language. You have to learn it, speak it and you have to use it. And Judaism doesn't feel Jewish, it feels like history, unlike in America, where it is branded Jewish. In Israel ­it is easier to resist the temptations that are put in front of you. I was always one to ask why Israel was so important, and I always use to say that America is our home, but Israel is our home. I was not able to understand what that meant fully until I traveled to Israel. What I mean by this is that the meaning of the word home changes drastically once you travel to Israel. For instance, I have 3 homes; America, Israel, and Cambodia. When you travel to Israel you understand fully what home means, and you open your heart to Israel and really accept it as your home. 

By Gabe, 8th Grader

Monday, March 12, 2012

Each Flame a Soul

    “One candle for each child. One flame for each innocent soul lost forever.” These words, spoken by our tour guide as we neared the exhibit, are just one out of the countless ways to describe the children’s memorial at Yad Vashem.
            As I followed behind the rest of my class through the stone doors of the children’s memorial, each step I took brought me farther and farther away from the reassuring rays of sunlight. All side conversations between friends faded to a dull whisper as we soon became blinded by the unnerving darkness that filled the seemingly endless hallway. Struggling to navigate our way through the vast artificial night, I sensed the tension almost radiating from those around me. Even though we had just entered the exhibit, I felt the need to run back the way I came, back towards the comforting daylight and away from the sadness and misery of our history that hung in the air just as prominently as the silence. Despite my longing to escape, I acknowledged that bearing witness to the millions of lives portrayed in the exhibit was our obligation to the victims, the children, the Jewish people. My obligation.
            The instant that I walked into the main exhibit, I felt my heart momentarily stop beating. As my eyes adjusted to the newly-found light, I gazed all around me in awe. Everywhere I looked, flickering candles seemed to float in midair, glowing radiantly from their positions filling every inch of the room. They resembled stars, shining in the night sky and looking down on the earth from above. A deep voice began to speak, the names it mentioned echoing mournfully around the exhibit. “Sara, age nine. Murdered. Rivkah, age fourteen. Murdered.” Each name caused my heart to beat faster and faster. The ages of the victims seemed to become increasingly younger; some of the children mentioned being under thirteen and even small infants. I tried to assign each candle I spotted to one of the victims, but soon lost track of the never-ending list of names. Each flame a lost soul. Who might have the children been before the horrific events that cut their lives so unjustly short? Who might have they became if they had been spared? Had they also enjoyed reading, or drawing, or writing stories? Had they dreams for their futures, the futures that they would never have the chance to live?
            These were the thoughts that flowed through my mind in an endless stream, replacing those that I had first been contemplating on the way to the exhibit. The thoughts that now seemed to be shallow and unimportant, compared to all the misery and suffering that I had just became aware to. So many candles, so many souls. In this moment as I made my way through the exhibit by candlelight, I listened to each name spoken and resolved never to take life for granted again. How could I continue to live and breathe everyday and not think much of that blessing, especially now when I was beginning to understand just how many victims never had the chance to do so? Even the ground that I was walking on, Israeli ground, was something that so many longed to experience and longed to escape to. I was given the chance that so many others were not; a chance at life.
            All of humanity has an obligation to its past. History is not something that we should run away from, or deny, or believe to be separate from ourselves and our identities just because it hasn’t happened to us personally. Rather, we are obligated to learn from the past and keeping those memories alive. Through our connection to Jewish Peoplehood, we inherit our religious culture, but more importantly, we inherit the responsibility to Jewish history. We often focus more on the future rather than the past, never truly understanding the significance it has on our lives. By doing so, we are ignoring a large fraction of our identity. Visiting Yad Vashem caused me to further acknowledge my role as a listener and messenger in memorializing the Jewish past and gaining a better awareness of history. The knowledge that we obtain while bearing witness to  the past must then be imparted to others, fulfilling the burden that has been set upon the Jewish Peoplehood ever since the horrific occurrence that is the Holocaust.  Israel is a unique place where history becomes more prominent through learning and experiences that enable one to create a deeper connection to the past. Students should travel to Israel in order to create this connection. Israel has many learning opportunities for students and others who wish to discover more about themselves and the factors that make up their identity, including their religious roots. If one stops learning and passing down one’s history, than the past will be lost and forgotten. Consequently, without trips to Israel and other similar learning experiences, humanity and specifically Jewish Peoplehood loses knowledge of significant events in history and their identity. Humanity must keep those candles burning for all eternity, a memory preserved in a single flame, a soul living on through its golden light. 

By Avital, 8th Grade Student

Friday, March 9, 2012

Israel Reflection: Community

          “Shabbat Shalom!” we heard as we were being pushed and shoved through the busy Shuck, on Friday afternoon in preparation for Shabbat. It was a hot sunny day in Jerusalem. At about 2:00 pm,  Rachel, Avital, Kaitlyn, Natalie and I were shopping at Machaneh Yehudah, in search for a special treat to share with our classmates. First, we pushed our way through the busy streets full of Jewish people buying food, clothes, spices, jewelery, etc. Whether it was freshly baked challah, Havdallah spices for  the next night, or some bargain jewelry for Bubbe, everyone was preparing for Shabbat. While taking in all of the smells, sights, and sounds, we had to manage to stay together on this journey. Finally, we ended up at our destination, the famous bakery Marzipan. Our mission was to buy some special treats for our Shabbat, but in the crowded shop, this was very hard. With everyone rushing to get the last cinnamon bun or trying to pay for their pastries, it was crazy. Experiencing  these moments made me feel more connected to the  Jewish people because of the Jewish atmosphere that surrounded me: the cultural foods, smells, sounds, and the people. Even though differences in observance, language, and location may separate me from other Jews, I felt that we were all united in the Shuck, right then and there before Shabbat.
            The first part of our journey was not only to buy the treats for our class, but to get there. This was a  trudge because on Friday afternoons, right before Shabbat, the Shuck is very busy and crowded. Since we had to walk down long streets and push between large masses of people, we knew we had to stay together. Therefore, the girls and I all held hands so we wouldn't lose each other. We walked down  many streets and passed many shops and stores which consisted of foods, spices, clothes, jewelry, scarves, chamsas, and other ornament. The savory smells coming from these shops permeated throughout the streets, and the strong aromas from the spices caught us at the nose. Navigating through the Shuck is, in a way, like New York City. In both of these places you are overwhelmed about what is going on around you, yet in the Shuck, it is a nice feeling of overwhelmingness. There is a feeling of security and safety. For example, even though it was very loud and stressful in the Shuck, it also made me feel very connected to Jewish people because I knew that I was surrounded by Jews, who shared the same religion as me, Judaism. They were also doing the same errends as we were; preparing for Shabbat.
            Finally, we had reached our destination. Right as you step into Marzipan, you are surrounded by so many delicious smells and it is very hard to distinguish which one is which, none of them are distinct. At first I thought it was cinnamon, but Kaitlyn swore that it was chocolate she was smelling. Natalie added, “You know, it wouldn't hurt anyone if we tried it, to see if it really is cinnamon or chocolate.”
“Fine, we'll try the Rugelach,” Rachel said. As we bit into the delightful blend of both chocolate and cinnamon, we knew this was what we had to purchase.
We pushed our way up to the counter, and the man said to us, “Oh, you have picked a good choice. But why so many?” I automatically answered that it was for our class, and without hesitation he replied “Ah I see. Shabbat Shalom!”
This moment made me feel the strong connection that I knew I had to Jewish Peoplehood. It is important for me to be able to connect to Jewish Peoplehood so I that know I am not alone. Thinking back on this moment, I now know that no matter what was going on around me, for better or for worse, I was safe and secure. In my opinion, Jewish Peoplehood means not only being surrounded by your own Jewish community, or a Jewish community across the world, but feeling the sense that you are part of a community. There are five pillars or portals into Jewish Peoplehood. In this moment three of them were present for me. The country of Israel, the Jewish religion, and the most prominent one, the Jewish community. The first pillar that was present for me, the country of Israel, came into play because I underwent this whole experience at the Shuck in Jerusalem. The second one, Judaism, played a great role during this time because everyone was preparing for Shabbat, the Friday night holiday. Everyone was there to prepare for their own personal Shabbat celebrations. I'm sure that if I had underwent this experience on any other day, it still would have been meaningful, but it was right before Shabbat, therefore had a great impact on me. Lastly, the community that I was in. Sure, we all had differences. In fact, the only people I knew there were my classmates. To me, it didn't matter if we knew each other or not, or if we even wanted anything to do with each other. The most important reason is that we were all there for the same thing at heart. Community played a major role in my trip to Israel, and specifically the Shuck. 
            While traveling to Israel, the Shuck is a very different experience than spending time in just a market. At the shuck, you feel a sense of community and connection to Jewish Peoplehood, because of what everyone is doing (preparing for shabbat), and because you know that everyone else there is Jewish. By traveling to Israel with classmates, or just by yourself, one can learn the meaning of a real community. Knowing that you are not alone, and that the people surrounding you are the same as you, is a very good feeling of security.  It's comforting to know you are not alone. To know you are part of a community. 
Written by Dalia, 8th grade student

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Purim and My Jewish Identity

This Israel Reflection was shared as a D'var Torah with the Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week.
Last night, we began to celebrate Purim, a holiday where we are commanded to read מגילת אסתר, have a סעודה or feast, give משלוח מנות to our friends and family, and give מתנות לעביונים which are gifts to the poor. Another thing we do to celebrate Purim is dress up in costume and one of the most common pieces of a Purim costume is a mask.  Throughout the Purim story Queen Esther wears a mask to cover up her identity. And now when we celebrate Purim we cover ourselves up and become someone else. But Purim is not the only time when we try to cover ourselves up and try to become someone else. Sometimes in everyday life we try to be someone who we aren’t, we try to cover up our identity and replace it with someone else’s like a mask. But when I was in Israel with my class mates from February 2nd until February 11th, I didn’t need to put a mask on. From the moment I stepped off the plane, to when we left Israel, I felt like I didn’t need to hide anything. I had so many amazing experiences in Israel, and I would like to share 1 of them with you. 
Sand in my toes, wind blowing through my hair, the smell of salt water, and the stunning view of the Mediterranean sea was an experience I will never forget. It was a sunny, Shabbat afternoon when Rabbi David took Kaitlyn, Sasha, Hannah and I on a walk on the beach at Kibbutz Nachsholim. As we walked on the sand, we picked up colorful shells, sea glass and even snails to bring back home. We enjoyed making footprints in the wet sand and seeing the paths we created. After walking on the sand we navigated our way through a series of giant flat rocks that were on top of the sea. We walked across the rocks sometimes stepping down into the water, stopping to pick up more eye catching shells or even stopping to look at the sea and its many different shades of blue. After walking across the rocks we got up to the plateau that jetted out into the sea where waves came crashing onto it. It didn’t take long for us to want to run to the edge and stand there with the wind blowing against our bodies and waves crashing onto us. I stood there taking it all in, watching, listening, feeling and remembering the past eleven amazing days of my life. I remember saying to myself “this is the end of the trip” but this was such a good way to end my 1st trip to Israel. Kaitlyn, Sasha, Hannah and I sang as loud as we could making this experience as good as it could get, but really there were no words to describe how we were feeling.
After at least a half hour being splashed by the waves, we made our way back but by different route. We navigated through more rocks and stopped to step into pools of water which were so warm because the rays of the sun were beating down. We went from pool to pool, feeling the warmth of the water on our legs as we picked up small shells from the bottom. It was hard to take the strength to pull myself out of the pool but finally it was time to go back to the main part of the beach. We all walked back in silence; we couldn’t believe the experience we just had.
 As I stood on the edge of the plateau and I heard the sound of the waves crashing the rocks and felt them hitting my body, I reflected on the past eleven days in Israel. This was my first trip to Israel and everything I did made a huge impact on my Jewish identity. Whether it was shopping at the shuk, climbing Masada or eating falafel, I felt a vast connection to Israel. Looking out into the Mediterranean sea I felt like I was home; although I have never been to Israel, everywhere I went felt like it was familiar to me. I remember looking out at the sea and thinking how beautiful this view is, how amazing this trip was and how much I have grown from this trip because I feel a strong connection to Israel. I have truly changed emotionally from before I left for Israel until the last day in Israel. I am so grateful I had this moment to reflect on my Israel trip which resulted in a reflection on my Jewish identity. I am a whole new person now that I have crossed the threshold into a young, mature, Jewish adult. When I became a bat mitzvah, I was considered a Jewish adult; however, everyone becomes a bat mitzvah at the same age and not everyone goes to Israel and discovers what is really inside their Jewish identity. I feel like I really changed as a person because I came home, to Israel, and learned that this is somewhere close to me.
After experiencing Israel, I feel like I have a responsibility and a connection towards the country. I have learned about Israel for the past nine years, and from elementary school I have looked forward to my eighth  grade trip to Israel. Each year of information I learned about Israel and the more Hebrew I learned, the more I wanted to go to Israel. When I actually arrived in Israel I felt like I was coming home because I have spoken about it so many times. I couldn’t believe I was actually in Israel, but the farther we got into the trip I realized that this wouldn’t be my last time going to Israel. This trip is so important because not only can you bond with classmates but you feel as if all of the nine  years you have learned about Israel, Judaism and Hebrew really paid off during this trip. To me, the definition of the eighth grade trip to Israel is the test of everything you’ve learned from kindergarten up to eighth grade. What better place to go after hearing and learning about it for nine years, than the homeland of the Jews, Israel.
I hope you have a festive Purim. חג פורים שמח!

Written by Adina in 8th Grade

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Worlds Collide-Ariela's Reflection

“I’m coming home. I’m coming home. Tell the World I’m coming home.”
-Coming Home by Diddy

“Take a deep breath of the Israeli air!” Tovya screamed to me as we ran out of the big sliding doors at Ben Gurion airport, lugging our heavy suitcases behind us. We had just disembarked from the plane and I was still floating in a hazy state of sleepiness, but as I inhaled the rich Israeli air, all the drowsiness I accumulated from the long plane ride vanished. I looked up at the sky and saw palm trees outlined against the cloudless blue sky and a thousand memories flowed through me from the times I had lived in Israel. At that moment, I understood that for me Israel is like walking into the house after a long trip; it is the indescribable feeling of being at home and the limitless feeling of belonging. But, along with the feeling of belonging there was restlessness and bewilderment. I felt these mixed emotions because my two worlds were clashing; I had arrived to Israel with my American identity and my American class.

When I came back to America after living in Israel for a year, the Israel part of my identity disappeared and I couldn’t get it back. But as I stepped off the plane and further and further into Israel, it all came back. I started to run to the bus which was waiting patiently by the corner for us, the straps of my suitcase striking against the sidewalk and making a sort of rhythm. A few feet away from the bus, I paused to catch my breath and tip my face upwards, feeling my hair cascade down my back and enjoying the sunshine radiating down on me. With the sun beating down on my face - I’m sure making little freckles appear - I realized that when I’m in America, I miss Israel, but I miss who I am in Israel even more. I’m not a different person in Israel, but there are parts of my identity that I allow to show more and parts of my identity that I keep hidden (and the same is true here in America).

When I lived in Israel, I longed to be in America, but when I came home to America I missed my home in Rishon LeZion so much. I was excited to reconnect with my Israel. My Israel is not the tourist Israel. My Israel is getting falafel on the street corner near my friend Dafna’s house and seeing a pile of sand while walking home from school. It’s the guy at the makolet saying hi to me and knowing my name. It’s bargaining and having dinner at the beach with my family. And, it’s the smell of Israel: a mix of sun-block and sunflower seeds.

As I continued on, I felt that part of my identity – who I was then – intertwine with who I am now.  Tripping over my own feet, I felt growing anxiety as I looked at my friends and classmates. It must have shown on my face and Tovya looked over her shoulder at me with concern. My two worlds and identities were colliding. As I shoved my suitcase into the bottom of the bus and found my seat, I was uneasy. Usually, when I visit Israel my Israeli identity re-integrates itself into me, but because I was with my American class in Israel I was unable to lose my American identity. How could I be both, keep both identities at the same time?

As we climbed to Jerusalem, I had a little therapy session in my head. I pressed my forehead against the window and tried to organize my thoughts. Finally, I came to understand that I am a combination of these two identities and I don’t need to choose one. I can be both of them. It doesn’t matter where I am, whether in America or in Israel, because I can feel at home in both places. The fight I was having between the two parts of me was going on in my head and if I embraced both parts of my identity they would stop competing.

Israel is part of the foundation of my identity and one of my homes. I don’t have to pick between my American and my Israeli identity because I am a combination of both of them. As I looked at my classmates on the bus, I realized that I might not have been the only one feeling torn. In Israel, parts of one’s identity are brought to life -- even parts that they didn’t even know they had – like when some of my classmates got off the plane, they described of feeling of being at home, a feeling of belonging, even if they had not ever been in Israel. Anyone who has considered his or her Jewish identity struggles with many other identities. There are challenges and joys of making peace with competing identities. Being in Israel with my classmates taught me that everyone struggles with multiple identities and has helped me come up with ways to balance my current identities and ones I will gain in the future.

Ariela KJ
8th Grade Student

KSA 8th Grade Reflections from Israel

When our 8th graders returned from their trip to Israel, they wrote beautiful reflective essays on their experience for our Humanities class.  Students chose one significant moment to reflect upon, while considering questions such as:

  • What did I learn about myself in this moment?
  • How did this moment help me to fee more connected to or more aware of my Jewish identity? 
  • How did this moment help me to feel more connected to Israel, or what it means to be Jewish and part of a people?  
Each student chose his or her own moment to reflect upon.  The moments they chose included experiences that were beautiful, heartbreaking, life changing and humorous; yet, all were poignant and full of meaning. Students wrote about: stepping on Israeli soil, praying at the Kotel, shopping at the shook, splashing in the Mediterranean, connecting with the Ironi Gimmel students, climbing Masada, becoming a community with their classmates, and experiencing the Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem.  I loved reading each and every reflection.  Over the next few days, we will be posting some of these reflections for you to enjoy, so check back each day!

Lori Novick
8th Grade Humanities Teacher/LA Department Chair

Friday, March 2, 2012

Be HAPPY it's Adar!

Be HAPPY, it's Adar and Purim is almost here!     This year, Purim falls on Wednesday night, March 7 and Thursday, March 8. We will be celebrating Purim in school on Thursday, March 8. All of our children are invited to come to school in appropriate costumes ready for a day of fun. As part of our celebration, we will have an abbreviated reading of the Megillah, special classroom activities, games, time with students from other grades, and hamentashen for all!  Please remember on Wednesday there is a 3 PM Dismissal and there will not be any FastTRACK or afterschool activities, and extended day will end at 5 PM sharp. On Thursday, there will be a 12:00 PM dismissal and there is no extended day or afterschool activities.   As part of our in school preparations for Purim, we will be having special SPIRIT DAYS leading up to our celebration. On Monday, we will have CRAZY HAT DAY. On Tuesday, we will have MISMATCH DAY-put on different colors and different patterns to create a mismatched outfit! On Wednesday, we will have BACKWARDS DAY-wear your clothing backwards or inside out. Then don't forget your COSTUME on Thursday!   An important part of Purim is Matanot L'evyonim, Gifts to the Poor. As a school, we have chosen to participate with Yad Chessed. Yad Chessed is a local grassroots charity that provides emergency and supplemental assistance to needy families in the greater Boston Jewish community. Yad Chessed has created a community-wide program building on the ancient Jewish practice of giving matanot l'evyonim ("gifts to the poor"), which the Book of Esther enjoins us to do on Purim day. In previous years, over 50 area congregations, day schools, and college Hillels participated enabling Yad Chessed to distribute over $80,000 in food assistance on Purim day itself.   Please join us this year as we collect matanot l'evyonim funds the days leading up to our in-school Purim celebration. You may either send cash or a check payable to KSA with your child to school. We will tally the collection, write a single check to Yad Chessed, and inform them of the amount at the end of the week so that all of the funds can be distributed on Purim day. Please send money in with your child to give to their homeroom teacher.   For more information about Yad Chessed, visit their website at   In addition to giving gifts to the poor, there are three other mitzvot that are part of Purim:   Megillah Reading - Book of Esther - The Megillah is read twice on Purim, once at night and once during the day. This year, the Megillah will be read on Wednesday night and then again on Thursday morning.   Mishloach Manot - Sending Gifts - It is a tradition to give Mishloach Manot, gifts that contain at least two different types of ready-to-eat food items. Mishloach Manot can be given on Wednesday night or during the day on Thursday. If you are sending Mishloach Manot to school, please be sure that the food items are allergen sensitive.   Seudah - Festive Meal - It is traditional to partake in a festive meal on Purim day (Thursday).   As always, parents are invited to join us during the day on Purim if you are around-we have a great time. We will have our Megillah Reading and Hebrew Teacher Spiel from 8:45-9:45 and then the 8th grade carnival and festive activities for the younger grades will be from 10:15 - 11:30. If you are interested in volunteering, please reach out directly to your child's teacher.   Purim is a wonderful time to celebrate with friends, family and community. We wish you Shabbat Shalom, a wonderful week, and Hag Purim Sameah!