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Commemorating and Celebrating Israel’s 76th birthday at Luria Academy of Brooklyn 

Never in the history of the Modern State of Israel have Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut been so fraught as this year. How to commemorate and then celebrate when never have so many civilians lost their lives to terrorism, nor have so many soldiers been lost in the fight against terrorism? Many Hebrew leaders and teachers participated in Hebrew at the Center webinars and online Mifgashim to discuss how to mark these “holidays” this year as “unprecedented Holy Days.” This week’s Member School Highlight describes how the Luria Academy of Brooklyn leaned in to these two days, and specifically, to the twilight of transition from commemoration of remembrance to the celebration of independent statehood. 

We begin at the twilight between the end of Yom HaZikaron and the start of Yom HaAtzmaut. 

Luria Academy’s administration decided to have their middle school Tekes (טקס or “ceremony”) in the evening, enabling working parents to be in attendance. Over 150 members of the Brooklyn community came to participate. This is no small matter for the Luria community, a progressive Jewish day school in a progressive neighborhood in Brooklyn, whose focus has long been on seeking peace, and whose families by and large are strong supporters of equal rights for all. Like all Jewish communities, the events of October 7th, 2023 and its aftermath, have shaken this community to the core, but for this community in particular, shards of hope for peace needed to be at the forefront of any communal commemoration and celebration. 

Preparations for the post Pesach ימים קדושים began far in advance.  

An arts educator, Ellen Alt, was brought in to do a professional development program for the full faculty, on how to release their feelings about the tragic day of October 7th through creating a work of art. This was a powerful experience for the Luria educators which included viewing works of art created by Israeli artists. It also prepared the 6th through 8th grade teachers to replicate and facilitate a similar visual art experience for their students. 

At the Tekes, the resulting student art was on display in the school’s Beit Midrash and guests did a gallery walk to take in the work by the Luria Middle School artists.  

Between readings, each grade sang a song that they had learned for the Tekes, from a new repertoire of Hebrew music that has recently been composed, turning prose and poetry left behind by soldiers who have fallen in Israel’s wars. This collection is called עוד מעט נהפוך לשיר, or in English “Soon we will turn into a Song.” Various well-known Israeli musicians were each given a piece of writing left behind in letters and journals of different fallen soldiers to turn into a song. This includes Idan Reichel’s אמא, אבא, וכל השאר. (“Mommy, Daddy, and all the rest”). In preparing for the ceremony, each class learned the key vocabulary of their song as well as the overall spirit or meaning of the lyrics. Though all the words were written by fallen soldiers during their active duty in Israel’s military, all were “hope oriented” for a peaceful resolution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Though the musically enriched ceremony lasted 90 minutes, all remained riveted. 

Following the Tekes, the transition from remembrance to celebration took the form of Israeli food and music. 

The day of Yom HaAtzmaut at Luria Academy of Brooklyn was similar to past years, with fun stations highlighting the best of Israel. One activity was added this year, specifically linked to the events of October 7th. Fourth through Eighth grade students took a part in an initiative organized by The Jewish Agency For Israel (JAFI) in honor of the עפיפוניאדה, a Kite Festival held every October in Kfar Aza, Israel for the past four decades. The purpose of the annual Kite Festival is to promote peaceful connections between the south of Israel עוטף עזה and the Gaza strip. Ironically, this year’s event, scheduled for October 7, 2023, did not take place. Instead, on that very day, members of the Kotz family, the organizers of the Kite Festival and residents of Kfar Aza, were killed in their home.  

In its reconstituted format, now known as “Kites for Freedom,” the kites represent the Bring them Home Now movement. Each student decorated their hand-made kite with a message of Peace and Hope that they composed in Hebrew and in English. Sadly, it was not deemed safe to run through Prospect Park with Hebrew inscribed kites. Yet while running and flying their own hand-created kites along the Brooklyn streets surrounding their school, the children of Luria Academy processed and released at least some of the tension that has been a constant presence since that black day in October. 

2024 State of the Field of Hebrew Language Education Report

We are excited to share the new 2024 State of the Field Report: Hebrew Education in North American Jewish Day Schools.

This report brings together significant work of partners and stakeholders to better understand, recognize and leverage advancements in Hebrew education throughout our field. The 80-page report features aggregated and curated knowledge acquired from our field over the past 12 months.

Join Hebrew teachers, Hebrew leaders, and other school leaders for an intensive, virtual conference on Sunday, April 3, 11:30 – 3:30 EDT. 

Click here for more information and to register