This time of year I am especially proud to be Head of Hillel Day School. These past two weeks have been very special as we observed Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha-atzma’ut. These three holidays emphasize our Jewish peoplehood and our Jewish national identity. They also take us through a range of emotions. And for our students, they are afforded opportunities most other children their age miss out on.
On Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, many of our students got to meet with survivors and hear their stories. Sadly, our children will be the last to hear their first-hand accounts. Soon, our children will inherit the responsibility to transmit the narratives of the survivors. One extraordinary experience involved our 6th and 7th graders when they got to meet a 93-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, Mr. Michael Weiss of Oak Park. He spoke vividly about his time in the camps, as well as his liberation. Many children remarked how they will never forget how Mr. Weiss tearfully wondered if the boxcar in our local Holocaust Memorial Center was perhaps the very train car that took him and his parents to Auschwitz. The kids sat there riveted and in awe of his strength and vigor.
On Yom Hazikaron, Israel Memorial Day, our students set the appropriate mood at school as we honored the brave Israeli soldiers and citizens who gave their lives for the State of Israel. Our students heard many captivating stories, and our older students were honored to meet an Israeli commander who came to Detroit to meet, in part, with our students. Hillel students gave him a hero’s welcome and listened attentively to his story. Additionally, our fifth and seventh graders had the privilege and pleasure of meeting with Laurenne Kaufman, IDF veteran and Hillel Day School alumna. Our students naturally related to her very warmly, and she credited her Hillel years with sparking and reinforcing her love of Israel. Our Ruah choir was invited to participate in the community-wide Yom Hazikaron program at the Berman Theater and again represented themselves and our school beautifully!
This past Tuesday, we concluded with Yom Ha-atzma’ut, Israel Independence Day. It was a day-long celebration with lots of great educational fun happenings, including cross-grade events where the seventh grade created and led programs for our first and second graders; the sixth grade created and led activities for our ECC and Kindergarten children. Our students feasted on a huge Israeli flag cake, participated in an all-school Zimriyah (song festival) and ended the day with a festive carnival.
These commemorations and celebrations bring us all closer to our people and land, and are vital in helping our students to foster a strong Jewish identity and connection to the people and land of Israel.
And if this was not enough, on Wednesday a recent graduate of Hillel Day School, Jacob Ellenbogen, posted this on his Facebook page: