Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Druze School in Israel is #1

Shalom Yeladim:

I'm off to Beit Jann -- a Druze village in the Galilee. The Druze are a non-Moslem, religious minority in Israel that

speak Arabic and serve in the Israeli Army. Most interesting of all, though, is the really special Beit Jann high school: if you ask the students how much they love their school, the answer is -- "A Lot!"

Can you imagine!!!! I even know why.

Here's the story. In the past, this high school was nothing to write home about.  They had a high drop-out rate and one of the lowest matriculation rates. That means only a tiny number of students took the tests needed to go to college. 

But this year -- they're #1! That's right: they have the highest rate in the whole country. How did that happen? The teachers decided they were not going to give up on any student. They even tracked down the drop-outs and convinced them to return to school. I know I'm going to sound like Barak Obama, but what did they tell the students? Yes, you can! And they did, thanks to a new upbeat atmosphere, a program developed by Yeholot (which mean capabilities) to bridge the gaps, and a lot of hard work by the students. 

It didn't happen overnight.  It took the school four years to reach an amazing 100% graduation rate. But you know what I like the best? Something that can be done in all schools, starting from 1st grade. The school wants the parents to believe in their children so the principal and teachers constantly call the parents to tell them about their children's achievements! You heard right. Parents aren't only called in to school to hear the usual complaints. And you know what? It worked!!!! The parents are proud and the students love their school. As one girl puts it: "Until I came here I never met teachers who looked out for the students."

What a school! 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

I'm Celebrating Sukkot with the Children of B'nei Menashe

Shalom Yeladim:

I want to introduce you to my new friends.
These boys belong to a community called B'nei Menashe. The people of this community say they are descendants of the tribe of Menashe which was sent into exile more than 27 centuries ago by the Assyrian Empire. In other words, the B'nei Menashe claim they are one of the lost 10 tribes!

Do you know what the words B'nei Menashe -- בני מנשה --  mean?
That's right, the sons and daughters of Menashe.

Let's go back to the time of the Bible. Who was Menashe?
He was one of Joseph's two sons. The other son was Ephraim. Many fathers bless their sons on Friday night by reciting the blessing
ישמחה אלוקים כאפריים ומנשה -- May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.

Why this blessing?
Because Jacob blessed his two grandsons instead of their father Joseph. He wanted them to become role models for all Jews.
Here's an interesting thought: Their mother was Egyptian. Now, that's something to discuss!

Where do today's  B'nei Menashe come from?
North East India. Somewhere between Mynamar and Bangladesh is a piece of land where the Bnei Menashe have been living a Jewish way of life. Their customs and beliefs are very similar to the Biblical Children of Israel. 

So awesome, that when an Israeli organization called Shavei Yisrael found about them and discovered that the B'nei Menashe want to return to live in the Jewish homeland, the organization's director -- Michael Freund -- travelled to India to meet them.  Sure enough, he discovered that they celebrate Sukkot just like the rest of us. Maybe that's when he decided he would do everything to help bring this community back to Israel?!

So far, Shavei Yisrael has brought 2000 members of the B'nei Menashe to Israel. That's how I met my new friends. Close to 7,000 are still waiting back in India. I'm looking forward to meeting ALL of them, AND I'm looking forward to meeting other long lost Jews brought over by Shavei Israel.

You gotta admit: you and I, we belong to an interesting nation.

Chag Sameach!!!!

Photo Credit