There were hugs and happy faces all around on Thursday, April 20, as the entire student body of Bi-Cultural Day School joined teachers, parents and staff in bidding a very joyous farewell to the Stamford school’s eighth-graders, as they prepared to board a bus that would take them to JFK International Airport for an El Al flight to Israel.
And so, the 42 students and chaperones, led by the school’s Associate Principal for Judaic Studies Michal Smart, were off for a much anticipated month-long trip to the Jewish state. On the group’s jam-packed itinerary: touring the the country from Eilat to the Golan Heights; engaging in chesed – aka ‘loving kindness’ or social service – projects, like the one at Beit Elazarki, an orphanage in the coastal town of Netanya, where students spent their first Shabbat; and study sessions at various yeshivot.
“For all their years at Bi-Cultural these students have been learning about Israel and now, just before they graduate and move on to the next phase of their young lives, they get to see all they learned come to life,” said BCDS Associate Principal, Rabbi Yehuda Jeiger. “This gives them the unique opportunity to connect with the land, the people, and the culture of Israel. They’ve been taught that this is their homeland – now they get to feel it.”
In addition, the trip sets the stage for growth, said Rabbi Geiger of the student trip that the school began sponsoring close to 45 years ago, long before other Connecticut Jewish day schools launched their own.
“Away from home, many for the first time, students then reach a new maturity level. That will be a great help to them next year when they go off to high school,” he says. “They also have the chance to solidify friendships so that they don’t lose touch as they move on and go their separate ways.”