By Benny Winkelmann
It’s been two months since the last update and, while I say this every time, so much has happened.
Over Hanukkah, Jasmine and I had the privilege to meet a 103-year-old Israeli man who emigrated from Romania. He and I spoke Yiddish together and we all (there were teachers from one of the schools at which we teach) sang Hanukkah songs with him and brought the celebration to him.
It brought me back to when the Yeshiva (in Richmond) would go to the Beth Sholom home on Purim every year to bring joy to the residents. We got to attend a number of Hanukkah festivities in many parts of the community from Pardes Hanna to Menashe to Hadera.
Trips: I got to go on two very neat experiences as well. One, a field trip with the 9th grade from Haklai (another school at which I teach) where we visited Zichron Yaakov – another town close by.
We did a scavenger hunt to find different historical sites throughout the city and visited a local interactive museum about what life was like for some of the first folks to make Aliyah.
Zichron Yaakov I learned, was so aptly named in memory of the father of the Baron Rothchild. This follows a similar pattern of the region (Pardes Hanna means Hanna’s orchard, another of the Baron’s relatives).
I also got to go on an amazing 10+ kilometer trek through the mountains by the Dead Sea. We hiked up the mountains and even repelled down into a canyon for the way out. It was quite an incredible experience full of picturesque views that no picture can do justice and good company; the memory of which will always make me smile.
Some of the lessons I have been working on with my students include learning the parts of speech and watching School House Rock videos for some sprinkled in Americana; learning who is on the money in America and why as well as the connections of some to the Jewish community, and the Jewish influence on Las Vegas.
Over Hanukkah the students participated in the Shine a Light on Antisemitism program and did some “combat training” to learn how to be more successful when engaging with those who espouse those views online and otherwise.
The junior high band I play the drums with had a big end-of-the year show with the high school bands, dancers, and actors from the 7-12th grades.
The end of December came with many rehearsals and the opportunity to learn many Hebrew words about music. Some of the kids started calling me the Av Hakvutzim, or head of the groups. An encouraging older brother in conjunction with the teacher.
In the free space, some of the high schoolers and I would jam out on the instruments. They had many questions about the southern, American, Jewish drummer, a combination they had not met before. Not to worry Richmond, I had lots of great things to say about home and our whole southeast region.
One of the coolest moments was when Jasmine and I had a meeting with the mayor of the Moshava and discussed the program. Even though I worked for AIPAC and spent a year meeting Congressmen and the like, this felt extra special. She was very impressed by all that we were up to and when she heard I skate to school, asked me to be in the promotional video for the new skate park they are building in town. To all the moms out there who are wondering, yes, I’ll wear a helmet.
To reach out to Benny, our Shaliach (emissary) to Israel from Richmond, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.