When the Central community committed to this year’s theme of positivity, no one could have imagined what the global events of the semester would bring. But this ethos has been leading the Central community in its initiatives since October 7. “We are here, and our hearts are in Israel,” said Central’s Head of School, Ms. Bracha Rutner. “Ever since we woke up on Shemini Atzeres morning to the news about the horrific events in Israel, we have been thinking about how we can support the families, the soldiers, and the country as a whole. This is our homeland, and we want to help them.”

Central students and faculty have found purpose in becoming part of the solution, providing aid and joint prayers for the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Efforts have included a program of T’hilim and song, led by Central’s F.I.R.E Fellows, on Tuesday, October 10. On Rosh Chodesh, students led a meaningful Israeli-themed Hallel.

Central continues to commit to davening as a school throughout this period, with Avinu Malkeinu added to the daily t’filah. Central’s positivity initiative even found its way into Open House festivities on October 15, when visiting eighth graders had an opportunity to make care packages for IDF soldiers. A goods drive, a letter-writing campaign thanking President Joe Biden for his support of the Israeli government, and a campaign writing letters to Israeli soldiers have also given Central students an opportunity to find purpose in a time of crisis.

Central students have attended rallies for Israel in New York City and Nassau County, and they have raised over $500 in order to send meals to Jewish nurses and doctors working in Israeli hospitals. Most significantly, Central found time to connect with its Israeli sister school, Ulpanat Bnei Akiva Lachish, on Thursday, October 19. Located in the south of Israel, the Lachish community was established in 2005 after many families were expelled from Gush Katif. The community built the school from scratch, with daughters from approximately 50 families comprising the first class. Now with an enrollment of over 300, Lachish conducts a BaAretz program with Central, in which our school sends students to live in Israel and experience Israeli high school. The special bond between the schools runs deeply – with a shared dedication to community and passionate Zionism, the warmth between the two schools is palpable. The 90-minute program, held via Zoom, held the feel of a reunion. “My sisters in Central!” one Ulpanat student greeted the crowd. Central students heard from Ulpana Lachish’s principal, Mrs. Shira Greenwald, as well as the Rosh Beit Midrash of the school, Rav Nadav.

Israeli journalist Sivan Rahav Meir also gave her reflections on recent events, and encouraged those in Lachish and America to confront the current struggles with optimism, mindfulness of others, and a strengthened sense of Yiddishkeit.

Central students were honored to hear from Eitan Weiss, an Israeli tank commander who traveled from his home in Cleveland, Ohio, to Israel in order to join the front lines. Juniors Reema Gampel and Amy Morris studied at Ulpanat Lachish in 2022 and were moved to see old friends and mentors. “It felt really great to reconnect with all my friends in Lachish, especially with the war going on,” Reema said. “It was very meaningful to daven with them in these times.” Amy agreed: “I absolutely loved seeing the staff and students from Ulpanat Lachish, especially HaMenahelet Shira and HaRav Nadav,” she said.

“When we were in Lachish, they showed us the greatest hospitality, and that’s a huge part of why we try to do everything that we can to help them. Reaching out to support our friends and their families in Israel is so important, because they would do the same for us.”