Annually on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, which this year fell on May 8, the yeshiva involves its students in a variety of entertaining activities associated with Israel. One of the most popular activities is the Tiyul-a-thon, in which the students take a “tour” of Eretz Yisrael via a huge map painted on the school’s parking lot. (Tiyul is the Hebrew word for a trip or tour.) The country’s landmarks and cities are highlighted and serve to teach the children about the geography and important milestones in Israel’s history. Before the children embark on their tour, they ask their parents, relatives, neighbors and friends for pledges to raise funds for a worthy cause based on the number of laps they will take around the map.
This year, the school decided to raise money to help the children of Sderot, and organized 700 youngsters, ranging from grades one through eight. Knowing about the Orthodox Union’s efforts in the Israeli city, Rabbi Yisroel Kohn, Acting Principal of Judaic Studies, decided to reach out to the OU. Rabbi Kohn declared, “Our first inclination was to contact the OU, as it is an international organization involved in the needs of Klal Yisrael.”
The OU responded immediately, sending Allyson Gur-Aryeh, North American Director of OU Israel, to speak to the students about the situation in Sderot. Mrs. Gur-Aryeh visited the community on an OU mission this past winter and was deeply affected by what she saw.
Rabbi Kohn said, “Mrs. Gur Aryeh, in a very sensitive and age-appropriate manner, spoke to the children about what the children and families of Sderot are experiencing on a daily basis. The students heard how every penny they collect will bring some relief and happiness, and how they will be able to help the children of Sderot live their lives as children should.”
Rabbi Kohn continued, “Mrs. Gur-Aryeh brought with her personal stories of how the children’s lives in Sderot compare to the lives of the children in the yeshiva. I sensed that until Mrs. Gur-Aryeh came, the children really did not comprehend what is going on in Sderot and how it has affected the people, and especially the children there. Her talk really underscored the urgency of the campaign.”
The efforts of both Mrs. Gur-Aryeh and the children paid off. Rabbi Kohn said, “We usually raise about $10,000 each year. This year, the nearly $17,000 that the children raised was truly an amazing and unprecedented response from the RYNJ community.”
Ezra Epstein, a fourth-grader, said, “I am happy that there will be a bomb shelter for the children to play in.” Tova Sklar, a fifth-grader, declared, “Running around Israel was fun, especially knowing that we are helping the people in Sderot.” Avigail Weiner, also a fifth-grader, summed up the sentiment of the children who participated in the activity: “It made us happy knowing that we could make the people in Sderot happier.”