Reflections on a Bicultural Community

Ifat’s daughter, Danielle (left), with classmates on Yom Ha’atzmaut
By Ifat Bejerano, Parent of Danielle ’17 and Stav ’13

As my youngest daughter, Danielle, prepares to graduate from JCDS in a few short weeks, I find myself reflecting on my family’s nine years at JCDS. I think back to the first time I visited the school. My husband, Yaniv, and I were living in Watertown at the time, and we happened to meet a JCDS parent. He asked us how come we, an Israeli family, weren’t sending our kids to JCDS — so we decided to visit.

The first time I stepped into the building, I became aware of all that was available right around the corner from where we lived. The first thing that caught my attention was the Israeli music being played. It wasn’t the old Zionist pioneer songs that can be heard playing in other Jewish circles, but modern Israeli songs. I noticed the student artwork that always covers JCDS’s walls. Many works contained Israel-related symbolism and all of them were signed with the student-artist’s Hebrew name and then I saw how the young kids in the lower school classes were spread around — some on the rug, others sitting up, but all busy enjoying their activities in this lively way. All I could think was: how did I not know about this place before?  

Now, nine years later, my family is about to say farewell to this community we know and love. Our older son, Stav, is about to graduate high school and go to college, and Danielle is getting ready to start her freshman year at Gann Academy. Yaniv and I brought our kids to JCDS to maintain their Hebrew and teach them our traditions and values; we found all that and so much more.

“Yaniv and I brought our kids to JCDS for their sake, but we had no idea how it would affect our lives. The community at JCDS has truly changed us.”

Hebrew plays an integral role in the JCDS curriculum. Through a Hebrew-throughout-the-day immersion approach in the lower school, the kids learn Hebrew naturally and continue to progress throughout the years. In the middle school, they learn the language through songs, plays, projects, and reading. I love how Danielle sometimes comes home with Hebrew songs that are so current that I don’t know them!

The connection to Israel is also remarkable. From Yom Hashoah to Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, the kids have a chance to engage with guests, including soldiers from the IDF and holocaust survivors, to hear their perspectives and ask them questions.  On Yom Ha’atzmaut, (Israeli Independence Day), the whole school takes part in a day filled with fun, including “traveling” to Israel, making falafel and labneh, and participating in an Israel-themed scavenger hunt. 

As an Israeli-American family, we are thrilled with how well our kids can speak, read, and write in Hebrew. They are able to stay connected with their family in Israel in meaningful ways, and when we return to Israel, there is no language barrier between Stav and Danielle and their cousins, which is so powerful to see. This summer, Danielle will travel to Israel by herself for five weeks to spend time with our family. I give much credit to JCDS for helping my kids develop strong Hebrew skills and a lasting connection with Israel.

Yaniv and I brought our kids to JCDS for their sake, but we had no idea how it would affect our lives. The community at JCDS has truly changed us. Like many Israelis, we tended to have predominantly Israeli friends when we first moved to the United States. Now, most of our friends are from JCDS. Many are parents from Stav’s class; even four years out of JCDS, we still meet for Shabbat dinners. We have been blown away by the strong, warm, and welcoming community.  

We are thankful for our partnership with JCDS, which has created thoughtful kids who love Israel, and are knowledgeable about its history, culture, and language.

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