By Sarah Greenblatt & Leora Cohen
The Lippman School
This past May, The Lippman School seventh and eighth graders went on an amazing two-week trip to Israel. There were so many special and meaningful experiences on our trip, as we traveled all over the country learning about the history, geography, culture, challenges and accomplishments of Israel. One of the best parts of the trip was the opportunities to meet and interact with Israelis. One especially memorable meeting was visiting Akron’s sister city in Israel, Kiryat Ekron. We were so warmly welcomed, first by the mayor and then by leaders and members of the Aharai! Program.
Aharai! (which means “follow me”) is a program designed to prepare at-risk teens for meaningful service in the Israel Defense Force. The program brings youth together and helps strengthen their character and confidence through team building and leadership training activities. Through a crowdfunding fundraiser last year (and through other JCBA allocations and funds), the Akron Jewish community was able to sponsor two Aharai! counselors for two years. The counselor in one program works with juniors and seniors in high school and the other with younger teens.
The participants in the Aharai! program who welcomed us to Kiryat Ekron had prepared an afternoon of team-building activities for our students to participate in with them. Our students were challenged, but had a great time as they ran, climbed, balanced, and raced. We felt that we received a taste of the Aharai! program through theses activities, and they were a great way for us to meet them and learn about their program. We also had time to visit and talk with the teenagers, who were all so friendly, and to help prepare and eat dinner together. We really felt that our support of the Aharai! program was appreciated and that it was making a difference in the lives of the Israelis we met.