On July 7, Kinneret Day School (KDS) held a reunion in Israel for families of those who have attended the school, with the primary goal being an opportunity for families to reconnect with other KDS families.
“It was a celebratory dinner, with activities geared toward our goal of connecting our Israeli families and also activities for kids,” described Rabbi Aaron Frank, head of school.
Frank explained that the reunion idea was initiated by the KDS administration. The Israeli families were contacted through years of lists, emails, Facebook and other social media. KDS also has a committee of parents, current and former, who reached out to their KDS networks.
“Once families are in Kinneret, they feel a connection to the other families but a uniquely deep one with the other Israeli families,” explained Frank. “These connections lead to life-long friendships. We are working to have these connections also connect with KDS as an institution as well, so these families can be utilized to help and support other families who will be leaving Israel to attend KDS or going back to Israel from years at KDS.”
“While many say schools in the US are blessed with Israeli families, Kinneret Day School has always been a place where Israelis feel particularly at home,” proudly stated Frank. “From its founding by people such as Golda Meir and the Zionist movement, one of Kinneret’s main foci has been Hebrew language and connection to Israel. As such, over the 70 plus years of our school’s life, Kinneret has had a high proportion of Israelis as students. Whether they are here for two or 10 years, families that are in the States who work for Israeli companies, for the government or who are doing a few years in the US for other professional or personal reasons, KDS’ combination of Israel focus and the fostering of a diverse culture has made it a natural and comfortable environment for Israeli families.”
Frank continued, “We are here tonight to come together to see old friends and meet new ones and celebrate the beauty of Kinneret, a school that is like no other. It is a school whose spirit and message, as articulated by our principal Asher Abramovitz, binds every Jew across continents and generations. And this is what we see tonight. Families and students from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s are here to celebrate this small school in the Bronx that shines its light brightly across the ocean.”
“Having this reunion in Israel meant that I could attend,” expressed Sharon Peress (’70) of Tel Aviv. “It was quite exciting for me to learn about how the school runs today, to see many of the students and their parents, and to see Asher Abramowitz again.” Peress attended the school from kindergarten through 8th grade, beginning in 1961 and graduating in 1970. Peress recalled, “In those days, the school was housed in classrooms in a big synagogue called Schiff Center which was on Valentine Avenue, off of Fordham Road.”
“KDS was a second home for our four kids when we lived in Riverdale,” described Ron Sitton. “Our four kids attended KDS from 2003-2012. Since we returned to Israel in 2012, and even as we were making our plans to return, we discussed with Mr. Abramowitz holding a reunion for the alumni in Israel. It took us several years, perhaps the pending retirement of Mr. Abramowitz was a driver for doing it, and we were very happy to have the reunion in Israel. It was great to see many friends, many of whom we first met in school and remained friends ever since. It was great for both parents and kids-alumni. KDS will always remain a home away from home for us.”
Frank added, “Whether it is helping a family who is leaving for the US and coming to Kinneret, helping a family return and assimilate into Israel, hosting a Kinneret graduate at your home here in Israel or anything else, it is our hope that we take the momentum from this evening and make this already famous taste of Israel in America even more well known. In his poem entitled, “Ha’matmid,” Chayim Nachman Bialik described the role of the Jewish school in four words, בית יצירה לנשמת האומה ‘The laboratory for the creation of our nation’s soul.’ Kinneret is a most special laboratory one that exudes warmth, love and respect for every member of the wide family of humanity and for every single Jew no matter their background, country of origin or religious affiliation. It is a laboratory that, in its storied history, has nurtured the souls of countless students, who are all contributing to the world and the Jewish community in their own unique ways.”
Frank concluded, “You and your children are the living proof that this laboratory is one that has nurtured souls for over 70 years and will continue to contribute to the Jewish community and the entire world for many more.”
By Judy Berger