Like so many Americans, the students of Bi-Cultural Day School (now known as Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy, the newly-formed pre-k through grade 12 school created by the merger of Bi-Cultural Day School and the Jewish High School of Connecticut) were shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last February that left 17 dead.
The Stamford students were so moved by their grieving peers that they resolved to bring a ray of light into the lives of the victims and their families.
The day after the horrific incident, the student council contacted Stars of Hope, an organization that empowers children to bring hope to those in need through the messages of healing. A seemingly small act of kindness and compassion uplifted students at both ends of the ‘tikkun olam’ mitzvah.
“It’s like the Rebbe said, ‘One small candle can light up the world,” said Jeff Parness, founder and CEO of Stars of Hope, paraphrasing the Lubavitch Rebbe Menachem Schneerson z”l. “It’s ‘paying it forward.’ It’s saying to people who are experiencing tragedy ‘we know you’re hurting and we just want you to know we’re here for you.’”
According to Parness, since it was launched in 2007, Stars of Hope has handed out well over 50,000 stars which have decorated communities in many U.S. states, as well as several other countries that have faced devastation and destruction.
Mr. Parness thanked the school for launching this year a “Stars of Hope Club”—the first such club in the nation. “Hopefully, the Bi-Cultural Stars of Hope Club will serve as a model for schools around the country to follow,” he told the teachers.
Fourth-grade teacher Beth Fritz, the club’s faculty advisor, described the club as a “win-win.”
“The goal is for our students and staff to feel empowered by helping communities around the world in need of hope,” she said. “When kids feel like they’re doing something helpful for others, they feel good about themselves. It’s therapeutic.”
BCHA Head of School Jackie Herman called Jeff Parness’ message “inspiring.”
“The message about the importance of creativity, compassion and connections, and identifying tangible ways to ‘pay it forward,’ resonated with our Bi-Cultural team,” she said. “It reminds us that we are ‘better together’—that every human being can make a difference in the world.”