2013-02-20 / Home

Kellman Brown opens doors to first Chinese exchange student

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


Xei Wei Wang, aka Peter, at the computer and surrounded by fourth-grade classmates. Peter was Kellman Brown Academy’s first exchange student from China. Xei Wei Wang, aka Peter, at the computer and surrounded by fourth-grade classmates. Peter was Kellman Brown Academy’s first exchange student from China. Donning a black kipah, nine-year-old Xei Wei Wang sang and danced around the Kellman Brown Academy chapel, welcoming the Shabbat with his new American friends.

Just four days into his stay as the Voorhees day school’s very first exchange student, Xei Wei, aka Peter, seemed right at home taking classes and experiencing life in South Jersey Jewish homes. He was especially impressed with Frisbee, American football, the school’s use of iPads and the fact that there’s far more to school here than test prep and exams.

“I hope to live here,” said Peter, who gave up his twoweek winter break from school in Tianjin, China to travel across the world and attend Kellman Brown while living with the families of fellow students. “Students are very free here. In China, we always have exams. If we chat in class, the teacher will make you stand against the wall.”

The highly anticipated visit by the fourth grader was arranged through the American International Education

Development (AIED) Council, a New York and Beijing-based organization that promotes and facilitates international exchanges between elite Chinese and American schools.

Besides Peter, whose stay coincided with his father’s business trip in New York City, a group of seven Chinese educators visited in early February to experience the academic, spiritual and dual-language program at Kellman Brown. They were accompanied by AIED officials from both New York and China.

The event was exciting on many levels, explained Rabbi Moshe Schwartz, head of school. For the school’s 212 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students, it was the chance to fulfill the mitzvah hachnasat orchim, or welcoming visitors.

For Peter, the experience was powerful. Asked by students if he believed in God, he admitted he didn’t know and had little familiarity with prayer. Before his visit would end, he and his father would attend Shabbat dinner at Schwartz’s house with two Kellman Brown families. The ritual prayers, including Kiddush, Motzi and Birkat Hamazon, were translated into Chinese.

For AIED officials and educators, the occasion was a chance to experience Kellman Brown in action as they look to foster new exchange programs between elite private schools in the United States and China, said Wei Chen, AIED’s general manager in China.

“We have unique access to the best schools in America,” said Chen. “We want to help our students find the right fit.”

Schwartz too is hopeful that the exchange will lead to a lasting relationship. The potential exists to establish yearlong programs in which Chinese students come to Kellman Brown, living with the families of students to fully immerse in American Jewish life.

“I think it’s something we will consider closely moving forward,” said Schwartz. “It’s a way to enhance our student body and create diversity.” The future could also include visits by Kellman Brown students to Chinese schools.

For those involved in this first exchange, including Scott Greenberg, whose family hosted Peter during one week of his stay, the experience was amazing as well as eye opening.

“It seemed like he valued each and every piece of his own personal property more than we do in the states, and he was not exposed to eating junk food,” observed Greenberg, treasurer of the Kellman Brown board and a father of three. “However, we did take him to the Sixers game and he enjoyed learning about basketball, and he also enjoyed a cone of ice cream at the stadium.”

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