2017-03-01 / Home

Politz 8th graders experience first-ever class trip to Israel

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


The Politz Day School students hiked in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. They are (from left), Yoni Mindel, Shmuel Eisenstein, Simcha Feig, Jacob Hurlock and Nachi Epstein. The Politz Day School students hiked in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. They are (from left), Yoni Mindel, Shmuel Eisenstein, Simcha Feig, Jacob Hurlock and Nachi Epstein. The moment Jewish history came to life for eighth-grader Maya Mellul was while walking among the excavated ruins where King Solomon was crowned the ruler of Israel.

Modern Israel piqued Jacob Hurlock’s interest. He is still processing the fact that a whole city could be erected in the middle of the barren desert in just five years, thanks in large part to an Israeli invention of necessity: Drip irrigation.

And for Sammy Salz, it felt so comfortable to be among fellow Jews, not having to think about whether a restaurant would be serving kosher food or not (it would.)

“I could go anywhere and eat anything I wanted,” Sammy remarked.

While every Diaspora Jew’s first visit to Israel is a mitzvah, the Politz Day School eighth-grade trip carried heightened significance, marking the first time that the Jewish National Fund partnered with an elementary-grade Orthodox day school on a trip to the Holy Land for its soon-to-be graduates. The eight eighth-graders, six boys and two girls, spent a jam-packed week in Israel thanks in large part to generous funding from Cherry Hill residents Jerry and Shelly Abramson and the JNF.


Politz eighth graders at a synagogue in Tzfat (front row, from left), Simcha Feig, Sammy Salz, Jacob Hurlock, Nachi Epstein and Yoni Mindel with (rear, from left) Head of School Rabbi Avraham Glustein, Shmuel Eisenstein, Shelly and Jerry Abramson, Maia Jordan, Maya Mellul and Arlynne Sammons. Politz eighth graders at a synagogue in Tzfat (front row, from left), Simcha Feig, Sammy Salz, Jacob Hurlock, Nachi Epstein and Yoni Mindel with (rear, from left) Head of School Rabbi Avraham Glustein, Shmuel Eisenstein, Shelly and Jerry Abramson, Maia Jordan, Maya Mellul and Arlynne Sammons. “It has always been the dream to take the eighth grade class to Israel,” said Head of School Rabbi Avraham Glustein, noting that, when he took the job at Politz 13 years ago, this crop of eighth graders were also starting out as two-year olds in the preschool. “It’s amazing that the class I started with were the ones able to go for the first time.”

For Glustein, eighth grade advisor Arlynne Sammons and the tight-knit class, the trip exceeded all expectations. Excursions included a tour of Tzfat in the frigid north, camel rides on Bedouin turf, sunset at Masada and Shabbat in Jerusalem. Beyond the must-see sites, they enjoyed meeting up in Jerusalem with Politz alumni who had graduated high school and were spending a gap year studying in Israel before college.

And thanks to the JNF partnership, they also spent time with Israeli eighth-graders in the Negev in the town of Halutzah.

Sammons, in Israel for the first time, said it was heartwarming to watch the Politz kids interact with their Israeli counterparts.

“It looked like the kids were coming home to their cousins,” she observed. “Girls were hugging each other like they knew each other their whole life and the boys playing basketball together.”

In the months leading up to the trip, preparation went well beyond fundraising for their portion of the trip. The Politz students skyped regularly with counterparts in Israel. They also learned science lessons about limestone, which they eventually saw in caves near Masada, and performed water experiments, which helped them understand drip irrigation, Glustein said.

And of course, after 12 years of learning Hebrew, they had their chance to finally use it to converse with native speakers.

“I was able to hold a conversation,” Yoni Mindel said proudly.

While each student spoke of different personal highlights, all were moved by Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel.

Maia Jordan was struck by the diversity of people dancing and praying together. “It was touching to see even non-Jews crying at the Kotel, and how they all felt connected,” said Maia. 

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