A Message from Dani Steele, Interim Head of Middle School | March 15
Dani Steele, Interim Head of Middle School
Dear Middle School Families,
On Sunday, our 8th graders said goodbye and l'hitraot (see you later) to their newest friends, twelve 8th grade students from Kiryat Gat, Israel. 
They had just finished an experience that they had been looking forward to for years, fondly referred to as Mifgash. Mifgash Chaverim, or a meeting of friends, brings together BZ 8th graders with twelve 8th graders and two teachers from Kiryat Gat for one week. In short, a mifgash is a cultural exchange, but this experience is so much more than that! Mifgash provides an opportunity for our students to interact with Israeli peers and learn more about their culture, history, and way of life. They get to practice and improve their Hebrew and gain a deeper understanding of the diversity of Jewish identity. The experience is a transformative one, as students step outside of their comfort zones to build meaningful relationships and share their experiences. But at its core, Mifgash is code for making new friends from across the world.
The Mifgash touched our whole community. The Israeli students joined in Purim celebrations, Shabbat lunch and visited classrooms across the school. Parents took on the excitement and responsibility of entertaining and caring for the Israeli students as if they were their own. By opening up their homes, they offered a glimpse into what American Jewish life can be. And through regularly speaking with the parents in Kiryat Gat, they also made new friends! The amount of enthusiasm and detail that our families poured into the week is unparalleled. They bowled, they jumped, they prayed, they ate, they toured and they learned. As only an 8th grader could describe, "it was sooooo fun and I'm soooo tired, and I miss them soooo much already." Luckily, they will see each other again this spring on Tiyul!
Todah (thank you)  to all of our students for being wonderfully warm and welcoming to our Mifgash visitors. Todah to 8th grade room parents, Rachel Jury, JUF and Partnership2Gether for helping coordinate an unforgettable experience for our guests and students. A huge todah rabah to our 8th grade families for opening their homes, carpools, and hearts to be surrogate parents for the week. 
As Ms. Jury described, "like any country, Israel is a complicated place. This week, I was reminded that Israel is also simple…This week, Israel wasn't about politics or headlines, it was about friendship…It turns out that celebrating Shabbat together, sharing a Starbucks drink, shopping, bowling, hanging out, playing soccer, jumping at a trampoline park, and talking are universal things many 14 year olds like to do. These things solidify friendships—no politics involved." 
We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in Mifgash and for the relationships and memories that we gained through this experience. I know that our students will carry with them the lessons of empathy, curiosity, and connection that they learned through this transformative program. We look forward to staying connected with our Israeli peers and to seeing them again soon! This wasn't shalom (goodbye), this was l'hitraot. 
Dani Steele,
Interim Head of Middle School

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