SSDS trip gives fun, meaning


Despite the extremely hot and cold weather and numerous rain showers in Israel while they were visiting, the eighth graders from Solomon Schechter Day School of St. Louis left with many fond memories after such an amazing trip.

Every year, the eighth grade class takes a two-week trip to Israel in honor of their graduation from the school. The St. Louis school also goes with the Solomon Schechter students from Memphis. This year was the first year that all of the eighth graders from both schools were able to attend. Everyone left on April 30 and returned on May 13.

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Becca Steinberg is one of the eighth graders that participated in the trip to Israel this year. One of her favorite memories of the trip occurred when the group celebrated Kabalat Shabbat at the Kotel.

“We let them go to the Kotel and they universally agreed to go,” said Michael Raileanu, one of the two eighth grade teachers at Solomon Schechter who chaperoned the trip. “I was terrified the whole time, but they had a fabulous time.”

In addition to teaching, Raileanu is assistant head of school. This is his second year at Solomon Schechter.

While at the Kotel, Steinberg and some friends decided to dance, and then two girls from South Africa asked them if they could join in and dance with them.

“Soon more groups joined in, and we didn’t know anybody but everyone started dancing together,” Steinberg said. “There were people from around the world. It was amazing.”

This year, the group took a special trip to the B’nai Mitzvah Remembrance Wall in American Independence Park in honor of Schechter eighth-grader Max Levin and his bar mitzvah project.

Levin decided to connect bar and bat mitzvah children from the United States to children who were victims in the Holocaust. While there, Levin spoke to the group and explained what he did and why he did the mitzvah for his project.

“Max was very interesting and it was beautiful to see,” said Susan Lowe, the other eighth grade teacher at Solomon Schechter who chaperoned the trip. “It was a very nice commemoration.” This is Lowe’s tenth year at Solomon Schechter.

Raileanu said they also took a bunch of deflated sports equipment to donate to Ethiopian kids that were new immigrants.

Sam Silverman, an eighth grader, said the group stayed at host Shabbats, where the children split up and stayed at different homes of families for Shabbat. He really enjoyed being at the house he stayed at.

“I thought we’d have to follow a lot of rules and everything, but the family was really cool,” Silverman said.

The only activity the group was prevented from participating in during the trip due to the hot weather was the hike down Masada.

“It was around 110 degrees at Masada,” said Lowe. “We really had to be careful so we took the cable car down.”

Eighth grader Rachel Shilcrat said she would have liked to hike down Masada, but she understands why they were unable to.

The group also traveled south to Sde Boker, an Israeli kibbutz in Negev, located in the South District of Israel, where they saw the apartment of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion.

“Overall it was a wonderful experience for the eighth graders to see what they had learned about through Schechter education,” Lowe said. Out of the 14 students from St. Louis, nine of them had been to Israel before.

“They got to use their knowledge of what they’ve learned on the trip, and even got to use their Hebrew a little,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful country and a beautiful time to be in Israel.”