By Emma Jonas ‘23, Opinion Editor
When Associate Head of High School Rabbi Dahlia Kronish first wished the tenth grade the best of luck on their trip to Israel at the Shabbaton, she mentioned that the school hopes to make that trip a permanent addition to the sophomore year programming. As a junior, anger and jealousy quickly overtook me. Why couldn’t my high school grade ever travel to Israel together?
When I first learned about the tenth grade Israel trip this past summer, I was happy to hear that the classes of 2024 and 2025 would travel to Israel to compensate for the Israel trip they missed in 2020 because of COVID-19. While this new plan wasn’t able to account for the students who left Heschel in middle school, as a proud Zionist, I was still enthusiastic to hear that more teenagers would have the opportunity to visit, and hopefully fall in love with, Israel.
At first, while the tenth grade was still in Israel, I expressed to teachers and fellow students my view that this trip should not become a permanent addition to the high school because of the effect that the absence of the tenth grade had on our school. Students and teachers were missing in significant numbers. Some students, left without their regular teacher, either because of the trip or due to COVID- related illness struggled in the classroom and some club leaders, like myself who rely on meeting with their faculty advisor, were left without any support if their advisor was in Israel. It is not fair to place almost all responsibility on students, even seniors, to ensure that all clubs run smoothly and productively. Most clubs transfer leadership from seniors to juniors after Pesach, and these new club leaders look to their faculty advisor for mentorship.
However, when the sophomores returned from Israel, most of my feelings shifted. The tenth graders’ tans and smiles radiated through the halls; they all raved about how close they had become as a grade and how much they loved Israel.
I chose to spend my second semester of tenth grade abroad on a program in Israel, and I believe everyone should have the same experience and connection to Israel; however, unlike the tenth grade trip, a semester abroad is not an option available to everyone. The tenth grade Israel trip seems like a wonderful alternative and includes the bonus of the grade experiencing Israel together.
The tenth grade Israel trip should be permanent, so long as measures are taken to ensure that ninth and eleventh grade students do not have a plethora of substitute teachers and have faculty mentorship for club meetings. One possible solution may be to determine which teachers go on the trip by department and consider how many freshmen and junior classes they teach. Heschel must also rethink how teachers present in the building can support students comprehensively during the time that students’ regular teachers are away to ensure that students feel negligible changes to their typical routine; the school should assign one teacher to fill in for a faculty member on the trip and that teacher should meet with those classes multiple times before going in to teach it, and the school must ensure that every club leader has a substitute faculty member to go to for support.