SAR students and teachers join to support Israelis

L'Achaid, led by ex-'Sesame Street' producer, closes gap with Israelis


Throughout this tumultuous time with Israel at war, there is a global desire to seek out ways to support our people and our land.

As the former executive producer of “Sesame Street,” Lewis J. Bernstein, along with Barbara Gochberg, started L’Achaid, a project to connect three generations of American Jewish adults and high school students with Israeli young children, at a time for the Jewish community to feel connected and supported.

The adults were excited to mentor high school students and the high school students were inspired to connect to Israelis during this time of great upheaval and crisis.

Bernstein and Gochberg turned to Shaagat Arieh, an online school developed by Nike Silberstein at the start of the war to provide a platform for Israeli school children to participate in Zoom school with educators from all over. That school provided access to young Israeli children and their parents, and SAR High through Gloria Schneider, director of general studies at SAR, identified high school students fluent in Hebrew and eager to participate.

“We paired American Jewish teens who are fluent in Hebrew with the Israeli young children for twice weekly meetings of 20-30 minute sessions characterized by the building of relationships, discussions, play and fun,” said Bernstein.

Gochberg further explained the nature of the sessions they have set up.

“The main focus is on facilitating positive, nurturing and fun connections between American Jewish high school students and young Israeli children,” said Gochberg, a psychologist who is helping to facilitate the connection of Bernstein’s 3 Generation project with SAR High School and Shaagat Arieh.

“It has been beautiful to watch the high school students take on this mission both seriously and joyfully,” she said. “They have modeled community support in the most impressive way during this extremely difficult time.”

Bernstein explains that the goal of the project is to bring joy, connections and a listening ear and heart to Israeli children. Students who signed up to participate in this unique program have committed to Zooming with young Israeli children two mornings a week before the start of the school day for four to eight weeks. The students underwent a virtual training session before their first session with the children.

“The SAR kids are unbelievable at sharing in Hebrew and creating a sense of connectedness with Israeli children and parents,” said Bernstein. “They create a feeling of warmth, and caring, and they do it with a joyful sense of play. The preschoolers really enjoy their play dates with our American Jewish team, and their parents enjoy the sessions from the sidelines.”

Sophie Gribetz, a SAR freshman, had lived in Jerusalem when she was in third and seventh grades. “Before starting the program, I was jittery and nervous, but most of all I felt as if an amazing opportunity had been handed to me and I was so grateful,” she said. “When the war broke out, I wanted to find a way of helping children who found themselves in an impossibly sad situation.”

Gribetz, who has been meeting with an Israeli 6-year-old, describes entering the Zoom for the first time.

“I saw a young sweet boy sitting in a living room surrounded by members of his immediate family,” she said. “We spent half an hour getting to know each other, and playing fun and silly games. With each additional Zoom meeting, I got to know this boy a little better. I can’t wait for this program to continue.”

SAR senior Ananya Silverman has been meeting twice a week with a 3-year-old girl.

“She only speaks Hebrew, and most of the time she is running around the room jumping up and down and showing me her stuffed animals,” Silverman said. “What feels the most special is her knowing that I’m across the world yet I still care about her and take time out of my day to play with her.

“She even named one of her dolls after me. In our most recent session, she seemed to have become pretty comfortable around me, and she started talking to me about going to the Miklat (bomb shelter).Silverman added that she is doing all she can to help those over in Israel, where her family and friends live.


L'Achaid, Sesame Street, Lewis Bernstein, Barbara Gochberg, Israel, Hamas, war, Palestinians, Jews, students, teachers, Zoom