On Tuesday, Nov. 23, students in grades 6-8 participated in a Yom Iyun (יום עיון), a day of learning focused on refugees. The event began with a panel of speakers who have been involved with assisting refugee families in our community, including representatives from Catholic Charities of Boston, Jewish Community Relations Council and a local synagogue. The panel was moderated by Schechter’s Student Council and was followed by a question-and-answer session that was planned by the students. The Student Council also held multiple hot cider sales to raise money for Afghan refugees.

Throughout the day, students focused on the refugee experience in social studies, Jewish studies and Havurah. The event was co-planned by grade 6 social studies teacher and curriculum coordinator Jenn Curren, grade 7 social studies teacher and curriculum coordinator Dr. Kim O’Donnell, grade 6 Jewish studies teacher Rabbi Rebecca Weinstein and director of learning and teaching Dr. Jonah Hassenfeld.

Some highlights from the day:

In grade 6 Jewish studies, personal stories were shared about being refugees or immigrants. Rabbi Rebecca Weinstein’s mother-in-law, Annette, virtually shared her story of how her parents arrived to the U.S. after the Holocaust with nothing and how they got established. Students in class shared their stories as well. The class also looked at the commandments in the Tanakh that discuss treatment of the “ger” (the stranger), and why there are so many commandments concerning positive treatment of the stranger when there is only one commandment “to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Students in grade 6 social studies began their lesson by jotting down notes about what immediately came to mind when they heard the word “refugee.” Then they spent the rest of the lesson determining whether their ideas were correct or were misconceptions. Students encountered first-hand accounts of refugees, through videos, read facts and statistics about refugees in America and around the world, and watched a brief news video that interviewed a family of Afghan refugees as they arrived in Massachusetts. Finally, students brainstormed how individuals, such as themselves, can help refugees in their own communities.

In grade 7 social studies, students learned the definition of a refugee and how experiences of refugees differ from that of other immigrants. The class also discussed stereotypes and misconceptions of refugees and how they may see themselves and how others may see them. Students also analyzed a poem by Rubimbo Bungwe.

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