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Beth Cohen
Friedel Jewish Academy, Head of School

The sixth graders at Friedel Jewish Academy recently returned from what one student described as “a truly life-changing experience.”  They traveled to Alabama to meet up with students from five other Jewish day schools located in small Jewish communities — like ours. Friedel worked with these schools to create a one-of-a-kind curriculum for the school communities to connect, collaborate and explore the
concepts of American history, Civil Rights, literature, and Jewish texts and values. Students have been uncovering the links between the American, Jewish-American and Civil Rights experiences, and connecting these topics to Jewish texts and values.
Students at the participating schools traveled together to Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama, for a capstone educational experience to see, hear, and touch parts of history about which they have learned in the classroom, deepening both their intellectual understanding of and emotional connection to these topics. We called this trip the Connection Trip because of the many types of connections it facilitates for the students: between Jewish wisdom and contemporary issues, between our students and those in other cities, and between classroom learning and lived experiences. Participating schools were from Rochester, NY, Greensboro, NC, New Haven, CT, Birmingham, AL, and Omaha, NE.
Funding for the trip was provided by the Staenberg Family Foundation Anything Grant and by over 100 individual donors who contributed on a crowd-funding platform as they virtually followed our students during the week of the trip.
Friedel students journaled throughout the trip, and some of their reflections are included here.

    “Meeting Reverend Webb and all the other primary sources we got to talk to, really made history come alive.”
    “There is a story in the Talmud about one of the sages who once insulted a different-looking man. The man told him, ‘Go to my creator and ask him why he created me like that.’ From that, you learn that we should treat everybody equally and with respect because we are all made in the image of G-d.”
   “When we went on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I felt like I gained more knowledge just by walking on it.”

Editor’s note: May 8, the Jewish Press received the following Letter:

Dear Editor:

           I was thankful and disturbed seeing the photo of the Friedel Jewish Academy students at the civil rights memorial in Montgomery (4/26 issue).  I’ve been there; it’s at the office of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Thankful that the students are learning about the history of the civil rights movement.  Disturbed that after all these decades of requests by those of us who were in the movement and those who supported us, the monument still doesn’t acknowledge the source of Dr.  Martin Luther King’s declaration at the 1963 March on Washington, “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”  As a clergyman, Rev. King was quoting the biblical prophet Amos (Amos 5:24).  The SPLC website has finally mentioned the origin, but that’s simply not good enough.
        – Glenn Richter
           New York City