Alaa Abu Raya and Danielle Fenster, two of the 8 teens who came to Toronto as part of the Sparks of Change program, stayed in my home throughout last week.  I wanted to take this opportunity to give you some feedback on the experience in general and on their experience at Heschel in particular.

With respect to their experience at Heschel, they told me that the students they met there had the best Hebrew of all the students they met all week.  They were also really impressed by all the beautiful and interesting art they saw all around the school.  Perhaps more importantly, but not surprisingly, they found the students at Heschel the most engaged and curious and interested in asking questions and discussing issues of all the students they met. It was really heartwarming to hear.

As to our experience as a host family, I cannot even think of the words to convey what a positive and truly transformative experience it was.  We found the girls smart, lovely, warm and engaged.  We all bonded with them immediately and it was difficult to say goodbye yesterday.  The two girls developed a very close friendship with each other and are determined to keep that relationship going.  They hope to bring their friends together to widen the influence of what they have experienced.

We spoke about all sorts of issues during the week.  Communication was so much easier than I would ever have expected against the backdrop of realizing how much we all have in common.  By the end of the week, I felt much better able to see the perspective of “the other side”.  For the first time, I feel a sense of hope that the relations between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians could improve during my lifetime.

I am proud that Heschel was one of the schools that chose to participate in this program. I expect that Sparks of Change will seek to repeat and perhaps expand this program in Toronto in future years.  I would strongly encourage Heschel to continue to participate and support this program.  I have already told the leaders of the program that we would be very happy to host again.

– Grade 6 Parent