It has been an exciting start to the new school year. For the first time, the high school of HAFTR (the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway) had a Big Read program, with freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors — along with many faculty members — all reading the novel “Exodus” by Leon Uris.
“Exodus” is about the founding of State of Israel, and the title is based on the Exodus ship that took Jewish immigrants to Palestine. With everyone reading the same novel, each student was able to connect with the lessons, morals and concepts that Uris wanted to portray to his readers.
Last week, the entire school was brought together for an “Exodus” assembly. The keynote speaker was Rabbi Kenneth Hain, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom of Lawrence. His main message was that “Exodus” taught American Jews that no one should be afraid to be who they are, and it also made non-Jews realize that Jews were entitled to their own country.
Afterwards, the assembly was shown actual movie footage of Jews trekking across Europe in the hope that they would board an illegal ship which could take them to Palestine. Tuvia Book, Zionism instructor, explained some of the clips, from the documentary “The Long Way Home,” to put the events in their historical context.
The assembly ended when English Chairman Dr. Rena Bonne introduced a video created by students about all the different things you could learn about the novel. The video was a parody of the “old Jew” of Europe versus the “new Jew,” in a dramatization of “Exodus” protagonist Ari Ben Canaan.
HAFTR senior Sarah Fuchs said, “Exodus changed my perspective on the plight of the Jews in Palestine, fighting for their country. I learned so much from them, which I can now apply to my own life.”