December HighLIGHTS

From Shira Reifman, CEO of Keren Or
Dear Friends,

Just as the days get shorter and colder, Chanukah reminds us that we can spread our light to others and illuminate the night. In these darkest days of the year, we are reminded that when life presents us with challenges, our friends, family and community can make things brighter. Similarly, when others are suffering, we have a responsibility to spread our light and uplift their spirits.
 
On a personal note, this was a big month in the Reifman family as my husband, Daniel, donated a kidney. This monumental experience made me reflect on the act of giving altruistically, medical miracles, and the Jewish value of saving a life. It gave me an even deeper appreciation for you – our Keren Or friends around the world – who spread light to our children without knowing them personally, simply because you want to improve their lot and you feel a sense of connection and Jewish Peoplehood. Each of you is an inspiration.
 
May the light of Chanukah continue to illuminate our lives year-round.

With love and hope,

Shira
A Very Happy Chanukah at Keren Or
While other schools are on vacation, Keren Or offers students an incredible holiday camp! This year's Chanukah camp theme was "Candlelight," and on each day we learned about a different type of candlelight. For example, we talked about candles for Chanukah (of course!), birthdays, Shabbat, Havdalah, and the candle used when searching for chametz (leaven bread) the night before Passover.

We also learned about what candles can symbolize and talked about our feelings using tactile symbols. We talked about candles that make you happy (birthday and holidays) and candles that are for sad occasions like a yahrzeit or Israeli Memorial Day.
Arts and crafts activities, holiday songs, and games appropriate for each day's theme were the highlights. Our children made a giant tactile wall menorah from recycled materials, made individual menorahs from plaster of paris, and decorated dreidels with feathers and stickers.

In the spirit of Chanukah, every class celebrated with a joyous Chanukah party! Our younger students welcomed their parents and siblings for shared family fun, and our older students enjoyed age-appropriate activities including a Chanukah quiz game using eye-gaze technology. It was truly a very joyous Chanukah, full of light, at Keren Or! 
Zalman's Bar Mitzvah - and You're Invited!
A few weeks ago, we celebrated a very special Bar Mitzvah at Keren Or for our beloved student, Zalman! The event was organized by Zalman’s teacher and was attended by more than 60 family members and guests, as well as Zalman’s classmates, staff, and friends from Keren Or. 

The morning began in the Keren Or synagogue where Zalman opened the ark and kissed the Torah scroll. He then used a pre-recorded communication button to recite the “Shema” prayer, and received the special priestly blessing. 
Zalman’s parents spoke movingly of Zalman’s birth in Siberia and their search around the world for specialists and treatment programs. Their search led them to Keren Or. They made the monumental decision to relocate their whole family from Siberia to Israel so that Zalman could attend Keren Or. 

By the time Zalman joined the Keren Or family 10 years ago, doctors had predicted that he wouldn’t live past age 8, and that he would never walk or engage with the outside world. Thanks to countless hours of therapy, the love of his family, and the dedication of the Keren Or staff, Zalman learned to walk at the age of 10, rides a specially adapted bicycle, and is thriving. 
 
The Bar Mitzvah celebrations continued in the auditorium with delicious food, exuberant dancing, and a beautiful slideshow replete with pictures of Zalman throughout the years. What a joy to celebrate his development and growth! Zalman's teacher, Bar, said, "We can’t wait to see what the future will bring!"
Training the World's Best Staff
The Keren Or afternoon program staff had a 3-day professional training seminar during the mornings of Chanukah. We benefitted from a number of sessions on teamwork, effective communication, keeping the goal at the forefront, and working together for solutions that make us more efficient and reduce burnout. Importantly, we had our annual refresher session regarding appropriate workplace behavior and sexual harassment protocols.

To cap off the staff bonding experience, the team went to the Hebrew Music Museum in downtown Jerusalem where we explored an exhibition of rare, ancient musical instruments from different historical periods throughout the world. Our students love music, and learning about different instruments by hearing and feeling them, gave us insight into how our students learn best. We can't wait to get back to the music room with our children!
Virtual Book Club - Did You Order Exile Music?
Don't forget to order Exile Music for our virtual book club meeting on January 17th!

If you order through Amazon Smiles using this link and by following these steps, Keren Or will receive 0.5% of the proceeds!

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