Kfar Silver Students Welcomed in L.A. During Respite Trip


A dozen students from World ORT’s Kfar Silver Youth Village in Israel have taken part in a moving and emotional respite trip to California following the trauma of the October 7 terror attacks.

The six boys and six girls, all aged 15-17, have spent two weeks in the United States, engaged in activities with American Jewish school students and their families, experiencing Los Angeles, and receiving specialist psychological support.

The students all live in towns close to the Gaza Strip and have endured significant personal trauma since October 7. A number have lost friends or close family members in the attacks or subsequent war, and many were evacuated from their homes and displaced.

In the past four months, World ORT Kadima Mada, ORT’s operational arm in Israel, has been providing emergency relief across Israel, including educational activities in 60 evacuation centers, schools and hospitals. More than 7,400 students have received access to educational opportunities. This was the second respite trip for selected students, following a different group’s visit to Mexico in January.

Dr. Moshe Leiba, Chief Pedagogy and R&D Officer at World ORT Kadima Mada, who has accompanied both groups, said the youngsters “bear horrific emotional and psychological scars. We believe these teenagers have benefitted enormously from some time away from their communities where so much pain and suffering has occurred”.

The California trip featured a series of events at the de Toledo High School, a private Jewish school in the San Fernando Valley which has previously worked with ORT students including a robotics group from Dimona in Israel.

During a special event at the school, the Israeli students were presented with an American flag which had previously flown over the U.S. Capitol, and the Israeli and American national anthems were played.

Mark Shpall, de Toledo Head of School, said: “You have absolutely become part of our community and are forever members of the de Toledo family. We hope this trip has demonstrated to you that even 7,500 miles away from home, you have a supportive, welcoming Jewish community who has your back.”

The Israeli group preparing to fly home

A special evening at the home of Jamie Schenk DeWitt and her husband Mike saw more than 50 people come together to hear the Israeli students’ stories and first-hand accounts of October 7.

In a session moderated by Dr. Leiba, one of the 17-year-olds described how on October 7 she was trapped with a teenage boy in the bomb shelter at a café where they worked. She described how she believed she would be kidnapped or killed during the attack. At one point during their time hiding, a man who had been shot in the neck came into the shelter covered in blood.

Heath Blumstein, ORT America’s West Coast Director, gave an overview of ORT’s work globally, including stories from his visits to ORT’s school in Vilnius, Lithuania, and also Kfar Silver.

Jamie’s stepfather is Dr. Conrad Giles, World ORT’s Honorary President. ORT America’s Interim CEO Allison Weinger also attended the event.