26 March 2010 Small is beautiful for ORT Lipson programme Diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel may be at an historic low but the ORT Lipson programme has shown that at a grass roots level the relationship is as warm as ever. For the eighth year running, ORT has arranged for teenage students from Israel to spend a month in Atlanta. There, hosted by local families, they have attended Jewish day schools and learned about life in America while giving Atlantans some insights into life in the Jewish State. Jenna Leopold Shulman, Co-Executive Director of ORT Americas Atlanta Region, said the programme had been a great success despite having to make cuts in the budget because of the effects of the economic downturn. Children from Atlantas Greenfield Hebrew Academy enjoy a mock Pesach Seder with students at Rogozin High School in Israel. It is the smallest one weve done with only six students and two teachers but there were so many elements of the programme which made it great, Ms Leopold Shulman said. We still managed to reach out to the community the students were fantastic ambassadors and their host families fell in love with them. So close did the Israelis become with their host families that the three students from Rogozin High School in Kiryat Ata will be returning the favour now that their new-found friends are in Israel as members of the Greenfield Hebrew Academys (GHA) 8th grade tour group. Last week, the GHA group enjoyed a mock seder at Rogozin which was a chance for the friends to catch up before they spend a week together at the end of the tour. It was really exciting to see each other again, said Itay Damary, 13. We ate, sang songs and a rabbi came to explain to us about Pesach. I am looking forward to Harrison staying with us. I want to introduce him to my friends and Ill take him to the beach and an amusement park. Itay and two other students from Rogozin attended GHA while in Atlanta while the other three Israelis, students at Shikma Regional High School in Yad Mordechai, attended Davis Academy. A month in Atlanta boosted the Israeli kids English language skills but it was the cultural differences which appear to have made the biggest impact on them. It was my first time in America and I loved it, said Dorin Matzrafi, 13, a student at Shikma. I enjoyed learning about Jewish culture there. The school I attended, Davis Academy, was very different from my school. At my school we call the teachers by their first name but there they call them by their surnames. Ido Homri also enjoyed his time in Atlanta but admitted he was not sure about the food there. I like falafel and theres no good falafel in Atlanta, Ido said. But the burgers were good. All the students appreciated seeing Atlantas tourist spots, including CNN, the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum and the Martin Luther King Centre. They also enjoyed meeting so many new people, including Joan Lipson, the programmes funder. And at least one of their parents noted another result of the month away. He has grown up by about three years! said Gali Homri of her son, Ido. Israeli kids are very temperamental and he had to be on his best behaviour for a whole month. He has come home and he is still on his best behaviour even in the mornings. Ms Homri said Ido had also returned to Israel with comforting descriptions of the warmth and esteem with which the people he had met held the Jewish State. He told me, Im sure that people in America really do love us; they speak about us and they think about us. Its nice, she said. However, it was also apparent that there was much to learn on both sides. The Israeli children were astonished to find out about the different streams of Jewish religious observance while the American children were particularly interested to find out how the visitors coped with rocket attacks. The ORT Lipson International Studies Programme was conceived by Rabbi Steven Ballaban together with former American ORT National Vice President, Nathan I. Lipson. The programme began in 2003 with funding from the ORT Lipson International Studies Programme fund, which was established by Atlantas Lipson family and has attracted generous donations from ORT supporters.