Lindsay Fein, Hannah Lidsky and Jeremy Rosenthal – Grade 11 classmates and friends at North Toronto Collegiate Institute – started a Jewish Culture Club at their high school a little over a month ago.
It’s the first one in 10 years to be run at the school.
“We all took a course at Torah High at the Village Shul,” Fein, 16, told The CJN. Both Torah High and the Jewish Culture Club are affiliated with National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), the youth movement of the Orthodox Union.
The new group meets every Wednesday at lunch and is open to everyone. It’s run by NCSY staffer Shyndee Kestenbaum. North Toronto teacher Marsha Kazman is the club’s main teacher-sponsor.
About 25 students, of the approximately 1,200 at the school, turned up for the first event, Fein said. She estimates that 90 per cent of them were Jewish.
Programs may be holiday-related, and usually include pizza. So far, programs have tied in to Pesach, Yom Ha’atzma’ut and Shabbat, with challah-baking for the latter program.
The students have written letters to Israeli soldiers to thank them, and on a lighter note, watched an Israeli version of The Simpsons, Fein said.
She added that part of the impetus to found the club was a feeling that “it was important to share Jewish identity with everybody, and talk about [Jewish] traditions.”
Last year, when she attended Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, Fein attended a Jewish Culture Club there.
“I think it’s important to celebrate your Judaism and be proud of it,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for everyone to get hands-on activities and have fun at lunch with other Jewish students.”
NCSY’s Kestenbaum said it’s almost unheard of to have so many students show up for the first event. “The students really pushed for it,” she said.
“It’s an opportunity for Jewish kids to get together once a week to celebrate their Judaism, and have some Jewish identity.”