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Sewickley Academy students travel to Israel with helping hands

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Sewickley Academy students join other students in painting playground equipment during a trip to Israel. submitted
Sewickley Academy student Amanda McLeod, second from left, tastes spiced beans at an Arab market in the seaside town of Akko in Israel with Katya Lomov, a sponsored youth from Israel; Tomer Hoffman, the tour guide; and other students. Submitted

Several area students left one village to spend spring break in another, far different village.

Sewickley Academy juniors Amanda McLeod, Jordan McClain and Jacob Kronin, all from Sewickley, volunteered to work during their break in the Children's Village, a communal environment in Karmiel, Israel, that houses more than 275 children whose parents cannot take care of them.

The academy students learned that the children live in “mispachtons,” which consists of a mother, father, their children and 10 to 12 foster children.

“They rely heavily on donations,” said chaperone Jerilyn Scott, academy first-grade teacher and Global Studies Committee member.

Each American student was assigned to one family unit during the day, but they all stayed together in a small guest house at night.

The trip was organized through the nonprofit Classrooms Without Borders organization, led by Tsipy Gur, director, and Laura Kronk, former academy parent and CWB board member. Also traveling with the group were students from the Ellis School and Shady Side Academy.

This was McLeod's third trip to the village.

She was 13 the first time when she traveled with her parents, who are involved in a program where they provide financial support for one of the children, Kayta Lomov, who they were able to meet in 2008.

McLeod went back the second time last year after Kronk's daughter, Trinity, an academy graduate, initiated a new program with Gur to have teens spend more time with the children in the village.

Before they made the trip, McLeod said she and McClain collected so many clothing, hat, glove and coat donations at the academy, they couldn't take all of them on the trip.

However, an adult study group, some from Sewickley Academy, will take some of the clothing with them when they go to Israel this summer.

She and McClain also sold baked goods at one of McLeod's basketball games to raise money they used to pay for extra suitcases, stuffed with donated clothing, which costs $100 each.

Scott said each student paid for their own flight to Israel. While there, students participated with the children and teens in several outings.

While academy students were there, they painted playground equipment and later volunteered at a food bank in town.

Kronin said after spending time in the village, he realized the 10-hour flight to Israel was worth it because of what they were able to give to the children.

“I definitely want to go back next year and do it again,” he said.

When they left, students were able to attend a Passover Seder with more than 1,000 people; visit several historical sites in Nazareth and Jerusalem; and hear stories from a Holocaust survivor and a former military commander who participated in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

McLeod said the trip brought her closer to her Jewish faith and made her thankful for all she has.

For Scott, seeing the country made a lasting impact on her.

“My mother told me I shouldn't go to such a war zone, but that's so inaccurate,” she said.

“It's a beautiful country and warm and welcoming and eye-opening for me. The media's view is so narrow. I would go again, and I would send my kids there and know they would be safe,” she said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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