American Jewish Students 'Orange Day' Creates a Splash

Jewish students made their mark with "Orange Day" in schools across America on Thursday, educating teachers and peers about the Olmert Plan.

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Hana Levi Julian,

Jewish students' Orange pride
Jewish students' Orange pride
Israel News Photo: (courtesy of UJSC)

Students at Jewish schools across America wore orange clothing on Thursday and handed out informational materials to fellow students, teachers and staff members to protest Israel’s plan to expel Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria and its negotiations over Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority.

 

The Orange Star in Dayton, Ohio
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

The event, organized by the United Jewish Student Council (UJSC), was originally planned as a one-period demonstration that would have been held during the first class of the school day, but was scaled back due to heavy pressure from school administrators.

 

The orange clothing was intended to spark memories of the days of fighting the 2005 Disengagement, when 25 Jewish communities were destroyed and more than 8,000 Jews were expelled from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Samaria.

 

Dual-generation activists in the Packer family participated in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

According to organizer Yosef Rabin, the day’s events were a moderate success.  In addition to students, some parents got involved with the project as well -- even parents whose children were in public schools, or whose children were too young to go to yeshiva, as in the case of the Packer family in North Carolina.

 

Students in eight states across the United States and Canada had originally planned to organize events at their schools, but at the last minute, the group from Canada pulled out, “because the school administration announced that all activity was strictly forbidden because of fear that the ‘tzniut [modesty –ed.] dress code would be infringed.’ This was of course ridiculous,” said Rabin, “but it put enough fear in the students.”

 

There were plenty of students who stepped forward, however, and even some schools that supported the process, itself a statement Rabin noted with deep appreciation.

 

Hand decorations in Dayton, Ohio
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

For the budding young activists, Rabin had nothing but praise. “The schools did not drag the students to a protest; they got up and understood that something had to be done,” he said with great satisfaction. “This may spark something larger, and we will work to make that happen.”

 

Rabin was particularly impressed with the Jewish students in the public sector. “What I found very encouraging is that Jews in secular US public schools came forward and were eager to help. You could feel this love of the Jewish People and G-d,” he said.

 

Noting that a light rain fell for the first time this season in Israel the following morning, Rabin wondered if perhaps the Land had not been blessed “after this small tikun (correction) that occurred in Jewish schools in the US – you know that chazal [our Sages –ed.] teach us that Hashem listens especially to the tefilot [prayers –ed.] of children,” he added.

 

A sampling of the student responses to the coast-to-coast event:

 

Rochester Adams High School, Michigan – Daniel Allen

“I go to a public secular school but decided to show my support and garner more support for a united Jerusalem, and against the division of Jewish lands and the expulsion of our people from our lands.

 

I tied orange, blue and white ribbons all over my backpack, and wrote the words, “Ask Me Why” on it, and wore my orange shirt with a rag that read, “Jews Don’t Expel Jews.” I went to the school’s Advanced Placement Government teacher and explained to him and gave him information… He agreed that the cause was just and showed his support by posting the materials I had given him in his classroom.”

 

Orange Israeli pride on a backpack in Michigan
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

Throughout the day, Daniel’s fellow students asked him why he was wearing “so much orange today” and all were “genuinely surprised that such events are occurring.”  Daniel responded by showing them the news articles on the Olmert Plan, talked about the “Land for Peace” doctrine and discussed the option of Jordan as a Palestinian State.

 

“Although I failed to turn the school into a sea of orange, I had convinced many people to support a united Jerusalem and agree that land concession will not bring peace… I managed to spread the message and bring the issue to my primarily Christian public school… I hope we have the impact we were planning to make.”

 

Stern Hebrew High School, Philadelphia – Phil Ifrah

“The protest went pretty well… Some kids were too nervous to go ahead and walk out of class during first period, so we decided to just go with wearing orange. Around 30 signs were put up around the school urging students to wear orange shirts, skirts or anything else orange (such as ribbons).”  About 30 students showed up for classes wearing some kind of orange attire, Ifrah reported.

 

Future Jewish leaders at Stern Hebrew High School in Philadelphia, PA
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

“All in all, the protest worked out pretty great… Most of the teachers were actually happy to see us wearing orange, and some were praising us because of our support of Israel. My Hebrew teacher even said that it was very sweet of us to show our support.

 

“We will not let Yehuda and Shomron be given away! Nor will we allow the division of Jerusalem! We will give our all to stop these people from giving away our land!!”

 

 Kehillah Jewish High High School, Palo Alto, CA – Shani Bocian

When 11th grader Shani Bocian asked the administration at her school for permission to run a protest against the pullout, she was told that her school would not take an official position on the subject and could not allow any activity that made it seem as if the school was against the pullout.

 

Orange Pride at Kehilla Jewish High School
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

Still, Shani was able to pass out educational material and encourage all students to wear orange clothing in protest of the move as well as of the division of Jerusalem.

 

Sporting the Orange, showing the 'stuff' at Kehilla Jewish High School
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

Shani and other students made posters expressing their opposition to the proposal, and carried them around throughout the day, inspiring students to ask questions and become involved with the issue.

 

Orange tee shirt helps identify one as a Member of the Tribe on 'Orange Day' at Kehilla Jewish High School
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

“Many students expressed interest in the issue and asked for orange ribbons or bracelets to show their dissent,” she reported. “Some students thought that wearing orange would not have any effect and the entire protest was ‘pointless.’ Other students disagreed with the opposition to the protest and thought that the pullout is the correct solution,” Shani said.

 

Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Chicago, Illinois

“There were many students wearing orange,” reported Rabin, who visited this school personally. “A rabbi in the school came up to me because he saw me taking pictures and asked what was going on.

 

“After I explained the situation, he told me that he would announce that his class should learn in the merit of the Jewish communities of Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria).

 

“There was definitely an ‘Orange Presence’ and a lot of people knew what was going on; you could hear students talking about it in the halls. Students were passing out orange ribbons to other students – I even heard a few shouts of ‘Gush Katif!’ and ‘Yehudi Lo Migaresh Yehudi!’ [Jews Don’t Evict Jews –ed.],” Rabin said.

 

Bates Public School, Woodhaven, Michigan – Rachel Brooks

And what of the young fourth grader who so bravely volunteered to carry the word to her secular public elementary school?

 

Rachel Brooks, Bates Public School, Woodhaven, Michigan
(courtesy of UJSC)

 

According to her mother, Rachel Brooks “had a great day.” As a matter of fact, Mom wrote, “her friend said that if she had known, she would have worn orange in support of Rachel.”