Dallas Doings: StandWithUs, Puppets
Ori Zach

Zach named StandWithUs High School Intern

Ori Zach, a senior at Akiba Yavneh Academy, is a 2020-21 StandWithUs High School Intern. Ori, the son of Carmel and Odeya Zach, said,
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the StandWithUs High School Internship because I feel an obligation to turn my passion for Israel into an action. Growing up at a Jewish day school, a sheltered environment, I had always argued for the necessity of Jewish people to defend Israel, but unless one feels that urgency personally, it is hard to impart this message. This internship will help me prepare for college, an environment that I know won’t always harbor pro-Israel ideals. In these high-pressure situations, I will have to think quickly and use the knowledge I have gained from this experience to explain, justify and educate for Israel’s right to exist.”
Created in 2012, the StandWithUs High School Internship is a yearlong program for North American students in 11th and 12th grades.
The goal of the program is twofold: to prepare students for challenges they may face regarding Israel in college; and to grow their Israel knowledge and leadership skills not just for the future, but to have important and necessary impact for Israel in their schools and communities while they are still in high school. Interns are passionate about creating educational opportunities to inspire their peers with thoughtful, nuanced and intentional Israel education programs throughout the school year.
Throughout the semesters, StandWithUs High School Interns create Israel clubs in their schools, plan innovative and engaging programs for their peers, bring expert speakers to their communities, write op-eds and educate their peers and the community about Israel. When antisemitism occurs, Interns partner with StandWithUs to effectively address the situation. This includes, if necessary, the Saidoff Legal Department and the Center for Combating Antisemitism. Interns also attend two conferences.
Ori is one of 125 students selected for this internship from across the United States and Canada this year.
The StandWithUs High School Internship Conference (HSIC) aggregates all the students for five days in Los Angeles. This year, due to the pandemic, the conference was hosted virtually Aug. 2-6. While virtual conferences have their challenges and students worldwide are experiencing Zoom-fatigue, none of this seemed to matter! Educational sessions were run by SWU staff, and they bonded as a group via the multiple networking and engaging sessions designed to help them get acquainted. Each day the students also met by region to unpack the day and to learn necessary skills to be effective and professional leaders.
“I have always thought that complacency was the enemy of Israel’s future, but in this internship, complacency will be challenged. Despite being virtual, I learned how to have conversations about Israel in respectful ways that honor people’s different beliefs, embody critical thinking skills, but always recognize Israel’s right to defend itself as a country which embodies democracy and Judaic values,” added Ori.

Photo: Screenshot
A scene from the Pitzel Puppet Players’ “Talk about the Virus.”

Mabel and Sanit’s Pitzel Puppet Players help families cope with COVID-19

How do puppets deal with COVID-19? They learn how to Zoom!
And that is exactly what their puppet handlers have done. Gail Mabel and Naomi Sanit, who have a combined 50 years of experience teaching early childhood education, are now on YouTube.
In order to support their fellow teachers, parents and children, Gail and Naomi have continued writing and videoing puppet plays relating to Jewish holidays, moral values and social issues.
It’s not just for children anymore. These beloved puppets and puppeteers teach with humor and music to be sure they connect on every level and every age about issues such as kindness and gratefulness.
“We are passionate about children. Our passion continues to grow within us as we find new avenues to connect, help others and make a difference,” said Sanit.
While they teach traditional favorites like Yonah and the Big Fish or Noach and the Ark, they always include thoughtful underlying messages that help children learn to grow their social and emotional well-being.
“As we are learning and growing, we are thinking out of the box (the puppet theater box). We invite you to join us as we continue to explore new possibilities with positive perspectives, joy and compassion,” added Mabel.
Gail and Naomi remember and love their former students. “We have such powerful memories of the passion our former students had for our puppets and our dramas. We hope they hear that we are still at it and that they share our videos with their children. M’Dor L’Dor,” Sanit said.
Look on YouTube for the latest Pitzel Puppet Players videos. They can be accessed at https://bit.ly/2T53Gmh.

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