Educating kids about disease
Photo: Courtesy Noa Ksabi
Pre-pandemic, Akiba Yavneh Academy members of JMAAC: Jewish Medical Awareness and Action Club were able to gather. The group now continues producing their “JMAAC Journal” blog with students from around the country. Pictured clockwise from lower left are: Jessie Lampert, Hanna Michaeli, Isabel Strobel, Michal Reva, Daniella Feldman, Jordyn Behr, Noa Ksabi, Eli Burstein, Yael Schuller, Devorah Zhrebker, Elana Sunshine and Natalee Katave.

Akiba Yavneh teens create children’s books about medical issues

By Deb Silverthorn

Six Akiba Yavneh Academy students have written, illustrated and self-published two books to raise awareness of medical issues with high incidence in the Jewish community. 

The books, “Lungs of Gold” and “Bonnie the Bunny,” are written by Noa Ksabi, Yael Schuller and Devorah Zhrebker with illustrations by Orly Cohen, Hanna Michaeli and Michal Reva. 

“We were reading about medical issues with high rates in the Jewish community, but they were in very academic terms,” said Ksabi. “We decided to create something for children with our own vocabulary, design and art and to share it as widely as possible.”

“Lungs of Gold” follows Becca, who has cystic fibrosis, and Talia, who has Crohn’s disease, girls who meet while they are receiving treatments at the same hospital. Commiserating about what they can’t do because of their conditions, they join forces to realize that they can participate in a hospital talent show.

“I’ve loved to draw since I was little and this was an incredible opportunity to work with my friends, to design online, and to learn a lot about the issues our stories are about,” said Reva. “We have all been faced with separation and stress this year, but it’s been super-exciting to have something special to work on together.”

The students of Akiba Yavneh are known for independent pursuit of school activities, said General Studies Principal Donna Hutcheson. The same energy motivated them to form a club for those passionate about medical fields, and for them to organize quickly over the books project. 

“Our students have the freedom to do almost anything they’d like, and they really do take it upon themselves to build on their ideas. They thrive on pushing toward and beyond their goals,” Hutcheson said. 

In addition to the club and the books, they’ve also starting a blog devoted to the subjects. “It’s wonderful how these students have identified medical issues connected to their heritage,” Hutcheson said. “They are teaching, sharing and, as our kids often do, making a difference.” 

Ksabi, a junior, is a member of the Bulldog basketball and volleyball teams, president of Students for Students, a Student Ambassador and member of Students Against Terrorism. She is the founder of the Jewish Medical Awareness and Action Club, which now hosts the “JMAAC Journal” blog, with dozens of Jewish high school contributors from around the country providing distinctive ideas about the medical field.

The pandemic hasn’t made it easy on the students, but they put the project together by calling and texting and meeting weekly deadlines. Now, it’s second nature for them. The team is readying to release “Bonnie the Bunny — Don’t Fear It’s Time to Hear,” which follows a young child with cochlear implants.

“With so many activities and social times canceled, we’ve had a lot of time we’ve never had before,” said Ksabi, who as quickly as the books are being published is sharing them to local hospitals. They also hope to raise enough funds from book sales to send the books to young patients around the country. “I’m proud that we’ll be able to look back on this time and know we accomplished something meaningful.”

For information on ordering books, or supporting the projects, email To read articles of the JMAAC Journal, visit

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