For the third consecutive year, Hebrew Academy Grade 6 students are among 50 finalists of an international contest run by Israel’s Museum of the Jewish People. Twins Gabriella and Chaim David Friedman’s project, “La méguila retrouvée”, depicts a heartwarming family story:

“Our maternal grandmother, Rachel, lost her father prematurely when she was only eight years old,” explained Gabriella in her “curator’s” summary. “It was a difficult time for my great-grandmother Raymonde as she had to provide for her young children on her own. She had to sell valuables in her possession to make ends meet. Among these objects, she sold the megilla of her deceased husband, my great-grandfather Saadia, descendant of the line of Dayanim Aben Danan. This precious megilla, which he was particularly fond of, had been passed down to him by his grandfather who had written it carefully in his own hand. A few years later, my grandmother married my grandfather Haim-David. My grandfather’s brother, Raphaël, was the second owner of the Megillah. But that, nobody knew.

“Time has passed and my grandparents watched their children grow up. The henna party of their eldest son (my uncle Saadia) was held on the evening of Purim. When the bride and groom sat down to receive their gifts, my grandfather’s brother, Raphael, took the famous Megillah out of a bag and handed it to the groom, saying: “I am giving you back the treasured Megillah of your grandfather. It is yours by right because you bear his name Saadia ”. This Megillah brings additional joy on every Purim. On one hand, it symbolizes the perpetuity of our family heritage. In addition, it reminds us, just like the festival of Purim, that joy can replace pain and that we can overcome all misfortunes.”

Over several months, Grade 6 participated in the My Family Story  International Competition in Memory of Manuel Hirsch Grosskopf. An initiative of Tel Aviv’s Museum of the Jewish People, the 26-year-old program has been incredibly popular in schools worldwide and offers students a chance to explore their family history and deepen their connection to the Jewish people. Together with their French teachers Mesdames Choula Friedman, Noemie Benizri, Etty Amar and Armanda Meyara, the students conducted months of extensive genealogical research and produced exquisite projects which they showcased at school on March 4. At that time, Gabriella and Chaim David were selected among six finalists by a panel of school judges to represent Hebrew Academy at the international level.

It was the idea of Dr. Miriam Schrager, Elementary Director of French Studies and Academics, to have HA students participate for the first time two years ago.

“We had doubts about the implementation of the project  [this year] because of the limitations imposed by the pandemic. However, the difficulties only inspired us to become more creative. For example, the type of projects presented by the students overflowed with originality. We have also changed the way we present projects to families. This year, in addition to the unveiling of projects at the school, a virtual museum was created.”

Grade 6 began the program at the beginning of the year and worked on the curriculum – including assignments, interviews, the assembly of family trees and the collection of artefacts – at school. The accompanying artwork, which ranged from intricate replicas and dioramas to exquisite photo collections, was largely completed at home.

“From the moment the project was presented, the whole class got down to business,” said Mesdames Choula and Noemie. “We are proud of the motivation and perseverance that has been present throughout the process. The result has been spectacular. Bravo and kol hakavod!”

In non-Covid times, finalists are flown to Israel to exhibit their work and participate in celebratory events. Due to the pandemic, Gabriella and Chaim David will take part in a virtual ceremony with participants from all over the world on June 9. Their family members, classmates and teachers will join in celebrating this remarkable achievement.

Mazal tov, Gabriella and Chaim David! We’re incredibly proud of you!



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