Previous attempts to develop pen pal relationships were not successful, due to a general lack of interest. School classes would organize a letter writing event, but wouldn't receive replies to their letters and interest would wane. It was decided to try again this year, and due to the security situation, we were more successful than in the past. It seems that the situation motivated the Jewish day schools in Philadelphia (and other places as well) to seek out pen pals in Israel, in order to express their support and encouragement to Israeli students. We took advantage of this surfeit of goodwill to establish ties between kindergarten and school classes in Philadelphia and their counterparts in the region.
While it is difficult to monitor the success of these ties, we have attempted to do so, and have found that in a number of cases, the Pen Pals have continued writing to each other for three or four rounds of letters. We tried this time to formalize the letter writing by finding a teacher who would take it upon himself to encourage the students to write, in order to make sure that the connection wouldn't end after just one letter. Pen Pal relationships are now functioning in the kindergartens, grammar schools and junior high schools. We have had more difficulty in finding appropriate matches among high school students because only the religious schools in the region expressed interest in the pen pal idea, provided that religious pen pals could be found in Philadelphia, which has proven to be difficult.
Another interesting undertaking is in the formation stages at present. Dick Berman, who teaches a course in Internet and E-mail on a voluntary basis at the Newman Day Services Center for the Elderly in Philadelphia, visited our region, became enthused with the partnership, and suggested establishing E-mail pen pal connections between residents of the region and his students at the Newman Center. A similar group from the region is now forming, and we hope that it will begin to meet right after Independence Day. The group will learn to use E-mail in a short and intensive course especially designed to encourage the participants to establish long-term pen pal relationships with their counterparts in Philadelphia. Hopefully, the similarity in age and common issues between them will cause the ties to become lasting and deep.
Iyar 5761 - May 2001