Clubs bring foreign education to Staples


Members from the Israeli Culture Club learning about Israeli inventions.

Although there are over 95 clubs at staples, one in particular has caught students’ attention and has really brought foreign education to Westport. The Staples Israeli Culture Club, which has around 50 members, is made up of Staples students all eager to learn about the issues in the Middle East, especially the current conflict in Israel.

Six years ago, English teacher Fran Sinay’s daughter took interest in Israeli culture due to her father being Israeli. She decided she would start a club, but needed an advisor. That’s when her mom stepped in, and the club was created. Because of Ms. Sinay and her daughter’s decision to start this club, students have the opportunity to sit down with other students who find interest in Israel and what is going on with country today.

As the meeting begins, the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Israeli emissaries set up a game where the club is divided into two groups. On their table are cards that read different inventions, and as the Israeli emissaries read them off, the two groups try to figure out if it was invented in Israel or America.

“Club members do their best to keep up on what is happening in Israel so when it is brought up in conversation, they can provide their peers with facts,” Sarah Herbsman ’15, the club’s president, said, “A lot of what is seen in the media is twisted to put Israel in negative light so during club meetings, if Israel is currently receiving a lot of media attention, we try to break down the facts and see what is really going on.”

Herbsman has been a member since her freshman year, became the president her junior year, and says she has loved every minute of it.

Not only does this club welcome whomever, but they encourage everyone to join, “What makes club meetings so enjoyable and interesting is everyone has a different connection to Israel,” Herbsman said, “We have some Israeli club members, and then we have people who don’t have a personal connection to Israel but are simply eager to learn more.”

Israeli shlichim students are able to come to America and live in communities throughout Connecticut through programs like UJA. The 16 Israeli shlichim, an Israeli term for  emissaries, come to America for a year between high school and their army service, get to experience life in America firsthand while sharing what it’s like to live in Israel, and along the way become part of the club.

“For about three years now, we have been bringing in Israeli soldiers to a bunch of classes,” Herbsman said, “Students love to hear about the soldiers’ experiences and what role they have played defending Israel.”

Jack Kaner, the Vice President of Communication, has also been a part of this club ever since his freshman year. Not only is Kaner a member, but he also has his own personal connection with Israel, having been there three times.

“What makes this club different than other clubs at Staples is that we care; we take things seriously and enjoy discussin everything that’s going on in Israel,” Kaner said, “And while we have discussions, we have fun as well. We make sure the club includes ethnic aspects that enforce what being in Israel is really like, including eating Israeli food, playing Israeli games, watching Israel-based films, and dancing.”

Ms. Sinay has realized that because of this club, and the members in it, she has also been able to learn more about what is going on in Israel, “It’s really about education and one of our concerns is to just to understand culture, understand what’s going on in the middle east, and the complex issues surrounding all of the problems that people on both sides of the fence face there. And how to go forward and make it a better place for everyone to live in.”

According to members, not only has this club helped bring foreign education to Staples High School, but it has allowed these students to learn alongside Israeli students what it’s like to live in such a beautiful and historically important country.