Hebrew class meets Israeli anti-bullying influencer on Zoom


During the Zoom students practiced their Hebrew speaking skills and learned the lasting impact of bullying.

Matan Silverberg, Sports Editor

A freshmen Hebrew class had the opportunity to Zoom with 16-year-old Israeli influencer Ofek Rishon, known for her leadership in organizations which aim to combat bullying. This meeting provided a unique opportunity for the students to learn from someone young and relatable while also connecting to the curriculum. 

Hebrew Department Chair Shelli Putterman-Kenett designed her curriculum this year based on three key themes: leadership, community and volunteering. The first part of the year focused on leadership, and most freshmen Hebrew students spent a few classes in October learning about Rishon, a well-known anti-bullying advocate.

“The students learned about leadership and how it can look at their age. She is their age, and it is amazing to see someone do something that they can relate to,” Putterman-Kenett said. 

Throughout elementary school, Rishon experienced bullying and social isolation from her peers. Middle school was when she was on the receiving end of the worst bullying, and it was then that she posted a video on social media describing what it felt like to be bullied. 

This video eventually went viral, and Hazinor, one of the most popular TV shows in Israel, saw the video. Inspired by the post, they visited her home and helped Rishon create an organization called Tzayeret Achreyhem, which collaborates with teenagers and guidance counselors to give children the tools to combat bullying. Puttermann-Kenett felt that Rishon perfectly embodies Israel’s resilience. 

“Her story reminds me of the story of Israel a little bit: the growth from difficulties and standing tall when it is not easy, knowing there is hope,” Putterman-Kenett said. “She has all of these things in her and in what happened to her.”

At the end of October, the students wrote letters to Rishon and Puttermann-Kenett sent the letters on Nov. 5. However, Puttermann-Kenett doubted that Rishon would receive or read the letters. 

“She’s a celebrity in Israel and it wasn’t easy to send them,” Putterman-Kenett said. “I had to go through her PR, and I had to ask them if it would be possible for them to show her the letter.” 

Putterman-Kenett therefore did not notify the students that she planned on sending the letters, as she did want to build anticipation for something that was unlikely to occur. However, Rishon did in fact receive the letters and was so touched that she posted on her Instagram emotionally thanking the students for their letters.

She then asked Putterman-Kenett if she could meet some of the students on Zoom, and during period four on Nov. 22, one of Puttermann-Kenett’s classes met with Rishon. 

Freshman Nava Gris appreciated the experience and was inspired by Rishon’s leadership at such a young age.

“I think it shows that your age doesn’t matter, and you can do anything and be a leader at any age. You just have to take initiative,” Gris said. 

From this meeting, students learned important lessons about leadership and kindness while applying their Hebrew skills to a real-life situation. 

“The fact that our students were able to have a conversation with someone whose story they learned, and are able to speak with her so attentively is amazing,” Putterman-Kenett said. “This is the learning material coming alive.”