|Natan Sharansky meets with the leadership class. Seated, from left, Joshua Weiss, Marcelle Katri, Scott Koszer, Natan Sharansky, Kayla Silow-Carroll, and Ori Manahan. Avinoam Segal-Elad, the federation’s shaliach, is at left in the top row. Beside him are Martha Cohen, Julia Baer, Miranda Alper, Steven Gottlib, Jakob Hess, Michael Sobelman, Greg Vaks, Harry Cohen, Michael Aboody, and Cheli Kalina. Bess Adler, principal of Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies is at far right.|
On Nov. 13, Natan Sharansky met with a group of students from the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies’ leadership course, a program co-sponsored by JFNNJ.
Harry Cohen, a 10th grader at Fort Lee High School, was struck that afternoon by Sharansky’s physical appearance and his obvious power. “I’d never really imagined such a powerful and inspiring man being so short,” he said. “I’ve never seen such a short person hold so much weight, who conveyed that much stature.
“You can just feel that he is a special man.”
Cohen felt empowered by Sharansky’s message. “He said that it’s important that we as kids have the same passion for Israel that our parents did when they were our age. He said that we have to be involved with kids our age because that is a new generation that has to support Israel. That was powerful, because it showed me that as a Jewish kid in America I can do something for Israel.”
Michael Sobelman, a 10th grader at Paramus High School, said that all the students had the chance to ask a question. He asked about the “status of Israel and America in terms of involvement in the Middle East – does he think it’s on the right track.
“And he answered that we share a unique relationship, and he sees it as very positive and trending well, but he said that something Americans don’t always seem to get is that they always shout ‘peace peace peace peace,’ but peace might not be the optimal solution in every case. We need to take things as they come.”
Sobelman was personally moved by Sharansky. “I thought he’s a very sharp man,” he said. “He knows his stuff.
“And he’s a hero. He freed my mom from the Soviet Union, and my grandparents.
“I spoke Russian to him,” he said. “After the class had left I lingered back. I shook his hand, and I said ‘spacebo’ – thank you in Russian.”
Cheli Kalina, an 11th grader at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, said that she got “a very warm feeling” from Sharansky. “I felt like he really wanted to be there,” she said. “It seemed like it was very important to him to listen to us. You could see by the way he was sitting, by his body language. He was very inviting, he made lots of eye contact with us.
“It was very cool.”