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Benny works with incredible teachers


By Benny Winkelmann

Sometimes, I don’t know how to begin these articles. The fact that the Richmond community is interested in the goings on in my life still amazes me. While I enjoy living and sharing my life, I hope the experience is as pleasurable for you: the reader.

I have been given gifts of incredible communities at each place I have lived, and Pardes Hanna has more than lived up to the standard to which I have grown accustomed in my travels. I play tennis a couple times a week at the local “JCC” with some neighborhood friends and the middle school band I work with has another show coming up the day after Purim.

I have told you about some of my favorite characters I have met since arriving here, and next on the docket is one of my favorite teachers. Emily works with me at (Merchavim School) a (elementary school) about a 10-minute walk from my house. She teaches what is arguably the most difficult class in the school (I teach them, so I know firsthand) and has a remarkable command of the room. I like to think I have one as well, but I am nowhere near the “tour de force” she brings to the class. The kids are charming, but have a large dose of that Israeli chutzpah we all know and love.

Merchavim is a complicated school, situated in a neighborhood with a mixed socio-economic background. It takes all kinds, and the teachers earn the respect of the students by relentlessly showing up and caring. It’s a battleground where the toughest educators prove their mettle, and I adore it!

I work in four schools and surprisingly, or not, this is the one where the teachers seem to have an unparalleled, ironclad grip on positive attitude and its effect on the students. While she is certainly not the only fantastic teacher there, or at any school in which I have worked, she wins the shout-out, because Emily found the key to my heart – food.

Another teacher’s family has a small business selling pickled veggies and I came to school one day only to find a jar with my name on it after benignly remarking one afternoon how much I love them. She later told me that I had a standing tab with her. I write this not only to show my undying appreciation, but as a laugh for those in the community already thinking “she has yet to find out how much he can eat.”

Lastly, one of the coolest things about living in a Jewish country is that when your holiday is happening, you don’t have to take off and explain to your boss and everyone you work with why you aren’t there. Not only is celebrating the standard, but in schools they celebrate Purim with costumes and fun activities all week.

The stores all have deals and ads for costumes and the excitement is in the air. Each passing holiday this happens, but I don’t know if it will ever get old for me – a kid who, like many of you, grew up with friends asking if they could come to his “mitzy thingy” (Bar Mitzvah), or eat “jew” dinner on Friday night with his family (I think y’all can figure that one out).

Being somewhere where you are not only in a majority, (like a NY or LA) but participating in state-certified enjoyment is repeatedly mind blowing. I will be heading down to Tel Aviv tomorrow for the holiday where the streets will be filled with those celebrating until we can’t tell the difference between Putin and Zelensky…whoops I mean Haman and Mordechai.

(To reach out to Benny, our Shaliach (emissary) to Israel from Richmond, you can email him at


In the photos above and in this slide show, Benny poses with students and teachers, has a lunch with a family and spends some free time in the outdoors.