Before their annual dinner, Kohelet Yeshiva High School (KYHS) brought us the kernel of an idea: they would be honoring the nineteen KYHS alumni who had gone on to serve in the Israeli Army or Israel’s National Service. It was our job to turn this concept into an eloquent video presentation, the centerpiece of their gala event.
The task that KYHS gave us involved, in a sense, nineteen stories waiting to be told. Yet there was deeper narrative in there somewhere that we needed to find and articulate for the audience. The concept was just the beginning; to make it mean something, to give it richness and vitality, we needed a middle and end too. What was the story of these people as a group, the common thread binding them together? How did the alumni all come to choose service in Israel? What did it mean to them? What part did it play in their lives?
We didn’t know where the answers to these questions would lead. We explored them, with a lot of careful coordinating, across two countries and multiple time zones. We traveled, talked, filmed, traveled, talked some more, and combed through the material we had gathered, letting the story find us. We couldn’t just cherry-pick the coolest army stories; something else had begun to unfold on its own. We realized, as we got to know the alumni, that their service didn’t end with the decision to join the IDF or volunteer for National Service. In their ongoing interests and concerns, even in their choices of career, these men and women showed a lifelong commitment to being a part of something bigger than themselves. The youthful idealism that had been nurtured in their high school days at KYHS, the dedication to community and am yisrael, had settled all the more firmly into place over time.
Zach Sicherman, for example, served in a combat unit in the army, but that was only the beginning. Once he completed his service, he found a job creating documentaries about Israel and the Jewish people. Yitz Lauterbach served in the Lebanon War, but what we found more telling about him was his choice to remain a public servant as part of the police force. Miriam was a 911 operator, helping people in crisis every day.
At the dinner, the ambition to do good in the world was unmistakable onscreen. We brought the stories of these KYHS alumni to life with a series of creative visuals: we got the documentarian in the field; the air force navigator with maps in hand; the Israeli National Service volunteers at KYHS bonding with students over Frisbee. With the legacy of the school so well represented, the response from dinner attendees was electric. The video added a charge to the event and saw a measurable response in increased donations and positive community engagement. The head of school called us to personally thank us for our work, and we have since become involved in Kohelet’s student recruitment as well.