In the spirit of Tu B’shvat, the Jewish celebration of nature and abundance, the students of Conejo Hebrew High School in Agoura Hills invited their families and other community members to a one-night dining experience Jan. 19 at their own makeshift Israeli restaurant, which they named “Jew’d Ranch.” After a semester of studying conversational Hebrew and Israeli modern culture, the students, who took orders in Hebrew only, used this project to apply their skills to real life. The profits from the evening were donated to their school.
“We thought it would be great to apply the language and the culture they learn about in school to practice, outside of the classroom setting,” explained Rabbi Sapochkinsky, director of the school, otherwise known as Rabbi Sapo amongst the students. “Judaism teaches us that in order to appreciate something, we must make it a part of ourselves,” he said, “and there’s no better way to make something a part of ourselves than to eat it.”
The high school students created a Jew’d Ranch menu inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine, with a gentle hint for customers: “How can you not tip your waiter? He’s so cute!”
They arrived early to decorate the room with colorful nature-related accessories, and the tables with festive tablecloths and branches of almond trees, as well as to prepare the food for the evening.
The tables quickly filled up with family members showing their support. The customers were encouraged to use only Hebrew in their conversations with the waiters, and they did so enthusiastically. Cheat sheets on the back of the menus – for those whose Hebrew was rusty— included the translation of many terms and phrases needed to communicate with the waiter. Before long, the students had to set up extra tables for the overflow of customers.
“This night has been lots of fun!” said Ari Gootnick, a 16-year-old student who was running between the kitchen and the tables all night long.
As the night came to an end, guests and students were invited to enjoy an all you can eat buffet of fruit desserts made by the high school girls.
The evening was a delightful lesson for everyone involved.