`Turning Point' Forms Lesson in Religion, History, Politics

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At the Epstein Hebrew Academy Monday, at a time usually set aside for Judaic studies, about 120 students watched history instead.

Ordinarily nothing interrupts religion classes.

"But this is such a turning point in the history of the Jewish people," said Rabbi Josh Einzig, principal of the 265-student school at 1138 North Warson Road in Olivette.

For the fifth- through eighth-graders watching in the school auditorium, the high point of the televised ceremony was Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands.

Sixth-grader Mordechai Raskas, 11, had his eye on the participants' body language. "Arafat was so happy," he said. "He looked like he had no worries. Rabin looked tense. . . . There was always somebody between them, usually (President Bill) Clinton."

Inbal Kanka, 13, an eighth-grader who moved here from Israel a year ago with her parents, said she thought the United States had pressured Israel into the agreement. "I don't like it, I don't trust them,' she said, referring to the Arabs.

Yadl Zeffren, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, said it was "kind of hard" to trust the Arabs. But, he said, "I think it's about time we have peace. . . . It's hard to believe it because we've dreamed of it for so long."

Menachem Winter, 13 and in eighth grade, said he thought the agreement would be good for Israel and make his relatives there - grandparents, cousins and a sister - feel safer. …