Olivia Feldman, a third-grader at Pardes Jewish Day School, sometimes felt a little lonely during recess and realized that other classmates might feel that way, too, so she decided to do something about it.
She had heard a story about a “buddy bench,” a designated seating area where students feeling lonely or upset can seek camaraderie, and decided that Pardes should have a Mensch Bench.
Feldman shared her idea with Jill Kessler, Pardes head of school, who supported the plan. Feldman’s family purchased a Mensch Bench for Pardes students and her class helped decorate it with thumbprint pictures, under the guidance of the school’s art teacher, Orit Feinberg.
On March 15, after a morning tefillah (prayer) session, Feldman announced to the school’s lower school students that the Mensch Bench is now in the school’s playground area, for anybody to use.
According to a spring 2016 article on tolerance.org, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least 1,000 elementary schools on six continents have installed Buddy Benches on their playgrounds.