Rockville Students Accused Of Marijuana Use in Israel

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Three Rockville Jewish day school students were arrested Friday in Israel for allegedly buying or using marijuana at a school there, according to e-mails sent to parents and sources familiar with the incident. Six other students from Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School were asked to leave the Israeli campus, where they were participating in the study abroad program.

The three U.S. citizens allegedly purchased marijuana and brought it to the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education in Hod HaSharon, according to two e-mails sent to school families. Their six classmates were accused of either buying or using marijuana, said the e-mail from Jonathan Cannon, head of the school.

Some students from a school in Atlanta also were implicated in the case, although details of their involvement were not known.

An Israeli court released the three students to their families Monday. Court officials did not indicate whether there would be further action against them, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of what they called the sensitivity of the case.

Asked to respond, officials with Charles E. Smith, the largest Jewish day school in the United States with about 1,500 students, issued a statement: "While we cannot comment on the specifics of the situation, we want to underscore that the CESJDS does not condone or tolerate conduct of this nature as part of our school culture or any program with which our school is associated. Both CESJDS and the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) have very clear rules and policies that prohibit the type of conduct that has been alleged in this situation. In light of this situation, the school will review its program to determine ways to better educate students on these matters."

About 100 Charles E. Smith students were spending 11 weeks in Israel, along with other U.S. students, to learn about the history and contemporary life of the country.

They had graduated in February but went to Israel under the auspices of the Rockville school and were enrolled at the institute, which calls itself the only nondenominational, accredited academic program in Israel for English-speaking high school juniors and seniors.

An e-mail sent to parents Sunday noted that the situation "can have ramifications for the participants beyond the immediate events of the last few days." Some parents wondered whether Charles E. Smith intended to inform colleges that had accepted the students for the fall. Some of them have been accepted at top universities.

The e-mail also called what had occurred "a serious incident" and added: "The students who were directly involved are good kids who made poor judgments but did so knowing the consequences of their actions. . . . While we do not condone their actions, we believe they are deserving of our community support as they face the next days and weeks."

Roz Landy, head of Charles E. Smith's upper school, flew to Israel on Monday morning to deal with the aftermath, according to Sunday's e-mail and another sent Monday.

Julie Liss, co-chairman of the Parent Teacher Organization, said she could not comment. Co-chairman Michelle Walfish did not return phone calls, nor did Nancy Hamburger, head of the trustees board.

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