Editorial 23/5/2019

We are now deep into exam season. The Year 7s have nearly completed their first set of exams while the Year 11 and 13 are facing the rigours of GCSEs and A Levels. At school there is always a delicate balancing act about the message to be sent out about the importance of exams. On the one hand they need to be taken seriously and should be prepared for properly. On the other, they do not matter that much in the grand scheme of things and should not be causing sleepless nights.

Perhaps the main thing, as with many other areas of life, is to maintain a sense of perspective. Exams are useful in telling you what you can do (and sometimes what you can’t). They can validate effort made during the year and most importantly for the public exams, they can allow access to the next stage of education.

What exams don’t do is to provide any kind of judgement on the character of those taking them. Some students will have worked very hard, others seem to breeze through on minimal effort. In addition, exams will not measure kindness, generosity, loyalty, compassion, empathy or a host of other attributes which in the end will be far more important.

So, by all means see exams as significant and worthy of effort but don’t let them become the consuming focus of life to the detriment of all else. Help your children to see that putting exams in context will be the best thing for everyone in the long run.

Wishing you a very good half term break,

Mrs K Brice
Hasmonean High School for Girls

Sivan Rahav Meir

As part of Mizrachi’s weekend of inspiration, Israeli television presenter, journalist and Torah educator Sivan Rahav-Meir spoke to the girls during their Friday morning assembly. Mrs Rahav-Meir is no ordinary journalist; she is a religious woman who lives in Jerusalem with her husband and their five children.

Mrs Rahav-Meir has interviewed public figures across Israeli society, ranging from Sara Netanyahu, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Lev Leviev and Natan Sharansky. Her weekly Torah talks on the sedra are broadcast on Galei Israel Radio and on social media.

Mrs Rahav-Meir spoke to the girls about her passion for journalism. At the age of 15, having interviewed everyone she knew – and having been published in the children’s magazines ‘Chupar’ and ‘Pashosh’, she began to interview young religious women. This led to an invitation to stay for Shabbat. During that Shabbat, a non-religious neighbour of her host asked to borrow a cup of sugar, which her host happily gave. This lead to a spirited discussion about whether this had been the right thing to do- if the woman was going to use the sugar to make a cake, she would be breaking Shabbat; on the other hand, if the host had not given her the sugar, the neighbour might have driven to buy sugar and therefore have broken more of the laws of Shabbat.

On the bus home that evening, she reflected on that discussion and the level of care. Her conclusion: that a religious life would be the one for her and she would still pursue her passion to be a successful journalist.

As a journalist, she interviewed Natan Sharansky, a politician and human rights activist, who was held in Soviet prisons from 1978 until 1986 charged with high treason and spying. This happened after his application for an exit visa from the former Soviet Union had been denied and his subsequent activism on behalf of refuseniks. Mr Sharansky said that ordinary Jews in Israel were braver then he was. When questioned about this unexpected statement he explained that in prison it was easy to do the right thing because there was a clear choice between right and wrong. But Jews in everyday life face daily choices about whether to do the right thing and uphold their faith and each of those choices is significant.

Mrs Rahav-Meir’s words both inspired and challenged the girls. She clearly demonstrated that you can be religious and you can succeed, even in the most challenging careers.

Simon Quinn from The UK Space Agency

On Friday afternoon the girls were privileged to hear from Simon Quinn from The UK Space Agency.

Mr Quinn spoke to the girls about the proposed plans NASA has to send humans to Mars by 2030. He spoke about getting into space, how a rocket works, how orbits work, about going to Mars and what it’s like in space. He then explained how everyday things like eating, showering or going to the toilet would work. Mr Quinn then spoke about what it would be like on Mars – what they would be looking for there and how the planet might be terraformed to be more like Earth.

The girls heard fascinating ideas about the search for life in outer space and the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe.

To help explain the scale and distances between the planets three of the girls participated in a demonstration. One of them held a football to represent the Sun and the other two held a ‘planet’ each and had to work out how far away the planets are from the Sun at that scale. Mercury is approximately 8 meters away, and Venus is 17 meters, with Earth 24 metres away. At that scale it would have sent one of the girls to the far reaches of the car park!

Suggestions were given as to potential careers in areas that some of our students would never have considered.

Followed by some very intense and intelligent questioning by our girls, this was a presentation they will remember for a long time.

Editorial 16/05/2019

Dear Parents,

Please find below links to letters relating to proposed changes to the school day from September 2019 for the Girls’ and the Boys’ schools.

The letter relating to the Boys’ School can be found here

The letter relating to the Girls’ School can be found here

Please note that the content of the two letters is not the same, and hence parents who have children at both the Boys’ and Girls’ Schools are advised to please read both letters.

As the letters explain, all comments or questions about the proposed changes should be emailed to: consultation@hasmonean.co.uk

Once the consultation period has ended, the outcome will be communicated to parents together with a response to the comments and questions raised.

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky
CEO – Hasmonean Multi-Academy Trust

Yom Hazikaron

Before the joy of celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, there was the commemoration of Yom HaZikaron.

In assembly, Rabbi Silverman told a story of a Jewish soldier who fought in the German Army during World War One for a regime that would turn on his people. He reminded the girls that for two millennia, Jews have had to fight for countries that did not care for them. With the foundation of the State of Israel, the Jewish people finally have an army to fight for and to fight for us.

As a soldier himself, Rabbi Silverman guarded his country. One Friday night, while singing Lecha Dodi when he was on guard duty, he realised that in Israel, we can only sing Lecha Dodi because there are soldiers standing out there, protecting us. He even missed his brother’s Bar Mitzva, because he was defending a Yishuv so a different family could be together. He was in Gaza, in danger for his life. But why? He asked his Rav, who explained that there is no greater honour than standing in the green uniform to defend Am Yisrael.

Each time a plane lands safely in Israel, every time you go to the Kotel, every time you see children playing in the streets of Israel – it is because of the 24,000 soldiers who gave their lives.
In the afternoon, as part of Mizrachi’s week of Inspiration, Rabbi Andrew Shaw and Rabbi Kenigsberg addressed Years 9 to 12 at both schools, reminding them that, as rockets rain down on Southern Israel, we still have to remember the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the defence of our land.

Today’s siren stops everyone in Israel. Whatever you are doing: driving, eating, at work, in the shuk – in Israel everything stops. The students stood in silence as they watched a film of Israelis standing as the siren wailed. This was followed by a slide show commemorating the victims from this year – the last four of whom were murdered in the past few days.

The presentation included a film of ‘The knock on the door’- the moment when a family is notified. Rabbi Kenigsberg spoke of his own story, 17 years ago, when there was a phone call to his home in South Africa. He had never thought that this would happen. His brother Stephen, along with his Givati unit, were attacked in Gaza. Stephen was killed instantly. He was one of those who were willing to sacrifice his life so the people of Israel could live. Life goes on, but there is an empty space. For a bereaved family, every day is Yom HaZikaron – on Yom HaZikaron we all stand together.
Rabbi Shaw continued, reminding the students of the summer of 2014, when three boys were kidnapped and murdered. The film had a song written to commemorate the boys, this again shows how Am Yisrael comes together both in times of tragedy and of joy.

Tonight we will move from the sadness of Yom HaZikaron to the joys of Yom HaAtzmaut: we thank Hashem who has brought us back from the four corners of the earth to our homeland.

Yom HaAzmaut – 71 years young!

There was with joy and excitement at Hasmonean High School for Girls:

The morning began with a heartfelt Tefila. Rabbi Silverman gave a short speech about living the reality of a life in Israel – the meaning and the joy of having a homeland after so many years. This is what we were celebrating. After a beautiful rendition of Tov l’Hodot and HaTikva from a small choir, the Sixth Form then led Hallel.

As Hallel ended, the students burst into dance in the hall. The Sixth Form outdid themselves when they set up and decorated the hall with blue and white flags, leading Tefila and ensuring that even the youngest students joined in the ever increasing circles.
Other activities included writing letters to lone soldiers to express our appreciation for their commitment to the land of Israel. There was, as always, a separate discussion track led by Rabbi Golker and Rabbi Kenigsberg. And of course… breakfast!

To end the celebration, they sang Hatikva before the girls began their lessons.

Thank you to each and every one of you who made Yom HaAtzmaut morning so special and significant. If we can’t be in Israel today- at least we can be a part of the celebration in our corner of NW7.

Editorial 09/05/19

Dear Parents,

Re: A Personal Thank You and Request for Ongoing Support

It was just over a month ago that the entire community came together in such a powerful way, for the Matched Funding Telethon, to help our major annual fundraiser achieve more than we ever envisaged. I therefore personally want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those that supported the campaign, whether that be through donations, joining us in the call centre on the day (including our outstanding Sixth Formers) or ensuring our message was shared as widely as possible.

Thank you.

Sadly, although possibly not surprising, the focus on the Telethon and the timing of Pesach meant that the amount raised through Voluntary Contributions dropped off in April, leaving the Charity below its target for the year. The financial reality for the School is that it cannot sustain an ongoing shortfall and needs the charity to succeed in raising sufficient VC donations. Please can every family make a concerted push between now and the end of the academic year to ensure that you donate as much of the Voluntary Contribution pledge as possible; £5,750 for the boys’ school and £4,950 for the girls’ school. Every extra £1 will make a difference.

Yours sincerely,

Mr J Feinmesser
Hasmonean Charity Trustee Chairman


Dear Parents,

We have experienced a range of emotions this week: it started with real concern about the safety of the residents of Israel, spanned the very moving Yom Hazikaron ceremony at the two schools presented by Rabbi Shaw and Rabbi Kenigsburg and ended with the excitement of celebrating Yom Haatzmaut.

This feeling of national identity was palpable at both schools this week and, with it, a real sense of achdus within our school community. This was very special to witness and experience.

The opening Perek of the Parsha reminds us of the supreme importance of looking after each other: our friends, our families, strangers within the community. It is only when this is paramount within a community that a true, balanced social order can be maintained. And it is only then that we are able to be a truly holy people.

Wishing you a peaceful Shabbos,

Mrs D Lebrett
Hasmonean High School for Boys



Year 7 and 8 Girls defeat Whitefields!

They really are a testament to their training: “practice makes perfect”

Year 7 demonstrated great team work, skill and communication throughout the match and won 8-2!
Mia Wohlgemuth was awarded “Girl of the match” in Year 7 for her all round performance and scoring two goals. Further goals were scored by Jessie Yawitch and Ayelet Bloch.

Year 8 won 1-0 with Orli Ucko sneaking in a goal in the last 2 minutes and went onto to win “Girl of the match”. Our Year 8’s have proven to be particularly strong in defence.

Please congratulate the girls on their skills, team comradery and excellent sportsmanship.

Young Art – Yael Berenblut

Yael Berenblut submitted a poignant and beautiful painting to the 29th Young Art competition. She created a painting of her youngest brother Donnie, who died when she was fifteen. Another of her brothers, Ami, is also featured in the picture. ‘The Moment’, in Yael’s words, ‘represents how Donnie’s life was made up of millions of special moments that we appreciated that any other normal family would have considered mundane’.

Her work will be displayed at the Royal College of Art until Friday 3rd May. There were 7600 entries for this exhibition, and approximately 800 were selected to be displayed.

YOUNG ART is an exhibition at the Royal College of Art for students aged between 4-18 years raising funds for Cancer Research UK. It is a wonderful opportunity for aspiring artists to have their work judged by well-known professional artists and exhibited at the prestigious Royal College of Art and, at the same time, raise money for Cancer Research UK.


Editorial 02/05/2019

Dear Parents,

Sefer Vayikra is a book of two halves and the abrupt change takes place in the middle of our sedra, Achrei Mos.

The first 17 chapters of Sefer Vayikra all relate to the Mishkan. It covers topics such as korbonos, rules of kohanim, tumah and taharah, the dedication ceremony of the Mishkan and the avodah of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur.

Then, halfway in to our sedra, from chapter 18 onwards, Sefer Vayikra deals with a litany of miscellaneous topics starting with prohibited relationships and then “kedoshim tihiyu” to shemittah, erechin vows and much in between.

Notably, the phrase “Ani Hashem Elokeichem” appears over fifty times from chapter 18 onwards and only once in the first 17 chapters of Vayikra.

Rav Menachem Leibtag gives the following wonderful explanation.

Some people may mistakenly think that the Shechina, the Divine Presence of Hashem, is limited to the Mishkan, Beis HaMikdash or even just our own shuls. This is not true. Hashem’s Presence and message must be disseminated into everyday life. Judaism is 24/7, 365 days a year. Judaism is less of a theology and more of a way of life.

To convey this idea, the phrase “Ani Hashem Elokeichem” is not needed in the first half of Sefer Vayikra as that primarily deals with the Mishkan. Even the one time it does appear in the first 17 chapters of Vayikra is in relation to Kashrus and not the Mishkan per se.

But when Sefer Vayikra moves on to cover a host of miscellaneous topics, the phrase “Ani Hashem Elokeichem” needs to repeated over and over to remind us to bring Hashem in to every aspect of our lives.

This is a message we need to convey and model to our children and students. To live a life of Torah, recognising that Hashem’s Presence goes beyond the walls of shul, and adhere carefully to Halacha which demonstrates that HKBH is wholly integrated in to our daily lives.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi J Golker