Editorial 26/09/2019

Dear Parents,

This month is a month of new beginnings.  The month of Elul is a time when the past year connects with the coming year and it is certainly a time when we can reflect on where we are and where we should be going.  Equally, September is the beginning of the new school year – a time when the students start again: refreshed and reinvigorated.

A new year means new beginnings and fresh starts – this mantra has been repeated to our students when they began this term.  They have been invited to have the courage to let go of the past, free themselves from any sense of failure and disappointment and embrace a new perspective.  During our form times in school, we are focusing upon enabling the students to move forward with pride and excitement for the year ahead.

As we now move towards celebrating Rosh Hashana, I would like to wish everyone a Shana Tova and a peaceful, happy and successful year.

Wishing you a good Shabbos,

Mrs D Lebrett

Sergeant Uriel Goldberg, Paul Young and Jackie Herman

On Tuesday 24th September, the Year 9 boys were treated to a presentation from Sergeant Uriel Goldberg of the IDF. He is currently the Liaison Officer for the Magen David Adom which is the first response ambulance service in Israel. He is also an alumnus of Hasmonean Boys’ School.

He shared footage of one of his military operations in Lebanon as well as explaining to the boys how some technology devised by Magen David Adom is now being sought after here in the UK.

The boys were glued to every word he said and asked pertinent questions about the laws of conflict. It was a most uplifting experience and we look forward to welcoming Sergeant Goldberg back very soon.

On the same day, the Year 10 boys were addressed by two incredible individuals: Paul Young and Jackie Herman who were born exactly on the same day and year as each other – one in Vienna and one in Austria.

When Jackie was two and half years old, he was liberated from the Theresienstadt death camp: he was one of the youngest survivors. He lost his entire family in the Shoah. He was sent to England and the Herman family lived in the apartment next door.

The two boys went to the same school, the same Shul and they even had their Bar Mitzvahs on the same day.

They have shared their stories with countless schools – Jewish and Non-Jewish – aiming to arm teenagers with more knowledge of the horrors of the war and the subsequent hope for a brighter future. The entire Year 10 group were spellbound for the entire presentation.

May Hashem give these two living legends the strength to be able to return to Hasmonean many more times in good health.

Lawrence Shenkin

The following article was written by Lawrence Shenkin, one of our Sixth Form students

Over the summer, I participated in the National Citizen Service. During the three weeks I participated, I met with new people of multiple faiths, including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. I also participated in work experience in the BBC and at Sajid Javid’s office, and on the final week, I helped to launch the charity Burst The Bubble UK. JLGB invited me to a Jewish community celebration event at the Roundhouse in Camden to talk about my experiences in front of an audience of 1200, which included high profile guests such as the Chief Rabbi and The Lord Levy. The charity I helped to set up, Burst The Bubble UK is ongoing and we release bi-weekly podcasts on Spotify, Youtube, SoundCloud, Itunes and Apple Music. Burst The Bubble is a youth organisation that runs events in mosques to destroy the misconceptions Muslims may have about the Jewish community, and events in shuls to destroy misconceptions about the Islamic community and try and promote conversation between all faiths. We have primarily been able to do this through our podcast, which has been fairly successful so far. In the podcast, we get high profile members of the Jewish and Islamic communities to converse and discuss their ideologies. My role in the charity is as the Project Coordinator, Secretary and I’ve hosted a couple of episodes on the podcast.

JLGB Award Ceremony

On Wednesday 18th September I was privileged to take part in the JLGB evolve award ceremony at the Camden Roundhouse, London.

I was asked to present the Yoni Jesner section of the ceremony, to over 1,200 people who came to the event, and I was very proud to be representing our school for this.

Yoni Jesner was sadly killed in a suicide bombing in Israel in 2002, so a foundation was set up in his memory to inspire young people to do more and care more, as a legacy to the kindness and dedication that he showed in his life. They give annual awards to young people who spend at least 20 hours of their time volunteering and giving to the community, and I was very proud to explain what an amazing person Yoni was.

There are two awards, for spending 20 hours and 50 hours of volunteering in the past year, and I managed to complete both awards and many additional hours, by volunteering at my local Brownies, helping GIFT and being a leader at a summer sports camp.

However, the highlight of the evening for me was a performance by Craig David. As a presenter during the evening, I was honoured to meet him personally backstage. I am very appreciative of the wonderful work done by JLGB to encourage volunteers within our community at all the various stages of high school be it Yoni Jesner or all levels of the Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Achdus Trip

On Wednesday, all of the Year 7 boys spent the day at Phasels Wood Activity Centre. The event was designed to help the boys get to know each other better. They experienced a full day of team building and bonding exercises.

The boys were split into 6 teams, ably led by their team leaders: Rabbi Amar, Rabbi Feingold and Year 7 Year Leader Rabbi Obermeister, together with Mr Kessler, Mr Woodthorpe and Dr Alexander-Passe. Our very own Year 12 Madrichim, Messrs Rosenberg-Whyte, Taylor, Hannuna and Hollander were exceptionally helpful. The fun and frolics were all successfully overseen by our new Informal Education Organiser, Mr Benji Shebson.

The boys had an exceptional experience and the weather was absolutely glorious.
What a wonderful way to get the boys to spent time together and bond as a unit!

Editorial 19/9/19

Dear Parents,

As the relaxing days of summer fade into a distant memory and we get our heads down in a new school year, I was struck by something which I read recently. This is some research which showed that five year old children who are told a story about an intelligent person and asked to guess the gender of that person are likely to suggest male or female about equally. The same experiment with six year olds revealed that boys picked their own gender as being ‘really, really smart’ 65% of the time whereas the number of girls doing the same had dropped to 48%. This worrying finding was repeated in a further test which gave six year olds the choice of a game for children who are ‘really, really smart’ or who ‘try really, really hard’. Girls were far less likely to opt for the game for ‘smart’ children.

What this means for us is that we all need to think carefully about the implicit messages in what we say. Do we praise girls too much for working hard while to their brothers, as we worry that they are not putting in the hours of study of their sisters, we convey, possibly very subtly, that their brains will probably get them through? I may be wrong about this but perhaps this week we could all try and find some reason to praise a girl for being smart and a boy for applying himself well.

Wishing you all a good Shabbos,

Mrs K Brice
Hasmonean High School for Girls

Editorial 12/9/19

Breaking News!
Hasmonean High Schools are the top non-selective state schools in The Times newspaper for attainment at GCSE!

We have calculated that Hasmonean’s two schools are the highest achieving non-selective state schools in the country in The Times league tables for GCSE. Both the boys’ and girls’ schools attained an impressive 53% 9-7 grades, with the boys attaining 34% 9-8 grades and the girls achieving 37% 9-8 grades.

Congratulations to all of our students and staff on these tremendous results. It should be remembered that our students benefit from far more than academic success. Kodesh will be the bedrock of their future lives and we are grateful to all of our Jewish Studies teachers for the attitudes and values that they instil within them.

Dear Parents,

I hope everyone had a great summer and have come back refreshed and ready for the new year.

Whatever your political leanings I think everyone would agree we are living in interesting times, with uncertainty reigning and the normal rules of engagement thrown out of the window. It is under this cloud that we move into Ellul, a month of preparation where the noise of our day to day lives moves backstage and we take a look in the proverbial mirror, assessing where we are as individuals and a community against the expectations Hashem has of us. Such moments of introspection are sadly few and far between due to financial and social pressures, as these moments change us and our behaviours for the better.

As a Finance Committee, we work hard behind the scenes to ensure the School is in as strong a position as possible to provide the education our children deserve. Although we speak to many parents, there are groups of parents who we rarely speak to, parents upon whose contributions the school heavily relies yet don’t get a thank-you call from us at any time. Hasmonean would not be able to operate without parental support and therefore, as a group, we wanted to thank everyone for donating to the school over the past year and look forward to your continued support.

Wishing everyone a Kesiva V’Chasima Tova and hope that through our Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedokah we will, together, have a great year ahead.

The Finance Committee

Yours sincerely,

Mr J Feinmesser
Trustee and Chair of the Finance Committee

Rabbi Josef Mendelevich

On Tuesday morning, the 200 Beis students were privileged to have Rabbi Josef Mendelevich, the ex-prisoner of Zion and former Russian Refusenik come in and speak to them. He was freed by the now defunct Soviet regime in 1981. Rabbi Mendelevich shared his experiences of his time in custody and his life afterwards. He expressed his desire to live as a proud Jew in a country where it was nearly impossible to practice Yiddishkeit without fearing for one’s life.

Every single boy and Rebbe alike was spellbound for the 35 minutes of Reb Mendelevich’s address.

When he described having to daven under those circumstances, and how lucky we are today where we can prepare for Yomim Noro’im in perfect security, it brought home the reality of our comfortable life. We should appreciate living in a country where people of all faiths are free to worship without fear.

Editorial 5/9/19

I hope you and your families are well and had a restful summer.

Yesterday morning, at the staff inset, I had the privilege to address all members of staff and I would like to share with you my message to them.

Imagine you were invited to an inauguration ceremony. A new shul, school or even just a friend’s housewarming. The invitation will call it a “Chanukas HaBayis” or similar. When the Mishkan was inaugurated in the Midbar, we refer to it as the Chanukas HaMishkan, all based on the word “chinuch” meaning to dedicate or inaugurate.

Interestingly, as I told my colleagues, we are all in the business of chinuch – education. The same word.

What is the connection between inaugurating a new building and education?

Rabbi Malcolm Herman, in his wonderful book “Everyday Parenting for Everyday Parents” gives an insightful answer.

An inauguration ceremony marks when a building has been brought to the point where it is ready for the purpose for which it has been constructed. To inaugurate a building means to develop it to the point where it is completely ready and able to fulfil its designated purpose.

That is exactly what chinuch is. To raise a child so that it is completely ready and able to fulfil the lifelong purpose for which they were created.

That is really our goal at Hasmonean: to help each child achieve their potential. To make sure they are proud, practising and passionate Jews where Torah is central to their lives and at the same time are equipped to make their way in this world and contribute to the society in which they live.

As I tell staff every year, if a student leaves Hasmonean with a string of 9’s and A*’s and yet is not a kind and pleasant person or who falls short morally or religiously, we have failed.

As we start a new academic year, it is important to remind ourselves of this objective and I always make reference to Rabbi Schonfeld’s vision for Hasmonean and the ethos of Torah Im Derech Eretz, which underpins this objective.

We are constantly trying to raise standards and retain freshness and excitement in school. To this end, I am delighted to inform you of an important appointment at the girls’ school. Mrs Debbie Paster, Deputy Head of the Midrasha, has been appointed as Director of Jewish Life at the girls’ school where she will work with me, Mrs Brice, Rabbi Hager and Miss Simonsson to further instil a palpable atmosphere of Jewish life in school. This dovetails our exciting plans to improve tefilla and Kodesh generally in the girls’ school.

I hope that all these efforts to raise standards and retain freshness and excitement at both sites, bear much fruit and help us achieve our goal to give outstanding chinuch to every child, so that in time they will be ready and able to fulfil the lifelong purpose for which they were created.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi J Golker