Editorial 30/1/2020

Dear Parent,

The theme of this week’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘Standing Together’. As part of our commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, students from St Mary’s Catholic School, near Saffron Walden, joined pupils at both the Boys’ and the Girls’ Schools. In addition, girls from Copthall and Barnet Hill Academy, which is a Muslim school, were welcomed to the activities which had been planned with great care by Mrs Abecasis.

A teacher from one of the schools told me that they study Judaism as part of their RS GCSE but that her students had never met Jewish people. The visit certainly helped to dispel any stereotypes on both sides and it was lovely to see all the students mixing so well together.

In our divided and fractured world, it is important for us to seize any opportunity which brings people together and helps to dispel the bigotry which can come with ignorance. We will be exploring how we can deepen and extend the links we have made already so that we can truly stand together in defence of the British values which we all hold dear.

Kind regards,

Mrs K Brice
Headteacher – Girls’ School

Jack Petchey Speak Out Regional Final

On Thursday 23rd January, our two school finalists, Levana and Tzvi, took to the stage of the Compton School for the Jack Petchey Speak Out Competition: Regional Final.

Levana spoke about how the past shapes our future with a passionate and highly original speech which linked her name, and the concept of the moon coming down to earth, to how we can learn from our past.

Tzvi’s title was ‘The Keys to Success’ where, through his experience of teaching himself to play piano, he showed that you can succeed without being taught as long as you are motivated, have the right mind set and the mental strength to persevere.

Thank you to our fabulous coaches: Mrs Jacobson and Mrs Serfaty who helped the two polish their delivery and sharpen their language.

Although Hasmonean did not win, all the staff and students who attended had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Bible Quiz Triumph

On Sunday 26th January, Hasmonean triumphed at the national High School Bible Quiz 2020, which was held at The Pillar Hotel. Hundreds of students from Jewish High Schools around the country came together to compete.

At stake were 12 places in the Junior and Senior levels. The senior winners were awarded a free trip to Israel to attend the annual World Bible Quiz on Israel Independence, which is televised live around the world.

Hasmonean’s very own Rabbi Fachler compèred the quiz with his usual aplomb, and the quiz was judged by Rabbi Zobin of Ner Yisroel and Immanuel College, Rabbi Pollak of PAJES, JFS and LSJS, and our very own Rabbi Landau.

The questions were exceptionally difficult and after four gruelling rounds, the winners emerged. The top three of both categories were Hasmonean students!

Congratulations to all the teacher who worked with the students, and a very special thank you to Rabbi Silverman, whose dream came true when Hasmonean topped the ranks!

Hackney Hospice

On Holocaust Memorial Day, fifteen Year 9 boys accompanied Rabbi Fachler to the St. Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney to participate in their Holocaust Memorial service.

The service was led by Rabbi Fachler, with other readings from members of the clergy of other faiths.

After the service, the boys were treated to an array of snacks. Thank you to Miss Liley for taking time out of her busy schedule and joining the boys on a most memorable occasion.

Holocaust Memorial Day – Boys

Holocaust Memorial Day was superbly organised by Mrs Abecasis on Friday 24th January. Along with Mrs Abecasis, our informal educators: Mr Shebson and Rabbi Fachler, helped run the Holocaust Memorial Day events at the Boys’ School.

Our Year 10 boys welcomed a group of 30 boys from St Mary’s High School where they spent the morning learning about the Holocaust with Rabbi Fachler. This was an engaging and informative session for all and stressed the importance for everyone to stand together united against atrocities.

The second part of the morning saw our Years 7-10 boys, as well as our guests, listen to Mr Manfred Goldberg. He is a Holocaust survivor who has spoken at Hasmonean on several occasions.

Mr Goldberg described how his father escaped to the UK while the rest of his family were taken to the Riga Ghetto in Latvia. He was transported to a labour camp at the age of 14 where he had to build railway tracks for the German war effort. Finally, he was moved to a concentration camp in Poland before being liberated in 1945.

It was an incredible honour to hear Mr Manfred Goldberg speak and hear his inspiring story of his Bar Mitzvah in the Riga Ghetto during 1943. His story will be remembered for many years to come and has now been heard by the wider audience of St Mary’s boys.

Holocaust Memorial Day – Girls

Holocaust Memorial Day was superbly organised by Mrs Abecasis on Friday 24th January. Students from three different local schools: Copthall, St Mary’s, and Barnet Hill Academy joined our girls for the morning’s events.

The opening ceremony introduced the theme ‘Standing Together’. Rabbi Golker gave a Dvar Torah, where he linked concepts from Tehillim 22 to ideas of redemption and the 4 cups of wine. He thanked Mrs Abecasis for all the work she has done, not only in Hasmonean, but at the Imperial War Museum and other venues to keep the flame of Memorial alive.

Mrs Abecasis welcomed our visitors and gave a powerful presentation on what it means to be a bystander. Throughout history, regimes which have committed genocide have begun by deliberately fracturing society. This is why it is so important not to be a bystander, but to stand together.

This year, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is a particularly significant time to stand together. In introducing the workshops, Mrs Abecasis explained that we can stand together by dissolving the concepts of ‘Us and Them’ and by stepping away from propaganda used to divide us. She concluded by saying we must “STAND TOGETHER AGAINST DIVISION AND HATE and STAND TOGETHER TO SUPPORT THOSE IN NEED.” Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong… try every day to do some good!

Next, Mr McClusky spoke to the school. He spoke about the importance of having pride in ourselves- which we can only have if we have respect for others. When our empathy fails and we deny the humanity of others, then other groups appear less than human. As a community, Jews should celebrate, not hide our heritage. He spoke about seeing the gas chambers of Auschwitz on school trips to Poland and the effect that had on him and the students, and he explained that the images that stay with him are the pride, strength and unity of the Hasmonean students.

Mr Kalley spoke about the Year 12’s journey to Poland each year and how it is a life altering experience. He said that to stand together means to remember the victims of all genocide and that we need to remember the victims today. He said as someone who is not part of the Jewish community that he stands with them today remembering the Holocaust.

The last speaker was Mr Heddle. He mentioned that he is originally from Australia and the fact that at the moment there is a huge amount of Australia that is on fire. He spoke about the massive impact that this is having on the people of Australia. The communities of Australia are standing together to support each other – as are people from all over the world. The world is standing with Australia to fight against a climate disaster that is occurring in the Southern hemisphere, possibly due to climate change. Everyone is standing together to try to deal with this terrible disaster.

Each year group had a different workshop to attend. Year 7 learned about the Kinder Transport with Rev Bernd Koschland MBE, who was one of those children. Year’s 8 and 9 explored propaganda in art and in the media. Year 10, along with our guest students, discussed the refugee crisis then and now with Dr Edie Friedman from JCORE. Our Year 11’s welcomed Eve Kugler, a Holocaust survivor, and the Sixth Form met with Lily Ebert, another survivor.

After break, all classes from Years 8-13 had the extraordinary opportunity to hear a very different presentation, that of Mr Derek Niemann, whose grandfather was an SS Commandant. He is the author of ‘A Nazi in the Family.’ The students listened in complete silence to the speaker giving a differing perspective to that of a survivor of the Holocaust. They listened as Mr Derek Niemann spoke with courage, conviction, clear abject horror and disgust at the horrors he learnt that his grandfather had committed. His very clear message was: share common humanity.

A varied Q & A session followed. He was asked how he found out about his grandfather – he found a sheet on Google from the Nuremberg Trials with his grandfather’s name on it and listed his grandfather’s crimes against humanity.

He stated that he does not like his grandfather for what he did. He said that when he joined the Nazi party he was 37 and therefore knew what he was doing and cannot be excused in any way for what he did. His own father gave only a partial view of his own father as an SS officer. He believes that his father hid this fact and that this could be because his father, after years of telling lies about aspects of his history and hiding what his father did, started to believe his own stories.

The school moved back to the hall for the closing ceremony which began with Mrs Barnes, Headteacher at St Mary’s, thanking Hasmonean for a wonderful experience and commenting on the fact that people spend more time looking at their differences than at their similarities. She concluded with a prayer read at St Mary’s.

Mrs Brice took to the stage, thanking all the speakers and stressing the importance of standing together- the events of Bosnia and Rwanda show that the world still stands by when genocide happens. This is why standing together, and standing up for people – such as those who organised the Kinder Transport – is so important. She then asked everyone in the hall to stand up and to link arms with each other and to say – united we stand, defeated we fall.

Written by Mrs J Ellerman, Mrs P Jacobson and Ms L Foster

Boys Maccabi Badminton Tournament

On 15th January 2020, the boys Maccabi badminton tournament was held at JFS. We took a very strong team who played against JFS, Immanuel, KS, Yavneh and JCoss. The boys were outstanding, both in sportsmanship and middos. Congratulations to our Years 9, 10 and 11 competitors who won their tournaments.

Editorial 23/1/2020

Dear Parent,

In this week’s Parshah, we see that Pharaoh repeats a pattern following every plague: he appeals to Moshe to demand that they stop but then changes his mind about releasing the Bnei Yisrael: he makes his heart ‘heavy’. Every time that the suffering and fear engendered by the plagues is removed, Pharaoh returns to his previous obstinate behaviour.

The meforshim discuss the connotations of the phrase: ‘making the heart heavy’. Heavy objects are difficult to move and they take a massive force in order to topple them. Once the force is eliminated, the object will come to rest. The plagues were a massive force which moved Pharaoh; once the plague ended, he was unable to alter his ingrained behaviours and world view. We need to really look at ourselves to see if there may be a small part of this characteristic in each of us. Do we sometimes become so attached to our own views and perspectives that we can be dismissive of evidence that challenges our fixed opinions? Do we sometimes exhibit fixed patterns of behaviour which can seem unrealistic and unreliable?

As part of the teachers’ continuing professional development, we have been looking in close detail at the idea of shifting these ‘fixed mindsets’ in the students with a view to making them more positive about their capabilities and their learning. Research shows how important the student mindset is when we think about attainment and their achievements; we all need to think about what we can achieve, not all the things that we feel we cannot do. We are very hopeful that, by focusing on this more forensically, we will start to see more positive and successful learners at Hasmonean. We will keep you updated about the progress of this project as it develops.

Wishing you a peaceful Shabbos,

Mrs D Lebrett

Trip to Imperial War Museum

The Year 10 Hasmonean girls visited a new temporary exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, which was curated by Mrs A Abecasis.

Students took part in specially created learning sessions developed for the IWM which focus on the efforts of Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld and Sir Nicholas Winton to rescue children and bring them to Britain prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The workshop included testimony and clips of Kinder who came to England during the years of 1938-1940.  The temporary display also included several personal items belonging to Rabbi Dr. Schonfeld and Sir Nicholas, kindly lent by their families for this partnership work.

The children were under severe threat from the Third Reich and sadly 1.5million children were killed due to the atrocities of the Nazi regime. The heroism of these two men, along with other members of the CBF/CCJR and the British Government, enabled 10,000 children to find a safe place and access to housing and education in Britain.

While visiting IWM, students also had the opportunity to explore the highly respected Holocaust Exhibition which includes powerful survivor testimony. The girls found the exhibition both informative and very moving – indeed the whole day was a very valuable learning experience for them.

Thank you to Mrs Abecasis for organising this event.

Editorial 16/1/2020

Dear Parent,

Firstly, I would like to draw attention to an exhibition which Mrs Abecasis has curated at the Imperial War Museum: “Against All Odds: Britain and the Rescue of Jewish Children”.

At the opening of the exhibition last Sunday guests included family members of the rescuers, Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld & Sir Nicholas Winton, and children of the Kindertransports. Guest speakers included Rachel Donnelly from the Imperial War Museum; Mrs Abecasis who curated the exhibition; Barbara Winton, daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton; Jonathan Schonfeld, son of son of Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld; as well as rescued children: Lord Dubs, Benjamin Abeles, John Fieldsend and Lili Pohlmann.

Since the exhibition opened, groups of Hasmonean students have been taken to it and the feedback from them and the teachers who accompanied them has been excellent. We are hopeful that this exhibition will now move on to schools in London and perhaps further afield. My sincere thanks go to Mrs Abecasis for curating this incredibly inspiring exhibition.

At both schools, we will mark Holocaust Memorial Day next Friday and guest speakers and guest pupils from other schools will be visiting Hasmonean.

I was reminded when I learned that this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme is ‘Stand Together’ of Rabbi Sack’s words in A Judaism Engaged with the World:

I discovered how much non-Jews admire Judaism and are lifted by it. Jews are admired by others for the strength of their families and the support of their communities, for their commitment to philanthropy and social responsibility; and for their ability to combine reverence for the past with sensitivity to the present and responsibility to the future. I discovered that non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism.

It made me reflect, as somebody who is not Jewish but who has worked within the Jewish community for many years, that there is a duty that we too have, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism has been rising. If, according to Rabbi Sacks, Jews have a duty to embrace their Judaism, our duty is to carry your light with us when we leave your company. When questioned about Jewish life in your absence, we must celebrate what we have seen and regale those who are ignorant of Jewish communities with tales of generosity and warmth. Jews and non-Jews must stand together even when they are parted. To those of us who have worked in Jewish communities for a long time, this is as easy as it is sadly now necessary.

Best wishes,

Mr A McClusky

CEO, Hasmonean MAT