Editorial 26/3/2020

Dear Parent,

It has been another tumultuous week and our thoughts and tefillos go to our staff, students and parents who are unwell or who are having to cope with bereavement at this terribly difficult time.

Please be reassured that we are available for the Hasmonean community should you need us.  Our pastoral staff are in contact with the students regularly and we are working tirelessly in order to create a realistic and dynamic teaching and learning schedule which we will introduce immediately after Pesach.

More details will follow over the course of this week.

Sending you all best wishes and a good Shabbos.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs D Lebrett
Headteacher – Boys’ School


Dear Parents,

​We are delighted to to inform you that the Kodesh department are now inviting their students to live Shiurum via a link to the Zoom platform on Show My Homework. 

The Zoom platform will be used by the Kodesh department until Pesach, after which we will be switching to Google’s G Suite for all staff to facilitate interaction between staff and students in all subjects. This platform supports features such as video conferencing and messaging between teachers and classes, storage of classroom resources and applications to support online pedagogy in a safe and secure environment.

Update on plans to upgrade digital learning

We have been working hard behind the scenes to move towards a comprehensive, secure and agile digital environment to maximise students’ learning opportunities in the immediate future. We selected Google’s G Suite for education to become our single central platform to drive forward our ambitious digital learning plans for now and the foreseeable future as it provides the latest online tools. 

We are now ready to roll this out. Our intention before the Pesach holiday is to ensure:

1.    All staff and students have a Google school email account

2.    All staff are trained in how to safely and effectively use G Suite to upload resources and facilitate live interaction with students

3.    All staff practise using the platform so that they are able to use it smoothly straight after Pesach; depending on how quickly the above can be achieved, we may be in a position to facilitate tutorials with students before the Pesach break – if this is the case, the relevant staff will be in touch with their classes

4.    All staff and students are issued with a post-Pesach timetable which will include:

​•  Regular Kodesh shiurum

​•  Tutorials with subject teachers for all year groups

​•  Pastoral/ wellbeing/ mental health check-ins with the pastoral team

​•  Differentiated timetables and extra support from the SEND team.

This means that what we can offer more effective digital learning and  increased staff/ student interaction straight after Pesach. In the meantime, we will continue to use Moodle and Show My Homework to upload resources, set work, communicate with students and receive feedback and work from them.

Year 11 and Year 13 exam grades

We are still awaiting Ofqual’s advice regarding examination grades for Year 11 and Year 13. We would like Year 11 to begin preparing for A Level/ BTEC studies as soon as possible and would like to support Year 13 to transition to the next stages of their lives. However, it may be the case that some of these students will still need to continue to focus on their GCSEs and A levels, depending on Ofqual’s advice. As soon as we know more, we will let you know.

On-site learning

If you are a parent who is a key worker or a parent of a vulnerable child whose circumstances change such that you are no longer able to look after your child at home, please inform the relevant headteacher. If there are sufficient numbers of children, we will then either re-open the school(s) or, if there are very few students, work with the local authority to find a hub school for them to attend. As this process may take some time to organise, please try to give us as much advance notice as you are able to if this is the case (though we appreciate that this may not always be possible)

What if I or my child has a safeguarding concern when the school is closed?

In the event of school closure, we would advise any parent or child who has a concern about their own or others’ safety to contact the Barnet MASH Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 020 8359 4066 or contact your local authority safeguarding hub if you live in a different local authority. If your concern is school-related you will be able to email the Safeguarding Designated Senior People: l.waugh@hasmonean.co.uk (girls) and r.benarroch@hasmonean.co.uk (boys)

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky – CEO, Hasmonean MAT

Mrs D Lebrett – Headteacher Hasmonean Boys’ School    

Mrs K Brice – Headteacher Hasmonean Girls’ School      

Rabbi J Golker – Menahel


Editorial 19/3/2020

Dear Parents,

Re: Coronavirus update

We write to you without yet knowing whether schools in England will close on Friday. We also do not yet know if any future closure means full closure or whether they will remain open to some students and staff. Once we get further clarification on this and have assessed the impact on the school community, we will let you know our response.

However, what we do know is that the number of students who are working from home is increasing.

To work effectively from home, students need to establish good routines from the outset:

  • Wake up at a reasonable time in the morning, get dressed, daven and have breakfast;
  • Eat at regular meal times;
  • Put aside phones when they are working, just as they would at school;
  • For the time being, use their regular school timetable as a guide to how much work should be attempted in each subject;
  • Build in time for more creative tasks such as art, music or cooking to get a reasonable balance of academic work and purposeful leisure time;
  • Exercise – the form this takes may depend on whether students can leave the house but there is plenty of exercise that can be performed indoors.

We are working on the use of a number of learning platforms such as Google Classroom and Zoom and have been taking soundings from schools in Hong Kong, as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish schools to learn about what works safely and what works best. Once we are satisfied that we have identified the best way to transform our online learning, we will send details to students and parents. Our plans will address not only the academic needs of students but their wellbeing more generally while they work from home.

In the meantime, for those students who are no longer in school in Years 8-10, Kodesh staff are using Moodle and Show My Homework in the same way as secular staff to set work. Despite severe staff shortages, we are continuing Kodesh and secular lessons for all students in school in Years 7 and 11-13.

Rabbi Golker reflects on his own period of self-isolation  as follows: “BH I am still symptom free and feeling fine. Such times are opportunities to bond with our children and model behaviour that will imbue our children will lessons for life. They may not remember every Possuk or daf Gemoro they learn but they will remember watching how you spoke, davened or bentched during this time. Having been on many Poland trips, I often feel that it is sometimes possible to teach a student in six days on a Poland trip what it normally takes six months to teach in a classroom. These times are no different.”

We would all like to thank our staff for their hard work, parents for their patience and understanding and students for coping so well in these uncertain times. ‘Social distancing’ does not stop a strong community like Hasmonean from being united.

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky                                 Mrs D Lebrett                                                    Mrs K Brice

CEO, Hasmonean MAT           Headteacher                                                   Headteacher

Hasmonean Boys’ School       Hasmonean Girls’ School




Trip to Oxford

A number of Year 11 and 12 girls were given the chance to attend a talk at Christ Church College Oxford on the 13th March. Ana Hastoy provided the girls with a personalised event which started with a talk about admissions and access to Oxford. Ana explained the College system and gave us an excellent run through of the dos and don’ts for Personal Statements for Oxbridge.

We had a tour of Christ Church where we were shown the Hogwarts stairs and dining hall. Later we were able to talk to the Oxford Rabbi and a Jewish student who gave the girls an insight into Jewish life in Christ Church and beyond. It was great to hear how well the Jewish students are provided for and how far the Colleges have gone to provide Kosher meals and facilities.

We met with a panel of First Year female students, including students from the Physics, Maths, Philosophy, Medicine and Music departments. They were able to provide us with a better understanding about what student life involves, including their personal application process, the work-life balance, and interesting events which the students get to partake in. Our Hasmonean girls asked pertinent and interesting questions which enabled us to better understand how STEM subjects are taught, as well as the options available in the Humanities and joint degrees.

Before we left we were able to tour the smaller College of Corpus Christi with its incredibly ancient library which was a highlight for some of our girls. Ana will be coming in later in the year to talk to a larger number of students as part of our Oxbridge programme.

Purim Party at Hasmonean School for Girls

The fun and frolics began on Rosh Chodesh Adar with uniform clad staff slipping in among the girls during assembly. There may even have been a couple of visitors from the dark side surreptitiously joining them!

In the week before Purim there was Twin Tuesday, Pink Wednesday, Tichel Thursday and Boy’s Tie Friday! Tichel Thursday took the girls back to the days of the shtetl with the Sixth Form girls dressed as rabbis and rebbetzens from der heim. Cholent and kugel were served at our authentic Chassidische tish.

On Erev Purim, the staff delighted the girls with their own version of the school play ‘Peter Pan’. There were skits from the Sixth Formers and lots of general jollification!

The festivities and fun continued at the Girls’ School with a magnificent Purim party full of fancy dress, fabulous music, photo magnets, frozen coffee, fantastic pizza, fun inflatables, and frivolous dancing!

Raffi Berg

Last week, Hasmonean had the privilege of welcoming Raffi Berg back to the school to talk to our Year 11 students. Raffi Berg is an author of an amazing new book about the Mossad secret operation. To evacuate thousands of Ethiopian Jews who had been languishing in refugee camps and the spiriting of them to Israel, the Mossad opened a new luxury holiday resort. Catering for divers, it attracted guests from around the world. Little did the holidaymakers know that the staff were undercover spies!

Raffi wrote this book in collaboration with operatives involved in the mission, endorsed as the definitive account and including the commander who went on to become the Head of the Mossad.

Our Sixth Formers were thoroughly mesmerised by this remarkable event!

Editorial 12/3/2020

Dear Parent,

We find ourselves in unprecedented times. The coronavirus outbreak has now been labelled as a pandemic, spreading in multiple countries all over the world. People are anxious and no one knows how things are going to unfold.

What message can we give our children?

This Shabbos is not only parshas Ki Sisa but also Parshas Parah. We have just enjoyed Purim and are heading towards Pesach. What is the common denominator between these four events?

The common denominator is emunah, faith in Hashem.

Ki Sisa tells of the sin of the egel hazahav, the golden calf where a section of Klal Yisrael displayed a lack of emunah. Parshas Parah speaks about the quintessential chok – זאת חקת התורה. Purim is the story of how Hashem delivered Klal Yisrael in a hidden way and Pesach is the story of direct intervention by Hashem. Contemplation of both is intended to enhance our faith. Telling and internalising the stories are meant to imbue us with emunah and withstand the travails of our times.

The Gemara in Megilah (16a) tells us that when Haman looks for Mordechai to carry out King Achashverosh’s reward of riding on the king’s horse, dressed in royal clothes, he finds Mordechai in the Beis Hamedrash teaching hilchos kemitzah. Hilchos kemitzah are technical laws involving flour offerings.

Why hilchos kemitzah now? The first Beis Hamikdash has been destroyed and the second has yet to come. There is no Beis Hamkidash, no flour offerings and no kemitzah?

The answer is that Mordechai is teaching a powerful message. Klal Yisrael are in deep trouble. The noose is tightening around their neck. A date for state sanctioned genocide has been set. Mordechai does his hishtadlus, he makes every effort to guide Esther and together with the rest of the Jewish people, he fasts and prays. And then he teaches hilchos kemitzah.

In so doing, he is telling Klal Yisrael the message of last week’s haftorah – נצח ישראל לא ישקר. Mordechai is saying we may be in a precarious state, but we will get through this, we will prevail. There will yet be a Beis Hamikdash and Kohanim will once again perform the avodah and take a kemitzah.

The message to our children is the same. We must do our bit to stay safe and follow medical guidelines carefully, but we remain calm in the knowledge that HKBH runs the world.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi J Golker

Space and STEM Summer School: Mission Discovery

In 2018, one of our Year 10 students was part of the Space and STEM Summer School called Mission Discovery held at Kings College London (KCL). Students were competing to launch an experiment of their own design to the International Space Station (ISS).

Our student, Shiri, was in the team TITAN pHive and they had to present their idea in front of 250 people, as well as the board of judges. TITAN pHive won the competition! NASA is now preparing her experiment and it will be launched into space on Saturday 7th March where the ISS astronauts will conduct Shiri’s experiment! Her experiment will be handed over to SpaceX to be launched on SpaceX20, where astronauts aboard the ISS will conduct her experiment and send the recordings down to earth.

Shiri’s experiment is called ‘Planarian Flatworm Regeneration in Microgravity’, and will measure the rate of cell division in space using GFP.

Editorial 5/3/2020

Dear Parent,

Last week we read Parshat Terumah where the Bnei Yisroel were asked to contribute to the building of the Mishkan, as much as their heart was able to give. Later in the Torah however we are told that each person was required to contribute half a shekel towards the Mishkan – why the need for both?

Rashi in Ki Tissa tells us that the voluntary donations were used for the majority of the building and vessels, however the two sets of half shekels that everyone was required to give were set aside for the sockets and communal korbanot. Why?

When building a communal function, there are two key facets:

1. To create a true communal facility everyone needs to contribute. The sockets were the foundations upon which the entire mishkan stood and the communal korbanot were the foundational service around which the mishkan functioned. Without everyone’s buy in, without everyone setting aside part of themselves and contributing financially, there could be no base upon which any communal facility functions.

2. Once you have the foundations, everyone’s personal donation makes a fundamental difference to the operational capability. The basics operate with the half shekels, but anything more becomes non-viable.

Hasmonean is our community school and, much like the Mishkan, cannot function in a vacuum. As I write this message, contributions from families continue to run well behind last year (£300k to the end of February). The governors, teachers and students are immensely grateful to all those parents who have honoured this year’s VC request, but unfortunately many families have not yet been able to do so. As our partners in your children’s education we turn to you to seek your continued support, to avoid a chipping away at the foundations upon which Hasmonean is built.

Next week is Purim, a time when the Jewish Community shines brightly in its generosity. When considering where to allocate your tzedokah funds, please ensure you bear in mind our children’s chinuch. All the communal rabbonim have agreed that the first call on your tzedokah needs to be our community’s outstanding chinuch institutions. Please take a few moments to make a donation now here: https://www.parentpay.com/

With kind regards,

Mr Jonny Feinmesser
Chair of Hasmonean MAT’s Finance Committee

Dear Parent,

I would like to add my own thoughts to those of Jonny Feinmesser.

The cuts which were sadly necessary last year to balance our budget are taking their toll on the school and on staff who are teaching heavier timetables and larger classes. Teachers are working extremely hard to give the kind of attention to every child that they would like to, but the extra pressures are being felt across the board.

If we wish to recruit and retain the very best teachers, we have to provide them with conditions to enable them to be effective. When teachers flourish, students flourish.

The cost of running two relatively small schools with a broad secular and Kodesh curriculum far exceeds the income it receives from the government.

The amount which you contribute in voluntary contributions directly impacts on our capacity to focus on things that really matter: safeguarding, mental health and pastoral support; the quality of teaching; the breadth of the curriculum; the physical environment which students occupy for so much of their day-to-day lives.

The more you give, the more we can achieve; the less you give, the less we can achieve.

It is therefore absolutely imperative that every family gives as much as it can possibly afford to. To those who do, I add my sincere thanks to Jonny’s: you truly are our lifeblood.

The consequences of not meeting our voluntary contributions target this year are unthinkable. Hasmonean is a unique institution. Its success depends on your voluntary contributions and its future really is in your hands.

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky
CEO, Hasmonean MAT