Hasmonean High School for Boys – Holocaust Remembrance Day

To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday 27th January, the HIPE team produced a recorded assembly for students to watch during certain lessons.

Many thanks to Rabbi Fachler for the interview and Nethanel Kind for editing it.

If you wish to watch the assembly, please feel free to access it via this link:


Hasmonean High School for Girls – Holocaust Remembrance Day

It might have been virtual, but it was still a full Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Girls’ School thanks to Mrs Abecasis’ heroic efforts.

The opening ceremony saw Mr McClusky, Rabbi Golker and Mrs Brice share their thoughts, and Mrs Abecasis explained the theme of this year’s HRD: ‘Being a Light in the Darkness’. This was a particularly apt theme as we are living in an unprecedentedly dark time, where small acts of kindness bring light into people’s lives; whether this was volunteering for the NHS, setting up local support groups or simply phoning those who live alone.

Mrs Abecasis’ graphic and powerful opening presentation using Nazi propaganda film and clips of Holocaust deniers, as well as footage of the Tree of Life synagogue attack in 2018 to show that the darkness is still around us. However, she concluded, there is light in the form of those who risked their own lives to rescue Jews, such as Raoul Wallenberg, Irena Sendler, the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Bielski brothers of Belorussia.

Mrs Brice reminded us that even though the Holocaust remains a blood soaked stain on the conscience of humanity, there is still persecution today and it is our responsibility to be a light for those who are suffering.

For Years 10-13, one of our Year 11 students, A Garren presented the story of Abraham Gutrejman, whose memoir she translated from Spanish to English. Her presentation was phenomenal, with a video clip of the Gutrejman family telling their story, and her own tracing of the Gutrejman story from the darkness of wartime Poland, to Munich, Bolivia and Costa Rica where Ariella met Frieda Gutrejman. One example for being a light was the way the Gutrejman brothers looked out for each other. Avraham carried the injured Yankel on his back; and when they were caught – and Avraham was made to dig his own grave – Yankel threw rocks to fool the soldiers into believing the partisans were on their way. Thus, the brothers saved each other. Later, in South America, Yankel never married to enable his brother, married to Frieda, to be able to support his family.

The History department created a workshop for Year 9, which covered different periods of darkness in history, showing that even in terrible times there were always those who provided ‘light.’ There the students studied the historical backdrop to the darkness, and learned about the darkness of other genocides in the 20th and 21st centuries. The light was the learning about the resistance movements and individuals, such as Sir Nicholas Winton and the White Rose students in Germany.

Years 7 and 8 had two workshop sessions. In one, the English Department looked at light in relation to the Holocaust, exploring Simon Wiesenthal who shed ‘light’ on the crimes of the Nazis after WW2. They also explained about the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem where memorial candles are reflected infinitely in a dark and somber space, creating the impression of millions of stars shining in the firmament. The names of murdered children, their ages and countries of origin can be heard in the background. Following on, the students brainstormed ideas about light to inspire their own poetry. They also discussed a poem by Holly Peters called ‘The Light of no Hope’, written especially for this year’s HRD.

In the second workshop, JS created a fourfold approach, which began by focusing on Jewish life before the war, and understanding the communities, families, and individuals that were lost. The next stage was to understand how the Jews felt trapped in Europe, focusing on W H Auden’s poem “Refugee Blues” and the paintings of Felix Nussbaum. After that, children’s Holocaust art was explored to try to understand why children would draw pictures of these experiences and how this was also a form of resistance. Finally, as a moment of ‘light’, the girls were taught about the efforts of Dayan Grunfeld and Rabbi Eliezer Silver in rescuing Jewish children who survived the war.

Years 10-13 were all invited to hear the keynote speaker: Mr Mark Weitzman, who is Director of Government Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, among many other significant roles linked to Holocaust Education, Denial and Anti-Semitism. He lives in the US and attended via Zoom. He kindly agreed to answer questions from the students, which were sent in advance, as it was very early in the morning for him!

He gave a very detailed presentation, which highlighted current Holocaust denial and the side lining of the Holocaust. Drawing together the David Irving trial, the Charlottesville rally in August 2017 and legislation in Poland, Ukraine and Russia, he demonstrated that these omissions and denials must be noticed and acted upon in order that the Holocaust is never forgotten as an attack on Jews.

Thank you to Mrs Abecasis. Thank you to the Girls’ English, History and JS teams who created such exciting and engaging workshops for Years 7-9. This event was a light in itself, as we all sat in the glow of our laptops and safe homes to remember both the worst that humanity can do but also to expose the best of humanity.

The video of the presentation can be found here: https://hasmoneanmat.org.uk/hrd/

Year 11 Healthy Eating

The Year 11 girls attended a Healthy Eating session which was organised by Mrs Taylor and run by Mrs Gerber, who has a degree in Nutritional Therapy. The girls explored myths that they may have encountered about healthy eating and discussed the best ways to look after their health through eating wholesome food and exercise to aid their bodies, not just now, but in the future as well.

Mrs Gerber was able to give the girls very sensible advice about caring for themselves through their nutritional choices. There were lots of questions and discussions throughout this very engaging and interactive session.

Year 7 Challa Bake

Last Thursday, the inexhaustible Rebbetzen and Queen of Challa Bakes, Joanne Dove, led the Year 7 Bat Mitzva girls in a special online Challa Bake. The girls were excited and engaged as she demonstrated the magic of yeast, water, flour and Emunah – even if she had to repeat instructions over and over again!

Thank you to our wonderful HIPE team whose creativity and enthusiasm just keeps on inspiring our girls.

Girls’ School – Tu B’Shevat

The festival of Tu B’Shevat is famous for being the birthday of the trees and fruits.

To celebrate, our students partnered (virtually) with Ulpanit Ort, Teveria which is a high school in Israel and created a beautiful and detailed painting of the Shivat Haminim (7 special fruits). The art session was run by a talented Hasmonean alumna – Yael Berenblatt. The entire event was coordinated by the ISOC students in Year 12 and we were so proud of what they achieved.

The following evening, the Green society put on another exciting Tu B’Shevat virtual programme and invited our students to hear from the wonderful Ilana Goodkin, another Hasmo alumna, for an engaging and interesting talk, looking at solutions for climate change and food production. This was a wonderful way to mark Tu B’Shevat which is all about appreciating the environment and thus giving it the respect it deserves.

The Girls’ School HIPE team sent out almost 600 packages to the Hasmonean students’ houses, which included educational ideas about Tu B’Shevat, as well as seeds to plant sunflowers and the ability to get involved in an exciting new HIPE initiative. Here is a video with more details about what each student received in their home delivered package https://vimeo.com/505238908

Thanks go to the HIPE and admin teams who arranged this logistical operation!

Editorial 28/1/2021

Dear Parents,

The most moving photograph I saw this week showed a Holocaust survivor, with a tattoo etched on his arm, being vaccinated in that same arm at a London clinic.  The juxtaposition of those two sides of humanity – hatred and hope – is a moving reminder of what we are capable of.  It is fitting, therefore, that we showed two videos this week to the boys: one commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day and one showcasing the amazing commitment shown by NHS workers during the pandemic.

The Parsha this week, Beshalach, is replete with ideas about hope and courage in the face of despair.  The Jewish people are being chased by Pharaoh and his army following their exodus from Egypt; they are hungry and need the miracles of Mon and clean water to survive; they are attacked by Amalek…the list goes on.  The overriding tone from the Parsha, though, is one of hope and salvation.  The idea is reinforced that we will overcome and will be stronger as a result of our trials.

In the week when we, as the British nation, have tragically recorded over 100,000 deaths due to Covid, it is important to think about every single life which has been lost and to also look to a brighter future PG.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos,


Mrs D Lebrett


Hasmonean High School for Boys

Editorial 21//01/2021

Dear Parents,

They say that silence is golden, except when you have children, in which case it becomes suspicious!

But silence is certainly powerful and that is borne out in this week’s parsha. Our parsha tells us that when the Bnei Yisroel left Mitzrayim, the dogs did not bark. The Mechilta writes that for all generations, dogs receive a reward for this. They are given the meat of an animal rendered treife, that the owner cannot eat and this teaches us that HKBH does not withhold reward for any creature.

But didn’t the frogs in last week’s parsha do so much more? They swarmed into every nook and cranny of every Egyptian home and even jumped into hot ovens, literally killing themselves in order to do the will of their Creator! And the dogs merely didn’t bark! Why reward dogs for all time and not frogs?

Rav Osher Arielli offers a wonderful answer. Sometimes, showing restraint and not speaking is even more impressive than jumping into a hot oven.

We all know how tempting it is to respond or have the last word. Overcoming that temptation needs enormous self-restraint.

Lockdown also needs much self-restraint and discipline. Home study is difficult, not just for youngsters who must organise themselves, in addition to trying to concentrate for many lessons a day, but also for other members of the family who are juggling more balls than normal. There seems to be added layers of complexity in everything we do.

We are now in the third week of term and it is hugely gratifying to see so many students trying hard and stepping up.

As parents there is much we can do to help our children. First of all, taking care of ourselves and remaining positive so that there is a happy and upbeat atmosphere at home. But also encouraging our children to take daily exercise, get some fresh air, eat healthily, and do acts of kindness.

I know of a young man, not even bar mitzva, who calls a family friend twice a week. She is an older lady who is on her own and he tells her a few jokes. It keeps him busy and positive on a crusade to find jokes that will make his new friend laugh and it certainly brightens her otherwise very lonely day.

These days may be challenging but, as ever, they are full of opportunities to teach our children resilience and self-discipline.

A lesson not just from this week’s parsha, but for life.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos.


Rabbi J Golker



Yad Vashem – Not Just a Museum

Hugó Klein and his wife, Matild (née Szabo) lived in the town of Hencida, in the Bihar district of Hungary. The couple had two daughters, Suzan (b. 1935) and Lili (b. 1937). When World War II broke out, Hugó was drafted into a labour battalion and Matild remained in Hencida with the children. Suzan and Lili were able to send postcards to their father, Hugó, while he was interned in a labour battalion near the Austrian border.

In May 1944, the Jews in the Bihar district were moved into a small ghetto in the suburbs of Nagyvárad. After weeks of starvation and suffering, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Matild and her girls were amongst the deportees.  All three were murdered.

Hugó survived the labour battalions.  In 1946, he married Ilona Mezei, a cousin of Matild’s who had survived Auschwitz.  In 1947, their son George was born and in 1957, they immigrated to Israel. Ilona Klein and her son George made the decision to donate the postcards that George’s half-sisters had written to their father, along with locks of their hair that had been cut off in their infancy and preserved as mementos. These precious items were all that remained of Suzan and Lili. 

Yad Vashem is not just a museum and a place where we go to remember the Holocaust. It is a place where survivors and their descendants, like Hugo Klein, are able to safeguard their precious artefacts and memories.  It is a place where those who have no physical remnant on earth can be remembered. It is a place which is at the forefront of academic Holocaust research.

It is also a place where tens of thousands of teachers and students come to its International School of Holocaust Studies to learn about the Holocaust and how to teach it. Each year for the last ten years, 20 teachers and head teachers from Hasmonean High and other Jewish schools in the UK have participated in the week-long seminar at Yad Vashem’s International School of Holocaust Studies, paid for by Yad Vashem UK. Here they spend a week with world renowned lecturers and academics learning Yad Vashem’s philosophy of teaching the Holocaust. We know that our children will be exposed to increasing incidents of Holocaust denial and antisemitism in their daily lives and it is vital that we give them the tools to cope with this.


Helen Kon

Yad Vashem Education Officer

“Dear Daddy – we are well – goodbye” – Suzan and Lili’s Last Postcard

Editorial 14/1/2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

I wonder if, like me, when it was announced last week that schools would be closed until at least half term, you had a sense of ‘here we go again’ and the feeling of weary inevitability of life repeating itself which the film ‘Groundhog Day’ captured so beautifully. However, we are in a very different place from last year. Thanks to the investment in chrome books and all the training which has gone on since March, we could immediately transition to online learning, offering a full timetable. The teachers are to be congratulated on rising again to the challenge of remote classes, especially when some of them have to cope with family commitments.  The change in this respect from last year could hardly be greater.

What we have had to relearn, is that being online all day is physically and mentally exhausting and we therefore need to alter our provision a little. Thank you to those who filled out the survey about how things are going. As a result of the feedback we have received from parents, students and teachers, we are introducing the following changes with effect from Monday 18th:

  • Lessons will be shortened by 10 minutes to allow for a proper break
  • Y7 and Y8 will now have their break at 11.15 am so that P3 is no longer a split lesson
  • We will no longer have a daily form time to give longer for lunch
  • P7 will finish at 3.20 pm for everyone
  • Lessons on Fridays will now revert to the usual long Friday timings, with lessons ending after period 5a
  • The PE department will be providing suggestions on ways to increase physical activity in the extension classroom
  • The Assistant Heads for Pastoral Support will be setting out plans to improve pastoral, counselling and well-being support for students who require it. The plans will be communicated to you in due course
  • We will be issuing further training and guidance to teachers on the best kind of pedagogy and the setting and marking of homework to ensure students are well-provided for and not overwhelmed. We have just bought into a G Suite upgrade which means that teachers will soon be able to create breakout rooms to facilitate independent, paired and group learning online. More details about this will be provided in due course. Please note that there will be no live lessons period 7 this coming Monday (2.45 pm) to enable teachers to attend training on these areas. Work for students will be uploaded to Google Classroom instead. We are confident that the benefit of this staff training on your children’s education will be very worthwhile.

We await the outcome of the consultation on the proposals about the alternatives to examinations. Once we know what the plans are, we will of course communicate them to you.

The key principles set out by Ofqual are as follows:

What evidence will be used?

  • Awarding of grades will be based on teacher assessment
  • A breadth of evidence should inform teachers’ judgements
  • Assessment will be based on what students have learnt, not necessarily the full course – but there will need to be good enough coverage of the curriculum
  • Externally set tasks or short papers (seen by Ofqual to be fairer and more consistent) may be provided, in order that teachers can draw on this resource to support their assessments of students (note not externally marked)
  • Ofqual will consult on whether to ‘require or recommend’ the use of the externally set tasks or papers
  • Students should continue with any non-exam assessment where possible


  • Students should be taught for as long as possible (so they have every opportunity to catch up.)
  • A teacher’s final judgement on a student’s grade ought to be as late as possible in the academic year (to maximise remaining teaching time and ensure students are motivated and engaged)

Support, training and Quality Assurance

  • Training and guidance will support teachers to reach their assessment of a student’s deserved grade
  • Schools and colleges should undertake quality assurance of their teachers’ assessments
  • External checks / Exam boards quality assurance processes in place to support fairness and consistency
  • This quality assurance will be sampling only
  • Changes to grades as a result of the external quality assurance process should be the exception (as per review of marking)


  • There will be provision for students to request a review and appeal their grade

Private candidates:

  • There should be a clear and accessible route for private candidates to be assessed and receive a grade

Vocational qualifications

  • Apart from a few exceptions, all with written exams scheduled in February and March (including BTECs) will not go ahead
  • Similar principles to GCSE and A level in terms of assessment

Wishing you all a very good Shabbos.


Kind regards,

Mrs K Brice

Headteacher – Girls

Boys’ School HIPE Chanukah

At the end of the autumn term, the HIPE teams ran a phenomenal 20-Chanukah events across both schools in a space of five short days, in addition to their regular daily sessions.

The special surprise was a real climax for the week: DNA- otherwise known as Darren and Andrew- a pair of Britain’s Got Talent finalists who entertained the entire school in carefully regulated bubbled slots. Their mind reading acts gripped the students. As excited as the students were to enjoy watching and participating in the acts, the two performers were thrilled to have the chance to perform in front of a live audience.

The fact that HIPE could do so much in such a short space of time with all the Covid restrictions was our own Hasmonean Chanukah miracle!