Editorial 29/4/2021

Dear Parents,

Our staff CPD on Tuesday was training on identifying and then overcoming unconscious bias. Research has shown that teachers instinctively think that boys are better at Maths than girls, although when tests were marked blind, the girls scored more highly. Quiet children are often considered less clever than their more vocal peers. Students with messy handwriting will not do as well as those whose work is very neat even if the content is comparable. Students whom teachers like will perform better and everyone lives up – or, more concerningly, down-to the level expected of them.  We can also be influenced by a host of factors such as identifying a student with someone whom we have known in the past (for good or ill), hearing things about students which mean we judge them before we have even met them, or believing stereotypes such as that some ethnic groups are considered to be better at particular subjects.

The good news is that although all of us (not just teachers) are prone to unconscious bias, we can start to do something about it and to consciously act to adjust our behaviour or attitudes.  At school we have been marking the Year 11 and Year 13 assessments by candidate number to avoid bias and the training made us reflect on our classroom practice. Unconscious bias can also affect the way that families function. Is one child ‘the clever one’ or ‘the sporty one’ or musical or helpful, or perhaps difficult or naughty?  These labels can quickly become self-fulfilling prophecies as the child in question acts in accordance with our expectations.  So, we all need to question the way we look at other people and ask ourselves how far are we being affected by preconceptions and how we can change them.

Have a good Shabbos,

Mrs K Brice


Hasmonean High School for Girls

Editorial 23/4/2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

We often test out our own thinking by asking other people what they think. They are the touchstones in our own thought processes. Hearing how strongly they hold their opinion allows us to locate where our own response is on the spectrum of public opinion.

Over the weekend I asked a family member an important question. They are not religious. They are politically left of centre. They pride themselves on their open-mindedness. You get the picture.

The question I asked was this: ‘Would you allow a child of under 16 to have unfiltered access to the Internet in your home?’

‘No,’ they replied.

I thought I had misheard, ‘You wouldn’t filter their access?’

‘No, I wouldn’t allow them unfiltered access. Absolutely not.’

I wasn’t expecting them to agree with me. I just wanted to better understand what I thought would be their alternative view.


‘Why wouldn’t I allow a toddler near the knife drawer? Why wouldn’t I let a child walk blindfold across Helvellyn? Why do you think?’

I understand why many religious families would insist on internet filters at home for their families. I understand why many socially conservative families would insist on them. I now understand that this conviction is shared by some of those on the opposite side of the religious/ political spectrum as well. What I don’t understand is why it isn’t shared by everyone.

Hasmonean is a religious school with strong moral values with a duty to safeguard children. Within school time we do everything that we can to instil good morals within students and to protect them from harm. From the moment our students leave the school building, some of them can be guided by words and images that can harm them and influence them to harm others.

While your child may be raised by your family and the Hasmonean family, for how many hours of the day and night are they left to wander alone among strangers in those dark and dangerous virtual alleys where women are objectified and degraded and self-harm is encouraged?

In a world where self-harm and poor mental health is ever rising, let’s make sure that we are not adding to our children’s burdens.

In a world where ‘Everyone’s Invited’, let’s make sure children understand that to respect themselves they must respect others.

At the end of our conversation, I asked another question.

‘Do you still believe that prisons do not work, that restorative justice is the best sanction even for the most heinous of crimes and that everyone should pay higher taxes?’


‘OK, just checking.’


Best wishes,

Mr A McClusky

CEO, Hasmonean MAT

Editorial 15/04/2021

Dear Parents,

We were all deeply saddened this week to hear about the death of his Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh. The students have been writing condolence wishes to the Royal Family and have been learning more about Prince Philip’s extraordinary life. We also reminded them that, in 1993, Yad Vashem bestowed the title of Righteous Among the Nations on Princess Alice, Prince Philip’s mother, to commemorate the fact that she saved a Jewish family from Nazi persecution. A year later, her children, Prince Philip and Princess George of Hanover travelled to Yad Vashem and planted a tree in her honour. During the ceremony, Prince Philip said: “I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress.”

This selfless attitude to duty was also evident in Prince Philip’s life as well. He continually demonstrated his unfailing support and loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen over many decades.
At Hasmonean, we have also run the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for many years – this has inspired many generations of Hasmonean students to help others, to think about their roles as citizens of the United Kingdom and to instil a desire in helping to serve their communities.

Prince Philip’s long and extraordinary life, his faithful service, support for young people and commitment to community are characteristics which we aim to nurture in the students from the time they start Hasmonean until they leave.

This week’s Parsha describes certain afflictions, collectively called tzara’as, which caused the affected person (or item) to become tamei. The Gemara in Arachin 16a details that one of the reasons why a person could be afflicted with tzara’as was because they were arrogant and disconnected from humanity. It is clear that Prince Philip, as the consort to Her Majesty the Queen, always had a human touch and connected with the people around him. He will be much missed.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs D Lebrett
Headteacher – Boys’ School

Yom Ha’Atzamaut at Hasmonean Girls’ School

Israel’s 73rd birthday was celebrated with a difference at Hasmonean. After a heartfelt Hallel, HIPE and the Sixth Form turned the Hall into our own Machane Yehuda. There were food stands reminding us of our Israeli favourites: ice coffee, choco and orange juice from Café Aroma; croissants and muffins from Café Ne’eman; Catzefet cereal and whipped cream, pick and mix sweets and a watermelon stand.

Mizrachi came to provide a quiz and letter writing to Israeli soldiers. GIFT and Shalva also came in with activities and there was even an appearance from Na Na Nachman Ne’eman!

To keep everyone safe, the girls came into the decorated hall in year group bubbles during Thursday morning’s lessons.

After school, the Sixth Form celebrated with the traditional Israeli activity of a barbecue- on the hill rather than Tel Aviv beach!

While we all missed the dancing which is an integral part of our celebrations, the blue and white festivities certainly gave a feel of Israel to our corner of Mill Hill.

Yom HaZikaron

HIPE ran this year’s Yom HaZikaron programme with a powerful film created by Mizrachi UK. The students found the presentation both moving and informative, as Batsheva A said: ‘It was really sad’ – but also inspiring as she has been nurturing an ambition to serve in the IDF.


British Biology Olympiad

Well done to all our students who participated in the British Biology Olympiad.

Chayale R and Izzy A-P were awarded a gold and a highly commended respectively. The boys Nafatali U, Alon H, Yehoshua S and Noam E all did well with silver, highly commended and commended certificates.

The Olympiad is a competition which challenges and stimulates students with an interest in Biology to expand and extend their talents. They had to sit two 45-minute multiple-choice papers under supervised exam conditions, being presented with both familiar and unfamiliar topics. This demonstrated that they could adapt and apply their knowledge, show understanding of core principles and use problem-solving skills.

It is a nationwide event in which over 8000 students participate, so their achievement is quite remarkable.

Editorial 8/4/2021

Dear Parents,

Making Our Days Count

Chazal teach that the period of Sefiras Ha’Omer is meant to be one of introspection and growth.

I once heard an insightful question regarding our counting of the Omer from Rabbi Zev Leff. Rabbi Leff noted that there seems to be a contradiction in the way we count. We count the days at the beginning of each day and the weeks at the end of each week. To be consistent we should either do both at the beginning or both at the end.

Rabbi Leff answered that the way we count teaches us a lesson of how to best use the Sefira. Often when we embark on a journey of teshuva or spiritual growth, we take too big a jump. Educators in the kiruv yeshivos discourage rapid movement as it is difficult to maintain. It is far better to make small, concrete strides.

When Dayan Ahron Dovid Dunner shlita met Rav Shach ztl during the Gulf war in 1991, he asked the Godol Hador what message he should convey to Klal Yisroel. Rav Shach told him that we should do teshuva, but to only take small steps. And in a moment of personal disclosure, he added “Do you know what I took on last Rosh Hashona?” “To bentsch with a bentscher. And only when I am at home and only until Pesach.” If it is true for the Godol Hador, it is certainly true for all of us.

Our counting each day reflects this. We count at the beginning of each day to show that each day is a separate small unit. We want to improve but recognise that the best way to do so is in small strides.

However, in order not to become despondent by the seemingly small successes, it is important to sometimes take stock of our achievements. We therefore look back at the end of each week and assess our progress. That is why we count at the end of each week. Slowly-slowly, the small successes add up to something quite substantial.

Take Daf Yomi. Each day another page. But not before too long, many perokim and masechtos are covered. A person can then take encouragement from his accomplishments and this gives him the incentive to continue onward and upward.

The way we count, therefore, guides us as to how we should utilise the precious days of the Sefira. Counting at the beginning of each day reminds us to make small goals and counting at the end of each week encourages us to take stock and, hopefully, look back with pride at our achievements.

The summer term is a time for just this, particularly this year. We can stock and pride in the accomplishments of the tumultuous two previous terms but plan to move forward with concrete, realistic and at the same time ambitious goals for the period ahead.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi J Golker



Hasmonean Achievements

Every year, Hasmonean students enter Israel’s Chidon HaTanach competition, which requires an encyclopaedic knowledge and love of Tanach. This year was not like all other years. Last year, Batsheva Schwab reached the final. This year, all three UK candidates: Sara Solomon, Leah K and Orly Maierovits made it to the last 16. Rabbi Eliyahu Silverman taught them and nurtured their skills. He encouraged them to persevere and invest in their Tanach studies. This achievement is all the more remarkable when the only country outside Israel that has ever sent three candidates has been the US. Hasmonean’s candidates will be showing their skills on Yom Ha’Atzmaut where the quiz will be taking place live in Israel via Zoom.

The Chidon will be live on channel “Kan 11”, at 11 am Israel time (9 am UK time) on Yom HaAtzmaut, April 15. You can watch it here – https://www.kan.org.il/live/tv.aspx?stationid=2 

Year 7 Bat MItzva

After school on Wednesday 17th March, Year 7 enjoyed a fabulous Bat Mitzva party. Nina LeBlanc spoke to them about Havdala, linking it to becoming Bat Mitzva. In keeping with the Havdala theme, they also made Havdala candles. The special activity was ‘jump shoes’, so the girls had a whale of a time leaping about the hall!

These parties have been a really popular and inclusive way of enjoying the Bat Mitzva year in different circumstances.

Mrs Brice, Mrs Canoville, Miss Gelley, Mrs Waugh, Mrs Epton, and the phenomenal HIPE team were all on hand to ensure the party ran smoothly. Thank you all for giving your time to our lovely Year 7 girls.