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!

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.

Emunah Bat Mitzvah Tour

So, how did you spend half-term? Five Year 7 students were among participants of the Emunah Mother and Daughter Israel Tour 2020. The trip made a powerful impression on the girls and their mums, who enjoyed activities, sightseeing and visiting some of the charity’s welfare projects, including residential care homes for children who can no longer live with their own families.

“I liked it when we went Emunah to in Afula. The children looked happy, even though they had problems. It showed how strong people can be in even the worst situations,” said Maya. Her mother, Jenny added: “Emunah’s Mother and Daughter Tour was as important for me as it was for Maya. The best bit was learning what Emunah does and going to the homes and centres – these are the things that you don’t normally see in Israel.”

At the Afula petting zoo, they learnt that animal therapy is an effective way of helping children who are traumatised or distressed. They enjoyed playing with babies at an Emunah day care centre, but it was at an Emunah high school that everyone was truly shocked. They learnt that some students arrive hungry and that Emunah provides their only hot meal of the day.

Jenny hopes that the trip will help Maya “to appreciate what she has and not to take anything for granted. Emunah does an amazing job and we feel really connected with the charity. The reality is just heart-warming. They are saving lives.”

British Emunah Director, Sharon Dewinter, said: “The next Mother and Daughter Tour takes place from 16 to 21 February 2021. It is suitable for pre and post Bat Mitzvah girls in Years 6, 7 or 8.” To find out more, call 020 8203 6066 or email sharon@emunah.org.uk

Article written by Sue Rifkin (Levy)
PR & Marketing Consultant to British Emunah

Jewish News Competition

The Jewish News, PJ Library and Wizo ran a story writing competition with the theme of ‘Perseverance’. The prizes and the event was sponsored by Mamilla Architecture and Design, a Borehamwood based company.

And the winner was… Ariella. Ariella is a Hasmonean student, who was encouraged to enter by Mrs Jacobson, the Director of Learning for English. Her 300-word essay took the theme and applied it to her own experience of competitive swimming.

The prize of an iPad for Ariella and another iPad for the English department was presented by the author Miriam Halahmy.

Equine Therapy

Hasmonean High School for Girls have recently collaborated with the non-profit charitable organisation called Strength in Horses (SIH). Strength in Horses provides equine assisted therapy to children in order to promote personal growth and development, as well as improve their mental wellbeing.

On Wednesday 12th February, some of our girls attended their first session. They were introduced to the horses and had a very enjoyable afternoon, spending time in a rural environment and reconnecting with a more natural way of life.

Our programme will run for 6 to 8 weeks and is designed around the needs and challenges of our students. Our students will learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with the horses, and then processing (or discussing) feelings, behaviours, and patterns. Our pupils work on the following targets:

  • Relational difficulties including building effective communication and trust
  • Problem solving, team work and developing more helpful interactions with others
  • Specific skills development including supporting engagement in education and work settings (e.g. listening, persistence, and patience)
  • Engagement with the therapeutic process
  • Confidence building, assertiveness and increased self-awareness
  • Emotional difficulties in particular aggression, emotional volatility, low mood and anxiety

This provision is a very rewarding and stimulating therapeutic experience for our pupils and is organised by our school’s SEN Department.

Girls’ School Choir

The first Jewish secondary inter-school choir festival was hosted by Hasmonean School for Girls on the evening on Wednesday 12th February. Girls from schools such as Tiferes, Beit Jacob and Menorah High joined a rousing chorus of united young women’s voices to create a wonderful atmosphere of achdut. Hasmonean Girls’ sang two songs: ‘One Day’ and ‘Esa Einai’ with vigour and enthusiasm.

Thank you to Miss Simmonson and all of the informal education team for organising the festival and for training our girls.

Yom Iyun

As winter fades into spring, it’s time for a superbly planned Yom Iyun focusing on the Torah and the Environment.

Rabbi Bennett created 6 different tracks for the girls to follow, bringing insights, inspiration and illumination with authentic Torah learning to brighten up the end of this half term. He gave a superb shiur about looking after the world Hashem gave us, integrating words of Torah with clips from Greta Thunberg’s speeches. This was followed by chabura based learning about the Jewish view of ecology and the environment, using sources from Midrash Tanchuma, Rav Shimsom Raphael Hirsch and Talmud Bavli Shabbat 77b.

Around the classrooms, students used a source sheet to investigate the Torah sources on friendship, such as the saying in Kohelet that ‘two are better than one’. There was a wonderful atmosphere of collaborative learning as the girls discovered that wellbeing began in the Torah. The sessions concluded with a short cartoon about ways to create friendships which nurture and support.

Up in the library, GIFT ran sessions about the GIFT of giving back with humour, magic and a lot of fun. Magician Martin Rees demonstrated his skills and explained how he uses those skills to break the ice when he visits families. The message for the students was to take your talents out into the world to do good!

Rabbi Silverman ran the sem track of more intensive learning, weaving Shackleton’s tale of endurance with sources about perseverance and effort. This text based approach proved very stimulating and very popular!

Year 7 also enjoyed a session about Jewish History. Lively discussion showed that this is a topic which really engages the girls, as they all contributed ideas to the class. They were given a timeline task to test their knowledge of Jewish History and to guide them to further study.

All of these sessions took place in a three lesson window, minimising disruption to the regular timetable and certainly maximising authentic Torah learning.

Table Tennis

On Friday 7th February, the Sixth Form leadership team organised a table tennis tournament for the school in order to raise money for One Child Ghana. Hasmonean has built up its relationship with this wonderful charity over the years and we are proud to have raised almost £300 for them to spend on good causes for school children in rural Ghana.