Professor Chain of Imperial College

Professor Chain of Imperial College kindly agreed to speak to Dr Whyte’s Year 13 Chemistry classes.  Professor Chain has worked for many years in immunology and is now a investigating the use of computational immunology to understand the data from genomics into defining immunological responses.

He explained the science behind vaccines from initial concept proposed by Ehrlich in the mid-1800s until today, focusing on the development of the current COVID-19 vaccine.

The students thoroughly enjoyed listening to Professor Chain and asked some excellent questions. Professor Chain in turn was very impressed by the intellect behind their questions. For her part, Dr Whyte was super-proud of her Chemistry classes.

Oxford Practical Ethics

Three students from Hasmonean High School for Girls (Ariella G, Batsheva S and Rivka M) signed up to the Oxford University Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Responsibility competition in December, as it seemed like it would be an interesting thing to do during a lockdown!

For the competition, the girls had to send in a video about how responsibility plays a role in a practical ethics situation. After a lot of discussion, they decided to create a video about how and why responsibility plays a role in society being vaccinated against coronavirus. This subject was chosen as Ariella said: ‘Our Judaism commands us to consider our actions thoughtfully, rather than go through life on autopilot. Practical ethics strives to provide the philosophical tools needed to actualize this commandment and love our neighbours as ourselves.’ They sent the video in and were notified on the 4th February that they had made it to the semi-finals.

The girls are ecstatic about their achievement of reaching the semi-finals and these will take place virtually on March 23rd 2021. As part of the semi-final stage of the competition, they will be joining a day of presentations and activities organised by researchers and staff at Oxford University. The main focus of the day is on debates between the student finalists. There will be two rounds of debate: each team will take part in a semi-final debate, and the winners of those will face one another in the final.

The event will include an Exhibition debate on the topic of ‘Responsibility and Addiction’, and an activity for the students on: Slippery Slope arguments. Following this, the semi-finals will take place in breakout rooms, and the final will be after lunch.

Our girls have the following topic for their semi-final debate: People under thirty have a responsibility to get vaccinated against COVID-19. They will be standing against the motion. Should they make it to the final, the motion will be: Social media companies are responsible for the content their users post online. Again, they are standing against the motion.

This is a huge achievement for these three young women, who have been inspired by the ethical striving of the Hasmonean community. We wish them every success in the finals.

Please click on the links to see the girls in action:

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Years 10 and 11 Girls, Anxiety and Wellbeing Sessions

This week Melissa Abecassis, our Wellbeing Practitioner, ran two PSHE sessions for Years 10 and 11. She focused on anxiety and wellbeing, giving the students an understanding of what anxiety is and strategies which can help when they face it.

Melissa also reminded the students that she is available for individual sessions if they are feeling overwhelmed or need a place to chat. Thank you to Melissa and all the pastoral team who are offering help and support to all our students right now!

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021 Poems

As part of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, we gave our students the opportunity to participate in the HRD Poetry Contest 2021. Well done to our two Year 7 girls who were selected as winners and thank you to the English Department for judging the contest.

Jack Petchey Regional Finals

This year’s annual Jack Petchey regional finals of the Speak Out competition came with a difference. Rather than sitting in the hall of a local school, every competitor was at home, presenting their three-minute speech via Zoom. The Girls’ School candidate, Alegria, took her name as the inspiration for her presentation. After all, we all need some happiness in our lives.

She did herself and the school proud, winning the Regional Final to progress to the Semi-finals.

The link to watch the speeches, the link can be found here:

Thank you to Mrs Jacobson who ran the competition at the Girls’ School, setting up the initial training day, running the Speak Out Challenge in school before the end of last term, and coaching Alegria to a very high standard.


Girls’ School Sixth Form Societies

Green Society

Hasmonean’s alumni body rose to the challenge of the call for speakers. The first was Ilana Goodkin, who became the inaugural guest speaker at The Green Society, a school club run by Sixth Formers, Hodaya and Hannah.

Ilana spoke about the challenges we face to lead a sustainable life and combat climate change. Ilana wrote: ‘I just saw the email about the Green Society looking for speakers at their monthly sessions. Firstly, I just want to say that I think this initiative is AMAZING and it’s so great to see that Hasmo is making an effort to boost environmental awareness! I left Hasmo in 2013, studied Geography at UCL, and I’m now doing a masters at Tel Aviv University in Environmental Studies. While I don’t have anything specific that I’m researching for me to talk about, I would love to share some of the material I’m learning in my course at the moment. One course is on environmental health, and the other is on sustainable food systems (the material in both these courses is often tied to how climate change will affect both these areas).’

She led a very informal yet lively session, with the girls being as excited about her green credentials, as well as the fact that she is studying in Israel.

Art Club

Chedva S and Liat S, two of our Year 12 students have set up an after-school art club – a great way to unwind after a day of studying online. The picture below comes from the last session on calligraphy.


Bagel Bonanza

In the Boys’ School kitchen, our students recently had a wonderful time making bagels from scratch with Ms Benarroch and Mrs Fine. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the final results were truly scrump-tious!

Thanks to Mrs Fine and Ms Benarroch for their hard work and dedication.

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: