Artist, sculptor and alumnus David Breuer-Weil spoke to the GCSE Art students at both the girls’ and boys’ school on Monday 24th June to give a talk about his work. The students were engrossed and engaged by an artist who was able to discuss the themes of Judaism, imagination and creativity. He showed pictures of some of his sculptures, including Alien and Brothers, when they had been displayed in Marble Arch and near Euston Station. By the end of the sessions the students were incredibly inspired and couldn’t wait to begin working on their own coursework. Mr Breuer-Weil enthused them with creativity and eagerness to develop their own talent.
Rabbi Anthony Manning, Co-Director of Midreshet Tehillah gave shiurim in the Midrasha this week. He posed two questions: What are your Rabbis not telling you? Dealing with Difficult Questions in Haskafa and Thinking Jewishly – can everyone really be right? The Sixth Form really enjoyed his refreshing approach to serious questions, as well as having a taste of the seminary experience.
Rabbi Manning is quite an exceptional character, having graduated from Oxford with a Masters, and had a successful legal career as a partner in a London law firm, before choosing to make Aliyah and become a Rabbi and teacher. He and his family live in Alon Shvut. His children have completed their National Service: Asher in an IDF combat Unit and Yael in Sherut Leumi working with special needs children.
On Friday afternoon, the Year 8 girls had a very interesting speaker, Nathan Servi from the CST. He gave the girls a powerful insight into what exactly is meant by “antisemitism”. He introduced the subject by presenting the historical aspects of the blood libels and Church imagery from the Middle Ages. This led him to explore Nazi propaganda and the cartoons of the 1920’s and 1930’s, which drew inspiration from earlier anti-Semitic tropes. He concluded by demonstrating that similar themes still present themselves today and spread through social media. He also discussed the dangers of internet radicalisation and extremism.
We heard about the practical work that the CST does in the community and across many different schools, not just Jewish schools. We also heard about practical steps we should take when “out and about” to avoid confrontation and what to do in the event of seeing or hearing any anti-Semitic incident.
It was a very interesting presentation which was interjected with some excellent points from the Year 8 girls, as well as some very poignant questions.
On Thursday 13th June, the Year 9 boys were treated to an incredible presentation by IDF Major Shlomi Biche, accompanied by Ms S Durkin of Beit Halochem. They spoke to the boys about their work with Beit Halochem, who deal with 51,000 wounded Israel soldiers and wounded victims of terror. They also helped at the Invictus Games with wounded British members of the RAF and United States Marines participating with wounded Chayalim.
The boys were captivated by Major Biche’s personal story.
On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the entire cohort of Year 9 girls walked to the Unitas Youth Zone in Burnt Oak. This centre is a new initiative for local youth, and our girls had been given the chance to try out the activities. These included: boxing, dodgeball, climbing, tag rugby, bracelet making, dance, art, music and the use of computers, pool tables and tennis tables.
The contact at the centre is Ms C Greenberg, an ex-JFS student, who is really proactive and keen to do anything she can to make the centre work for the girls and be a hub for the community. The idea behind the outing was twofold: to promote achdus among this lovely year group and to offer them an exciting selection of after school leisure activities.
The girls had a really wonderful time, enjoying the walk, the activities and each other’s company.
Thank you to Mrs Canoville who organised the event and to all the staff who walked with the girls.
It’s not all about the Cheesecake!
Learning continued at Hasmonean High School for Girls with an inspirational Yom Iyun run by Rabbi Bennett. The girls chose from 10 different tracks, ranging from high level text based learning with Rabbi Golker, Rabbi Silverman, Miss Simonsson and Miss Goldblatt to creative activities which included drama, media, art and food preparation! All sessions included Torah learning based on sources and themes connected to Shavuos.
During lesson 5, all of the students in Years 7- 10 came together in the hall where they heard from Rebbetzin Ilana Epstein, an inspiring Jewish educator who delved into the hidden meaning and significance of the special foods associated with Shavuot. She demonstrated a cheesecake recipe and then this was followed by representatives from each form making their own cheesecake with a MasterChef style tasting competition at the end of the period!
Thank you to Rabbi Bennett and Miss Rabson for their tireless enthusiasm in organising this event. You have inspired the girls and led them into Shavuot with a stronger understanding of the inyanim behind the festival.
Hasmonean Girls received the Torah in their own way in the week preceding Shavuot. On Tuesday evening Rebbetzin Shalvie Friedman and Miss Simonsson led a chavruta based learning session for daughters, mothers, friends and alumnae to join together to delve into a range of texts and learn about the real meaning of humility. There was a fabulous dessert buffet, with a selection of cheesecake, fruits and other delicacies to keep the learning going. Rebbetzin Friedman completed the evening with a shiur about why Har Sinai was chosen for the venue of the wedding between B’nai Yisrael and the Torah.
The event was a wonderful success, and gave all who attended a great spiritual start to Shavuot. Thank you to the PTA and Family Rowe who sponsored it in the memory of Zusher Alexander ben Pinchos and Chaya Sorah bat Hirsh Zvi.
As part of Mizrachi’s weekend of inspiration, Israeli television presenter, journalist and Torah educator Sivan Rahav-Meir spoke to the girls during their Friday morning assembly. Mrs Rahav-Meir is no ordinary journalist; she is a religious woman who lives in Jerusalem with her husband and their five children.
Mrs Rahav-Meir has interviewed public figures across Israeli society, ranging from Sara Netanyahu, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Lev Leviev and Natan Sharansky. Her weekly Torah talks on the sedra are broadcast on Galei Israel Radio and on social media.
Mrs Rahav-Meir spoke to the girls about her passion for journalism. At the age of 15, having interviewed everyone she knew – and having been published in the children’s magazines ‘Chupar’ and ‘Pashosh’, she began to interview young religious women. This led to an invitation to stay for Shabbat. During that Shabbat, a non-religious neighbour of her host asked to borrow a cup of sugar, which her host happily gave. This lead to a spirited discussion about whether this had been the right thing to do- if the woman was going to use the sugar to make a cake, she would be breaking Shabbat; on the other hand, if the host had not given her the sugar, the neighbour might have driven to buy sugar and therefore have broken more of the laws of Shabbat.
On the bus home that evening, she reflected on that discussion and the level of care. Her conclusion: that a religious life would be the one for her and she would still pursue her passion to be a successful journalist.
As a journalist, she interviewed Natan Sharansky, a politician and human rights activist, who was held in Soviet prisons from 1978 until 1986 charged with high treason and spying. This happened after his application for an exit visa from the former Soviet Union had been denied and his subsequent activism on behalf of refuseniks. Mr Sharansky said that ordinary Jews in Israel were braver then he was. When questioned about this unexpected statement he explained that in prison it was easy to do the right thing because there was a clear choice between right and wrong. But Jews in everyday life face daily choices about whether to do the right thing and uphold their faith and each of those choices is significant.
Mrs Rahav-Meir’s words both inspired and challenged the girls. She clearly demonstrated that you can be religious and you can succeed, even in the most challenging careers.
On Friday afternoon the girls were privileged to hear from Simon Quinn from The UK Space Agency.
Mr Quinn spoke to the girls about the proposed plans NASA has to send humans to Mars by 2030. He spoke about getting into space, how a rocket works, how orbits work, about going to Mars and what it’s like in space. He then explained how everyday things like eating, showering or going to the toilet would work. Mr Quinn then spoke about what it would be like on Mars – what they would be looking for there and how the planet might be terraformed to be more like Earth.
The girls heard fascinating ideas about the search for life in outer space and the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the universe.
To help explain the scale and distances between the planets three of the girls participated in a demonstration. One of them held a football to represent the Sun and the other two held a ‘planet’ each and had to work out how far away the planets are from the Sun at that scale. Mercury is approximately 8 meters away, and Venus is 17 meters, with Earth 24 metres away. At that scale it would have sent one of the girls to the far reaches of the car park!
Suggestions were given as to potential careers in areas that some of our students would never have considered.
Followed by some very intense and intelligent questioning by our girls, this was a presentation they will remember for a long time.
Before the joy of celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, there was the commemoration of Yom HaZikaron.
In assembly, Rabbi Silverman told a story of a Jewish soldier who fought in the German Army during World War One for a regime that would turn on his people. He reminded the girls that for two millennia, Jews have had to fight for countries that did not care for them. With the foundation of the State of Israel, the Jewish people finally have an army to fight for and to fight for us.
As a soldier himself, Rabbi Silverman guarded his country. One Friday night, while singing Lecha Dodi when he was on guard duty, he realised that in Israel, we can only sing Lecha Dodi because there are soldiers standing out there, protecting us. He even missed his brother’s Bar Mitzva, because he was defending a Yishuv so a different family could be together. He was in Gaza, in danger for his life. But why? He asked his Rav, who explained that there is no greater honour than standing in the green uniform to defend Am Yisrael.
Each time a plane lands safely in Israel, every time you go to the Kotel, every time you see children playing in the streets of Israel – it is because of the 24,000 soldiers who gave their lives.
In the afternoon, as part of Mizrachi’s week of Inspiration, Rabbi Andrew Shaw and Rabbi Kenigsberg addressed Years 9 to 12 at both schools, reminding them that, as rockets rain down on Southern Israel, we still have to remember the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in the defence of our land.
Today’s siren stops everyone in Israel. Whatever you are doing: driving, eating, at work, in the shuk – in Israel everything stops. The students stood in silence as they watched a film of Israelis standing as the siren wailed. This was followed by a slide show commemorating the victims from this year – the last four of whom were murdered in the past few days.
The presentation included a film of ‘The knock on the door’- the moment when a family is notified. Rabbi Kenigsberg spoke of his own story, 17 years ago, when there was a phone call to his home in South Africa. He had never thought that this would happen. His brother Stephen, along with his Givati unit, were attacked in Gaza. Stephen was killed instantly. He was one of those who were willing to sacrifice his life so the people of Israel could live. Life goes on, but there is an empty space. For a bereaved family, every day is Yom HaZikaron – on Yom HaZikaron we all stand together.
Rabbi Shaw continued, reminding the students of the summer of 2014, when three boys were kidnapped and murdered. The film had a song written to commemorate the boys, this again shows how Am Yisrael comes together both in times of tragedy and of joy.
Tonight we will move from the sadness of Yom HaZikaron to the joys of Yom HaAtzmaut: we thank Hashem who has brought us back from the four corners of the earth to our homeland.
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