Young Writers’ Competition – Extract from WIZO Facebook

WIZO, together with The Jewish News and PJ Library in the UK held the prize giving ceremony for their Young Writers’ Competition. The pupils put pen to paper and wrote about the topic ‘Courage’ and the winner in the high school category was Maya G. Ms Brice accompanied Ariella G, who accepted the prizes on Maya’s behalf. Guest judge, Ivor Baddiel, described Maya’s essay as magical. Maya and the Hasmonean English department were each gifted an iPad.

Photo from Wizo FB page:
L-R: Maureen Fisher, WIZOuk CEO, Lauren Hamburger, Director of PJ Library in the UK, Ariella G (rep. of Maya G collecting the prizes on her behalf), Daisy W, guest judge Ivor Baddiel, Daniel S, Annabel Stelzer, WIZO Chair and Fran Wolfisz of The Jewish News


Simchat Beit HaShoevah – Girls’ School

On Thursday 23rd September, Chol Hamoed Succot, the Girls’ School Hall resonated with the sounds of music, laughter and song as around 200 girls (Years 7-8 followed by Years 9-13) had the most fantastic evening.

With waffles on offer and the HIPE team to hand, everyone enjoyed a safe and fun-filled evening.

Thank you to Mrs Paster, Mrs Epton, Mrs Rand, Mrs Friedman, Miss Gelley, and Miss Sprei for joining in the fun. And, of course, thanks to the one and only Kevin, without whom no school event would be complete.


Girls’ School Erev Yom Kippur

The Erev Yom Kippur Yom Iyun was short, yet perfectly formed.

HIPE ran a fun, informative and interactive session with Years 7-9. They explored the three key concepts of Tefilla, Teshuva and Tzedaka. These words are repeated throughout the day, they are both simple and profound and unlock the intricacies of the Yom Kippur Tephilla. They looked at everyday habits, which can be so hard to break, and linked this to the concept of Teshuva. The students were asked to write down aspects of their lives that they could improve upon, ranging from the general ‘ME’ to the more specific ‘to be more careful about how I say Shema’. The third task was to choose a time frame to take on the new habit, such as ‘Once a week I will really focus on my Shema’. This was written on its own small notecard.

Moving onto Tephilla, HIPE presented two options: all the girls agreed that it was unfair that if one person was late to class, the whole class should have detention; most also agreed that if a few girls did well, everyone could have an ice cream party! This suggests that we do want to be a part of a community so we can benefit from the good that so many do. Hence the fact that the language of Tephilla on Yom Kippur is in the plural. To create a practical approach to this, each student was given a bookmark with the words ‘One who davens for another…will himself first be answered.’ On the reverse was a name of another student. Going forward, this markers, in the siddur of each student could focus their Tephilla on another student.

The activity continued with each student tying her notecard to a biodegradable balloon, to be released outside. Rabbi Fachler explained that human beings are the only creation who can look up. We look up to Hashem when we are in trouble, and we look up when we are full of joy. With that, hundreds of pink and yellow balloons were joyfully released.

Parts of the programme were run by the JS staff who explored the theme of appreciating Yom Kippur as a day of opportunity to change and start the new year with a clean slate. The students explored the obstacles to meaningful change based on the writings of Rabbi Dr Avraham Twersky and spoke about how to overcome negative labels that we have placed on ourselves. The session finished with the students filling cards to put in their Machzor with their hopes and prayers for the year ahead.

Years 10 and 11 also heard Rabbi Peretz Goldstein, of SEED in Borehamwood. He wove in a great range of personal anecdotes to show the girls that Judaism is a religion of love. Even though we argue with our friends and family, we do all love each other. Even though we may ‘argue’ with Hashem, He still loves us. He is ‘Avinu Av HaRachaman’; our Father who loves us. However, why is He ‘Avinu’ and not ‘Imenu’- our Mother? The comparison Rabbi Goldstein brought was from a Holocaust story, where mothers had to choose which child to save. A mother’s love is individually focussed on each child, whereas a father’s love is less targeted. We want a father’s love on Yom Kippur as it is unconditional. Yet, we must also fear a father in a way that we do not fear a mother.

He developed the concept of Teshuva by breaking it down into small chunks, using the idea that ‘big ideas define little people and little ideas define big people.’ Start small. Each small step in personal change create huge growth in a person.

The Sixth Form were privileged to hear a very special speaker, Mrs Chavi Teller. Immediately after giving birth, Chavi was placed in an induced coma with Covid-19 pneumonia. They heard the story of her life-changing recovery and why the hospital staff nicknamed her “the miracle lady.”

Thank you to Rabbi Bennett, the HIPE and all the JS staff who created this inspirational programme, taking the girls into Yom Kippur in a way which will empower their Tephilla.

A Trio of Cambridge Psychologists

This October, three alumni of Hasmonean Girls will be embarking on their next academic adventure. Hannah (Kings), Hannah (Jesus) and Aurelia (Lucy Cavendish) will all be taking their places at Cambridge to read Psychology.

Hannah studied Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Psychology at A-level, following her academic success with a year at MMY. She wrote of her time in Sem: ‘It just made me appreciate the diversity within our nation and the connection we all have to each other – there’s a reason why almost everyone has an “only in Israel” story. My favourite part outside of the learning was visiting ancient places and walking where our ancestors did.’ While in Cambridge, Hannah is excited to ‘start the journey of learning how I can positively affect the future of healthcare, mental health and psychology.’ Ultimately, she would like to work with schools helping to improve approaches to neuro-divergent children.

Aurelia had two gap years after completing A-levels in Maths, Economics and Psychology (as well as an EPQ). For her first gap year, she attended TVA, a Bnei Akiva Sem. The programme included learning, working on Kibbutz, teaching English and touring the Land. Her second year was spent working as a special needs (SEN) teaching assistant in a primary school. At Lucy Cavendish, Aurelia will be studying PBS (psychological and behavioural sciences) with the option of adding sociology and philosophy modules. Her dream is to be a clinical psychologist but as she loves working with children the path of educational psychology is also an option.

Hannah studied Psychology, Maths and Chemistry at A-level followed by a year at Michlalah. She particularly appreciates the support given by Hasmonean in creating her Personal Statement and giving her the confidence to apply for Jesus. Her year in Jerusalem was an amazing experience where she was able to be completely immersed in Torah studies, whilst also discovering more about our connection to Eretz Yisrael through the many Tiyulim organised by Michlalah. Hannah is really looking forward to the next three years at Cambridge. Her time in Israel has affirmed her desire to make Aliyah and train as a clinical psychologist once she has completed her degree.

All three young women are wonderful examples of what can be achieved through sheer hard work and the support of school, family and friends. It is not easy for a young, religious woman to go up to Cambridge- by going together, they can support each other and contribute to the rich Jewish student life around Thompsons Lane, as well to the wider student community.

Good luck to you all!

Erev Rosh Hashana

The Jewish Studies Department concluded 5781 with a perfectly designed Erev Rosh Hashana programme. Following Selichot, the Year 10 and 11 students remained in the hall to learn from Rabbi Bennett who discussed with students how we can merit a favourable judgement, focusing on the importance of davening for others. Our Years 7-9 attended Machzor workshops where these sessions were geared to help students understand the structure, themes and purpose of the longer, more complex Tefiillos of Rosh Hashanah. The groups then swapped so that everyone gained in understanding, inspiration and motivation as we approach Rosh Hashana 5782.

Young Artists’ Summer Show

This year, the Royal Academy of Arts held its third Young Artists’ Summer Show. Of the 33,000 entries, 260 were selected for display in the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain and one of those submissions was that of Sophia G, a Year 11 student.

Her acrylic on canvas image entitled ‘One Body, One Soul’ was based on a photo taken on Netanya Beach as the sun was setting. She created it in order to bring a piece of Israel into her home. Looking at the painting, it can only be that sunset on that beach- it just evokes Netanya and that moment as the sun dips down the horizon.

Sophia said that it reminds her that wherever she is in the world, Israel is a huge part of her life and inspires her to embrace her Judaism every day. We should all be proud of Sophia as a fantastic ambassador for Israel and Judaism through her art and her words.

Dr Mett Farewell

Last week Hasmonean said farewell to Dr Mett, who has taught A-level Maths for the past 40 years. He joined Hasmonean as a second form pupil back in 1957, skipping a year and rising to the fourth form. The friends he made at Hasmonean have remained his lifelong friends – indeed, as he flew to Israel on Monday to begin his new life in Jerusalem with his children and grandchildren, an old school friend was on the same plane. Dr Mett and his contemporaries have all given to the community; they include R’ Gershon Hager, Judge Jonathan Weingarten, R’ Binyomin Moscovits of Midrash Shmuel, and R’Oppenheimer of Gateshead.

After leaving Hasmonean, Dr Mett learned in Gateshead, and then took up a place at Gonville and Caius to read Mathematics. He shared rooms with another former Hasmonean alumni, Michael Weiselberg. There weren’t many religious Jews in Cambridge in the 1960s, but there were enough to support each other and enjoy the canteen at Thompson’s Lane. From Cambridge, Dr Mett completed a PhD in Physics at the University of Surrey.

So, how did Dr Mett end up teaching at his alma mater? He had a full time job lecturing at the Open University, which was based in Milton Keynes. His Department Head encouraged working from home, which meant that there was time in his schedule. In 1978 he was called by Mr Stanton as the school needed a Maths teacher for the Sixth Form. He joined on a temporary basis…which lasted 40 years!

Although not an accredited teacher, with his ‘vintage’ degree and with maths being a shortage subject, Dr Mett, as he said in our interview ‘got away with it’. It was not a difficult transition as the boys in his classes tended to be more mature and motivated. One of his stand out moments was when a former pupil, Rabbi David Meyer, became his boss! He has always loved teaching, crediting his success as being due to the fact that he has always taught what he is enthusiastic about, and he hope that he has passed this enthusiasm on to his students. When his teaching was observed, his colleague, Mrs Epton said he would always humbly ask how he could have improved his teaching. The response was that his teaching was exemplary and very little needed improving. The lessons were always outstanding. Two of his most recent students, Noga B and Zara A-P said that ‘Dr Mett is a wonderful teacher who always goes to great lengths to ensure we understood all the material. We looked forward to each of his lessons and were very lucky to have been taught by him.’

Now that he has retired, Dr Mett intends to keep up his learning with his existing Chavrutot via Zoom and to enjoy his family in Israel.

Rabbi Golker remarked that ‘I am a “talmid chaver” of Dr Mett. A student turned colleague. But it is not just in school that I have learned to respect and admire Dr Mett. He is a stalwart of our kehilla leading many worthy communal enterprises with dignity and dedication. Perhaps the most famous is the Netz minyan which Dr Mett has run for decades, which at the height of summer means a 4am start!’ He continued: ‘Dr Mett is a role model in integrity, humility, dedication and yiras shomayaim (fear of heaven) and will be sorely missed not just in the Hasmonean family, but in Anglo Jewry as a whole.’

Mr McClusky said at the farewell event that his career since 1978 spans eight UK Prime Ministers (since James Callaghan) and a similar number of Hasmonean Headteachers or Executive Headteachers. The fact that his life as student was spent at Hasmonean means that his whole life has been dedicated in one or way or another to the institution. This is a truly remarkable achievement.

He is held in the highest esteem even until today by students and the whole Hasmonean community owes him an immense debt of gratitude for his lifetime of service.

Girls’ School Year 11 Shabbaton

Our Girls’ HIPE team are really something very special. Last Shabbat, they organised a wonderful Shabbaton for our Year 11 girls. With the aid of our exceptional Kevin, the hall was transformed into a banqueting space. The HIPE team also utilised the girls’ skills to create welcome packs, decorate the hall, create games, serve meals, and do the all-important toranut. With a theme of balance, they achieved the balance of the girls enjoying Shabbat together, as well as being invested in the entire experience.

Highlights included games led by Year 11 students, Rabbi Birnbaum and his family walking from Edgware to run a programme, and Rabbi Golker and his wife walking up to present a Q&A session and to speak at Seuda Shlishit.

The staff who attended on Friday night were phenomenal, losing a night’s sleep to ensure that Friday night was calm. Thank you to the night shift, which included Mrs Canoville, Miss Gelley, Miss Simonsson and our HIPE team.

A group of ten alumni (and Mrs Ellerman) walked up towards the end of Shabbat. These older girls spent time schmoozing and learning with the Year 11s – giving ideas about life after Year 11. One of the attendees described the Shabbaton as ‘exceptionally amazing’, running smoothly and creating the perfect balance of guided time and time just to chill.

The HIPE team were thrilled to be able to send off the students with such a positive last ‘Hasmo’ experience, and a well-deserved weekend together after showing such a balanced and positive attitude over the past 15 months.

Boys’ School – Junior Kangaroo Maths

Another set of fantastic results for the Junior Kangaroo Maths 2021. After getting Gold in the JMC 2021, 4 of our students qualified for the Junior Kangaroo for Maths. Three of them have been awarded a Merit Certificate which places them in the top 25% of the students qualified for the Junior Kangaroo.

The three students are:
• Boaz A 103 marks
• Sam T 103 marks
• Shimon W 98 marks

The fourth student is Rafi S, who got 85 marks. This is also a very decent result as it is very close to the threshold for a Merit Certificate.

Congratulations to the students and to their teacher Mr Francos.

Year 13 Girls’ School Shabbaton

The Hasmo Hotel reopened last weekend for some very special guests: the Year 13 graduates.

Mrs Paster, Miss Simonsson, Mrs Naylor, and Mrs Brice were the brave teachers who slept overnight at school. Ms Valencia was with them on Friday night, Miss Gelley walked up in the morning to join the girls, and Rabbi Bennett and his family walked over for lunch.

The theme was ‘Transitioning and Making the Right Choices’, with a group of alumni walking over to learn with the girls on that theme. Shiurim were also given by Mrs Paster and Miss Gelley. There was a novel ‘backwards panel’ where different girls were asked questions about their experiences of Hasmonean.

Thank you again to HIPE team who have really given their all to ensure these girls have had a magnificent end to their time at Hasmonean. Although, as we always say ‘you can take the girl out of Hasmonean, but you can’t take Hasmonean out of the girl’.