Editorial 14/5/2021

Dear Parent,

Whilst listening to the very worrying news this week from Israel, I was reflecting on how the world is in such an interconnected place. Events that take place in one part of the world have ramifications internationally. Additionally, if there is one fact that we all now accept as a result of the Covid pandemic, it is that we are all one world. One connected, unique and precious world. We have now come to the realisation that we are all members of society and we need to feel a responsibility for each other.

Shavuos is a time to think about social and communal responsibility. A time to think about each other and the wider world and our place within it. The image of the Jewish people gathered as a community at Har Sinai is a resonant one: it also reminds us that we are more likely to be successful if we work together.

Have a good Shabbos and a yom tov and PG may there be peace and healing in the world.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs D Lebrett
Headteacher

Editorial 6/5/2021

The Torah interrupts its discussion about shemitah and the related laws of resting the land in the seventh year to introduce the prohibition of ona’ah, wrongdoing. There are different types of ona’ah. One type is ona’as devarim – harming someone with words.

Why does the Torah place the prohibition of ona’as devorim in the middle of the laws about shemitah?

Rabbi Frand quotes Rav Yakov Weinberg ztl who explains that the motivation behind snide remarks is really a lack of satisfaction with one’s own portion in life. When somebody makes a hurtful remark about another person, he is trying to aggrandise himself by diminishing another. Ultimately, this reflects an insufficient faith in Hashem because it shows a lack of satisfaction with one’s own lot. If a person truly had emunah that he has what he needs, he would not need to make these remarks.

That is why the possuk concludes with “I am the L-rd, your G-d” in order to remind us that our life situations are given to us by Hashem and it is up to us to make the most of them.

Here at Hasmonean we aim to help each student develop their potential. We do this by offering a broad and exciting array of formal and informal educational experiences.

All of this exposes our students to a broad Yiddishkeit which will hopefully enable them to discover who they are and what their potential is. That is the surest way to avoid ona’as devorim and any form of hurtful speech as they embark on their journey in life

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos.

Rabbi J Golker
Menahel

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

Headteacher

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?’

‘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?’

‘Yes.’

‘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

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
Menahel

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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 

Update from the Chair of Hasmonean Multi-Academy Trust Board

Dear Parents,

It is great to have all of the children back in school and as we approach Pesach, I’d like to give you a quick update.

As you would expect, the lockdown affected different families in different ways. Educationally we hit the ground running at the beginning of January and all in all the digital support that our schools provided worked really well; compared to many other schools/children we are in a really good place. Thank you to parents for your really positive feedback and support.

I mentioned back in January some of the investments that we have been making and during lockdown these really began to pay dividends:

 

  • Building Jewish Identity: The efforts of the HIPE informal ed team have been awesome. They proved a social and emotional lifeline for our children, and this will be even better now that we are back.
  • 21stCentury Teaching and Learning: The Chromebook roll-out, Google class and breakout rooms, and the training that we gave staff fundamentally changed the way students learned and kept the wheels on the bus. We have now appointed a number of Digital Learning Leads in different faculties, two Digital Co-ordinators to oversee them and a Senior Digital Lead to transform things further by pioneering the best teaching techniques and digital learning resources. This will consolidate our position as one of the leaders in the UK in harnessing ed tech for the good of our students.
  • Personal Spiritual Growth: We have appointed Rabbi Dov Birnbaum from SEED to make the Girls’ Midrasha a world leader in Jewish young women’s education. Additionally, we have appointed our very own and much-loved R Yehudah Hager to develop and lead a personal spiritual mentoring programme at the Boys’ school. It is so important that we are building individual one-to-one relationships, providing students with a listening ear and individual care and attention focussed on where they are at, supporting them as they grow and develop into young adults.

We can only do this if you continue to invest in our school. As of the end of February Chiyuv Chinuch contributions were £251k below where they need to be.

If you work with us, we can make Hasmonean an awesome place to learn and a nurturing environment that will build the foundation of our community. If you can pay your CCs in full and have yet to do so, please do so now. If you can’t pay in full, please pay what you can and prioritise the investment in your children’s education.

Finally, whilst we may be behind where we need to be we must still recognise the contribution of all those who give what they can. To this end the Hasmonean Charitable Trust are planning the launch of a great initiative to celebrate the success provided by your Chiyuv Chinuch support. Watch this space…..

Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach,

Gary Swabel

Chair of Hasmonean Multi-Academy Trust Board

 

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EDITORIAL 18/3/2021

 

Dear Parents,

 

As we come to the end of another extraordinary term – who would have thought that schools would have become testing centres?

 

I was thinking about what there is left to say about our situation. Then I went to the latest Bat Mitzvah celebration in school and heard the lovely song which the girls have written for their teachers. It says it all:

 

Lockdown is different

Distances between

School closed is not as simple as it seems

Hasmo’s always here

In me they believe

Together as a family, even virtually

Teachers help me to be brave, staff that makes me fight each wave

I don’t have to be afraid; they help me believe

 

Hasmo is my home

And wherever we’re from

We unite under the same sun

It is where we belong

School helps us be strong

As we face the unknown

 

You can call it Hasmo

They help when in need

And where should I be without your care for me

When drowning in an ocean, deeper than the sea

Our teachers make possible impossibility

 

Never was there a school

That the staff don’t back down

Hasmo’s pride is with me and I hope it always will

It’s Page Street our place

Just imagine a space

Where hate has been erased

It’s not hard if you try

 

Wishing you all a chag Pesach samech.

Best wishes,

 

Mrs K Brice

Headteacher – Girls’ School

 

Editorial 11/3/2021

One of the striking things about this week’s double sedra is that it is all very familiar! Indeed, we read about the Mishkan and the Bigdei Kehuna (clothes for the Kohanim) only two and three weeks ago. Why the exhaustive repetition?

The Ramban (Shemos 36,8) explains that there is a difference between instruction and action. First the Torah gives a general and then detailed command and that is followed by action and an account of the work itself and the finished product.

There is an important message here. Too often there is a disconnect between theory and practice, between instruction and action. Perhaps the long repetition of Vayakhel and Pekudei is to teach us this very point. That Judaism is not just a theology but a “Toras Chaim”, a very detailed, real and beautiful way of life.

This is a message that we try hard to live by at Hasmonean and instil in our students. One of the exciting additions to life in school in recent months has been the introduction of the HIPE teams at the boys’ and girls’ schools. Supplementing our kodesh provision, they have breathed a new dimension and energy into the corridors at Hasmonean. Together with our amazing Kodesh staff, they show that there is theory and practice, and that Torah is not just learned, but lived and loved.

I salute our wonderful HIPE educators and all our amazing kodesh staff and thank you all for supporting our Purim campaigns.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Golker

Menahel

Editorial 4/3/2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

The return to school from March 8th for all students

We look forward to welcoming your children back to school!

We are aware that students will need to time to adjust to begin back in school and we will be arranging a series of pastoral and wellbeing session to support them to reintegrate. Training has also been given by Noa Girls on the language staff should use to support children during this process.

All students (who have consented/ whose parents have consented to be tested) should have received their first lateral flow test by the end of this week and will receive their next two lateral flow tests over the next two weeks once they return to school. After that, they will be given tests from us to test themselves at home. Any student who has a positive test result will need to report this to both us and NHS Track and Trace.

Please be aware that students – unless they are exempted for medical reasons – are required to wear face masks in lessons as well as in communal areas on their return to protect themselves, their families as well as staff and their families. We would very much appreciate it if you could ensure that your children come to school with a range of spare masks.

Both schools will have been deep-cleaned by the time your children arrive in school. The same social distancing measures and one way systems that were in place in September will remain in place and our risk assessments have been updated on the schools’ websites.

Please also see the letter from Mrs Lebrett and Mrs Brice with more detailed guidance regarding March 8th opening in the letters section for each school.

Families currently residing abroad

As mentioned last week, families who are currently residing abroad need to make arrangements for their children to return to school for when we re-open on March 8th. We have been advised by Barnet Local Authority that students need to return within a half term period for their children to remain on roll unless there are exceptional reasons that prevent them from doing so. Please could parents who are currently residing abroad let the relevant headteacher know their expected return date so that we can welcome their children back to school and ensure they remain on roll.

Alternative arrangements to examinations

As you are aware, Ofqual have announced the alternative arrangements for GCSE, BTEC and A level examinations following the public consultation.

We are still waiting to hear the details about the new arrangements from the examination boards and therefore cannot yet confirm the precise arrangements for students. However, subject to the exam boards’ guidance, our provisional plans are as follows:

  • Short assessments held after the Pesach break will form part of the overall evidence base that determines a student’s centre moderated grades alongside a selection of other assessments completed in class throughout the course
  • This will give students the best opportunity to demonstrate their skills and understanding of a representative sample of the material they have covered and enable their teachers to provide sufficient evidence to the examination boards of the grades that they we will submit for them
  • After the Pesach break, Year 11 and Year 13 students will be given a range of short assessments (except for textiles/ art and BTECs) in each of their subjects.
  • Teachers will not teach any new content to students from Monday March 15th at the latest until the 17th May while revision/ assessments take place
  • Students will be given the topics of each assessment in advance and time to prepare for those assessments
  • Wherever possible, students will be given a range of questions within each topic to choose from
  • Teachers will use lessons prior to the assessments as revision sessions
  • Each subject area will choose which assessments will best demonstrate students’ ability and count towards a student’s grade and which topics will be used for the short assessments
  • Y11 and Y13 will be given study leave (though Beis and the Midrasha will still run), with secular teachers available to support students who wish to see them either via G Suite or in person (dates to be confirmed)
  • Any access arrangements that would normally be given to students taking exams will be retrospectively taken into account when determining the mark of assessments taken in class throughout the course where this was not given at the time of the assessment
  • Special consideration will be given to students who require it according to the normal JCQ guidelines
  • Year 10s who are sitting GCSEs in RS and BH early will also be part of this process (and given some study leave)

We are sure that you will have many questions about this important topic when the guidance from the examination boards is published. Once we have received this guidance we will inform you and your children about our plans and take you through how we intend to implement it in more detail. However, we thought it best to share with you what our initial plans are based on Ofqual’s guidance.

Please be reassured that we will support students through each step of this process.

With kind regards,

Andrew McClusky – CEO – Hasmonean MAT

Debbie Lebrett – Headteacher – Boys’ School

Katherine Brice – Headteacher – Girls’ School

Editorial 25th February 2021

Dear Parents,

 

The Gemara in Megilah (16a) tells us that when Haman looks for Mordechai to carry out King Achashverosh’s reward of riding on the king’s horse, dressed in royal clothes, he finds Mordechai in the Beis Hamedrash teaching hilchos kemitzah. Hilchos kemitzah are technical laws involving flour offerings.

 

Why hilchos kemitzah now?

 

A well-known public speaker once told me that he tries to throw in the word “relevant” in the first 60 seconds of any of his talks as a means of engaging his audience.

 

Hilchos kemitzah? The first Beis Hamikdash has been destroyed and the second has yet to come. There is no Beis Hamkidash, no flour offerings and no kemitzah? Hardly relevant or pressing!?

 

The answer is that Mordechai is teaching a powerful message. Klal Yisrael are in deep trouble. The noose is tightening around their neck. A date for state sanctioned genocide has been set. Mordechai does his hishtadlus, he makes every effort to guide Esther and together with the rest of the Jewish people, he fasts and prays. And then he teaches hilchos kemitzah.

 

In so doing, he is telling Klal Yisrael the message of last week’s haftorah that we read before Purim every year – נצח ישראל לא ישקר. Mordechai is saying we may be in a precarious state, but we will get through this, we will prevail. There will yet be a Beis Hamikdash and Kohanim will once again perform the avodah and take a kemitzah.

 

A timely and timeless message for Purim 2021. Our world has been turned upside down but we should take comfort in the message of Purim.

 

As I wrote to parents earlier this week, despite everything, there is a huge amount going on over Purim (all of course online and Covid friendly) and I thank all the Kodesh teachers and HIPE educators for ensuring the spirit of Purim reaches our students.

 

And there is a very direct way to thank HIPE and ensure their long-term future at Hasmonean. Students are collecting for 19 charities associated with Hasmonean in their HIPE UNITE campaign, but we are turning to parents and to the community to help HIPE via the Chomesh L’Chinuch campaign.

 

Please click on the link below, enjoy the fabulous song, donate generously and share the link as widely as possible.

https://www.charityextra.com/shpieltime/19700

 

Wishing you and your families an enjoyable, meaningful and safe Purim.

 

 

Rabbi J Golker

Menahel