Editorial 12/3/2020

Dear Parent,

We find ourselves in unprecedented times. The coronavirus outbreak has now been labelled as a pandemic, spreading in multiple countries all over the world. People are anxious and no one knows how things are going to unfold.

What message can we give our children?

This Shabbos is not only parshas Ki Sisa but also Parshas Parah. We have just enjoyed Purim and are heading towards Pesach. What is the common denominator between these four events?

The common denominator is emunah, faith in Hashem.

Ki Sisa tells of the sin of the egel hazahav, the golden calf where a section of Klal Yisrael displayed a lack of emunah. Parshas Parah speaks about the quintessential chok – זאת חקת התורה. Purim is the story of how Hashem delivered Klal Yisrael in a hidden way and Pesach is the story of direct intervention by Hashem. Contemplation of both is intended to enhance our faith. Telling and internalising the stories are meant to imbue us with emunah and withstand the travails of our times.

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? 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?

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 – 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.

The message to our children is the same. We must do our bit to stay safe and follow medical guidelines carefully, but we remain calm in the knowledge that HKBH runs the world.

Good Shabbos

Rabbi J Golker

Editorial 5/3/2020

Dear Parent,

Last week we read Parshat Terumah where the Bnei Yisroel were asked to contribute to the building of the Mishkan, as much as their heart was able to give. Later in the Torah however we are told that each person was required to contribute half a shekel towards the Mishkan – why the need for both?

Rashi in Ki Tissa tells us that the voluntary donations were used for the majority of the building and vessels, however the two sets of half shekels that everyone was required to give were set aside for the sockets and communal korbanot. Why?

When building a communal function, there are two key facets:

1. To create a true communal facility everyone needs to contribute. The sockets were the foundations upon which the entire mishkan stood and the communal korbanot were the foundational service around which the mishkan functioned. Without everyone’s buy in, without everyone setting aside part of themselves and contributing financially, there could be no base upon which any communal facility functions.

2. Once you have the foundations, everyone’s personal donation makes a fundamental difference to the operational capability. The basics operate with the half shekels, but anything more becomes non-viable.

Hasmonean is our community school and, much like the Mishkan, cannot function in a vacuum. As I write this message, contributions from families continue to run well behind last year (£300k to the end of February). The governors, teachers and students are immensely grateful to all those parents who have honoured this year’s VC request, but unfortunately many families have not yet been able to do so. As our partners in your children’s education we turn to you to seek your continued support, to avoid a chipping away at the foundations upon which Hasmonean is built.

Next week is Purim, a time when the Jewish Community shines brightly in its generosity. When considering where to allocate your tzedokah funds, please ensure you bear in mind our children’s chinuch. All the communal rabbonim have agreed that the first call on your tzedokah needs to be our community’s outstanding chinuch institutions. Please take a few moments to make a donation now here: https://www.parentpay.com/

With kind regards,

Mr Jonny Feinmesser
Chair of Hasmonean MAT’s Finance Committee

Dear Parent,

I would like to add my own thoughts to those of Jonny Feinmesser.

The cuts which were sadly necessary last year to balance our budget are taking their toll on the school and on staff who are teaching heavier timetables and larger classes. Teachers are working extremely hard to give the kind of attention to every child that they would like to, but the extra pressures are being felt across the board.

If we wish to recruit and retain the very best teachers, we have to provide them with conditions to enable them to be effective. When teachers flourish, students flourish.

The cost of running two relatively small schools with a broad secular and Kodesh curriculum far exceeds the income it receives from the government.

The amount which you contribute in voluntary contributions directly impacts on our capacity to focus on things that really matter: safeguarding, mental health and pastoral support; the quality of teaching; the breadth of the curriculum; the physical environment which students occupy for so much of their day-to-day lives.

The more you give, the more we can achieve; the less you give, the less we can achieve.

It is therefore absolutely imperative that every family gives as much as it can possibly afford to. To those who do, I add my sincere thanks to Jonny’s: you truly are our lifeblood.

The consequences of not meeting our voluntary contributions target this year are unthinkable. Hasmonean is a unique institution. Its success depends on your voluntary contributions and its future really is in your hands.

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky
CEO, Hasmonean MAT

Editorial 27/2/2020

Dear Parent,

The Board of Trustees is currently reviewing the ethos and vision statements for the Multi-Academy Trust and from there will outline its strategic objectives for the next 3-5 years.

In my editorial this week, I would like you to be aware of some of the objectives that we are working on in the meantime and which we will be finalising before the end of the academic year.

Firstly, we have been reviewing the senior leadership team and the standards/ pastoral teams at both schools with a view to ensuring that we have the best structure and sufficient capacity to increase our focus on:

1. Torah values being at the heart of all we do
2. The safety, wellbeing and pastoral needs of students
3. Ensuring that students meet the highest expectations in regard to uniform, conduct, punctuality and engagement
4. Teacher development

The more capacity we have to focus on these areas, the better our learning environment.

Secondly, we are in the process of reviewing the curricula at both schools to ensure that they are well-designed to support the needs of all our students. We are keenly aware that we need to offer rigorous and inspiring Kodesh and secular curricula at each school alongside British Values, Religious and Sex Education and sufficient physical activity. Our proposals will soon be discussed with each local governing body and with the MAT Trust Board before being shared with parents to elicit your views.

We will give you further updates on all of the above areas in due course.

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky
CEO, Hasmonean Multi-Academy Trust

Editorial 13/20/2020

Dear Parent,

I was honoured to attend two events recently run by the Jewish Book Week organisers. Together with the sixth formers and various members of staff, I heard Norman Lebrecht speak about his new book: ‘Genius and Anxiety’ and Raffi Berg discuss his book: ‘Red Sea Spies’. It was a truly inspirational experience to hear two intelligent, academic individuals passionately discussing their subjects and a real honour for Hasmonean to host them.

The Boys’ school has also been honoured to host a number of representatives from a range of Yeshivas who are coming into the Beis programme to meet the boys in preparation for next year. The Rabbonim speak during the morning and the entire Beis Programme are able to benefit from the illustrious guests.

We know how important it is to broaden our students’ experiences and to help them to understand how valuable it is to appreciate different facets of humanity. It is only then that we can really educate them to be tolerant and respectful of everybody in society.

Wishing all of our students a wonderful half term. School begins on Monday 24th February at normal time.

Have a peaceful Shabbos,

Mrs D Lebrett

Editorial 06/02/2020

Dear Parent,

Klal Yisroel find themselves in dire straits in this week’s parsha. Trapped between the Egyptian army in hot pursuit and the deep blue sea, they cry out to Hashem. The Medrash tells us that only on seeing רכוש של מצרים בידם, the wealth of the Egyptians in the hands of the Jewish people, did the sea split.

This is very strange. The waters did not give way for the men, women and children of Klal Yisroel, but only for the Egyptian plunder! What does this mean?

Rabbi Pinchos Roberts explains that after decades of slavery and persecution they were suddenly free and very wealthy. But their newfound wealth did not go to their heads, it was firmly in check – it was בידם, in their hands and in their control.

The Yam Suf witnessed this remarkable self-discipline of the Jewish people and only then split its waters.

Last week, we were witness to the amazing success of several Hasmonean students, success born from extraordinary self-discipline to study hard for the national Chidon HaTanach, the inter-school Bible Quiz.

I am proud to say that Hasmonean students stole the show, winning all the prizes in both the junior and senior categories. Mazal tov to Ilana Maierovits, Sara Solomon and Leah Kalmus, winners of the junior category and Batsheva Schwab, Reuven Simcha Garber and Avigayil Rowe, winners of the senior category. The senior winners will be representing Hasmonean and the UK in the famous annual World Bible Quiz on Yom Ha’atzmaut in Israel in a few months’ time.

Here’s a short video clip of the event to give you a flavour.

Special thanks to Mr Maierovits who organised the event, Rabbi Silverman who has put much effort in preparing many students for this, Rabbis Amram Landau (one of the judges) and Yossi Fachler (the quizmaster) as well as many members of staff who attended.

Further information about last weeks’ event and the syllabus for next year are attached on eNews. Please see the two documents from Mr Maierovits.

I very much hope that we can build on this year’s amazing success and spread the learning and love of Tanach to many more students.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi J Golker

Editorial 30/1/2020

Dear Parent,

The theme of this week’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘Standing Together’. As part of our commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, students from St Mary’s Catholic School, near Saffron Walden, joined pupils at both the Boys’ and the Girls’ Schools. In addition, girls from Copthall and Barnet Hill Academy, which is a Muslim school, were welcomed to the activities which had been planned with great care by Mrs Abecasis.

A teacher from one of the schools told me that they study Judaism as part of their RS GCSE but that her students had never met Jewish people. The visit certainly helped to dispel any stereotypes on both sides and it was lovely to see all the students mixing so well together.

In our divided and fractured world, it is important for us to seize any opportunity which brings people together and helps to dispel the bigotry which can come with ignorance. We will be exploring how we can deepen and extend the links we have made already so that we can truly stand together in defence of the British values which we all hold dear.

Kind regards,

Mrs K Brice
Headteacher – Girls’ School

Editorial 23/1/2020

Dear Parent,

In this week’s Parshah, we see that Pharaoh repeats a pattern following every plague: he appeals to Moshe to demand that they stop but then changes his mind about releasing the Bnei Yisrael: he makes his heart ‘heavy’. Every time that the suffering and fear engendered by the plagues is removed, Pharaoh returns to his previous obstinate behaviour.

The meforshim discuss the connotations of the phrase: ‘making the heart heavy’. Heavy objects are difficult to move and they take a massive force in order to topple them. Once the force is eliminated, the object will come to rest. The plagues were a massive force which moved Pharaoh; once the plague ended, he was unable to alter his ingrained behaviours and world view. We need to really look at ourselves to see if there may be a small part of this characteristic in each of us. Do we sometimes become so attached to our own views and perspectives that we can be dismissive of evidence that challenges our fixed opinions? Do we sometimes exhibit fixed patterns of behaviour which can seem unrealistic and unreliable?

As part of the teachers’ continuing professional development, we have been looking in close detail at the idea of shifting these ‘fixed mindsets’ in the students with a view to making them more positive about their capabilities and their learning. Research shows how important the student mindset is when we think about attainment and their achievements; we all need to think about what we can achieve, not all the things that we feel we cannot do. We are very hopeful that, by focusing on this more forensically, we will start to see more positive and successful learners at Hasmonean. We will keep you updated about the progress of this project as it develops.

Wishing you a peaceful Shabbos,

Mrs D Lebrett

Editorial 16/1/2020

Dear Parent,

Firstly, I would like to draw attention to an exhibition which Mrs Abecasis has curated at the Imperial War Museum: “Against All Odds: Britain and the Rescue of Jewish Children”.

At the opening of the exhibition last Sunday guests included family members of the rescuers, Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld & Sir Nicholas Winton, and children of the Kindertransports. Guest speakers included Rachel Donnelly from the Imperial War Museum; Mrs Abecasis who curated the exhibition; Barbara Winton, daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton; Jonathan Schonfeld, son of son of Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld; as well as rescued children: Lord Dubs, Benjamin Abeles, John Fieldsend and Lili Pohlmann.

Since the exhibition opened, groups of Hasmonean students have been taken to it and the feedback from them and the teachers who accompanied them has been excellent. We are hopeful that this exhibition will now move on to schools in London and perhaps further afield. My sincere thanks go to Mrs Abecasis for curating this incredibly inspiring exhibition.

At both schools, we will mark Holocaust Memorial Day next Friday and guest speakers and guest pupils from other schools will be visiting Hasmonean.

I was reminded when I learned that this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme is ‘Stand Together’ of Rabbi Sack’s words in A Judaism Engaged with the World:

I discovered how much non-Jews admire Judaism and are lifted by it. Jews are admired by others for the strength of their families and the support of their communities, for their commitment to philanthropy and social responsibility; and for their ability to combine reverence for the past with sensitivity to the present and responsibility to the future. I discovered that non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism.

It made me reflect, as somebody who is not Jewish but who has worked within the Jewish community for many years, that there is a duty that we too have, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism has been rising. If, according to Rabbi Sacks, Jews have a duty to embrace their Judaism, our duty is to carry your light with us when we leave your company. When questioned about Jewish life in your absence, we must celebrate what we have seen and regale those who are ignorant of Jewish communities with tales of generosity and warmth. Jews and non-Jews must stand together even when they are parted. To those of us who have worked in Jewish communities for a long time, this is as easy as it is sadly now necessary.

Best wishes,

Mr A McClusky

CEO, Hasmonean MAT

Editorial 9/1/2020

Dear Parent,

The Gemoro is Sotah (13a) and tells of the strange events of Yakov Ovinu’s funeral in this week’s parsha. Esav attempts to disrupt proceedings and claims that he is entitled to the final burial spot in Meoras HaMachpela. The brothers protest. Naftoli is dispatched back to Egypt to bring proof. The burial is delayed. Chushim the son of Dan asks why there is a hold up. On being told, he is so incensed at the disgrace to his grandfather Yakov, he kills Esav.

How come no one else was bothered by the affront to the honour due to Yakov Ovinu? Why didn’t anyone else feel as strongly as Chushim?

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt’l, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, suggests an answer. Our sages tell us that Chushim was deaf. He was therefore oblivious to the burial arguments, and the disgrace to Yakov hit him suddenly. Yakov’s children, however, adapted to the situation and were slowly drawn into the debate – while Yakov’s body was waiting to be buried.

Such are the dangers of becoming used to a situation – the curse of adaptability.

A friend of mine once described the traumatic experiences of his first summer job. He worked for a law firm and had to go to court several times a week to deliver legal documents. These documents would conclude proceedings on behalf of a bank against destitute people who did not keep up with their mortgage payments. In effect, he was the legal arm throwing people out of their homes. Many times, these destitute people showed up in court, sometimes bringing their young children, in a futile attempt to protest and try to stop themselves becoming homeless. I remember my friend saying how traumatic it was for him and then, after a few weeks, he got used to it and soon enough found it a pain when these people bothered him getting on with his job.

On the other hand, adapting to situations can sometimes be positive and even a blessing. Many ask: why was Soroh unable to deal with the news of Akeidas Yitzchok, depite being on a greater level than Avrohom. Again, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz gives an answer. Chazal tell us that when Hashem instructed Avrohom to perform the Akeidah, he broke the news to him gently, slowly helping him to understand what was needed. Soroh, on the other hand, was told the news suddenly and the shock was too much for her to bear.

Klal Yisroel has recently celebrated another siyum of Daf Yomi and many of us watched the amazing scenes at the MetLife stadium and at other locations all over the Jewish world. The completion of the entire Talmud Bavli needs enormous commitment and fortitude. Learning the entire Shas is a mammoth and overwhelming task; yet, with a page a day, one can adapt to this wonderful practice and achieve greatness.

May we all merit to adapt to uplifting and noble practices.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi J Golker

Editorial 19/12/19

Dear Parent,

The darkest days of the year are upon us and the weather has done nothing to improve our spirits, so it is a good thing that at the Girls’ School we have been uplifted by the magic of Peter Pan in the school musical, and soon the lights of Chanukah will be a reminder of the importance of keeping the faith.

In the same way that the Chanukah lights illuminate the darkness, we need to think about how our actions can lighten the world around us. Scientists have discovered (as if it was not common sense) that carrying out a kind action not only makes the giver and recipient feel better, but also lifts the spirits of everyone who hears about it. When we do good deeds it restores hope in the human condition, which is very necessary because the news is often full of darkness and despair.

So as we go to celebrate Chanukah and look forward to 2020, we can all take the opportunity to brighten the lives of those around us with acts of kindness. This is a key message which we promote at all times of year. Chesed runs through the school and we are proud of our students reaching out to help others who are less fortunate.

I hope you all have a very happy holiday and good wishes for the year ahead,


Mrs K Brice