Editorial 12/12/19

Dear Parent,

Today marks the conclusion of a difficult, albeit fascinating, run-up to the 2019 General Election. Commentators and pundits up and down the country have remarked on how much conflict has been visible during the campaign and we must hope that this will abate once the ballots close and people resume their normal lives.

In this week’s parshah, we see that Yaakov is surrounded by conflict – he clashes with his brother and with his uncle; his two wives find it hard to get along and his children also bicker amongst themselves. Rabbi Lord Sacks discusses this idea in great detail and asks the important question: how did Yaakov help to calm the conflict; to soothe the angst of the people around him? The answer is that he learnt to be confident in himself and to resolve his own inner conflicts; it was only after this that he could see himself as a peacemaker and help to calm the attitude of the people amongst him.

Rabbi Lord Sacks’ comment in his book, ‘Lessons in Leadership’, encapsulates a very important message for leaders in general: ‘They must understand that it is better to seek the respect of some than the popularity of all…. No one is stronger than the person who knows who and what [s/]he is.’

Have a peaceful Shabbos,

Mrs D Lebrett

Editorial 5/12/19

Dear Parents,

As you are all no doubt aware, your voluntary contributions allow Hasmonean to maintain its ethos and breadth of provision, making your voluntary contributions a critical income stream for the school.

I am therefore deeply concerned that despite our growing student body, contributions through to the end of November are nearly £200,000 down on last year.

I hope this message will act as a catalyst for those of you who have not yet made their pledge to do so now as we desperately need to make up the shortfall during December.


Mr J Feinmesser
Trustee of the Hasmonean Charity and MAT trustee


Dear Parents,

Following on from the attainment of the national Wellbeing for Schools Award by the Girls’ School in June, I am delighted to inform you that we have now also attained the same award for the Boys’ School. We will hold both awards for 3 years.

The inspections were incredibly intensive, the preparation work ran for two years (and the paperwork to many hundreds of pages) and required immense hard work from Mr Kalley and Mrs Waugh who led the change teams that enabled us to attain the awards.

My thanks go to the staff, parents, governors and students who were interviewed and to everyone who is involved in supporting the mental health and wellbeing within both schools.

It is a wonderful tribute to the ways in which staff have put the mental health and wellbeing at the heart of both schools. However, at a time when the pressures on young people are greater than ever and, as headlines demonstrate, teachers are under mounting pressure, we are far from complacent. While the awards recognise the work we have accomplished so far, we know that there is more to do and will strive to continue to focus on these important areas.

Best wishes,

Mr A McClusky
CEO, Hasmonean MAT



Editorial 28/11/19

A fascinating question emerges from the first few pesukim of this week’s sedra.

We are told that when Esav is born, he emerged red: “וַיֵּצֵא הָרִאשׁוֹן אַדְמוֹנִי “. Yet, he is only called Edom (red) as a result of an incident 15 years later when he guzzles down the red lentils being cooked by his brother Yaakov.

וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו אֶל יַעֲקֹב, הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶּה כִּי עָיֵף, אָנֹכִי; עַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמוֹ, אֱדוֹם. (בראשית כה,ל)

And Esav said to Yaakov, “Pour into me now some of that very red stuff for I am exhausted; He therefore called his name Edom

Why was he not called Edom or red from day one? Why wait until some obscure incident so many years later?

Rav Shaul Katzenellebogen gives a remarkable answer. Character traits are parev. They are neutral and can be directed in positive or negative ways. A person can be blessed with the IQ of a genius but act like a fool, and one can lack a high IQ and yet act with wisdom. A person may be born with strong leadership qualities or an ability to draw or sing and can use these traits positively or negatively. This is true for all abilities and capabilities.

Esav was born with a propensity towards the physical. That is what the red symbolised. He should have used his potential to be a partner with Yaakov to bring the world to perfection. Instead Esav chose to use his abilities and character traits negatively.

Esav was not called Edom or red from birth because at that stage it was all potential. It was only 15 years later where it became clear which path in life he chose.

One of the privileges and indeed enormous responsibilities of being involved in chinuch is helping students to channel their potential positively. The role of the teacher and parent is to help children discover who they are; what abilities and capabilities they have and empower them and help them actualise their potential.

May we all succeed in this critical role and see much success and nachas from all our children.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi J Golker

Editorial 20/11/19

Dear Parent,

November is a time of remembering. There was a moving AJEX service at the cenotaph last Sunday to commemorate those who fought and died in the service of their country at which Hasmonean students, staff and parents were proud to be involved. This week the Sixth Form had the incredible experience of listening to a holocaust survivor, Mr Josef Lewkowicz and seeing the film made about him- The Survivor’s Revenge. The adage that who forget the past are doomed to repeat it has much wisdom.

I have been looking at the role of memory with my Year 9 Psychology enrichment classes – both having no memory and being able to remember everything. Each of these can wreck lives. Losing one’s memory is the more familiar one and many of us will have older relatives with dementia whose memories are slipping away, sometimes to the point when they can no longer recognise their loved ones. However, remembering everything can also be a curse as all the negative events of a life are ever-present and it can be hard to process traumatic experiences.

As parents and teachers, we need to think about just how much we want to remember about our young people and the inevitable errors made in growing up. Some children take longer than others to learn from their mistakes and deserve censure for repeatedly making the same ill-advised choices. However, having total recall of every misdemeanour does not allow girls and boys to reinvent themselves and become more mature. The increased tendency to play out our lives online does not help with this either. A fresh start can be really important and each break from school allows for a new beginning. So treasure the positive memories of your children and be forgiving when they get things wrong.

Have a very good half term,

Mrs K Brice

Editorial 14/11/19

Dear Parent,

Hasmonean hosted an evening last week in which representatives from PAJES and the Metropolitan Police spoke to over a hundred parents about keeping teens safe in an increasingly complex world. Although it was a difficult presentation to listen to at times, it was very reassuring to see so many parents take the message of the evening seriously and also to offer support tomembers of our community. More information regarding the evening can be found in this edition of enews.

The safety of your children (our students) is always our priority. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, when discussing the perplexing account of the akeidah in this week’s parsha, concludes that its purpose was to show Avraham and future generations that G-d is the G-d of life, of purpose, of sanctity. Avraham had the courage to offer up his child as a sacrifice, but G-d wanted something else: life. He wanted Avraham to nurture his child, to keep him safe and to help him to become an ‘independent moral agent with his own dignity and freedom.’

We all share a responsibility to keep your children safe and PG we should continue to ensure that we are successful in ensuring that this happens for many years to come.

Have a good shabbos,

Mrs D Lebrett

Editorial 7/11/19

Dear Parents and Carers,

Re: Communication Guidelines

The school has recently published revised guidelines to provide a platform for effective and positive communications between staff and parents/carers. Parents/ carers are entitled to expect courteous and timely communications from school staff just as staff are entitled to expect courtesy and respect from them.

This extract from the guidelines outlines the rationale behind them:
Research consistently finds that children achieve more when schools and parents/carers work together. However, the unique relationship that a parent/ carer or teacher has with a child might at times lead to differences of opinion as to what is best for the child. Both parties need to appreciate and respect the special skills and insights that each brings to their relationships with a child and understand and appreciate each other’s perspective.

Tension in the parent/staff relationship can arise when both parties are strongly motivated to do the best for the child but occupy fixed positions about how to achieve this. The ability to voice differences of opinion, respectfully and with understanding, is key to a successful relationship and to minimising conflict.

A link to the guidelines, which have been shared with staff, can be found here: https://hasmoneanmat.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Communication-Guidelines-Oct-2019.pdf

The contact details for staff can be found on the individual schools’ websites:



We hope that all members of the Hasmonean community will find the new guidelines helpful.

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky
CEO – Hasmonean MAT

Mr Y Halberstadt
Chair of Local Governing Body Committee – Boys  – Trustee of Hasmonean MAT

Mr S Blumgart
Chair of Local Governing Body Committee – Girls – Trustee of Hasmonean MAT

Editorial 31/10/19

Dear Parent,

After Noach survived the flood, the Torah tells us that he planted a vine and drank wine. Chazal are critical of him; instead of planting a vine, he should have planted grain.

What is behind this criticism? What did Noach do wrong?

Rabbi Isaac Bernstein used to quote a wonderful insight of Rav Simcha Wasserman. Wine is used to recall the past. As our Sages say: “Zachreihu al hayayin” – “Remember it with wine”. Noach wanted to sit down and drink and reminisce on the past and nostalgically recall days gone by of the pre-flood world of yesteryear.

The criticism of Noach is that he should have focussed on the future and not longed for the past. Time only travels in one direction – it is forward facing. We do not forget the past, rather we use it to build for the future.

Our school was built out of the ashes of the holocaust. Great people had the strength of character to build on the past of pre-war Europe and transform it to a post-war reality. Klal Yisroel have a remarkable history but our destiny is in the future.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos,

Rabbi J Golker

Editorial 24/10/19

Dear Parents,

The news at the moment, both at home and abroad, suggests that the world is becoming a less tolerant and kind place. Demonstrations outside Parliament and a hardening of attitudes on all sides deepens the divisions in political life so that it can seem as if our entire democratic system is under threat.

So there is much to make us wary about what lies ahead but working in a school is the best antidote to this as the attitude of our young people can restore our faith that things can be better in future. The cheerful faces coming into school after the festivities for Succos and the pleasure at seeing their friends again were a reminder that there is a lot to celebrate and be thankful for. Call them not “your children” but “your builders”’ reminds us that they will be creating the world of the future and if we instil in our children respect and compassion for others then they can help to forge a world where all people are accepted and can flourish.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mrs K Brice
Headteacher – Girls’ School

Editorial 8/10/19

Dear Parents,

Wishing all parents and students a Gmar Chasima Tovah, an easy fast and Chag Sameach.

Looking forward to welcoming all students on Thursday 24th October at 8.35 am. Beis will begin at the usual time at the Boys’ School.

Best wishes,

Mrs D Lebrett

Editorial 3/10/19

Dear Parents,

I am conscious that I am writing to you between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time of profound soul-searching and reflection for the community.

To look retrospectively on what has gone well and what we could do better, and to look forward to plan for a bright future, is also happening in a very different, educational context within the school. Analysing our strengths and areas for development to get to grips with which subjects, staff and students performed well and which could have performed better is an essential part of the school improvement cycle. All staff are also undergoing performance management reviews and are involved in evaluation and development planning for their areas.

While we may be able to measure the outcomes of a student’s academic progress and attainment with ever more sophisticated tools of analysis, the factors which cause him or her to perform well are much subtler and less easy to measure. To what extent was their curiosity piqued in the lessons? Did lessons suit their preferred style of learning? Did their teachers explain topics clearly? Were they were treated with empathy and understanding? Were they given enough time to let off steam? Were they getting enough sleep? Were they worried about home life or friendships? All of these factors and so many more have an impact on their overall success. Our evaluation is not limited to examination results alone: we want to know how well we are preparing students for their future lives which is why we review the quality of both our Kodesh provision and the care, guidance and support they receive from us.

As I have mentioned before, in an attempt to get to reach a closer understanding of what motivates students to perform well, I met with groups of them from each year group and asked them what they thought made for great teaching. At the end of the year, I presented my findings to staff. Students provided many practical and useful ‘top tips’ for teachers but the key message, perhaps unsurprisingly, was that great performance and good behaviour both depend on teachers building positive relationships with students. Empathy is key to everything.

Throughout this year, I am conducting a similar series of interviews with different groups of staff to understand what motivates them to support students to perform well. My aim is to ensure that our resources are used in the best possible way to support staff to have the best possible impact on students.

Gemar chatimah tovah,

Mr A McClusky
Hasmonean MAT