Boys’ School – Day 5 of Chanukah

The 5th Day of Chanukah saw another action packed H.I.P.E fuelled day, full of Chanukah treats.

It started with a Year 9 Chanuka online interactive quiz, brilliantly led by Nethanel Kind during Period 1.

From Period 4, the school gates opened wide as THE SLICED MEAT MOBILE BURGER VAN made its way to the edge of the carpark, where it stayed for FIVE hours, feeding every hungry school boy in carefully staggered times, according to the bubble system. Over 700 portions were sold!

Then, during Period 7, the HIPE team hosted their own take on ‘Deal or No Deal’and it was Year 9’s turn to play the famous game and leave with a free doughnut each.

The H.I.P.E team have been essential in keeping our students entertained and have fun.

Girls’ School – Project ImpACT

Special thanks go to Rabbi Gaffin, together with Light Up a Life and Project ImpACT, as our Year 9 girls spent Thursday, period 1, wrapping lots of boxes of chocolates to be distributed to NHS workers in the London hospitals and care homes in time for the winter holidays.

Each student also wrote a personal note of thanks to staff, which was attached to the wrapped gift. The project was aimed at showing gratitude to medical, nursing and support staff for their tireless dedication to looking after us in very challenging circumstances.

Students from Hasmonean High School for Girls, as well as pupils from Hasmonean High School for Boys (see last week’s eNews article and picture), Immanuel College, JFS, Yavneh and JCoSS participated so that almost 1000 Year 9 students from Jewish schools took part in this initiative. Rabbi Gaffin is planning to run more events with Project ImpACT as the year progresses.

Chanukah Yom Iyun – Girls’ School

Not only were the girls treated to an amazing week of HIPE activities to enlighten the physical joy of Chanukah, they were also inspired by a fascinating Yom Iyun created by the phenomenal Rabbi Bennett, which was based on the theme of finding light and meaning in the darkness.

Year 7 enjoyed an interesting presentation on the light of the Menorah compared to the evil of the Nazis. The girls learned in Chavrutot about the origins and halachot of Chanukah. Zara and Amalia remarked that ‘it was a really interesting way to learn’. They liked ‘going off into little groups’ and having a ‘whole year experience’. The link between the Holocaust and Chanukah was particularly effective, as Rabbi Bennet used the image of the Posner’s Menorah juxtaposed against the Swastika banner in Kiel in 1932. The Nazis are no more, but the descendants of the Posner family are flourishing in Beit Shemesh.

Year 9 were treated to a Shiur with Rebbetzen Aimee Sandler, Director of Aish Essex, and Year 10 had the choice of Rabbi Gideon Goldwater, Director of Aish on Campus, or Rabbi Daniel Fine of the Beis and Stanmore Synagogue.

They also had a special learning session on ‘Yavan, Beauty and Tzniut’. Mrs Abecasis spoke of the descendants of Yefet, who became Yavan, a nation of beautiful people who worshipped outer beauty. The influence of Yavan was so great that even the Cohen Gadol at the time became a Hellenist. Moving on, through a revealing video, the Year 10 girls saw how perceptions of beauty have changed over time. The Greeks associated external beauty with internal beauty. Judaism is clearly the opposite as ‘Hashem sees into the heart’ (Shmuel Aleph). Following the PowerPoint presentation, Year 10 learned in Chavrutot using Pesukim from Eishet Chayil, which explore the importance of the internal beauty of women such as Bat Sheva and Ruth.

Rabbi Fine gave an in depth Shiur to a small group of Year 10 girls with Mefarshim, based on the Gemara in Shabbat 21b ‘What is Chanukah?’ He quoted R’Yonatan MiLunille who actually said that the main miracle was the war, and this was why the festival had to be eight days, as the victory should be celebrated for as long as our longest festival. The main miracle was the war- had we been defeated, that would have been it. By winning, the Hasmoneans were able to keep the Jewish people, religion and state alive. Rashi prioritises the miracle of the oil. WHY? This was the thrust of the shiur- discussing revealed and hidden miracles.

Years 7-9 also had a special learning and craft session centered on the Tefilla of Al HaNissim. During the GIFT session, the students considered the importance of the Torah value of Chesed and made care packages of NHS and key workers in Barnet Hospital.

All of this action took place between periods 2-4 on Wednesday morning, turning the school into a hive of Chanukah activity and learning. Having dipped into a number of these sessions, as a teacher and as a parent, I can really testify to the value of a Yom Iyun- a real chance for the girls to grapple with the issues, ideas and inspiration of Chanukah.

Covid Catch-Up

All of Hasmonean’s teachers have been very keen to ensure that students are able to catch-up after a summer of distance learning and a somewhat disrupted autumn term. We want to share with our parents the number of ways our teachers have been educating and helping your children.

To help pupils catch-up on missed education, the Government provided schools will additional money.

The Maths department decided to use the catch-up funding first to target a number of our Year 7 students and provide valuable intervention lessons. Every week, three different small groups have been taught parts of the course which have been missed. From January 2021, our Year 11 boys will also be offered intervention sessions. The Year 7 and 11 intervention is planned to run for a total of 20 weeks. Our Year 13 students had 8 hours of catch-up during the November half term and will have another in February. As Maths is a core subject, the department is working hard to ensure all students are up-to-date and do not miss out.

In the English Department, staff have undergone training for the Lexia Core5 Reading programme which supports educators in providing differentiated literacy instruction for students of all abilities. Years 7 and 8 are the key focus groups, but the scheme will also be used to support selected Year 9 -11 students. Lexia provides explicit, systematic, personalized learning, targeting skill gaps as they emerge, and providing teachers with the data and student-specific resources they need for individual or small-group instruction. Again, every effort is being made to target those students who need additional help and provide this. The English interventions will be up and running from January 2021.

Our Science department has been working hard to ensure that MyGCSEScience is set-up to support our Science students, and more textbooks have been ordered as well. With the Year 11 mock exams taking place over the last 2 weeks of term and the Year 13 assessments starting in January, the Science department will be able to highlight which students require extra tutoring and in what specific areas. Interventions will be implemented in early 2021 for both Years 11 and 13, and then catch-up help will be filtered down towards Years 10 and 12 at a later stage.

The Jewish Studies department intends to use some money to fund Hebrew Reading in Year 7. Year 7 is where the building blocks are set to prepare for the remaining years in school, so the focus is being placed on buying additional software and books for our new cohort to really stand them in good stead.

Finally, our Business and Economics department have created a wonderful plan which includes using I Marcouse A-Z business online sessions, having additional staff tutorials, providing focussed exam technique sessions with selected pupils, and delivering a number of other refresher courses.

Thank you to Hasmonean’s wonderful staff who have gone well above their obligations in ensuring that our students are able to realise their potential.

Rabbi Lord Sacks Tribute

To commemorate the sheloshim of Lord Rabbi Sacks, Hasmonean would have held assemblies in both schools, however, COVID-19 guidelines did not allow us to do this. Instead, the Hasmonean Informal Education team created a video to show to all students in the boys and girls school at the same time on Monday 7th December. The video was also released to parents on Monday evening.

To watch the video, please click on the link:

During the 35 minute event, school staff including Rabbi J Golker, Mrs D Lebrett and Rabbi Y Fachler spoke of their personal memories of the former Chief Rabbi, who was a frequent visitor to Hasmonean.

There was a particularly poignant interview with Mrs Joanna Benarroch by her daughter, Ms Benarroch. Mrs J Benarroch worked for Rabbi Lord Sacks for many years and was able to share some wonderful personal memories. The video was interspersed with extracts of music loved by Rabbi Lord Sacks.

Special thanks go to Benji Shebson and Nethanel Kind and all the Informal Education team for organising this.

Wrapping Away for the NHS

On Tuesday, our Year 9 boys spent period one wrapping goodies to be distributed to the NHS workers in the UK in time for the winter holidays. This is a big thank you from all of us at Hasmonean to those keyworkers who have provided care to many during this extremely difficult period and who continue to provide help.

Thanks go to the H.I.P.E team for organising this wonderful event.

PTA PaintNight

On Motzei Shabbos, 28th November, the PTA arranged a Zoom Paint Night with Marian Myers. Seventy-seven participants from ages 8-80 enjoyed a relaxed, social evening in the warmth of their own homes.

Marian herself has two daughters at Hasmonean High School for Girls, which made her perfectly placed to run the event. Her services were kindly volunteered in order to maximise the revenue for the PTA and she was an absolute pleasure to work with.

Marian designed a picture of Shabbat candles, which was inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting.

Everyone was provided with a canvas, which held the outline of the picture, a pack of paints, 2 paintbrushes, and a paper plate as a palette.

Marian is a sought after step-by-step acrylic artist and her company is called JUST PAINT. She has facilitated numerous paint parties, as well as working with GIFT, many shuls, Aish, NHS hospitals, Mercers, and Barclays.

One participant said: “This has definitely been my most enjoyable, relaxing, yet productive Motzei Shabbat in the last 9 months!” All participants had a lovely evening!

This was the third event that Hasmonean High PTA has held this term.

Hindu Presentation

On Thursday, the Year 9 and 10 girls were treated to a fascinating presentation about the practice and excitement of the Hindu faith. Ms Shah explained the origins of Diwali to the girls. The most interesting part was when she came to describe the colour and ritual of the wedding ceremony. She would have brought her own wedding dress but it was way too heavy. Ms Shah used the example of her own recent wedding to provide the detail: for example, the bride’s parents walk the groom down the aisle to show they accept him as part of their family. Of course, lots of food is served and the outfits are very important!

There was a Q&A session after, where questions such as:
‘What language do you pray in?’ were asked. The answer was Hindi or Sanskrit.
Why don’t you wear white for a wedding? Because it is worn for a funeral.
Are their different groups? Yes – each household can have their own gods. Families can also have their own temples at home with their family idol and a space to pray.
Are you allowed to marry someone of a different religion? It is a personal choice.
Do you have an everyday dress code? Yes: a general sense of modesty is required.
Do you have a religious book like the Torah? Yes – we have a book of scriptures and stories called the book of Vedas.

Is there a conversion process? There is no official way of converting, one can just join in and evolve as part of the culture.

Thank you so much to Ms Shah for a really engaging and informative presentation.

Senior Maths Challenge

Last week a number of our students participated in the Senior Mathematical Challenge aimed at students across the UK. Hasmonean did very well in the competition and produced some extraordinary performances.

One of our students achieved a score of 116 and qualified to the British Mathematics Olympiad 1, which makes him one of the top 1000 students in the country. Another student scored 95 and also managed to qualify to Senior Kangaroo.

A special mention is also due to two Year 11 students who were both awarded Silver certificates, which is a remarkable result.

Well done to all of our fabulous mathematicians!

Chidon HaTanach UK

Hasmonean Girls’ swept the board at the Chidon HaTanach.

Thursday 12th November saw the English rounds of the annual Bible Quiz, otherwise known as Chidon HaTanach. Being a year with a difference, it was zoomed from Rabbi Fachler’s office rather than a live event. Covid notwithstanding: this Bible Quiz continued regardless and what a quiz it was!

Jewish high school students from around the country applied and three schools were selected for this: Yavneh School in Manchester, Immanuel College in Bushey and Hasmonean High School for Girls.

The winners would be able to participate in the World Finals in Israel.

After nine rigorous rounds of intense questions, the winners were as follows:

• Junior winners – Shani J (1st), Rebecca R (2nd) and Maya D (3rd)

• Senior winners – Orly M (1st), Sara S (2nd) and Leah K (3rd)

ALL of the winners were from Hasmonean High School for Girls!

Well done and special thanks to Rabbi Silverman for his legendary coaching. This is a truly phenomenal achievement. It is not just the knowledge of Tanach that Rabbi Silverman imbues his students with- it is also a love of Tanach.

We are as always grateful to the Maerovits family for supporting this amazing event.