Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Names, Not Numbers in the Commercial Appeal

Earlier in the month I blogged about the Names, Not Numbers program for which our seniors were conducting and filming interviews with survivors of the Holocaust. The Commercial Appeal had sent a reporter to the school during the filming, and her article was in today's paper (Dec 30). In the print version the article titled "Project Puts Names to Holocaust Survivors" appears on the first page of the second section, and online the article can be found here or by searching for 'margolin' on the CA's webpage.

Congratulations to Rabbi Gersten and our high school seniors for their hard work on this important project.

Color War

As a surprise for the students, Color War, traditionally held in the beginning of June, was moved to Monday, December 22nd. Some early concerns that Color War just wouldn't be the same without outdoor activities quickly proved to be unfounded. Coach Carr made sure to keep everyone busy playing spirited games of basketball and kickball in the gym all morning, with a showcase basketball game featuring 5th-8th grade boys in the afternoon. Loud and enthusiastic cheers could be heard from various parts of the elementary school all day long as team Red and Black and team Blue and White tried to show who was best. The lunchroom was the site of many entertaining relay races, often with hula hoops or balls, all designed to encourage team cooperation and spirit. The day cumulated in a presentation ceremony in the gym, with each team showing off a beautiful handmade banner, acting out a funny skit, and singing several songs and cheers. After the final point tally team Red and Black was declared the winner by a very slim margin, but judging by the smiles on the children's faces, there were clearly no losers when it came to Color War.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The 2nd Annual Cooper Invitational Tournament was an unprecedented success. Conceived and implemented by Coach Josh Kahane, it surpassed anyone's wildest expectations and brought national attention to our school, our boys, and our community. The fact that our Cooper Macs landed up defeating several larger schools and winning the tournament championship was but a small part of what made the weekend so special.

On behalf of the school, I wanted to express my deepest gratitude to Josh and his assistant Jonathan Wogan for the hours upon hours of selfless work they devoted to this event. Their commitment to our school and its vision of growth should be an inspiration and motivation for us all.


Nothing brings our school to life quite like Chanukah. Click below for a quick glimpse into the myriad of programs, events, and festivities that have permeated our classrooms and hallways over the past few days...

Friday, December 12, 2008

November Winners

The winners of November's Dean's writing award give us a glimpse into two less common areas of student writing. In the non-Judaic category, we had a tie between 1st graders Esti Samberg and Racheli Perl. In their terrific paragraphs we see how our earliest writers are learning to express their emotions and offer detailed descriptions through the written word. In the Judaic category, the winning piece was a work of historical fiction by 10th grader Maddie Tavin who put herself into the world of an early traveler to pre-modern Israel.

Please visit our Writing Award wikispace to read their excellent work.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's Tournament Time!

The 2nd Annual Cooper Invitational Tournament is set to begin this Thursday evening at MJCC. Beginning this afternoon, eight boys high school basketball teams from Jewish day schools across the country will descend on our community for a weekend of competition, camaraderie, and fun. Our own Cooper Macs are off to a great start this season, but they are counting on strong fan support to propel them through the tournament. So, clear your calendar for the weekend and plan on being at the JCC to cheer our guys on!

You can find a schedule of all of the events on the official tournament website. And, for those, who simply can not make it to the games - fear not! You can listen to them on webiste's live webcast.

Thank you Coach Kahane for putting it all together and best of luck to all!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Powerful Preview

Words can hardly describe the educational experience our 12th graders have had this week as they conducted their interviews for the Names, Not Numbers program. From Auschwitz survivors to a Dachau liberator and a partisan fighter, the stories our students uncovered, documented, and preserved defy description. Instead, I offer you three things:

First is a behind the scenes preview of the type of content you can expect from the videos they are making. It is a small clip I have posted of our girls interviewing Mr. Weinreich, which only begins to scratch the surface of his incredible tale.

Second is a suggestion to keep your eyes out for an article on our students and their project in an upcoming edition of the Commercial Appeal.

Last, is a date: Tuesday evening, March 17. That is when we will hold our public showing of the documentary that award winning videographer, Mr. Eric Spaar, is making about our students and the work they will have by then completed. So, save the date. It's not something you'll want to miss.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Steak Dinner 08

I wonder how many schools in the world (other than our Girls School) have something quite like our Boys High School Steak Dinner. How many other schools have an event in which every single student voluntarily devotes hours upon hours to inviting community members, purchasing supplies, cooking, setting up, serving, and cleaning up? Even if there was another, what are the chances that the food they cooked would actually be worth paying for? How many other boys high schools have an event in which students spend months filming and editing a video which was hysterically funny yet completely clean and tasteful? Better yet, how many boys high schools would use such an event and such a video each and every year to express heartfelt gratitude to one of their teachers? And how many schools of 35 boys could get 300 people out to support them? I have a feeling there aren't too many.

Thank you Rabbi Gersten, and a job very well done guys. You should all be proud.

Friday Tisching

The smell of chulent, the sounds of the guitar, flute, and 35 boys singing at the top of their lungs, topped off by inspiring divrei chizuk, could only mean one thing... another CYHSB Friday morning tisch.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

MHA Art Gets a Virtual Home

I am thrilled to tell you that Mrs. Chany Fleischhacker has become the third MHA faculty member to join the blogosphere this year. Her blog, called The Art Beat of MHA, is intended to keep the universe informed of all of the wonderful things our children are learning and creating in our Lower School Art program. With a simple click of the mouse you'll see that Mrs. Fleischhacker has already posted all sorts of great content related to the Art program to her site. It took me almost a year to post a video to my blog and she has one there on the very first day!

I'm going to add a feed from her blog to my blog list (in the lower right hand corner of this site) so that we can all keep tabs on her site as it continues to grow.

Thank you Mrs. Fleischhacker and welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!

Take Your Children Here

As I noted in this week's newsletter message, the vast number of enriching opportunities which the internet provides us all is matched only by the growing number of avenues for potential harm it presents. For a staggering number of recent statistics related to internet safety for children visit the statistics page of the site called Enough is Enough. For the article from the journal Pediatrics referenced in the newsletter message click here. For an important article recently published in Principal Leadership on cyberbullying, click here.

While nothing is foolproof, I want to encourage parents of children in grades 1-5 to take their children to the NetSmartzKids website and to spend some time exploring it together. You might want to start with this introduction the Webville Outlaws and then let your children play the games and other activities that will reinforce what they have learned.

The more we talk to our children about safe and appropriate internet practice and the earlier we do so, the greater the chances that they will become responsible members of the cyber generation rather than its predators or prey.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dean's Writing Awards

The winning submissions for October's Dean's Writing Award are absolute must reads. 11th grader Ariav Schlesinger's sonnet on faith will blow you away in its profundity and depth, not to mention his careful adherence to authentic sonnet form. When your serious moment is over, though, be sure to read 5th grader Nachi Fleischhaker's "Room of Doom." It will have you rolling on the floor in laughter.

To see the list of all of this month's nominees and to read the work of our finalists and winners, click here for our Dean's Writing Award wikispace.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

High School Open House

The high schools put their best foot forward last night with an informative and enjoyable Open House. Student speakers Avi Katz and Jordana Wender demonstrated in both form and substance what remarkable young men and women our schools produces. Dr. Ellen Stecker, mother of three current high school students, offered a parent's perspective on the unique blend of variety in curricular and extra-curricular offerings coupled with individualized attention and small class sizes, that our schools offer. I then gave a more macrocosmic view of our school's mission and offered a portrait of graduate which you can find in the Message from the Dean in this week's newsletter, which was then followed by a student made video.

Following the video our parents and students split up. Our parents were treated to mini-presentations from representative members of our faculty who gave them a taste for what class is like both at the CYSHB and the GMSG. The kids went off to hear about our extra-curriculars, athletics, electives, and leadership opportunities. After the presentations were finished the parents and students switched places so as to hear the other set of presentations. The night ended with a presentation from Rabbi Spodek to the parents interested in the Boys School and one from Mrs. Kampf to the parents interested in the Girls School about the unique characteristics of their respective programs.

From the feedback we received it was clear that parents and students alike had learned quite a bit about our program and that the excitement to be part of our high school programs is continuing to grow.

Fall Festival

Our first annual Fall Festival was exactly what we had hoped it would be. The beautifully decorated Fall themed hallways led visitors to classrooms where teachers were waiting to engage children in activities ranging from story-telling to art projects done in Hebrew. The lunchroom was alive with Jewish books and games for sale, labels for children clothing and ladies' hats. The gym was all decked out with bales of hay, balloons, and fall colored tables, where children and parents alike made Fall crowns, decorated Fall shaped cookies, lined up for their favorite creation from the one and only Balloon Guy, or headed to the Food corner for lunch or a snack. Right outside the doors of the gym, the Kollel Torah MiTzion was showing off their wide array of programing and their incredible musical talent. Just beyond the Kollel was Farmer Steve in his overalls and straw hat, taking children on hay rides around the ponies, moon bounce, and inflatable slide which filled our field.

At the designated times, parents who were interested in learning more about the innovative curricula and new initiatives now underway in the Academy had two options for doing so. They could head to our Kindergarten classroom to hear from our new Early Childhood Director, Mrs. Charna Schubert, about our up and coming Pre-K through Kindergarten program, or to our First Grade classroom to hear both from Mrs. Brittney Friedman, our new First Grade General Studies teacher, and Morah Chavi Katz, our much beloved First Grade Judaic Studies teacher, about all of the exciting things happening in First Grade. And, much to our delight, parents - both long time Academy parents and many who were visiting for their very first time - took the opportunity to do so.

Everywhere you went there were parent volunteers greeting you with a smile and a helping hand. Everywhere you went there were children laughing, parents talking, and a good time being had by all.

Time to start planning the 2nd annual MHA Fall Festival...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Catching Up...

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been woefully delinquent in keeping all of our blog readers current on all of the remarkable things that have been going on here over the past few weeks. With Yom Tov and our Fall Festival now behind us, I hope to begin keeping pace again.

In the meantime let me at least note that our Early Childhood trip to the Botanic Gardens,

the intellectually and rhetorically sophisticated political debate put on by out 8th graders (click on the videos below to watch clips!), as well as the one put on by our Girls High School,

the registration and voting in our elementary school mock election,

the guest speakers who debated Republican and Democratic party policy in our Boys High School,

the physics experiments in Mr. Vaughn’s class,

and the launching of the Names, Not Numbers program only scratches the surface of recent school events.

As those who participated can attest, our Fall Festival was a wonderful success. I’m still collecting pictures from the event and will post them shortly. Please keep in mind that this Wednesday evening at 7:30pm is our High School Open House. If you have an 8th grader, please be sure to be there – and to bring all of your child’s non-Academy friends along with you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Community Chesed

Our High School girls have long been known for their constant involvement in acts of chesed across the community. Now our boys are getting into the act as well. From packing Rosh Hashanah baskets for the needy at Baron Hirsch, to helping Young Israel build their Sukkah, and the elderly in our community do the same, chesed was a big part of preparation for the chagim in CYHSB this year - and they're not done yet. On Friday, following a shiur on the kashrut of the daled minim delivered by Baron Hirsch Assistant Rabbi and CYHSB rebbe, Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum, our boys will help the shul properly put together the daled minim so that they are ready to be picked up and used by the community over Sukkot. Tizku le-mitzvot!

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

National Merit Scholars

Two CYHSB students were recognized by the National Merit Program for their exceptional PSAT scores. Avi Katz, from South Bend, Indiana, was one of 34,000 students nationwide, out of a pool over 1.5 million, who received the National Merit Program's Letter of Commendation. Andrew Tavin, a local Memphian, was one of only 16,000 students - less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors - who qualified as a National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalist. The Semi-Finalists will have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 8,200 National Merit Scholarships, worth more than $35 million, that will be offered next spring.

We congratulate them both and wish Andrew the best of luck in the next round!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Writing Award Winners

The results of our first monthly Dean's Writing Award are in. Taking first place in our Judaic Studies category is a short story, written completely in Hebrew, co-authored by 6th graders Motti Klein and Asher Finkelstein. The winner in our General Studies category is an essay by 11th grader Ariel Cooper on social tensions in 17th century America. To view the list of all of our student nominees as well as the work of our finalists and winners, visit the new Dean's Award Wikispace.

Congratulations to all of the nominees and keep up the great work!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Girls Shine in Akeidah

The best of the Goldie Margolin High School for Girls was on display last night in the musical performance of Akeidah. Under the guidance of program director, Mrs. Oshrit Kolton, the girls pulled off a magical night of learning and inspiration. It began as women from across the community gathered to learn Jewish text sources relating to the story of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac, in small groups led by one of the high school girls. All in attendance then turned their attention toward the stage where a breathtaking set and numerous props - created by the girls under the direction of their Fine Arts teacher, Mrs. Guyla Wanderman - enhanced skillful acting, carefully choreographed dancing, and beautiful choral singing to focus everyone on the upcoming yamim nora'im.

Yeyasher kochahen ve-tizku le-mitzvot.

MHA Student Wins Triathlon

7th grader Isaac Graber made us all proud by capturing first place in 4th Annual Kids Triathlon sponsored by Memphis Thunder Racing and held at the Compton Aquatic Center at St. George's High School. As a competitor in the senior division, Isaac had to complete a 200 yard swim, a 10 kilometer bike ride, and 2 kilometer run. Not only did he complete it, but he did so faster than anyone else in the 12 year old Male Division, with a combined time of 40 minutes and 31 seconds.

Way to go Isaac!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Classroom Clashes

Tuesday's Commercial Appeal ran an important article on handling clashes between teachers and parents. The sidebar provided the following list of dos and don'ts:

Don't: Discuss serious concerns over e-mail. And don't make your child a messenger service.

Do: Use a brief e-mail or phone call to schedule a school conference.

Don't: Use a conference to fire off accusations or to make threats about transferring or involving the principal.

Do: End a conference by summarizing the game plan, scheduling a followup and thanking the teacher.

Don't: Insult school staff in front of your children.

Do: Make sure that your children hear you compliment their school, teachers and principals.

Don't: Assume that a personality clash signals that the teacher is incompetent.

Do: Teach your children problem-solving techniques they can use at school.

Click here to read the story in its entirety.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You Can Make the Difference

The Academy's operational campaign is now underway and you can make the difference. With the markets struggling and the economy precariously unstable, there are few safer investments than that of Jewish education. As this blog attests, the Academy today is alive with innovation, energy, and forward thinking designed to preserve the traditions of our past while ensuring the brightest of futures for our children and our community. To keep the momentum going, to bring our plans to fruition, and to translate our vision into reality, however, requires that we broaden our base of support to include the entire Memphis community as well as as all of those beyond Memphis who have a special place in their hearts for the Margolin Hebrew Academy. No matter how big or small, every contribution counts.

By investing through our secure online donation form you can help ensure that our school and our community continue to grow. Now, more than every, you can make the difference.

Voices from Sderot

Thanks to the Memphis Jewish Federation, our 7th through 12th graders had the opportunity to learn about the grim situation facing residents of Sderot straight from those who experience it everyday. The program began with this video (which was prefaced by the important note that the ideology expressed in the name of militant Islam is real and worthy of concern, although adhered to by only a minority of the world's Muslim population)

followed by short presentations by each of the Sderot residents who were finishing a national speaking tour. They spoke of the anxiety caused by the constant bombardment of some 30-40 rockets a day and the constant scramble to find shelter when the alarm sounds giving them 15 seconds to head for safety.

While the presentation sparked sympathy and empathy amongst our students, it also highlighted the resolve and determination of our brothers and sisters in Israel who lay down their lives on a daily basis to defend our land.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Morning Chulent

One of the new programs to hit the Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys this year is the Friday morning tisch. Once a month, the boys gather together in the Beis Medrash with their rebbeim and the Torah MiTzion Kollel to sing, eat chulent, and listen to divre chizuk from Rabbi Spodek. This week we tried to capture a few snippets on video to give you a sense for the ruach that pervades our high schools.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Set Design & Other Fine Arts

The launch of our new High School Fine Arts program under the leadership of Mrs. Guyla Wanderman has brought a burst of excitement and an explosion of creativity to both the girls and boys divisions.

In preparation for their upcoming musical performance, Akeidah (Wednesday September 24, 7:30pm - all women are invited), one of the girls Fine Arts classes has been learning the ins and outs of set design. Each girl was given the task of designing a mock set out of cardboard that reflected the themes and the setting of the performance, thereby maximizing the set's role as "a silent character." One submission will be chosen and together the girls will work on transforming the model into the performance's actual set.

Not to be outdone, the boys have found their creative sides as well. As part of their study of Southern Blues music, they were asked to creat visual represenations of the art which they were hearing. The products were most impressive.

Our younger students, under the direction of Mrs. Chany Fleischhacker, were hard at work cultivating their artistic talents as well. These first grade renditions Van Gogh like "Swirly Landscapes" are truly eye-opening.

Stop by our Art Room any time, any day of the week, and you are sure to find more gems like these in the midst of creation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Dean's Writing Award

In an effort to promote high quality writing across all disciplines, we have launched a new program called the Dean's Writing Award. Each month two pieces of outstanding student writing, one on a Judaic theme and one on a non-Judaic theme, will be chosen to receive this award. Winning submissions will be posted on the blog for all to see.

For more details on the program click on the flyer. Check back in the first week of October to see the work of the September winners!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Digital Learning

The presence of the Academy in cyberspace has expanded again. Tapping into what is now known in educational circles as digital learning, and what is widely regarded as essential for effective 21st century education, our high school English teachers have created their own websites as a means of enhancing and furthering instruction in their classrooms.

Mrs. Abby Johnson is using her blog as a vehicle for her AP students to do informal "reaction writing" to their course reading. Click on the "comments" link on each post to see our students in action. One of this year's exciting new additions to our faculty, Mrs. Ashly Hood, is also jumping headfirst into the world of cyberlearning. While still in their most formative phases, Mrs. Hood has created both a wikispace and a blog which she intends to use as instructional and organizational tools for her classes.

I too have a wikispace for the seminar I am giving in the Boys High School on the European Enlightenment (in fact, I also have one for the purpose of faculty collaboration and another one for use by our administration). While pretty bare right now, this one will be populated throughout the year by student created PowerPoint presentations on major figures in Enlightenment thought, such as Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and many others.

This YouTube clip - which we showed to our faculty at our opening In-Service this year - makes the case rather well for the importance of digital learning. While we have much still to do in this area, it's good to know that we've begun to plug in to the world of technologically progressive education.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Both faculty and students from all divisions of the Academy were well represented at Sunday's ASBEE Kosher BBQ Contest. From the courts of the 3 on 3 tournaments to the booths and the judges, it was hard not to notice the presence of the Academy at this annual regional event.

A special thanks goes to Mrs. Guyla Wanderman who lead the way in creating our booth and to Mrs. Gersten who conceived of the idea and organized its implementation. We are grateful as well to Elie and Rafie Freiden who did the cooking for us. It was much appreciated.

Besides our own school booth, our Torah Mitzion Kollel was present with their Kooky booth and musical cast of Rabbi and Mrs. Goldberg, Rabbi and Mrs. Kolton, the Kollel guys, and our Bat Ami girls. For information on upcoming Torah Mitzion Programs, email Rabbi Goldberg at memtorahmitzion@gmail.com .

We also took great pride in (and great brisket from) the first time presence of an NCSY booth manned by our own Rabbi Marc and Mrs. Emily Lennon. In addition to teaching in the middle and high schools, Rabbi Lennon is the new Memphis Director of NCSY. Under his leadership Memphis NCSY has now joined the Midwest Region and is gearing up for a fun-filled and exciting year. To find out more email them at memphisncsy@gmail.com .

Yasher Kochachem to all!