Monday, January 31, 2011

Siddur Presentation

Sunday evening was Kitah Alef's moment to shine - and shine they did. With beautiful songs, hand motions, and lines recited in both English and Hebrew, they celebrated the receiving of their very first siddur.  As has long been the custom in our 1st grade, each of the parents came in to school in the weeks prior to Sunday's festivities to work with Morah Chany, our art teacher, in designing a personalized cover for their child's siddur.  The children, though, only got to see their parents' artwork for the first time when Rabbi Greenblatt handed them their siddur at Sunday's performance.  Doing so only adds to both the anticipation and the excitement of the event.

Once again, Morah Chavi Katz outdid herself in preparing our children to showcase the impressive first steps they've taken on their journey into the world of Jewish learning.  The video below will give you a taste of the sights and sounds of the performance.  All of the pictures are available for download here.  Enjoy!

CYHSB Gatlinburg Shabbaton 2011

Last week our Boys High School returned from another incredible Gatlinburg Shabbaton. The weekend, spent high in the Smokey Mountains of East Tennessee, featured spirited ruach and meaningful conversations, Rabbi Gersten's famous moral dilemmas, plenty of "hang out" time, the hike and it's annual meeting of the high school Polar Bear Club, as well as a new-for-this-year mountain-top football game, and the always popular day of skiing. There is nothing that brings our boys together - with themselves and with our rebbeim - than this one-of-a-kind retreat.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dorothy's Place

One of the facets of our high school program that we are most proud of, is their emphasis on community service.  Students in both schools are consistently reaching out to those in need in the broader Memphis community and giving of themselves to help make the world a better place.

Thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Noam Stein, in the Girls High School, every Rosh Chodesh has become a service learning day.  After davening, the girls have a special Rosh Chodesh breakfast and then head out to one of three community service opportunities, depending on their particular preference.  Student choice is a key element of our community service program as not all students feel comfortable in all arenas of communal service.  As our goal is that these opportunities foster a life-long love of social service, it is imperative that our students have the opportunity to channel their efforts into something they find meaningful and in which they feel comfortable.

Below are some pictures of one group of girls last Rosh Chodesh at Dorothy's Place, a local home for Alzheimer's patients.  As you can see, wherever they go, they ensure that their presence is felt and that they are making a difference in the lives of others.

MHA 3rd Graders Skyping with Jacksonville

Over the past week there have been Tu Bi-Shvat celebrations in all of our divisions. Perhaps the most innovative, however, was that of our 3rd grade who shared a chagigat ha-nilmad (a celebration of what they have learned) with a 3rd grade class in a Jewish Day School in Jacksonville. The two classes came together via Skype. In the video you'll see our kids performing their songs and lines in front of our class webcam, and a projected image of the Jacksonville class behind them as they listened, watched, and enjoyed our children's performance.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

High School Chumash

Oops!  It seems that in yesterday's post about our newly blogging teachers, I forgot to include one of our most active teacher blogs:  Rabbi Lubetski's 9th and 10th grade honors chumash class!  This is a must-see for it exemplifies the way in which a blog can be used to spur spirited conversations about learning well beyond the four walls of the classroom.   Be sure to look at the comments on each post to see just how engaged our students are with the material and just how powerful a class blog can be.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


As a result of our recent in-service, we've had several more teachers join the ranks of our teacher-bloggers.  You can now find our teachers utilizing their blogs to share helpful websites with parents, challenging students to compare the Hollywood depiction of characters with their literary originals, linking to sources and questions relating to Nechama Leibowitz's interpretation of a passage in Chumash, and a slideshow of our Prek4 students acting out the story of yetziat mitzrayim.

You can find a complete list of our teacher blogs, as well as their recent posts, on the lower-right hand corner of this blog.  Be sure to visit them often and leave lots of comments telling them how proud we are of the way in which they are embracing new modes and methods of teaching for the 21st century!

Parents Guide to Technology

In an effort to help parents better understand and supervise their children's world of technology, Yeshiva University's Institute for University-School Partnership recently published a guide for parents with important information on social media sites, Facebook, the internet in general, and cyber-bullying.  You can access it by clicking here.  I encourage all parents to do so - it isn't long and it's well worth the read.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Auction 2011

This past Sunday night our talented PTA Auction team outdid themselves again with an evening that brought together food, friends, fun and funds, in a most enjoyable way.  Beginning with a silent auction that featured a wide array of items ranging from the practical and necessary to the pampering and luxurious, the evening then moved to a sit-down dinner and the evening's entertainment: eight married couples brave enough to participate in the Not-So-Newlywed Game.

To catch a glimpse of the fun, watch the slideshow below.  If you'd like an individual picture of your favorite contestant squirming, sighing, or rolling their eyes in disbelief, you can find them all here.

Special thanks again to the entire Auction team for a job incredibly well done.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Virtual Judaic Studies Program

Do you know a student in 6th-10th grade who doesn't currently have access to high quality Jewish education but who wants to know more about his or her Judaism?  Do you know a Jewish 6th-10th grade who'd like to meet other teens just him or herself from around the country?  If so, please let them know about JconnecT, the distance learning Judaic Studies program we launched this past Fall.  The program exceeded even our greatest expectations in its inaugural semester, with 20 kids from across the country - Nashville, Birmingham, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and New Jersey - enrolled in the program and the webcam technology working as we had hoped it would.

Students are now registering for the second semester so be sure to check out the JconnecT website and spread the word!

Facing the 21st Century

The following is the list of websites from which the facts in my newsletter column this week were taken.

Here is a copy of the article, for those who haven't yet read it:

Last August our faculty jumped into a conversation that has been percolating in educational circles across the globe for several years now.   The topic is often referred to as 21st Century Learning and its basic premise is that the world around us is so dramatically different than the world we adults grew up in that it behooves us to revisit and revise our curricula in all subject areas so as to ensure that our students are being best prepared for their world of the future, and not for our world of the past.

But is it really true? Are the times we are living in really so different than those that preceded us? Wasn’t society when we went to school dramatically different than it had been for our parents?  Wasn’t the same true for our parents when they went to school?  And even if times now are different, are the changes so dramatic that they justify tampering with an educational system that has served us so well for so long?

If you’re unsure of the answers, consider the following:

  • Today there are 200,000 text messages, 34,000 Google searches, 700 Facebook status updates, and 600 tweets produced every second (yes, every second). Yet, the first text message was only sent in 1992.  The first Google search was done in 1998.  The first Facebook profile was updated in 2004 and the first tweet was only chirped in 2006.
  • More video was uploaded to YouTube in the last two months than was aired by ABC, NBC, and CBS combined since the day they began broadcasting over 60 years ago.
  •  After only six years of existence, Facebook has over 500 million users.  If it were a country it would be the third largest in the world, behind China and India and well ahead of the United States.
  •    It took radio 38 years to reach a market audience of 50 million listeners.  It took television 13 years to reach 50 million viewers.  The internet reached 50 million people in 4 years, Ipods reached 50 million in 3 years, and Facebook hit 50 million in only 2 years.
  • The computer in your cell phone today is a million times cheaper, a thousand times more powerful and about a hundred thousand times smaller than the one computer at MIT in 1965.
  •   According to the former US Secretary of Education, the top ten in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004 and according to the US Department of Labor, today’s students will hold 10-14 different jobs by the time they are 38 years old.
  • At today’s rate of change, technology will experience 20,000 years of growth over the coming century.
  •   Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were approximately five exabytes of unique information created. We now create five exabytes every two days (an exabyte, if you’re wondering, is equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes or 1 billion gigabytes). That means every two days we create approximately 250,000 times the amount of information stored in the Library of Congress.  The information in the Library of Congress took 200 years to collect.

What we are seeing today is unlike anything we have ever seen before.  We were raised in an age of linear growth, as were our parents before us.  Our kids, however, are being raised in exponential times.  In educational circles, the implications of this new reality has been summed up as follows:  The job of an educator today is to prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist in which they will use technologies that have yet to be invented for the purpose of solving problems we have yet to identify.

That’s quite a tall task.  To give our children the best chances for success in this brave new world of exponentially accelerated change, however, we are going to have to find a way to accomplish it.  At our faculty in-service next week we’ll begin to map out the steps we’ll need to take to get us there.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pastries With Parents

Thanks to our incredible PTA, we started Wednesday of this week off with another Pastries with Parents event.  Instead of just dropping their children off at the front door, parents and grandparents came in and sat down for a few minutes to enjoy danishes, coffee, chocolate milk and fruit with their children before sending them off to class. As always, it was a great event and a great way to start off the day!