Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Images of Chanukah

Chanukah is always a special time in school and this year was no different.  Here are some images from the myriad of wonderful events and programs that happened throughout each of our divisions last week...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Students Accepted to YU Honors and University of Michigan

Congratulations to Jake Baum, Josh Mayime, and Netanel Brakha all of whom were accepted into Yeshiva University's prestigious Honors Program.  Jake and Josh, both of whom were offered annual academic scholarships of $25,000, were accepted to the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College, while Netanel, whose scholarship has yet to be announced, was accepted to the new Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at the Sy Syms School of Business.  Both programs require outstanding standardized testing scores as well as exceptional curricular and co-curricular achievement for admittance and we are very proud of all three of them for having been selected.

Rounding out the good news from last week was word that both Ethan and Dylan Cooper have been accepted to the University of Michigan which is ranked #4 amongst the nation's public universities.  Much thanks goes to our college guidance counselor, Mrs. Talya Tsuna, and we look forward to hearing similarly exciting news from the rest of our seniors when the decisions from non-early applications come in a few months from now.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Steak Dinner 2012

The high school boys once again dazzled the community with what might have been their finest Steak Dinner ever.  With over 300 community members in attendance, last Sunday's dinner, which they cooked, served, marketed, set-up for, and cleaned up after, was a remarkable reflection of just how talented they are and just how capable teenagers can be when you believe in them...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Those Were the Nights

Here is a Chanukah treat for all of our Lower School parents.  It's a video of our elementary school students singing the Yeshiva Boys Choir song "Those Were The Nights of Chanukah" at a recent Friday afternoon assembly led by our new music teacher, Cantor Aryeh Samberg.

Happy Chanukah to all!

Student Admitted Early to Columbia University

We received our first college news of the year this week and it was wonderfully good.  Dylan Cooper was accepted Early Decision to Columbia University.

Like most of his classmates, Dylan intends to delay matriculation for a year while he continues his religious and spiritual growth through a year of intensive Torah study in Israel.  Where exactly he'll be headed though, is the next major decision he has to make.  And it's one he can now make with a rather significant burden lifted off of his shoulders.

Monday, December 3, 2012

On Twinkies and Jewish Education

The following post appeared as my weekly column in last week's school newsletter.

I never ate a Twinkie and last week’s failed mediation between Hostess and its bakers’ union ensured that I never will.

Of course, like many of my kosher-keeping peers, Coffee Cakes, Ding-Dongs, Fruit Pies, and Devil Dogs were a staple of my adolescent diet. Though raised in a home where “junk food” consisted of all-natural fruit leather and sugar-free candies, my high school’s vending machine ensured that the variety of kosher delicacies made by Hostess under its Drakes brand were never more than a flight of stairs and seventy-five cents away.

So why won’t my children ever have the pleasure of using their hard-earned babysitting money to indulge in such artery-clogging treats? Reasons abound, from fiscal irresponsibility to workforce inefficiency. But one facet of the company’s collapse is reverberating across news sites and blogs throughout the web and ought to give pause to educators of all types, and Jewish educators in particular.

Larry Popelka of Bloomberg BusinessWeek put it this way:

There are plenty of culprits in the recent bankruptcy and closure of Hostess Brands, including weak management, short-sighted labor unions, and poor judgment by investors. But the real reason Hostess is going belly up is a problem that’s been brewing for more than 20 years: The company completely failed to innovate.
Despite its iconic brand and more than 80 years of success, Hostess is gone because the times changed and it didn’t have the foresight or wherewithal to change along with it.

Education, as an industry, is notoriously slow to innovate. And, to a certain extent, it ought to be that way. Innovation requires risk. Taking risk necessarily entails failure, flops, and frustration and there are few areas where such results are more feared than with regard to the education of our children. And true as that is in society in general, it is all the more true in the world of Jewish education. In general education, we have pedagogic traditions that go back a century and perhaps a little more. In Jewish education, our traditions of learning and study date back two thousand years, if not more. Taking risks in general education is seen as putting college acceptance and professional success in jeopardy. Taking risks in Jewish education is seen as jeopardizing a way of life and a Divine command.

No one wants to see failure or flops in Jewish education and therefore everyone is hesitant to take risks. The irony, though, is that business leaders and religious leaders alike have been growing increasingly vocal over the years about their frustration with the growing number of flops and failures being produced by our educational system in its current form. Fortune 500 companies bemoan today’s college graduates as lacking the ability to think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, and collaborate efficiently. Rabbinic leaders bemoan a lack of passion, commitment, and meaning in the religious lives of those same twenty-somethings.

So, perhaps we have less to lose than we think. Perhaps the time to take calculated risks in the way we educate is now. The thought that my children’s children will never have the pleasure of biting into a Devil Dog doesn’t keep me up at night. The thought though, that some pundit with 20/20 hindsight will in twenty, thirty, or forty years write that “the real reason Jewish education is going belly up is a problem that’s been brewing for more than 50 years: the industry completely failed to innovate” is one that definitely does.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

High School Open House

Last night's high school Open House centered around the Prezi below.  After the slideshow for each "opportunity" one of our high school students spoke from the heart about what such opportunities have meant to him or her during their time at our school.  While I can't share their inspiring words (maybe next year via video), I at least wanted share the Prezi and give you a visual glimpse into the very special place that our boys and girls high schools have become.

Our Students Need Your Vote!

As part of our high school's videography elective, 9th graders Aaron Wruble, Nachi Fleischhacker, and David Silberman, 10th grader Avi Katz, and 11th grader Jason Graf, created this video about our elementary school and entered it into the AviChai Foundation's Jewish Day School Video Contest.  Winning the contest could result in thousands of dollars for the school (and a nice Chanukah present for our high school students!). Despite the less than flattering cover shot of my mouth, the video is quite good, so please cast your vote for them today!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The 5th Soldier

As part of a Skype conversation with Israel this morning, a tank commander in the Israeli Army explained to our elementary school about the "secret 5th soldier" hiding in every Israeli tank.  Listen for yourself...

Student Publishes in Medical Journal

Dylan Cooper, a senior in the CYHSB, recently had the research he worked on this past summer in the Department of Medical Oncology in Boston's famed Dana Farber Cancer Institute published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.  The study, conducted by a team of researchers at the Institute, focuses on Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, and can be read in its entirety here.

We know this is merely the first step for Dylan who aspires toward a career in medicine and we can't wait to see what's next.

My Summer in Africa

Guest post by Ariana Kaufman, Class of 2012

Mahatma Ghandi famously said "you must be the change you want to see in the world." By going to Africa this past summer with the American Jewish World Service, I was able to fully comprehend the true importance and value of making a difference in a child's life. While my initial intent was to build a school for rescued child slaves, I left with an indescribable feeling of attachment and love for these young victims. Having witnessed firsthand their extreme poverty and illness, I feel a strong obligation to spread their stories and share their pain.

"No. My mother needed money so she sent me to sell my blood to a man on the street." This was the response I received when asking Abigail, a frail and innocent seven year old, if the one cedi (equivalent to 50 American cents) in her hand was because her mom had sent her to the market. Abigail, along with many other children her age, had a small weak body with a bloated stomach due to malnutrition and parasites. In addition, she had a protruding belly button due to her umbilical cord being cut improperly at birth. I caught myself staring at the gruesome and unprofessionally done needle mark on her hand, which the predator who drew her blood did not even have the courtesy to bandage up afterwards. I would also bet that the needle and apparatus that he used were not sanitary and could have exposed her to life threatening complications including Hepatitis and HIV. After staring for a few seconds, I realized no words could ever take back the experience that had just occurred to her or make it better. I simply gave her a smile, implying that I was happy that she felt so comfortable confiding in me. The hardest part was not being able to tell her I would always be there for her, knowing that that was not a promise I was capable of keeping. With this, Abigail smiled. I can't describe how happy I was to be there for her during a time of extreme discomfort. It is shocking how a simple smile and giving someone a hug can be such a little action with such a big effect.

On July 25 I woke up expecting a normal day of strenuous manual labor building the school, but realized shortly after my head lifted from my pillow that something was wrong. I got out of bed feeling dizzy and disoriented. I tried to stand but nausea overwhelmed me and I could not swallow food or even think about eating. Two days passed and in that time my fever increased and I began to vomit and faint continuously. It was clear that something was wrong and I was immediately sent to the hospital. Two days later I was diagnosed with second stage malaria. Fortunately, after a terrifying few days I began to slowly feel better. While I was recovering, neighborhood children would come into my room and express their sympathy. I even received letters and prayers from them, which meant so much to me. It amazed me how someone with so many problems of their own could take a pause from their daily hardships and worry about someone else beside themselves or their immediate family. I cannot possibly imagine what it is like not being able to afford vital medicine and receive immediate care. I realized that while I was able to touch upon the surface of their pain, I knew that I could never experience what these children go through on a daily basis.

In Ghana, we were able to spend time with many political and religious leaders. When meeting with the local Imam (Islamic priest), we discussed the importance of charity. I still vividly remember him saying, "well obviously if you have three shirts you give away one." This great motto drove home the ideal of what we should aspire do in our daily lives.

I went into this program with the goal of making a difference in the lives of these children and would like to believe that I succeeded in even a small way. What is clear is how much greater of a difference they had on me. My trip certainly helped reinforce many of the lessons on chesed that I learned in school and at home. I am committed to raising awareness of these critical issues and encourage you to contact me if you want further information or would like to help make a difference.

Ariana is currently spending a year studying at Tiferet in Israel before matriculating to Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women next year. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

BSSS and MHA Parents Learn Together

Yesterday morning marked our first learning event of this year's Kohelet Fellowships Program.  In conjunction with the Global Day of Jewish Learning, parents from the MHA and the Bornblum Solomon Schechter who are participating in the Fellowships program gathered together in our Girls High School where I led them in a discussion of a Jewish Perspective on Gratitude.

Central to our conversation was this thought-provoking video entitled "You Can Dance" from

The Kohelet Fellowships program asks parents to commit to one of two Jewish adult learning programs over the course of the year: Chabad's JLI program or a chavruta program from Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future.  Parents who complete the course of study and attend one of two learning events during year like Sunday's receive a $1000 grant ($1250 for couples who participate) from the Kohelet Foundation that can be used to offset tuition or gifted back to their children's school.

Though the financial help is deeply appreciated by both the parents and the school, the program would be worthwhile just for days like yesterday when more than forty members of our community from different backgrounds - some of whom had never met before - got together to talk about the values and texts we share.

Here are some pictures from what was a wonderful morning:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

C21: Caring for Kenyans

Among the Essential Capacities for the 21st Century enumerated by the National Association of Independent Schools is the necessity for students to gain what they call a "Global Perspective." What does that look like in a classroom?  How about sixth graders in an Orthodox Jewish Day School in Memphis, Tennessee taking the initiative to raise funds in order to purchase school supplies to send to their e-pals at the Cheery Children Education Centre in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

This video, created by sixth grader Akiva Finkelstein, says it all:

To help their cause, click on the "Donate" button on right-hand margin of the blog and when you see the option to "Add special instructions to the seller" put in "Caring for Kenyans."

Please also share this via Twitter, Facebook, email, and any other means possible so that our 6th graders can see just how far their care and concern can go.

The GMSG Presents: The Twilight Zone

Come join our Girls High School for a night of light-hearted theater this coming Tuesday at 7:00pm in the MHA Auditorium.

In addition to a theatrical rendition of a Twilight Zone episode directed by Mrs. Renee Davis Brame and starring Zahava GerstenJamie EpsteinHudis LangEmma Peiser  and Racheli Brakha, you'll be treated to cameo appearances by characters currently being read in our Girls High School English classes including:
  • Nora from A Doll's House played by Chaya Ross
  • Torvald from A Doll's House played by Sarah Ballinger
  • Announcer played by Michelle Bouchard
  • Romeo played by Sarah Belz
  • Juliet played by Sarah Broniscer
  • Oedipus AND Odysseus played by Alyssa Wruble
  • Tiresius played by Noga Finkelstein
  • Antigone played by Racheli Tsuna
  • Penelope from the Odyssey AND Dr. T.J. Eckelberg played by Lily Morris
  • Mark Antony played by Alex Pittler
Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fall Festival

Thanks to the hard work of our Early Childhood Director, Mrs. Charna Schubert, our Lower School Principal, Mrs. Sandy Gersten, and a whole host of volunteers, the fifth annual Fall Festival was another smashing success.  Here are some pictures from the fun-filled day:

C21: Roanoke Island Project

I walked into our 8th grade History class the other day just as a student was completing his presentation of the video below.  The project, designed by Mrs. Shelley Kutliroff, epitomized so much of what we mean when we talk about 21st Century learning, and how it differs from more traditional classroom methods, that I thought it was worth sharing.

The class was learning about what is often referred to as the "lost colony" of Roanoke - a late 16th century English settlement on an island off the coast of North Carolina whose settlers mysteriously vanished somewhere between 1587 and 1590.  In a traditional classroom, the story of the Roanoke settlers would be covered in a few minutes of lecture, perhaps buttressed by a paragraph or two in a text book, and then assessed with a question or two on that chapter's test.  Kids with a knack for names and places would get it right, those without it might get it wrong, and only the real history buffs would retain any of the information more than a week or two after the exam.

In this project, however, the story of Roanoke was used a tool to accomplish pedagogical goals far more meaningful than honing a student's ability to answer questions on Jeopardy or in a game of Trivial Pursuit.  The assignment, in essence, was as follows: Imagine you are an archaeologist studying the colony of Roanoke.  Present a hypothesis, backed up by evidence, as to what caused the settlers to disappear and present it in an engaging manner to your classmates.  In one fell swoop, "read, memorize, and spit back" were transformed into "read, think, innovate, create, communicate, and entertain."  Instead of passive consumers of history, 8th graders were momentarily transformed into authors of history.  Though their "hypotheses" were far-fetched at best and at times a bit zany, it was a learning experience that emphasized process over product; one that challenged students to experience what Howard Gardner calls "disciplined thought" (the authentic thought process of a particular discipline) on a developmentally appropriate level.  It was also a learning experience that gave students the opportunity to synthesize various media and communicate the information in a way that is germane to the world they live in and the world they will soon have to lead.  Furthermore, it was an experience which reminded kids, long after they graduated from Kindergarten, that their imaginations are still of great value to us and ought to be prized by them.

Of course, the great irony is that after an exercise like this one which focused on skill-building and methods of thinking rather than rote memorization, our students are far more likely to have etched the names Roanoke and John White, the word Croatoan and the year 1587, into their long-term memory than they would have had they merely heard it, read it, and regurgitated it for a test.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rambam Team on FOX News This Evening

The team from Rambam Mesivta, one of the four who came for a weekend tournament and may land up staying a week, will be on FOX news at 5 this evening.  Report Earle Farrel came by the school this morning, as we were finishing our shiur, to interview them about their experience.

If you can't catch it live, it should be on their website ( after about six this evening.
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Tournament Pics

For the sixth year in a rom, the Cooper Invitational was a weekend to remember.  From the camaraderie and competitiveness to the speakers and celebrities, Josh Kahane and his army of volunteers, outdid themselves once again.  Here's a collection of some of the best sights and sounds.  For links to all the pictures, see below.

Pics from Day One
Pics from Day Two
Pics from Day Three
Pics from Day Four

NY / NJ Students Riding Out Sandy in Memphis

Approximately 70 students, coaches, and chaperones who came to town last Thursday for the 7th Annual Cooper Invitational are getting a bit more Memphis than they had bargained for.  With Hurricane Sandy on its way, their return flights yesterday were canceled and it doesn't look like they'll be returning to the airport until Wednesday at the earliest.

The four teams, from Frisch, SAR, North Shore, and Rambam, came to school this morning for davening, breakfast, and a shiur and they'll be here for lunch as well.  After lunch they're either heading for some Memphis siteseeing or to the laudromat to get some clean clothes for their extended stay.  Tomorrow we'll do the same thing again and then, hopefully for their sake, they'll be on their way back home.
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Student's Perspective on the SAT's

Guest post by Gabriel Goldstein
11th Grade, Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys

A Flawed System

“Five minutes remaining.” My heart begins to pound. I hear the clock ticking. Ticktock, ticktock, ticktock. I read over number 21. ‘I have four more questions left after this.’ ‘What if I don’t finish?’ ‘What if I don’t do well?’ These thoughts fill my head, distracting me from the question I’m so desperately attempting to answer. I take a deep breath: In, out. In, out. In, out. Finally, I zone in and push out 5 more answers before time is called. By this time, my brain is begging me to shut it down-I’m fried.

“Turn to the next section, read the instructions, and begin.” So much for shutting my brain down.

I suffer through two more grueling sections, somehow confidently answering each question. I walk out of the testing room and I’m overcome with an epiphany. We’re taught to believe that the SAT can determine your future, but I think that’s bologna. Only you determine your future. The simple fact that our future in college, our future in life, largely depends on one, three hour test makes me question why I even want to go to college. Why would I want to be a part of a system like that? It’s simply impossible to base someone’s academic abilities off of one pressure-filled, miserable day.

Here’s the perfect example. Last year, Rabbi Perl wrote a piece in the weekly newsletter about a young woman with a stellar GPA, amazing extra curricular activities to boast, and all around classiness. Her dream was to get into an Ivy League college; the only thing holding her back was her inability to perform on SAT testing day. This stirred thoughts in my head. College isn’t a sprint. You don’t go for one year and get a speed course on how to succeed in life. College is a process. It’s a leisurely stroll. College is four years so that you can stretch out the intake of a ridiculous amount of knowledge, hoping to retain half of what you learn, if you’re lucky. The SAT does not reflect one’s ability to understand and retain information. The SAT is a sprint. The SAT asks one to access everything they’ve learned in their multiple years of schooling and put that to use, all in thirty minutes or less. Is it okay to teach the next generation that everything needs to be rushed? That you don’t have to worry about enjoying your academic experience, you just have to suffer until you make it?

“Funny the way it is, if you think about it, one kid walks ten miles to school, another’s dropping out.” As Dave Matthews so powerfully summed up in his song “Funny the Way it is,” the reality of the academic system is that dropout rates are far higher than they should be (they should be zero). The world is slowly becoming a free for all. How can we teach today’s youth that not everything in life is a competition? There may be methods, but the SAT certainly isn’t one. The SAT is like throwing a piece of deer meat into a cave full of lions. Everyone scrambles to get the meat, leaving the others dead. Sometimes the good ones end up dying. The ones who enjoyed their courses, who wanted to learn. You see, the passion for knowledge is slowly dying. Schools no longer teach to spark a love for the infinite knowledge that is attainable in life; they teach to keep their stats high. They teach to prepare us for one stupid test that, unfortunately, will determine the rest of our lives. Where will this take us in fifty years?

We’re headed downhill, ladies and gentlemen. A change needs to come fast.

This piece originally appeared in the CYHSB Weekly newsletter

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bracket Challenge

It's that time again...Cooper Tournament fever is sweeping through the school and the community!

If you haven't yet filled out your bracket, be sure to do so here.  For a full schedule of the games and for links to the live broadcasts, visit the Cooper Invitational site at .  Let's go Macs!

Showmanship Champs!

The MHA made its presence known at yesterday's annual ASBEE Kosher BBQ contest.  From students who won their 3-on-3 tournaments to parents who won theirs, and from award-winning beans from our yankee Director of Technology to a Best in Showmanship for our booth and our team name, it was a winning day all around.

Much thanks go to Jonathan Wogan for spearheading our efforts and to Hillel Weiner, Noam "Beans" Davidovics, Lee Baum, and Jonanthan's friend Mickey, for helping to make the day such a success.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seth Mania Continues

FOX 13's evening news on Friday featured this story on our newly famous student.

The cross country footage in the video isn't from the meet in which the incident occurred.  It's from the last meet of the season which took place just last week at Shelby Farms in which Eli Osdoba placed 8th overall (out of 120 runners) and the Cooper Macs team took 5th place overall (Isaac Graber and Seth both finished well ahead of the pack).  Pictures from the meet are here.

Below is a behind-the-scenes look at FOX news anchor Earle Farrell's visit to our school and his interviews with Seth's classmates that unfortunately didn't make the final cut.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Our English Teacher Blogs About Hebrew

Mr. Aaron Brame, our wonderful new upper school English teacher, was a guest blogger yesterday on the popular I Love Memphis blog.  His post was entitled "On Reading My First Hebrew Word."  Here's a selection:

Not content to remain illiterate in my own classroom, I went out last week and got a Hebrew primer for adults. I learned my first consonants and vowels—bet, kamatz, reish, shuruk, chaf, and sin–and penciled in the review exercises in my book. The next day, standing in the hallway at school, I searched the many Hebrew posters and signs that hang on the walls, looking for a word I understood.
I found one.  Baruch, (בָּרוּך), or “blessed,” the first word of most Jewish liturgical blessings.  It wasn’t much, but it was a beginning, and a reaffirmation of the value of education, the power of study, and the joy of understanding one another.

Read the post in it's entirety here.  And next time you see Mr. Brame in the hallway, test him on his latest Hebrew word. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Friday Assemblies

One of the new elements introduced into our elementary school program this year is a weekly Friday assembly.  Organized and run by Mrs. Gersten, it features a student dvar Torah, a program from our Bat Ami and / or Kollel, as well as a presentation from one of our lower school classes.  The response so far has been wonderful and it has helped to make school spirit - as well as our erev shabbat spirit - soar even higher.

Here are some clips from Kitah Aleph's presentation of their Sukkot songs from this past Friday's assembly. Fantastic job Kitah Aleph and fantastic job Morah Deena!

Yom Kippur at the Jewish Home

In what has become an annual tradition and a touching act of chesed, boys from our high school once again joined our Torah MiTzion Kollel in spending Yom Kippur at the Memphis Jewish Home and Rehab Center.

While getting the opportunity to lead the tefillot and do the laining on one of the yamim nora'im is a wonderful learning experience for the boys, their primary purpose in going is to bring a level of energy and vitality to the religious life of the Home's residents that is unmatched throughout the year.  The reports we receive year after year is that as a result of the efforts of our Kollel and our high school boys, Yom Kippur for the residents of the Jewish Home truly is as the gemara in Taanit describes it: one of the happiest days of the year.

National Merit Scholars

We are proud to announce that Dylan Cooper and Gidon Feen were both awarded Letters of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.  34,000 Letters of Commendation are awarded annually to high achieving high school seniors across the country out of an applicant pool of approximately 1.5 million entrants.  We know this is just the beginning of the accolades for these two talented seniors, and we look forward to hearing more good news in the weeks and months ahead.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Viral Kiddush Hashem

Do 1250 comments and 12,200 "likes" on the Huffington Post article mean Seth's story has gone viral?  How about this morning's front page article in the Commercial Appeal?  What about the fact that we got a call this morning from someone who wants to donate $1000 to the school in honor of Seth?

Of all the responses - and, as this morning's paper reported, there have been many - this is my favorite.  It is a Facebook comment by Rabbi Dov Karoll, executive assistant to Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel:

'Like' is an inadequate response for this. I thinks the baraita probably says it best:

כדתניא, (דברים ו) ואהבת את ה' אלהיך - שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך... ויהא משאו ומתנו בנחת עם הבריות, מה הבריות אומרות עליו - אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה, אשרי רבו שלמדו תורה. אוי להם לבריות שלא למדו תורה, פלוני שלמדו תורה - ראו כמה נאים דרכיו, כמה מתוקנים מעשיו, עליו הכתוב  אומר (ישעיהו מט) ויאמר לי עבדי אתה ישראל אשר בך אתפאר

The quote is from the Talmud (Yoma 86a).  Here is what it means:

As it was taught (Deuteronomy 6): "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God," i.e., that the Name of Heaven be beloved because of you.  If someone studies Scripture and Mishnah, and attends on the disciples of the wise, is honest in business, and deals with people pleasantly, what do people then say concerning him? ‘Happy the father who taught him Torah, happy the teacher who taught him Torah; woe unto people who have not studied the Torah; for this man has studied the Torah look how fine his ways are, how righteous his deeds! Of him does Scripture say: And He said unto me (Isaiah 49): You are my servant, Israel, in, whom I will be glorified."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Geoff Calkins on Seth Goldstein

I know I've blogged about this story twice already, but when the top sports writer in the city puts it on the cover of the Sunday Sports Section, how could I not mention it again?  Besides, his wonderful way with words is worth reading in and of itself.

Way to go, Seth.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More on Cheating

In my newsletter message last week, I wrote about the Harvard cheating scandal, the questions it raises, and the lessons to be learned.  Clearly, Robert Kolker of New York Magazine must be an avid reader of the MHA/FYOS Reporter because two days later he published this piece which focuses on a similar scandal at New York's prestigious Stuyvesant High School and expands on the ideas in very important ways.  

Here are some selections

But the much-publicized scandals have shined a light on the problem, and social psychologists say today’s high-school students live in a culture that, perhaps more than ever, fosters cheating, or at least the temptation to cheat. The prime offender, they say, is the increased emphasis on testing... 

...But why do bright kids—Stuyvesant and Harvard students—cheat? Aren’t they smart enough to get ahead honestly? One might think so, but the pressure to succeed, or the perception of it anyway, is often only greater for such students. Students who attend such schools often feel they not only have to live up to the reputation of the institution and the expectations that it brings, but that they have to compete, many of them for the first time, with a school full of kids as smart, or smarter, than they are.
The article is well worth reading in its entirety - and giving to your high school children to read as well.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Students Pen Columns in Commercial Appeal

The cover of the Faith in Memphis section of today's Commercial Appeal featured a column by our own 9th grader, Noga Finkelstein.  She was one of five local teens asked by the newspaper to reflect on what the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) mean to them.  Here's a small selection from Noga's powerful piece:
As the choir begins a round of lovely harmonies, all ears turn attentively to the words that are conveyed through the inspirational words. This is especially heartwarming to me because it resembles the common goal we all share throughout these days, becoming closer to G-d
Joining Noga was MHA 8th grade alum, Asher Finkelstein.  Both of their pieces merit reading in their entirety.   For many of us, this isn't the first time we've read their published writing and I have no doubt it won't be the last.

Kol ha-kavod.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Rosh Hashanah Video from the Bat Ami

This video, made by our four wonderful Bnot Sherut and featuring student and staff throughout all divisions, was the highlight of our first weekly Elementary School Friday assembly.  Enjoy it and shanah tovah to all!

Junior High on ESPN?

When we created the Junior High Lounge this summer we intended for it to be a place for our 7th and 8th graders to hang out and to bond with our new Junior High Program Director, Rabbi Ezra Baldinger.  Thanks to a donation from the Bosin family and some fancy film editing by 8th grade director-in-training Asher Stein, it has become much more than that...

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Kiddush Hashem of the Highest Order

After writing my last post and directing you to the school newsletter to read about this week's incredible events at our Boys High School cross country meets, I saw this email from a total stranger sitting in my inbox.  I had to share it:

Dear Rabbi,

I had to write you after observing the actions of one of your students from the Cooper Yeshiva School this afternoon at the USJ cross country meet. I was watching my son's team, Germantown High School, run the race when one of his teammates suddenly collapsed. Your student, Seth Goldstein,stopped racing when he saw the boy was in trouble having a seizure. He called for help and I ran over there and he guided me and others through what we needed to do as this boy was in distress, reassuring us along the way that this young man was going to be alright.  I kept thinking he was maybe someone's dad, maybe a doctor or an EMT . I realized he was a race participant only after the ambulance arrived and my son's teammate was in the hands of professionals. Seth only then excused himself to complete the race. And I realized he was a race participant. What a fine young person that you are educating at Cooper Yeshiva!  I was very impressed by Seth's character, staying calm in an emergency and putting his first aid skills to use, and most especially by his unselfishness in forgoing his race opportunity until he realized the young man was out of harm's way.  I was equally impressed by his perseverance and determination to complete the race after tending to the needs of a student from another school. What a great young man! I'll always cheer for the boys from Cooper Yeshiva after today's race and Seth's beautiful display of humanity.  Keep up the great work you are doing over there at Cooper Yeshiva.  Memphis needs more young men like Seth around!

Jessica Chandler

Cross Country Kicks Off

Thanks to Coach Nokes, we kicked our first season of competitive cross-country for all divisions of the school this week.  While the 2nd place team finish for our 5th and 6th grade boys (led by Simcha Osdoba's 7th-place finish) and the third place team finish by our 7th and 8th grade boys (behind a team best finish of 14th by Asher Stein), the real stories this week came from our boys high school meets.  Two meets, two incredible feats, which should make every member of our school community proud.

Read about them in my Dean's Message and in the IkaRR Korner of this week's MHA Newsletter.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Premier Soccer Club Accommodates Shabbos for MHA Student

You may not know it by looking at her, but 5th grader Shayna Kahane ranks among the school's most highly accomplished athletes.  Though a few years back she played together with our elementary school girls on our first ever lower school girls soccer team, Shayna's knack for the sport quickly propelled her onto more and more competitive teams in more and more competitive leagues.

Most recently, it was recommended that Shayna try out for the newly created MidSouth FC Elite Academy, a conglomerate of the region's premier competitive soccer programs: Memphis Futbol Club, Arlington Soccer Academy, Bartlett Soccer Club and Futbol Club Legendinhos.

According to the MSFC's website, their program boasts the following accomplishments:

  • Appeared in SIX national Finals
  • Winners of nine international tournaments
  • In 2010, five Midsouth FC teams qualified for TN State Cup finals
  • The only Memphis club to produce a US national team player to appear in a world cup
  • More than 400 MidSouth players have gone on to play for top colleges on scholarship
  • Eight Midsouth players have gone on to play in the MLS (Professional soccer league)

Knowing that their practice and travel schedule would pose a problem for Shayna in terms of shabbos, the Kahanes initially did not pursue it.  However, when members of local soccer community assured Shayna and her parents that if she was good enough, the program would find a way to accommodate her, they decided to give it a try.

So, two weeks ago Shayna tried out for coach Ross Paule, a former Major League Soccer player.   Just as predicted, when he saw what Shayna could do an offer quickly followed to provide her a private workout every Sunday morning in place of the team's major workout on Saturday mornings, as well as an exemption from all Saturday games without risk of losing her starting spot.  The MSFC can now proudly list "accommodated one shomer shabbos athlete" to their list of accomplishments.

We wish Shayna the best of luck on her new team and - more importantly - the strength to continue making a kiddush Hashem wherever she goes!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to School BBQ

The PTA ushered in the new school year with another Back to School Barbecue yesterday evening.  Whether in the gym eating or on the fields playing a good time was had by all!  Thank you to all the volunteers who helped make it happen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

C21: Gemara and PBL - A Blog about the Journey

The focus of our first annual faculty summer institute this past July was Project Based Learning.  With the help of Professor Moshe Krakowski and a team of educators from the Denver Academy of Torah, our faculty learned the ins and outs of this radically different approach to classroom learning and began collaborating with their colleagues on how we might introduce it to our classrooms.

While PBL lends itself more easily to areas such as science, math, civics, and even halacha (Jewish Law) - where the "real-world applications" tend to be evident, text-centered subjects like Gemara and Chumash provide a far more daunting challenge.  Thankfully for us, and for the field in general, Rabbi Aaron Feigenbaum, rabbi of the Young Israel of Memphis and a rebbe in our Boys High School, has thrown himself headfirst into this challenge and is documenting the process for all of us to see on his blog called Southern Figs.  Here's a selection from his first post:

PBL Gemara Day 1
A great start! I greet the students as they enter. I walk to the front of the room and I say “I have no intention of giving any exams this year, you don’t want to take them and I don’t want to grade them.” Gemara Honors erupts in applause. I explain we’re going all in PBL, group projects and presentations with content, collaboration, and presentation rubrics (will post all soon). The class is all on board and we are only five minutes in...

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Lion on the Loose

There was a lion on the loose today, creating havoc throughout the campus.  The lion was officially a guest of Kitah Aleph, who began their Hebrew reading program by meeting its central character Ari Ot - the Letter Lion.  While in years past Ariot looked an awful lot like one of our teachers  - except for the red cape and crown - this year the REAL Ariot decided to make a cameo appearance.  Needless to say, Morah Deena's students in Kitah Aleph were rather excited.

The real mayhem began, though, when Ariot left Kitah Aleph.  Amongst other places, he was spotted on the carpet in 2nd grade, doing Wordly Wise in 6th grade, breaking out Color War in the Boys High School, and eating a tangerine during AP Government in the Girls High School.

Here's what it looked like...

Beginning with the End

The Upper School kicked off the school year by beginning with the end.  The end, that is, of the Talmud which was completed at a festive breakfast after davening by Rabbi Gersten.  While the 100 7th-12th grader who packed into our lunchroom didn't create quite the same scene as the 90,000 who packed into MetLife Stadium earlier this month for the official siyyum ha-shas, our breakfast did start with video clips from that event so as to help our students feel connected to that historic event from just a few weeks ago.

After the videos, the students heard from Mr. Hirsch Serman, who was one of the tens of thousands who learned one page of gemara a day for 7 years as part of the daf yomi program, thereby completing the entire Talmud this summer.  The featured speaker for the event, though, was Rabbi Gersten and he didn't disappoint.  Between his powerful exhortation to make talmud Torah a central part of our lives, to his moving tribute to Mr. Matty Osdoba, z"l, it wasn't a speech anyone will soon forget.

The speeches were followed by dancing in the gym after which the school year officially got under way.  What a way to start.

Below are some clips from the speeches as well as pictures from the siyyum and the rest of the first day.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The IKaRR Initiative

Like all schools, and like all Jewish Day Schools in particular, we at the MHA are interested not only in the academic learning of our students, but in the social, emotional, and behavioral learning of our students as well.  As Rabbi Yisrael Salanter emphasized a century and a half ago, the gap between Jewish learning and Jewish behavior is too often too great, and we as Jewish educators have a responsibility to try and close that gap to the degree that we can.

We therefore began reading up on PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), an approach to behavioral learning that has gained quite a bit of momentum over the past few years and about which quite a bit of research has been done and published.  As one of the central principles of PBIS is a school-wide focus on 3-5 positive desired behaviors, our admin team sat down at a meeting last year and asked ourselves what the 3-5 most elemental character traits that we'd like to see in each of our students might be. We came up with kindness, integrity, respect, and responsibility.

Our next step was to share those four with our faculty and get their feedback.  They were quite supportive.  The challenge we ran into, though, was an acronym: KIRR, RIRK, or IRRK, didn't seem to work very well. Over the summer, however, one of our teachers noted that with the inclusion of an "a" the letters of our four character traits fit a transliterated form of the Hebrew word "ikar" which means "the most important thing."  Despite not quite knowing what to do with the "a," the power of that message - that these four traits comprise the most important thing - was too great to pass up.  Therefore, we made the "a" small, and made our slogan "Acting (note the a!) with Integrity, Kindness, Respect, and Responsibility."

At this point, we are approaching the IKaRR initiative more as a school-wide awareness campaign than a full-blown PBIS system, simply because we have quite a few other things our faculty are working on at the moment and we felt that so much of the teaching around these values will arise organically from the material we teach simply by sensitizing ourselves and reminding ourselves of their centrality to our mission.  To that end, we created a logo which students and teachers will see constantly throughout our building and which we hope will serve as that all-important reminder.  We also have begun collecting quotations about these four values from Jewish and non-Jewish sources that are short, powerful, and to the point and have hung them throughout the school - together with some questions to provoke reflection - for students and faculty to see (yes, some are hanging in the teachers' room and are aimed at us adults, who are as much a part of this initiative as are the children).  Here's a link to what we have put up to date.  As we are a PreK-12 school, you will note that some are more geared to younger children, others to older students, and still others to our faculty and administrators.

If you have quotes we can add to our list, please send them as we intend to change the signs throughout the year. We have a few other ideas for heightening awareness of these values that we'll unveil in the coming weeks.  Here too, though, if you have ideas, please send them our way.  We'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

ECE and Lower School are Up and Running!

Our beloved old building sprung back to life this morning as parents and students in the Early Childhood and Lower School filled our hallways for their first day back at school.  New faces blended in with the old, and there were smiles on all of them.

Here are some pictures of what it looked like:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

GMSG Teacher to be Honored by Hadassah

Mrs. Bluma Zuckerbrot Finkelstein, our Girls High School's phenomenal Zionism teacher, will be one of three teachers honored at Hadassah's Third Outstanding Jewish Educators' Awards Brunch on Sunday morning, August 19th.  The brunch will take place at the Memphis JCC at 10:30am and will feature guest speaker Mr. Daniel Kiel, a professor at the University of Memphis Law School and the author, co-producer, and director of the "The Memphis 13" and the cost is $25 per person.

We encourage everyone to attend and join in giving Mrs. Finkelstein the honor she so deserves.  To make a reservation contact Cindi Weinstein.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

JconnecT Update

Two years ago we conceived of the idea of harnessing the growing field of online education to expand our capability as an educational center for small Jewish communities in the South and beyond.  Whereas for decades we have served such communities through our high school dormitory programs, which cater to kids from communities that either don't have any Jewish high school or don't have a high school with a mission similar to ours, web conferencing technology opened up new opportunities for us to bring high quality Jewish education to middle and high school students in these communities rather than relying on them coming to us.  We then took this idea to a group of talented educators in Israel known as JETS who had the know-how to make it happen, and the JconnecT program was born.

I am proud to say that this coming year will feature our largest and most diverse JconnecT class ever with students from Charlotte, NC, Birmingham AL, Corpus Christy, TX, Jacksonville, FL, Atlanta, GA, Kansas City, MO, Vancouver, BC, and Portland, ME.

It's not too late to join, so if you know a student not currently in a Jewish Day School who is looking for a high quality supplementary school option, encourage them to watch the video above and to visit our site at .

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Richard Lewis Named National Coach of the Year

Jewish Hoops America recently named Richard Lewis, the Cooper Yeshiva High School's Varsity Basketball Coach, as this year's National Coach of the Year.

The organization, which tracks, ranks, and promotes JV and Varsity basketball from Jewish teams across North America wrote the following in their announcement:

The Coach of the Year award goes to Richard Lewis of Cooper Yeshiva-Memphis, who led the Maccabees to their best record ever (27-5), a Tier I appearance at the Cooper Invitational and the Tier II title at the Sarachek Tournament. The Maccabees finished at #14 in the national JHA rankings. 

Richard, who until now has been better known for the outstanding player he was both at the CYHSB and then at Yeshiva University, is now being recognized for what may be even more impressive than any of his previous basketball achievements: taking a small group of guys from a very small school, building them up as people, teammates, and athletes, and inspiring them to give absolutely everything they have each and every time they walk out on the court.  It is the first time this award has been given to a coach from a school not located in the big Jewish communities of New York, LA, or Chicago and it is most deserved.

Congratulations to him and to his star point guard and pupil, Eli Osdoba, who was selected as a Jewish Hoops First Team All-American.

Friday, June 8, 2012

High School Graduation

Our high school graduates put on quite a show at graduation last Tuesday night.  Led by valedictorian Jeremy Cooper and salutatorians Alexa Wender and Sade Cooper, each and every student spoke (or sang) about the ways in which they have grown over years at the Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys or the Goldie Margolin School for Girls.

We are incredibly proud of the fact that ten of our eleven graduates are heading to Israel next year to programs which include Shaalvim for Women, Tiferet, Bar-Ilan, Migdal Oz, and Emunah Ve-Omanut for the girls and Yeshivat Har Etzion, Orayyta, and Yesodei HaTorah for the boys.  This year's graduates also received acceptances to the following outstanding universities: MIT, Columbia, Barnard, Stern College for Women, Yeshiva College for Men, and NYU's Polytechnic Institute.

Two of many highlights from graduation night were the comedic speech of Avi Kirshtein, a dorm student from Charleston, SC, and the musical tribute by dorm student Ilan Eckhardt from Milwaukee, WI.  You can get a sense for each of them in the clips below.  For all of the pictures from the evening click here.

Graduate Heads to Africa

12th grade graduate, Ariana Kaufman, will be heading off to Africa this summer to cap off what has been a truly remarkable set of social action initiatives which she has led, or has participated in, throughout her four years at the Goldie Margolin School for Girls.  Here is a letter she wrote to her friends and family asking for support for her latest initiative:

Dear friends and family, 
 I would like to share with you the exciting news that in June I will be traveling to Ghana along with a group of other students to volunteer with Challenging Heights,  a community-based non-profit organization. Challenging Heights was started by James Kofi Annan, a former child slave. The organization is a school and home for children escaping the brutal life of slavery. 

I am looking forward to supporting Challenging Heights in whatever way I can, while learning about human rights and exploring the intersection of Judaism and social justice. My volunteer work is being organized by American Jewish World Service (AJWS). AJWS is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. AJWS is an internationally recognized responsible charity. To find out more about AJWS' status visit
If you could please make a donation to help make my volunteer service possible, I would be extremely grateful. I need to raise $3,000 total. To donate, please make a check out to American Jewish World Service. You can either contact me at (901)-828-5431 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (901)-828-5431      end_of_the_skype_highlighting and I will come pick it up when it is most convenient for you, or send it to Ariana Kaufman 461 Sutton Place Memphis, TN 38120.

 I will be following up with a phone call to encourage you to think about supporting my volunteer work. I would be happy to provide you with any additional information about AJWS if you are interested. You can also visit their web site at Thank you very much for considering my request. 

Warmest regards,
Ariana Kaufman

PS. The full amount of your donation is tax deductible. You will receive a letter from AJWS personally thanking you for your donations and explaining how to file your tax deduction.

We wish her the best of luck in this mission and chizuk to continue her extraordinary efforts in making the world a better place.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Updates and Catch Ups

I've fallen a bit behind on blogging, so I'm going to rather briefly update you on many different exciting events that have happened over the last few weeks.

First of all, I never congratulated our Boys High School on capturing the FYOS Debate Tournament Title for the first time.  Both the Boys' teams and the Girls' teams were outstanding throughout the tournament, with the final match - which pitted Zahava Gersten and Racheli Tsuna against Jeremy and Dylan Cooper - decided by the closest of margins.  Jeremy and Dylan's Negative case was just a hair stronger than Zahava and Racheli's Affirmative case (which was a plan for mining Helium 3 on the moon for the purposes of replacing nuclear fission with nuclear fusion thereby eliminating the dangers of nuclear energy and helping to solve our energy crisis) and Jeremy and Dylan walked away with 1st place team honors.  2nd place team went to Zahava and Racheli, while 3rd place honors went to team Ethan Cooper and Yaakov Kaplan.  In the speaker award category, first place went to Zahava Gersten, Jeremy Cooper took second, and debate newcomer Sade Cooper took third place.  Congratulations to them all!

In addition to being recognized internally for his debating prowess, Jeremy Cooper was also recently recognized by Princeton University's Princeton Prize in Race Relations with a certificate of accomplishment for his work as president of Bridge Builders Memphis.

Congratulations is also in order for all of our 8th grade advancees who shined brighter than ever at their Advancement Ceremony last week.  Presenting research they did on their own family's history, under the guidance of Mrs. Shelley Kutliroff, each student spoke eloquently and inspirationally, about where they have come from and the lessons they have inherited from previous generations.

A few days ago, I posted about the adorable ECE presentations at our Ice Cream Bash.  Since then, Dr. Joel Siegel has been kind enough to forward me links to the videos he took of their performance.  Here they are for you to enjoy:


And, lastly, I promised to post pictures of our Kindergarteners from their wonderful graduation ceremony this past Sunday.  They too did a terrific job and we can't wait to see what is in store for them as they enter 1st grade!