Monday, March 26, 2012

Macs to Play in Tier II Championship


Osdoba Stars In Big Third Quarter To Leads Macs To Tier II Finals
David Roumani
Published on: 03/26/2012
MacsLive Reporting Services (New York, New York)

Behind strong play from Eli Osdoba and Asher Silberman, the #10 Cooper Macs used a huge third quarter to defeat the #11 Weinbaum Storm 52-42 in the Tier II Semifinals on Big Sunday. Osdoba and Silberman led the Macs with 17 and 16 points respectively, overcoming a spectacular effort from Weinbaum point guard Eram Zaghi

Cooper started strong, using 4 early points from Justin Wruble to take an 8-5 lead in a slow first quarter of action. The second quarter was equally slow as neither team shot the ball well. But Weinbaum took the momentum away from the Macs thanks to a tremendous effort from Zaghi on both sides of the court, and the Storm went into the locker room with a 15-13 lead at half.

At the break, Cooper Coach Richard Lewis made some adjustments, and got a big contribution from Osdoba, who caught fire in the third, driving to the basket and hitting a few jumpers. With 11 points in the quarter, and 4 from Asher Silberman, the Macs took control of the game by taking away Eli Mamann inside and outscoring the Storm 23-9.

The 4thquarter featured Zaghi's efforts to bring back his team. Zaghi did everything he could, from hitting jumpers to playing tight defense on Osdoba. Elliot Danis also scored a few buckets, but the Storm couldn’t contain Silberman late.

The Cooper Macs will move on to face JEC in the Tier II Championship, while Weinbaum Storm will play TABC in the third-place game. will have all of the coverage for Championship Monday, right here at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

GMSG Dinner

Over 200 community members were treated to a delightful evening last night as the Girls High School dedicated  their annual student activities fund raising dinner to highlighting the exceptional community service work they do.    Fittingly, the girls chose to honor long time parent Mrs. Debbie Frieden, for her work at Dozier House, a rehabilitative home for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, and for encouraging our Girls School to include Dozier House among the sites in which they consistently do their community service.

Among the other sites which our girls visit regularly and which were highlighted last night were the Memphis Union Mission which serves the homeless, Dorothy's Place which services Alzheimer patients, the Mid-South Food BankMemphis VA Hospital, and La Bonheur's Children Hospital.

It was impossible not to leave the event deeply impressed by the meaningful work our high school students are doing to make the world a better place.

Below are some of the sights and sounds from the evening.  For all of the pictures, click here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

C21: Learning to Communicate via Video

One of the most radical societal changes of the last ten years has been the explosion of video as a means of communication.  The ability to create videos and edit them has become a basic skill for anyone who wants to reach a significant audience and impact their thinking one way or the other.

Here are some quick facts from YouTube's statistics page that make the point rather emphatically:

  • 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute, or one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second.
  • Over 4 billion videos are viewed a day
  • Over 800 million unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 3 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube
  • More video is uploaded to YouTube in one month than the 3 major US networks created in 60 years
  • In 2011, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views or almost 140 views for every person on Earth
In response to this new reality, we have introduced a new high school course called Communications taught by Mrs. Ashley Brown, in which, among other skills, our students learn - and learn to hone - their ability to produce effective video.

Here's a piece they produced today demonstrating a variety of camera angles one can use to shoot video as well as a variety of - shall we say unique? - dance moves one can use to get people to watch your video about camera angles...

Art Contest Winners

 I neglected to mention last week, that in addition to our high school students sweeping the top prizes in the Federation's Holocaust Writing Contest, two of our Junior High students won awards in their Holocaust Art Contest.  Shani Braverman recieved an Honorable Mention for her impressive drawing and 7th grader Eliana Schlesinger's brilliant three-dimensional piece depicting a Jewish family in hiding, tied for first place.

As always, Mrs. Chany Fleischhaker, our fantastic art teacher, deserves credit for developing our students' creative and artistic abilities and for encouraging their participation in events such as these.

Photos Courtesy of Steve Conroy

Friday, March 16, 2012

National Chidon HaTanach Finalists Announced

We are extremely proud to announce that the finalists for the National Chidon HaTanach (Bible Quiz) competition were released today and that amongst them are four MHA students: Tani Finkelstein, Efraim Wiener, Ariel Kampf, and, the champion of the Southern Division, Noga Finkelstein.  All four students will have the opportunity to compete in the National Finals held in New York on May 6th.  The winner of that grueling two and half hour competition will win a free trip to Israel next May to compete against fifteen other students from around the world in the International Chidon HaTanach competition on Yom Ha'atzmaut.

Here's a short clip from last year's International Chidon, which is broadcast live on Israeli television and a widely watched event:

Kol ha-kavod to Rabbi Lubetski for having introduced our Chidon program to the Junior High this year and to Moreh Shimshon Solemon who worked hard at preparing our students for this competition.  We wish them the best of luck in the next round!

C21: Teaching Zionism in the 21st Century

Guest Blogger: Mrs. Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, Instructor of Zionism at the Goldie Margolin School for Girls

In keeping with our school’s new focus on creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, the students of Zionism I (9th grade girls) and Zionism II (10th grade girls) have been very busy these last few weeks with many interesting projects.

In Zionism I, the girls paired up to explore the topic of pre-Zionist immigration to Israel by researching and presenting to the class notable individuals and groups who settled in pre-1882 Palestine. Through Powerpoints, Prezis and the tried and true trifold, the girls discovered the many groups of Jews who made the then-dangerous trek to Palestine and settled there despite economic hardships, natural disasters and often chaotic and lawless government rule. Many of the groups chose to present the Ramban, Nachmanides, the prolific Torah commentator who made Aliyah in 1267 and is a role model for he who “practices what he preaches” since we learned earlier in the year that according to the Ramban, it is a positive Torah commandment, applicable in all times, to live in Eretz Yisrael. 

Most recently, the girls partnered to explore the Dreyfus Affair, the shocking post-Enlightenment act of Anti-Semitism that propelled the assimilationist European journalist Theodor Herzl to support the idea of a Jewish homeland and to galvanize and unite others behind a world-wide Zionist movement. The girls again presented their findings to the class and it was interesting to see how although they all researched the same topic, they each chose different facts to present.

In Zionism II, against the backdrop of a unit about the Second Aliyah (1904-1914), the girls were charged with designing their own kibbutz. Prior to breaking into groups, we discussed in class what a kibbutz is and how kibbutzim in Israel have evolved. We also viewed two YouTube videos on the subject. The girls were asked to name their kibbutz, decide its location in Israel, determine and flesh out its industry and describe to what extent the kibbutz is socialistic.  The girls’ creativity really came to the fore.

One group took the idea of space very seriously and found a new type of cow, “miniature cows” that occupy less space, in order to increase the kibbutz’s milk production without needing more land.
Another group devised an innovative business plan: “We make and sell special, unique eco-friendly hairspray. We are going to grow lemons to make lemon juice along with oranges and avocados to make our special eco-friendly hairspray. This hairspray is not only long lasting, but it is also able to be sprayed on the face or body to protect oneself from the sun (hairspray and sunscreen all-in-one.) Also available is face mask made from freshly grown oranges, lemons and avocados.”

One group, which included a girl who has long-studied dance, named its kibbutz after contemporary Israeli dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin and designated an on-site school of dance as the kibbutz’s main industry.  Another pair of students produced a beautiful promotional video of their kibbutz. You may access the video at Please take a look at it.

Last, but certainly not least, in the context of our unit on Zev Jabotinsky and Revisionist Zionism, the Zionism II students again paired up to explore the Irgun, the militia that broke off from the mainstream Haganah and engaged in retaliatory acts against the Arabs and British in pre-state Palestine. Some of these attacks resulted in the deaths of fellow Jews. In addition to researching the background of the Irgun, the girls grappled with the moral issues raised by the Irgun’s activities.  As one student astutely commented in the course of our discussion: “We have to become Zionists on our own and we need to learn about everything the Jews did, even the uncomfortable and disturbing things, in order to fully understand and reach our own conclusions. We should not shy away from difficult and disturbing issues in our history.” I could not agree more.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Students Win Holocaust Writing Contest

An email I just received  from Mrs. Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein, Director of Planning, Community Relations, Israel & International Affairs at the Memphis Jewish Federation informed me that our high school students have once again ran away with their annual community-wide Holocaust Writing contest.  In the essay category CYHSB and GMSG students took two of the top three spots and in the poetry category, our kids had a clean sweep.  Congratulations to the winning students and to their English teachers, Mrs. Talya Tsuna, Mrs. Ashley Brown and Mrs. Abby Johnson.  Keep up the great work!

Here is a list of the winners:


First Place:                 Zahava Gersten (GMSG)
Second Place:            Autumn Childers (St. Cecilia’s Academy)
Third Place:               Dylan Cooper (CYHSB) and Leah Fleischhacker (GMSG)


First Place:                 Emma Peiser (GMSG)
Second Place:            Hannah Morris (GMSG)
Third Place:               Sarah Broniscer  (GMSG)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Alumni Pull Away from Shelby County Champs

  Sunday was a big day for basketball at the MHA.  It started in the afternoon when the boys varsity basketball team, under the direction of Alumnus of The Year, Richard Lewis, outplayed the Collierville Dragons for the Shelby County Recreational League Championship.  For pictures of their impressive victory click here.

Later on in the evening, the rest of the school community got into the act with the annual Irby Cooper Memorial Alumni Game.  One of the most anticipated events in the school calendar, the Alumni game affords an opportunity for students of all ages to show off their basketball skills and for fans of all ages to enjoy good food, good friends, and great memories.  Organized once again by Mrs. Terri Graber and her Alumni Game Committee, this year's event didn't disappoint.  From the tightly fought "pre-game games" played by our mini-Macs to what was widely hailed as the best Alumni Game food in the history of the event, and from the colorful play-by-play to the spirited game of knockout, a great time was had by all.  

Perhaps most impressive was the way our varsity team, in the evening's main event, hung close enough to the alumni to make them feel like they were "really" playing, but in a kind-hearted display of respect for elders, allowed the former Macs to walk away with a victory.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Middle School Publishes Megilah

Right in time for Purim, our Middle School students under the direction of our Kollel Torah MiTzion published a beautiful megilah replete with their own insights into the text.

Here is a copy of the letter I wrote as an introduction to the text:

It is with great pride and great pleasure that I introduce our first-ever Junior High Commentary on Megillat Esther.  The concept was brought to us by Rabbi Meir Maimon, the Rosh Kollel of our Kollel Torah MiTzion, based on a similar project he had done with students in Israel.  Following his lead, the members of our Kollel together with our Junior High Judaic Studies faculty, dedicated many hours to guiding our students through in-depth study of the Megillah and through the process of formulating and articulating their own ideas and insights into the text. 

From a pedagogical perspective, this project exemplifies many of the new approaches we are working at here at the Academy: in-depth student-driven learning, critical thinking and creativity, long-term project-based assignments, and the replacement of traditional forms of assessment like quizzes and tests with “performance-based” assessments that ask students to demonstrate what they have learned to others in the public arena.

Above all, however, we take pride in the engagement and enjoyment of Torah learning which our students exhibited through this process.  The Rabbis tell us that when the Megillah states that the Jewish people had “light, happiness, and joy” in the aftermath of their victory over Haman, “light” refers to Torah study.  Similarly, the Rabbis speak of a willful acceptance of Torah at this time by the Jewish people which solidified the commitment they made under duress centuries earlier at Har Sinai. Some have suggested, though, that we are not to believe that the Jewish people were not studying or observing Torah at all in the years prior to the Purim story.  Rather, what the Rabbis mean to tell us is that they again found “light” in Torah.  They again found enjoyment, purpose, and meaning in its study and observance.

We hope and pray that this project of our 7th and 8th grade will similarly inspire our students to continue kindling, nurturing, and expanding the light of Torah study.

Best wishes for a פורים שמח,

Rabbi Dr. Gil S. Perl, Dean

Another Champion

Our 5th and 6th grade boys basketball team joined our 7th and 8th grade boys as well as 3rd and 4th grade girls as league champions.  The last few games of the 5/6 Macs' season have been a series of nail-biters, buzzer beaters, and overtime games.  In fact, Dr. Ed Weiner - the 25th pick of the NBA's 1955 draft, an active school grandparent, and an avid Macs basketball fan - is quoted as having called one of their final games "the best game of basketball" he has ever seen.

The championship game was no different. With Macs coach and MHA Athletic Director James Nokes pacing down the sideline (and at times the three point line!), towel over the shoulder, shouting a constant barrage of play-calls, defenses, and good old encouragement, the boys overcame a distinct size disadvantage to hold on for the one point win. Pictures from the game and a short video clip of its final seconds are available here.

Congratulations to everyone on an outstanding season!

Student AIPAC Delegate Featured in NYT

Yesterday's Middle East section of the New York Times featured an article on the AIPAC policy conference held in Washington earlier this week, with a specific focus on the very large Tennessee constituency who attended.  While we are very proud of all of our high school students who joined the Memphis delegation, it was particularly gratifying to see the article finish off with the following description of 10th grader Isaac Graber's exchange with Erin Reif, an aide to Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander:

Isaac Graber, a 15-year-old sophomore at Margolin Hebrew Academy in Memphis, presented the case for foreign aid, first to Ms. Reif and then again to Mr. Alexander, who arrived late. Isaac held a yellow legal pad but hardly referred to it, as he ticked off facts: foreign aid is about 1 percent of the federal budget; much of Israel’s $3.1 billion is spent on contracts with United States companies; Israel spends 8 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. “They’re such a tiny country surrounded by all these crazy neighbors,” Isaac said. “Really, the bottom line is this is a little bit of money that really goes a far way.”

Then he asked Ms. Reif if she had any questions.

“Do you want my job?” she said.

Ms. Reif:  Isaac needs to finish school first.  But once he does, you'd better watch out...

Friday, March 2, 2012

3/4 Girls Team Completes a Perfect Season

The 3rd and 4th grade girls basketball team put the finishing touch on a perfect season on Thursday night with a 16-15 win in the championship game.  Led by Coach (and Board President) Josh Kahane, this exceptional group of young athletes found their winning touch in the first game of the season and never lost it.  For the fans watching the championship game, doubt began to set it when the opposing team built an early lead and the Macs leading scorer was forced to the bench with four fouls in the first half.

The girls never lost faith, though.  With incredible teamwork, tough defense, and some clutch shooting, they pulled back into the lead and held tight to the very end.  Congratulations to the whole team on a fantastic effort and a fantastic season!

C21: MHA Cited as Change Leader for Jewish Education

In a recent post on the blog of the BJE of Los Angeles, Dr.Eliezer Jones of Yeshiva University's Institute for University School Partnership singled out the MHA and our Curriculum21 project as one that is leading the way toward meaningful - and much needed - change in Jewish Education.  Dr. Jones begins his piece by noting that resistance to change, which is unfortunately often found in schools and in Jewish schools in particular, can have a devastating effect on our children and their future.  Though he cites an example of a Jewish Day School that was forced to close due to its failure of adapt, he goes on to argue that there is reason for hope.  He writes:

First, it should be made clear, that there are schools and organizations that are rising to the challenge of educating our children in the 21st century. Schools like Rocketship in Northern California and High Tech High in Southern California are wonderful models of 21st century learning. Among Jewish day schools, there are examples like Margolin Hebrew Academy in Memphis, TN, which is undergoing a 21st century change project and a number of LA-area day schools and yeshivot that have illustrated a strong commitment to educational technology integration through school-wide one-to-one laptop and iPad programs. These Jewish day schools, and a handful of others, are models for adopting change.

With such exposure comes great responsibility.  We are indeed doing exciting things here and we have, indeed, created a faculty culture that is largely open and embracing of change.  With eyes upon us from all part of the country, however, we must redouble our dedication to this project and our commitment to ensuring that we are equipping our students, in all subject and throughout all of our grades, with the tools for religious, professional, emotional, and academic success in their world of the future, rather than in our world of the past.