At the ceremony marking the completion of his basic training, Avi Goldstein, last year's president of the Cooper Yeshiva High School student council, was awarded the distinction of "Top Soldier" from among the 450 soldiers in his division of the Israel Defense Force.
Avi has been selected into the Orev special forces unit of the Givati Brigade where we know he will continue to serve the State of Israel and the Jewish people with honor, dignity, and courage.
This year's annual policy debate tournament, which pits the debators from our Boys High School against the debators from our Girls High School, in a series of cross-examination debates on the National High School Debate topic, took a slightly different format from years past. This year we broke the tournament up over two days, the first of which was today and the second of which will be this Wednesday. Each of the debates centers around the issue of the United States space program, with the affirmative team presenting a plan to substantially increase the federal government's exploration and / or development of space and the negative team arguing against such a position.
This morning's debates, as expected, were fierce and well executed by both sides. They'll clash again on Wednesday afternoon with the highest scoring team (pair of students) from each side (boys and girls) going up against each other in a public final round at 4:30pm in the CYHSB Beit Midrash. Feel free to join us then for what promises to be an impressive, educational, and entertaining display of rhetoric, research, analysis, and lightening quick thinking.
Though it's a bit late, I wanted to share the pictures from our Sports Banquet which Coach Nokes organized a few weeks ago. The purpose of the evening was to celebrate the accomplishments of all of our student athletes from 1st grade through 12th. It also gave us an opportunity, though, to give much deserved thanks to all of our volunteer coaches who give so much of their time for our children, and to Coach Nokes who has single handedly saw to it that our athletic program reached new heights this year and that we lay plans for even more growth in the years to come.
For those interested in the spiritual state of the American Orthodox community, both among students and among adults, I highly suggest you read the latest edition of a relatively new journal called Klal Perspectives. Drawn from the leadership of a rather wide spectrum of Orthodox communities, this edition is dedicated to the challenges all of our communities face in making our Judaism relevant, meaningful, coherent, and uplifting.
While some of the pieces strike a chord with me more than others - as I'm sure they will for you - it is important for us to understand not only our own struggles, but those of other communities as well, so that wherever possible we might join forces in seeking out effective and long lasting solutions.
As we reported several weeks ago, under the direction of Moreh Shimshon Solemon, an astounding four of our eighteen 7th graders qualified for the final round of this year's national Chidon Ha-Tanach. Tani Finkelstein, Efraim Wiener, Ariel Kampf, and Noga Finkelstein all headed up to New York this past Sunday to square off against other finalists from across the country.
While all four of students performed beautifully, Noga captured 4th place overall, just barely missing the top spot and an expense paid trip to Israel.
We again applaud all four students, their parents, and Moreh Shimshon for the dedication and hard work they put in to this most noble endeavor. Tizku le-mitzvot!
Earlier this week it was announced that 12th grader Jeremy Cooper was one of 8,300 students from a pool of 1.5 million across the nation chosen to receive the prestigious National Merit Scholarship. The Commercial Appeal reported that only nineteen student from the Memphis area won the award this year: three from White Station, three from Germantown High, two from MUS, two from Hutchinson, two from St. Mary's, one from Arlington, one from Bolton, one from Collierville, one from Lausanne, one from Houston, one from the Mississipi School for Mathematics and Science, and one from a school inordinately smaller than all the others: the Margolin Hebrew Academy / Feinstone Yeshiva of the South.
This week also brought us the good news that Jeremy, who will be attending Yeshivat Har Etzion next year before heading off to Columbia University, along with last year's graduate Maddie Tavin, who is currently completing a year of study at Shaalvim for Women before heading to the Stern College Honors Program, have been accepted into the Tikvah Foundation's Summer Institute at Yale University. The Institute is a three week intensive learning seminar headed by Rabbi Dr. Meir Soleveitchik whose theme this year is "Jewish Thought and the Good Society: Politics, Economics, and the Human Person." With a wide array of impressive speakers and teachers lined up, the program is bound to be most enriching for both of them.
Our 4th grade was doing a literature unit on Elizabeth Winthrop's A Castle in the Attic. Our 7th grade was about to begin a social studies unit on medieval European history. One day just a few weeks ago, it dawned on Mrs. Brittney Friedman, our 4th grade General Studies teacher, that this was an opportunity to take all of our talk about project-based learning and the necessity of teaching collaboration, and put it into action.
So Mrs. Friedman and Dr. Whitney Kennon, our 7th grade History teacher, put their creative minds together and out came a learning experience unlike any other we've ever had here at the MHA. Instead of the traditional presentation of material by the teacher followed by some sort of demonstration by the students of what they had or had not assimilated, the 7th graders were going to be responsible for learning about medieval life through the construction of blue prints and a detailed model of a medieval castle. They'd have to know what each part of the castle was, what function it served, and build it accordingly. What's more, they weren't going to do it alone. In every 7th grade group there was going to be at least one 4th grader as well. Rubrics for every step of the project - from the design, to the research, to the paper, to the presentation - ensured that their work would be of high quality and a reflective tool in which each student had to comment on the participation of others in their group ensured that everyone would pull their weight thus honing their collaboration skills.
To say that the project created excitement is an understatement. Watching the presentations it was clear, though, that they not only enjoyed what they had done, but the learning which took place was rich, sophisticated, and, in all likelihood, will stick with them for quite some time.
Have a look at 7th graders Efraim Weiner, Ahron Braverman, and Kayla Weinstein, together with 4th grader Yehudis Tova Samuels, presenting on their castle's privies and piranhas...
In case you missed Rabbi Stein's write-up in this week's newsletter, some of our high school students recently completed a truly unique, and truly inspiring, learning experience that ought to be shared with the world.
Several years ago Rabbi Lubetski introduced the Discovery Program into our high school which allows students to devote time each week to areas they wish to explore or interests they wish to further develop. Amongst the options for our boys is a "shop" class directed by our Head of Maintenance, Mr. Steve Sims. Rather than simply learning how to properly measure and use a variety of tools, the students decided this semester to devote their efforts to enriching the lives of others through their work.
Those of you who live in Memphis might have seen 7th grader Chaim Gersten zipping around town in recent months on his new electric mobility scooter. While his new "wheels" have given Chaim a myriad of new opportunities, it also presented a challenge to him and to his parents: where to park it. There really wasn't a place for it inside their house, they don't have a garage, and leaving it outside was too great a risk.
That's where our high school boys came in. With the help of Mr. Steve, Aaron Rubenstein, Lavi Tsuna, Tzvi Joffre, and Zevi Friedman devoted this semester's shop class to planning, measuring, cutting, building, and painting Chaim his very own mini-garage. The "shed" as our younger students referred to it, got its last coat of paint this week and then was hauled off down the street to the Gersten residence where it is now home to Chaim's scooter.
Much of the talk in education today is about applying learning to the real-world, making it relevant, and making it meaningful. The construction of Chaim's scooter garage was pristine example of exactly that.
Yom Ha-Zikaron and Yom Ha'atzma'ut are always very special days here at the MHA. This year, however, they seemed to rise to a whole new level. Starting with the programming on Yom Ha-Zikaron led by theTorah MiTzion Kollel and the b'not sherut to the choir performance and flag dance of our students at the communal celebration at Baron Hirsch, and from student visits to replicas of the Kotel, Avraham's tent, and an Israeli Army base to pita making and carnival contests, it was one meaningful, educational, and fun-filled experience after another. Of course, Yom Ha'atzma'ut was capped off with our annual march from the school to Baron Hirsch which was led this year by our talented High School band.
I doubt there was a student in the school, from PreK3 through 12th grade, who didn't leave last week's programming feeling closer to our land, its history, and its people than they ever have before.