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