Friday, December 20, 2013

Kosher Corky's is Back!

Back by overwhelming international demand, we are once again making Corky's world-famous southern hickory-smoked barbecue brisket, ribs, beans, and sauce available to kosher consumers across the globe.

Available only for a limited time under the strict supervision of the Va'ad HaKehillot of Memphis and intended to make your kosher Super Bowl party truly one-of-a-kind, orders can now be placed through our school's website.  For local Memphis orders click here and for delivery anywhere else click here.

If you have friends or family anywhere that love slow-cooked, hand-rubbed, authentic barbecue beef, be sure to let them know about this incredible opportunity.  They'll thank you for it later!

דער פֿאַרהער (the test)

In thinking the past summer about ways that we might further upgrade the rigor of our high school Gemara program, Rabbi Noam Stein, our Talmud Department Chair, had the following idea:  Given that almost all of our boys and girls spend a year learning in yeshiva or seminary following graduation, and given that through our Torah MiTzion program we are fortunate to have bachurei yeshiva here in school with us every day, why not try to create an experience more like a typical Israeli yeshiva than a typical American yeshiva high school while our students are still here with us for those students who want it and those students who are capable of it?

And so our new Beit Midrash program was born.  A select group of students who passed proficiency exams were exempted from our more standard Gemara classes and instead have been spending each morning preparing pieces of Gemara in our Beit Midrash together with one of the Torah MiTzion bachurim (2 students to one bachur).  Much like they do in traditional yeshivot, once the boys completed their preparation, they would gather together with the bachurim to hear a shiur, given completely in Hebrew, on the material they had prepared from Rabbi Maimon, our Rosh Kollel.

As midterms approached, Rabbis Stein and Maimon had another challenge: on the one hand, they wanted to preserve the "yeshiva feeling" of the program and yeshivot don't exactly give midterms.  On the other hand, it was important for us to assess the progress of our students over the first half of the year, especially in an experimental program such as this one.

And so the farher was (re)born.  Following the model quite common in the yeshivot of Europe, Rabbi Stein suggested that the boys get an oral exam on the material they learned but not with review sheets, or questions in advance, or even a test created by their own teacher.  A better assessment of whether they truly knew their stuff would come from bringing "outsiders" familiar with the material but unfamiliar with what exactly the boys had learned to fire questions at them and see how they could respond.  Therefore, a few weeks ago, Rabbi Stein reached out to me and to Rabbi Joel Finkelstein of the Anshei Sphard Beth El Emeth Congregation and asked us if we'd come in to farher the boys on the sections of Bava Metzia they had been learning.

Of course, we both jumped at the opportunity and for an hour and a half this past Wednesday we took turns asking the boys to read, translate, punctuate, tell us about Rashi, read us a Tosafos, explain the underlying concepts and the flow of arguments in the Gemara they had learned.

I'm thrilled to report they did an excellent job, that their enthusiasm for they way in which they are learning is incredible, and, as such, the program to date seems like a real success.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mazal Tov Kitah Aleph!

It was a festive day in Kitah Aleph today as the children celebrated their completion of their first Ariot book.  To mark their accomplishment they ate foods whose Hebrew names contained letters that they had learned and they had a special visitor, dressed in full Ariot regalia, with a בלון אדום for each of them.

The occasion was particularly special because Morah Debbie, who is new to Kitah Alpeh this year, was celebrating her first time completing the Ariot book as well.  We wish her and the class הצלחה רבה as they continue their exciting journey into the world of Torah learning!

Hour of Code

Technology industry leaders launched a global initiative this week called the Hour of Code.  Its intent is to introduce people, young and old, across the world to the value that computer programming plays across all disciplines and in all fields by encouraging them to spend one hour this writing computer code of some sort.  

Under the direction of our Lower School Science teacher, Mrs. Cathleen Triplett, our 6th graders were the first of our students to take part.  You can read about their class and follow what our other classes will be doing as well, on Mrs. Triplett's Science Blog

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Master of the Arts

10th grader Dovid Yehoshua Samuels is known to much of the community for his talent in playing the violin, which was on display to all at our recent Boys High School Steak Dinner.  Within the school, though, Dovid Yehoshua has also long been known for his way with words and his gift for creative writing.  It's this second artistic talent which was again recognized nationally this past week when a poem he wrote was published by The New York Jewish Week's Fresh Ink website.

Here is the poem he wrote, entitled The Light of Chanukah:

The sun sinks slowly beneath the trees
The leaves gain an eerie, but majestic edge
Masterfully casted from the liquid fire of that molten orb
Soon, darkness descends, and with it
gloom blankets the city in an all-encompassing shroud of silence.
All seems quiet, dead;
But no.
A whispered blessing can be heard,
and then — a mere pinprick of light penetrates the darkness
carrying with it more joy and happiness than seemingly possible.
A moment passes,
and as if by miracle,
Light, beautiful Light,
breaks through the barricade of darkness, emanating from the windows
of every Jewish home for miles around.
She spreads her wings, and with an almighty thrust,
bursts into the night – the joy, faith, and happiness
of every Jew mounted proudly astride her back.
She dances, leaps, soars throughout the city
proclaiming to God the hopes, sorrows, and unwavering love
of the Jewish people as a whole.
Finally, upon reaching the edge of the city
she slowly twirls to a stop,
gracefully landing before the window
of a small, but welcoming house.
Her essence flows forward, unhindered by any obstacle.
She rests on a knit rug and lovingly watches as an elderly man sinks
comfortably into a worn armchair before the menorah,
an enormous smile plastered across his face.
Slowly she approaches, her essence joining with that of the man
as he beckons his children and grandchildren closer.
“Come,” he says. “Come listen to the tale of the Maccabees, brave and bold;
of a miracle full of light and grandeur.”
“Come,” he says. “Come listen.”
Chanukah has begun.
author's bio: 
Dovid Yehoshua Samuels is a sopho

Raising Jewish Teens: Charlie Harary's Motzei Shabbos Talk

Thanks to Debbie Miller who videoed Charlie Harary's talk on the Challenges of Raising Jewish Teens at our Motzei Shabbos Melave Malka and posted it on, everyone can now enjoy his words of wisdom and inspiration.  Thanks again to Gary and Dena Wruble for opening their home for this talk and for making the entire weekend possible.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

20th Anniversary Steak Dinner

For 20 years, under the direction of Rabbi Yonason Gersten, the boys in our high school have been marketing, purchasing, cooking, setting up, entertaining, serving, and cleaning up their famous four-course formal dinner fondly known as the Steak Dinner in an effort to raise funds for their activities account.  This year a record crowd of well over three hundred community members came to show their support, enjoy a fantastic meal, and schep a bit of nachas from the truly outstanding boys who make up the Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys.  As always, the boys chose a surprise honoree for the dinner for whom they made a moving - and entertaining - tribute video.  There could not have been a more fitting recipient for the 20th anniversary dinner than this year's honoree, Mrs. Teri Graber.

Mazal tov to her on her much deserved award and yasher kochachem to Rabbi Gersten and all of the boys for reminding us all just how much teenage boys are capable of and just how special our little school is.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Congratulations to the girls high school for a phenomenal evening of theater earlier this week.  Rather than one full-length drama production, this year the girls, under the direction of Mrs. Renee Brame, showed off their versatility in presenting several different types of theater.

The evening began with a staged reading of an original play collaboratively written by the girls themselves in their creative writing class.  It was a mystery set in a school and centered around a drama production which made it both suspenseful and entertaining.  Most of all, it gave them invaluable experience in an area of both drama and writing which is often neglected in high school curricula.

The next part of the production shifted from live theater to film as the students presented a documentary they had filmed and produced about the preparations they had made and efforts they expended leading up to this evening.

For the final and featured piece of the evening's entertainment, the girls performed Agatha Christie's The Patient. A suspenseful whodunit set in a hospital and centered on a woman left paralyzed by someone who pushed her out of her second story window, the girls did a masterful job of conveying the play's wit, surprise, and drama.  For more pictures from the play, click here.

The entirety of the evening shined a wonderful light on our girls, the High School English Department, and the GMSG as a whole.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Inspiring Weekend

For months our school and community had been looking forward to what we were billing as a "Shabbat Experience" - a weekend in which various parts of our school community would come together in and around the school to draw inspiration and to inspire each other.  With the help of Dr. Gary and Dena Wruble, and the talents of the weekend's feature attraction, Mr. Charlie Harary, it didn't disappoint.

The weekend started with a talk that Charlie gave to both of our high schools at the end of the school day on Friday about what it means to be a "Yehudi" - a descendant of Yehudah.  On Friday night, in a first for our school, the entire community was invited to davening in our High School Beit Midrash followed by dinner and a talk from Charlie.  280 men, women, and children of all ages signed up and the atmosphere was nothing short of electric.  From a spirited davening to a wonderful meal replete with "parsha questions" for the kids and the much beloved "cup song," there was something very special about all parts of our diverse community coming out to enjoy Shabbos together.  It was capped off by a captivating talk by Charlie on the meaning of inspiration and how best to find it.

On Shabbos morning the weekend zeroed in our teens with a special davening in the High School in which Mr. Harary delivered a derasha about the lessons of Chanukah.  That was followed by a special kiddush and a teens-only Q&A session with Charlie.  One of the most inspiring sights of the weekend was seeing our Beit Midrash packed with kids on Shabbos morning after davening, when no one was forcing them to be there, just for the opportunity to glean some wisdom from our guest speaker.

Charlie turned his focus back to the adults with a short talk during Shalosh Seudos at Baron Hirsch and then capped off the weekend at a Melave Malka in which a crown packed Dena and Gary's beautiful home  to hear Charlie speak on the challenges of raising Jewish teens.

For many of the participants I spoke to, this was a weekend unlike any other in recent history in our community.  Our hope is that there will be many more like it in the future.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

High School Open House

On Tuesday night we hosted 8th grade students and parents for annual High School Open House.  In case you missed it, below is the multimedia presentation we showed highlighting the endless "opportunities" available to students at the Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys and the Goldie Margolin High School for Girls.  Unfortunately, the best part of the presentation is missing: that was eight of our students who eloquently spoke about each set of "opportunities" and the way in which they have benefited from them.  Nonetheless, the presentation itself does give at least a glimpse into what may await your child at our high schools.

Lab Dedication

On Tuesday our radically upgraded high school science lab was officially rededicated as the Dr. Jerome and Shelley Kutliroff Advanced Science Lab.  To mark the occasion, Dr. Kutlirof, who served as our General Studies Principal for many years before returning to school to pursue his second PhD, and Mrs. Kutliroff, our master History teacher who also served as our upper school General Studies principal before returning full-time to the classroom, were invited along with Dr. and Mrs. Diane Wruble, the lab's donors, and Mr. Josh Kahane, the Board president, to join us in the lab for a demonstration of our new equipment.  There, they were able to circulate between stations in which students demonstrated our new microscopes, Vernier probeware, CO2 sensors, low friction Dynamics Track and motion detectors, and LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotics systems, all of which are currently being integrated into our high school STEM curricula.

After the demonstration, the guest of honor were taken to the Beit Midrash where Dr. Wruble introduced Dr. Kutliroff who spoke to the students about the way in which science affords us "vision" we wouldn't otherwise have and where Mr. Kahane officially dedicated the lab by presenting the plaque which will be hung outside its door.

This infusion of high-tech cutting-edge equipment that spans the full range of STEM disciplines, resulted from careful research by our STEM department into what was necessary to create the very best high school science facility and visits to the laboratories of some of the leading high schools in the city.  Our faculty now believes that due to the generosity of the Wrubles and in honor of the Kutliroffs, we can offer our students an immersive STEM experience on par with that of high schools anywhere.

Our thanks go to our STEM faculty - Mr. Dave Lewellyn, Mr. Dana Vaughn, Mr. Daniel Wallace, and Ms. Nicole Kolenic - to the Kutliroffs and to the Wrubles for making this dream become a reality.

Rav Stav Visits the High Schools

Thanks to the generosity of the Baron Hirsch Congregation, our high schools had the privilege of hosting Rabbi David Stav a few weeks ago. Though he has long been one of Israel's most prominent Torah figures, Rav Stav was catapulted into the limelight this summer when he was one of three final candidates for Israel's Chief Rabbi position.

Rav Stav addressed our high schools on an issue which he knows better than most, and which is of particular interest and importance to our students: how to adopt an embracing and inclusive attitude toward others while simultaneously maintaining ones own firm and unwavering ideological principles.  Rav Stav shared anecdotes from his own personal struggles with this issue as well the perspective of Rav Kook and other great Torah minds all of which gave our students much to think about and reflect upon.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tournament Pictures

I've gotten many requests for our pictures from this year's Cooper Tournament so here they are: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and a compilation of the best pictures from the tournament.

Congratulations to YULA on yet another championship victory and to all of the teams who gave everything they had out on the court.  Our thanks again to Josh, Eric, Jon, Melissa, Rabbi Lubetski and all of the other volunteers who made the weekend an unforgettable experience for all.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Tournament Time!

It's that time of year again!  Kroger on Mendenhall is crawling with six foot yarmulka-wearing high school boys, the Double Tree is hopping with 300 players, coaches and fans from across the country, homes across the community are getting ready to teach  a lesson in true Southern Hospitality as they prepare to host our guests for Friday night dinner, and in just a few hours all will descend on the Memphis Jewish Community Center to tip-off the seventh annual Cooper Invitational Basketball Tournament.

As in years past, every game of the tournament, which has become one of the most celebrated Jewish athletic events in the country, will be broadcast live on the tournament's website:  For our local fans, though, we urge you not to watch online but to head over to the MJCC and cheer on our boys in person.  Our first game starts at 5:30pm this evening as our #11 Cooper Macs take on the #6 HAFTR Hawks.

Once again, a heartfelt thank you is in order for Tournament Director Josh Kahane, Tournament IT Director Eric Schubert, and the legion of volunteers who make this incredible event such a success every year.

Go Macs!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Frum Football

When one thinks of Orthodox Jewish Day Schools and their athletic programs, football isn't exactly the sport that generally comes to mind.  Basketball is undoubtedly king, followed closely in the Northeast by floor hockey, with a smattering of softball, volleyball, and tennis thrown in as well.  Yet last week, on our freshly groomed and painted field, competitive football is exactly what our youngest students were playing.

After successfully adding cross-country to our small school's robust athletic program last year, Coach Nokes took on flag football for this Fall.  And, thanks to the dedication of volunteer coaches Noam Davidovics, Jonathan Wogan, and Eli Frieden, both our 1st and 2nd grade team and our 3rd and 4th grade teams are off to an incredible start.  So if you're looking for some real entertainment over the next few weeks, forget about the Titans or the Colts or the Chiefs.  The real action is happening on Macs Field with our surprisingly talented and undeniably adorable 1st through 4th grade flag football teams.

Mural Taking Shape

If you've walked down the elementary school hallway recently, you might have noticed some drawing on the wall.  No, it isn't vandalism or graffiti or anything of the sort.  Quite the contrary.  Under the direction of our art teacher Morah Chany Fleischhacker, our student-drawn IKaRR wall mural is beginning to take shape.  While the background went up last year, students are now filling in the mural with scenes depicting acts of IKaRR (Integrity, Kindness, Respect and Responsibility).

It's still in its infant stages so come visit us often to see how it continues to come to life over the coming months.

IKaRR Projects

What better way to teach our 6th graders about integrity than to have them design and implement a lesson on the topic for our lower elementary school students?  And what better way to ensure that our younger students learn about integrity than to be taught not by their teachers but by the "upper classmen" of our elementary school, our 6th grade?

That was the idea Morah Leora Klein had at in-service this summer as we discussed ways of taking our IKaRR Initiative to the next level this school year.  Last week she, or more accurately, her 6th grade class, implemented it for the first time.  Working in pairs, the 6th graders developed a lesson and activity for one particular elementary school class and then entered the class last week to put it into action.  Morah Leora intends to repeat the project every four to six weeks with students rotating through the different classes and with each project focusing on a different one of our four IKaRR values, Integrity, Kindness, Respect, and Responsibility.

Here are some more pictures of our 6th graders at work:

A Rising Star in Israel

It seems like only yesterday that Ilan Eckhardt (CYHSB '12) was performing on the blacktop at our Fall Festival, and at our Boys High School Steak Dinner, and at our Shabbaton, and at our Purim Chagiga, and on our Yom Ha'atzma'ut march, and at every other time one could possibly imagine including music in a program.  Now, after a year of learning in Israel, our dorm student virtuoso is taking the country by storm as one of the finalists in Israel's new reality TV show, HaKochav HaBa (The Rising Star).

In a sign of just how far he's come, last week Ha'aretz ran this story on Ilan entitled "If One Direction had an Orthodox Jewish Member, This is What He'd Look Like."  If you haven't seen it yet, I have included his most recent TV performance.  More dear to our hearts, though, is this video of Ilan giving his graduation speech with - of course - his guitar in hand:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Revitalized Lab Up and Running

Due to a generous gift by Dr. Larry and Diane Wruble, our high school science lab was completely refurbished this summer in honor of Mrs. Shelley and Dr. Jerry Kutliroff's decades of service to our school. Central to the makeover process was the purchase of cutting-edge Vernier probeware and digital sensors which would allow our students to test, record, and analyze scientific data in a breathtaking array of subject areas and scientific disciplines.

Our students got their first glimpse at the power of these new tools today when the 9th and 10th grade girls biology class used them to test enzyme catalysis.  The assignment, given by Mr. Dave Lewellyn, was a "flipped" one in that the students were taught about the lab by watching this video on the biological process involved and this video on the technical aspects of the lab at home after which they had questions they had to answer to check for understanding (Mr. Lewellyn used a tool we introduced to our faculty about a year ago call TedEd which allows teachers to pair existing videos with questions they create and automatically collects the student answers for the teacher).  That left class time for doing, rather than talking.

Here are some more pictures of what they did...

Volcano Museum

Remember when elementary school science projects consisted of dioramas in old shoe boxes?  Well, in our 4th grade they still do.  Only they are now accompanied by iMovie multimedia presentations created by each student on their iPad which convey the facts, pictures, maps, and video clips, they found while conducting independent research on the topic at hand.

For three weeks, our fourth graders have been learning about volcanoes in their science class with Mrs. Triplett.  As we have been pushing throughout our curriculum, however, their learning happened through doing - what is known as PBL, or project-based learning.  In this unit, each student chose a volcano and had to do the research (on their iPads) to answer several key questions about their volcano, its location, its type, and its history.  Along the way, they learned basic facts about volcano formation and the geology behind it. Their research, though, was geared toward yesterday's culminating activity, a "Volcano Museum," in which the fourth graders led the other elementary school students and their teachers on a "tour" of all they had learned.

It was a remarkable display of 21st century skills such as information literacy, digital fluency, verbal and digital communication, as well as global awareness.  It was also a remarkable display of genuine enthusiasm and excitement for learning.  You can catch a glimpse of it in the video and pictures below.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Demon Inside Me: One Student's Personal Struggle with An Eating Disorder

The following guest post was written by a brave student in our Goldie Margolin High School for Girls as a column for their school newspaper, the Goldie Globe.  It is posted here with the permission of the author and her parents in the hopes that her harrowing experience may help young women elsewhere to avoid, cope with, or recover from similar experiences of their own.

A Drawing by the Author
I struggled with bulimia for a long time. I was sent to the Renfrew Center in Florida, an eating disorder (ED) residential treatment center, for a month, struggling to gain control of my life again. The thing about an eating disorder, I learned, is that it will creep up on you.

You’ll start off completely in control. Maybe your reasoning will be to lose a little weight. It couldn't hurt to lose a few pounds, right? Everyone in the magazines look so much better than you think you do. It’ll start out slow, maybe by cutting out snacks and junk food. It’ll go on like that for a while. That’s okay, though. It could even be healthy. Only if you stop there. Then that might be too easy. Too little. Maybe just skip breakfast. Who has time for that anyway? One day, you might wake up hungry, but you've been doing so well, so why stop now? It’ll keep going like that, slowly more food will be cut out, more meals. When people ask, you tell them you aren't hungry. Well, maybe you are, but you’re so used to the hunger by now it barely bothers you. People may start to notice, but you’ll just lie. Tell them you've already eaten or you’ll eat when you get home.

Someone may compliment the way you look, but if you were insecure before, that’s absolutely nothing compared to how you feel now. Every little compliment is a lie, an insult. Some people may adopt a wardrobe filled with baggy t-shirts and sweats while others may wear whatever fits them. It doesn't matter what you wear, though. Every time you look in a mirror you’ll immediately point out your flaws, whether they be real or a distorted image from your mind. The only way to make yourself better is to continue on the same path.

Even at this point, something like that could never happen to you, right? Sure, you've heard all about eating disorders, but you’re completely in control... right?

You’ll start to push people away. It’s just you and ED. No one understands or cares. People keep lying, telling you how amazing you are, but that can’t possibly be true. You may feel lonely all the time, but it’s better than being with people who are trying to make you feel ‘better’. Pushing people away becomes the only way to hold onto your addiction. What you are now is just a shell of what you once were. A shadow. No matter what happens, you have changed. You don’t know who you are without ED. You don’t know what to do with yourself, because it’s become your whole life - the lying, isolating, crying, dizziness, fatigue - it’s natural, familiar, comfortable even.

Maybe you’ll want to stop one day, but you realize that you aren't in control. You haven’t been in a long time. It’s an addiction you never would have thought you’d have. You need help.

Many people do eventually find the courage and will to admit to themselves and others that they do indeed have an eating disorder, although coming to terms with the fact is incredibly difficult, and often people will go their entire lives denying it.

Once a person has been put into therapy, even if they still deny having an eating disorder, it is much easier (although still extremely difficult) to recover.

This is only one example of what could happen with one specific kind of eating disorder (Anorexia Nervosa). There are many others including Bulimia Nervosa (purging), emotional eating (eating when emotions get too strong), EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified)  and overeating  There is no disorder that is ‘worse’ or ‘better’ for a person. They are all different, but just as deadly. Eating disorders don’t have a set scenario. There’s no script it follows or warning signs that you’ll get. They all have a few things in common, though. They take time and slowly grow, taking over. Once a person has started, it’s nearly impossible to stop without help. Even when a person has recovered, there will always be that piece of them, no matter how small, that wants to relapse. Addictions come in so many different forms and are incredibly difficult to recover from.

Often, eating disorders stem from emotional instability whether it be depression, feelings from trauma, anger, insecurity or something much smaller. Whatever the event or emotion that triggers the ED is, it’s important to process what’s going on and how to deal with the emotion as opposed to losing yourself to an addiction.

I am not going to write about my recovery because I am nowhere near recovered despite the fact that I went to a treatment center. It doesn't matter where I go or for how long. Recovery comes from within and there will always be times when I want to relapse and times when there’s no doubt I will. It takes years of fighting to overcome the demon. I can decide to recover one day, but without fighting, the decision means nothing.

Recovery is definitely possible although it is never easy.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Upper School Gemara: A Systematic and Differentiated Approach

Guest post by Rabbi Yonason Gersten, CYHSB Mashgiach Ruchani and 9th Grade Rebbe

As the Rebbe at CYHSB entrusted with teaching 9th grade Talmud, it has long been my belief that an effective Gemara education must not only introduce students to the depths, complexities, intricacies and logical discourse of the world of The Oral Law, but must also enable students to become independent learners through familiarizing students with the syntax of the Gemara, the principles that guide it, and most critically, the development of an extensive basic word vocabulary. A longstanding concern of Limudei Kodesh teachers has been to find ways to ensure that this knowledge base be enduring, as too often students do not retain that which they have learned from year to year.

For this reason, I am very excited to be part of a new initiative in our Upper School (grades 7-12) that is focused on building a base of knowledge and skills and secure its retention throughout a student’s school career. The program begins with the extraction of basic words and concepts that are found in the material being studied in class, and placing them on a list that the students are accountable to know. While this has been done before, an important new feature will be that students will be given cumulative tests on the entire list on a biweekly basis. Rather than being quizzed on subsets of words and then receiving a comprehensive exam as a midterm or final that many tend to cram for and then forget it all the next day, students will constantly be reviewing all the basic information learned on a consistent basis, which should result in superior learning and retention. These lists are being built on, an online site that allows every student constant access and a variety of study and review options. The use of quizlet will also facilitate a second aspect of the program; the lists will be passed down to the next year’s Rabbeim and teachers, and rather than forming brand new lists, students will continue to be held responsible to know what they learned last year through the same biweekly tests, and continue to build on those very same lists. The aim is to absorb and build, rather than learn and forget.

Another feature of the new program is that every student will be responsible to develop their own personal set of lists on a Google document that they will continue to work on into their senior year. The lists have been broken down into four distinct sections:

  1. Key Terms - Words or phrases that enable the learner to know if the Gemara is making a statement, asking a question, or offering an answer such as תנן, מתקיף, bor  הכא במאי עסקינן
  2. Common Words - Words that frequently appear in the Talmud such as איכא band היינו
  3. Concepts - Principles and postulates that are significant in Torah, such as ספק ברכה לקולא, המוציא מן החבירו עליו הראיה, band גזירה שוה
  4. People and Books - Including a knowledge of fundamental works such as the משנה ברורה band ארבעה טורים, band  cardinal Torah figures such as the רמב''ם and the רא''ש
The purpose of the student driven lists is to provide a tool that addresses the subjective needs and levels of different students, and further reinforce and solidify students’ knowledge.

Throughout each student’s years in the Upper School we will assess his ability to put the knowledge of these terms into practice. Students will have to tackle new pieces of Gemara on their own using the key terms and common words they know to identify the structure of the Gemara before plunging into the content. Additionally we will administer oral tests in which the students will have to read, explain, and translate Gemara on a regular basis.

Our Upper School Gemara program facilitates six years of progressive growth. Seventh and eighth grade are an introduction to Gemara skills. Ninth grade is basic Gemara skills development. And in tenth through twelfth grade the students are placed either in a Gemara topics class, an intermediate skills class, or Gemara Beit Midrash for the most skilled students.

On its highest levels our Gemara program demands two and half extra hours of Torah learning a week, pursuing an independent learning goal (e.g. completing a full perek or masechet of Gemara) and sustained periods of time learning bi-chavruta with members of the Kollel.

I want to credit and thank Rabbi Noam Stein for devising this plan of action and putting it into place. We are very optimistic about this program and looking forward to our students achieving even greater accomplishments in the coming years. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Torah Show & Tell

I got a special treat yesterday.  As part of the Early Childhood's preparations for Sukkot and Simchat Torah, I got the special privilege of taking them on a "field trip" to our Boys High School Beit Midrash and showing them what the inside of a real Torah looks like.  We talked about where the Torah is kept, what it's made of, how we "turn the page," and where we put it when we want to read it.  Each of the children also got a chance to stand on a chair and look inside at the writing and how close we were to the end.  They were quick to let me know, though, that as soon as we got to the end it would be time to start all over again...

I think all of our Early Childhood students enjoyed their visit, but I have a feeling I enjoyed it even more. Thank you to Miss Katie for filling in for me as the photographer.  As you'll see below, she did a fantastic job!

Friday, September 13, 2013

CYHSB Night of Learning

The high school boys invited the community to our Beit Midrash on Wednesday night and shared inspiring words of Torah with them in preparation for Yom Kippur.

The evening's program was divided into two parts. It began with a series of group presentations from all of the 11th and 12th grade boys on various aspects of Sefer Yonah which they are currently studying with Rabbi Lubetski.  Each group seized on a different theme that emerges from the book and took us through textual sources that elucidate it and explicate it.  The second half of the program was devoted to a most impressive in-depth, gemara bi-iyyun shiur, delivered by 9th grader Chaim Gersten on the topic of tekiat shofar.  It was truly a thought provoking and uplifting experience for all, and all of the boys who presented should be very proud.

Below are some video clips from the presentations.  Pictures from the event can be found here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

7/8 Boys Take Second Place in Cross Country

It was the very first meet of only our second year of competitive Cross Country, and yet the results were astounding.  As Coach Nokes explains to our students over and over again, Cross Country is about each individual student doing their personal best and so it was at yesterday's meet.  From top to bottom on each of our teams, boys and girls alike gave it their all.

In a rather remarkable turn of events, the "personal best" of our 7th and 8th grade boys team turned out to be some of the very best times in the entire competition.  5 of our runners finished in the top 25 and as a team they placed second only to perennial powerhouse, St. Louis School.

Two of our 5th and 6th grade boys also had top 25 finishes which means that, thanks to Coach Nokes, the MHA Cross Country program looks to become a powerhouse of its own in the coming years.

Click here for pictures of our students from the meet.  Congratulations to everyone who competed and gave it all they had!

Student Art on Display at the Dixon

Congratulations to Ruthie Kaplowitz, Rafael Blotner, Yisroel Weiner, Tamar Serman and Eliana Schlesinger, whose art work will be displayed in the Made in The Dixon Show at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens from September 15th through October 20th. 

Congratulations as well to our art teacher, Mrs. Chany Fleischhacker for continuing to teach and inspire our children to tap into their inner selves and express themselves artistically.

Peek Inside Our Classrooms Through Class Blogs

Every year many of our teachers offer parents, colleagues, and the public at large an in-depth look inside their classrooms by creating class blogs.  I wanted to call your attention to two new ones for this year:  Mrs. Bluma Finkelstein's Shivat Zion Blog which she uses to post assignments for her Girls High School Navi class which focuses on those sections of Nevi'im Achronim that speak of redemption (a corollary to last year's class which focused on sections relating to destruction or churban) and Mrs. Cathleen Triplett's Science Room Blog in which she shares some of the innovative and creative things she is doing in our Lower School science program.

Permanent links to both blogs can be found in the MHA Blog List on the lower right hand side of this blog.  I'll be posting more class blogs to the list as the school year progresses so be sure to check from time to time.

Alum Awarded for Religious Service

Ariav Schlesinger (CYHSB '10), who currently serves as a מש"ק דת (a non-combat officer responsible for Jewish affairs and religious issues on the base) for the IDF's Duvdevan counter terrorism unit, was recently honored him with an award called מצטיין מפקדת יחידת דובדבן תשע״ג.  It is an annual award given to a single member of the combat support staff to recognize excellence in service for non-combatants. 

As a religious soldier tending to the spiritual needs of religious and non-religious soldiers and officers alike, we are most proud of Ariav's accomplishment and his dedication to using the Torah values which his family and our school have instilled within him to make the world a better place.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

8th Grade to Control Mars Satellite

In just a few months from now, our 8th graders will be controlling the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter.

Thanks to the efforts of Ms. Nicole Kolenic, our 8th grade science teacher, our students will be participating in the Mars Student Imaging Project run by Arizona State University.  Students will first learn about the physics and chemistry involved in studying planetary surfaces and then will work with Ms. Kolenic to construct a research project that will utilize the THEMIS instrument aboard the Odyssey to collect the relevant data. Their projects then will be vetted by a team of Arizona State scientists and, when given the green light, they will be given the opportunity, through NASA, to operate the Thermal Emission Imaging System and gather the information they are seeking.  When their projects are complete, students will then have to present their conclusions to the ASU team for feedback.

In February, the journal Science awarded the Mars Student Imaging Project its prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction.  As Inquiry-Based Instruction (or its close cousin, Project Based Learning) has been a focus of our professional development initiatives over the past year, Ms. Kolenic decided it would be a great fit for this year's 8th grade.  Through the project, students will not only learn about science, but they'll get to do science in the most dramatic and exciting of ways.  We can't wait to see the results!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dr. Novick and IKaRR

In both our Upper and Lower School Back to School Nights, I had a chance to talk to parents about what we're calling "stage two" of our IKaRR Initiative.  In doing so, I noted that last year the IKaRR Initiative was largely an awareness campaign.  Through signs and stickers and magnets it shed light throughout our community that the Torah values of Integrity, Kindness, Respect, and Responsibility were at the heart of what we hoped to impart to all of our children.

For this year, however, our administration and faculty will focus our efforts not merely on awareness, but on education. That is, we are not going to take it for granted that our children know what we mean when we say we want them to act with "integrity" and we're not going to assume that they understand our expectations when we say "be kind to others."  So our signs throughout the school this year have changed from inspiring quotes from famous thinkers and writers to clear statements of expectation: "To act with Responsibility is to come to class ready to learn," "To act with Kindness is to notice when someone is hurt," "To act with Integrity is to keep your eyes on your own paper at all times," "To act with Respect is to make room for the opinions of others," etc.

The need for this type of explicit approach toward character education was powerfully and eloquently presented by Dr. Rona Novick, professor of psychology and Director of the doctoral program at YU's Azrieli Graduate School of Education, as one the ELI Talks at YU's Champsionsgate Leadership Conference this summer.  I urge you to watch it and consider how important her message is for us all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

We're Back!

All systems were firing today as our Early Childhood, Lower School and Upper School all successfully launched the new school year.  Excitement was everywhere and smiles of teachers and students filled the classrooms and the hallways as everyone embarked together on a new journey of learning and growth.

Here are some pictures from our fabulous first day:

Monday, August 12, 2013

AP Scores: MHA vs. The Nation

*National averages are from 2012, the most recent available
Each year at this time, I find myself facing the same dilemma.  On the one hand, over the past few years we have not been quiet about voicing our concern over the use of standardized testing as the sole barometer for measuring student and teacher success.  So much of what we believe to be important in education, and many of the elements which we believe are vital in preparing our students for success in the world that lays ahead of them, have little or no place in the standard set of nationally administered exams.

On the other hand, we still have to work within a system, particularly a system of higher education, that continues to look at standardized test scores for the purposes of admissions and scholarship awards.  As such, we at the MHA continue to offer a wide array of college level Advanced Placement courses every year which culminate in a standardized test each May.  And, though the underlying educational approach may not be our ideal, our students continue to amaze us with their outstanding results.

Impressive as our scores were when compared to the national averages, the most eye-opening numbers may not have been the scores at all.  Rather, they may have been the number of students who took at least one exam - 33 - and the number of exams taken - 65 - given that we only had 60 students in total between both high schools in grades 10-12.  That means over half of our students did college level work while still in high school this year, whereas in most other schools APs are limited to a far smaller percentage of the most academically gifted students.  And yet, of the 33 students who did such work in our high schools this year, 19 of them were recognized by the College Board for their achievement: 6 as AP Scholars, 5 as AP Scholars with Honors, 7 as AP Scholars with Distinction, and 1 as a National AP Scholar.

While ultimate credit goes to our students for their performance, our faculty deserve almost as much praise for having prepared them so well.  What's more, as the scores indicate, this year's success was across the board and in all subject areas, which attests to the strength of the faculty which Rabbi Lubetski has assembled and leads in our Upper School Division.

Congratulations to all on a job superbly done.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Faculty Color War

As we head into our opening in-service for the 2013-2014 school year, I wanted to share the rather extraordinary way in which our faculty capped off the 2012-2013 school year last June.  As our admin team was discussing how best to close what was a truly special year, we decided we wanted to do something out of the ordinary: something that would bring our faculty even closer together, something that they'd enjoy, and something that would help them celebrate the past year's accomplishments.

After throwing around a few ideas, we finally hit upon it:  Faculty Color War.  We'd divide our faculty into two teams - red and blue - and then instead of just another professional development session on campus, we'd head over to the Putt Putt amusement park where we'd spend the afternoon in lighthearted competition.  However, since mini-golf, batting cages, video games, and driving ranges don't speak to everyone, we included an art competition and a video competition as well.  Each team had to draw a mural, with the supplies we provided, that captured the themes of our character education program known as IKaRR (Integrity, Kindness, Respect, and Responsibility) and using the school's ipod touches, both teams had to create a video that captured the afternoon's excitement.

Other than a few thunderstorms, it couldn't have worked out better.  The competition was spirited, the murals were stunning, and the videos were downright hysterical.  Here are some of the sights and sounds from that memorable afternoon.

Blue Team Video:

Red Team Video

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


It has been quite a week.  With Kindergarten Graduation on Sunday, 8th Grade Advancement on Monday, and High School Graduation last night, it's been one celebration after the next.  As always, all three were incredibly moving and did a wonderful job of demonstrating just how far our kids have come.  Special thank you to Morah Michelle, Morah Hanielle, and Miss Charna for putting together the Kindergarten Graduation, to Mrs. Kutliroff for taking the lead on the 8th Grade Advancement, and to Rabbi Lubetski and Mrs. Plotitsa for all of their hard work for the High School's event.  Thank you, as well, to all of the other faculty members and volunteers who worked hard to ensure that all three graduations were as beautiful as they were.

Pictures of each of the graduations are now available online.  Click here for Kindergarten, here for 8th Grade, and here for High School.

It seems like each of the past few years, our High School Graduation has had one moment that reflected the special emphasis we place on developing the passions and interests of each individual students in particularly poignant fashion.  This year it was 12th grader Sammy Mayime who decided that instead of the traditional 2 minute speech we ask every student to prepare, he'd offer the following performance instead...

Mazal tov to all of the graduates!  You've made us very proud.

Friday, May 31, 2013

One Last Act of IKaRR

One of many new programs we introduced this year was our IKaRR Initiative, aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the values of Integrity, Kindness, Respect, and Responsibility throughout our school.  As today was our final Friday assembly of the year, we began the program by noting that sometimes a very meaningful act of IKaRR can be as simple as saying two words: thank you.  To demonstrate such, we decided to say thank you to someone who is completing his thirtieth year of serving our school with remarkable consistency and devotion, yet due to his quiet and unassuming nature probably has not had "thank you" said to him nearly enough.    All of our students rose for a standing ovation as I handed a plaque to Mr. Marvin Tharnish, our trusted school handyman, and gave him the "thank you" that was long overdue.

The assembly continued with a dvar Torah from Mrs. Gersten about chilul Hashem and a presentation from 1st Grade demonstrating what they have learned about the beginning of Sefer Bereishit.  You'll find a short clip of the end of their presentation below.

Thank you to Mrs. Gersten and to our Lower School faculty for all their help in putting together this year's new Friday assembly program.  And thanks again to Marvin for keep our beloved old building going for all of these years.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Teaching Science and Torah: A Survey of Approaches

While 11th grader Jamie Epstein chose to tackle an issue that poses personal challenges to many in the Orthodox world, 12th grade Zahava Gersten chose an issue that poses serious challenges to the theological side of Orthodox Judaism for her submission to the Kol Ha-Mevaser Magazine: the conflict between science and Torah.

Specifically, Zahava set out to compare how teachers in yeshiva high schools throughout the country approach this issue when they teach the first few perakim of Sefer Bereshit.  In doing so she also lays out a rather comprehensive overview of the position her father and our Mashgiach Ruchani, Rabbi Yonason Gersten, takes in a class that has long been a student favorite here in our high schools.  Rather than cower in the face of a serious challenge to Torah belief, Zahava responds with a thoughtful and comprehensive look at ways in which this issue can be successfully navigated.

Approaching Bereshit
By Zahava GerstenComment (1) 
It is a common scene in many Jewish elementary schools. A boy is learningHumash, and his rebbe tells him that dinosaurs never existed. Perplexed, the boy asks how this could be true if archeologists had actually found evidence of dinosaurs’ existence by digging up their bones. “Those are elephant bones,” hisrebbe replies. The student is unconvinced. “Wouldn’t the paleontologists know if the bones were elephant bones?” he asks himself.

Many Jewish children all over the world learn Bereshit in a simple and clear-cut manner in the early years of their education. They are taught that God created the world in six days, Adam and Eve were tricked by a snake, and the flood covered the entire planet. While it may be necessary to teach young children Bereshit in a very basic manner, once students reach high school, new questions arise. Teachers will be challenged with questions such as, “How can we believe that God created the world in six days if we learned in science class that it actually took billions of years for the world to form?” and “How is it possible for Adam to have been the first person if we learned that many Homo sapiens existed at the same time?” And explaining that dinosaur bones are really elephant bones will not answer those thirsting for a convincing explanation. If this method does not satisfy a student’s curiosity, then what method does? How should a teacher present Bereshit to inquisitive high school students?

Read the rest of the article here.