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.