Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Mother's Sickness, A Daughter's Revelation

The following incredible essay, authored by our own 12th grader Hudis Lang, was just published on Fresh Ink, a website by and for teens sponsored by the Jewish Week.

The florescent lights glared on the tile floors, and the gray walls of the waiting room surrounded me and my mom. I glanced at my mother — or at least she looked like my mother. It all seemed so casual, I was sitting next to my mom waiting for her to be called for her daily radiation treatment. Realizing where I was and who I was with, I leaned over and gave her a small hug. I hoped that even though her memory was fading, she would still remember I loved her. While in the waiting room something inside me had changed. I had a new perspective on life.

Rewind to two weeks before this, I was sitting in class checking my phone, just like any other day. However, this time it was different. I looked down and I saw that my oldest sister had texted me — an odd and rare occurrence. The text was extremely long and had been sent to everyone in my family. I began to read and the words seemed to slip off the screen and started to circle around my head. I could not quite grasp what was going on, nor did I want to. All I wanted was to delete the text like it never was sent. I did not want to comprehend what was written. I ran out of the classroom holding back my tears as I began to make sense of what I had just been told.

Cancer — my mom (Devorah bas Chana) had brain cancer. That little devil that you watch movies about and seems to be everywhere, yet no one thinks that it will ever affect them personally. But it was affecting me personally, and it was happening right then. It was all happening so fast. My oldest brother had spoken to me and told me that there was no cure. Treatment could only slow down the evil disease. Thoughts kept pouring in. My mind went to my little brothers who were asking me, “Why is Mommy saying funny things?” I did not want all of this to happen; I did not ask for this. Things so simple like my Mom remembering what I had told her the day before became a rarity. What did this mean for the future? I could not fathom what could happen a few years down the road. Emotions and worries took over my life; I just wanted to escape from it all. I wanted someone to wake me up from this horrible nightmare...

Read the rest of her essay here:’s-sickness-daughter’s-revelation

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Making the World a Better Place

Over the past week both our boys and girls high school students experienced chesed in the truest, most genuine sense of the word.  For our girls it was the culmination of a year-long partnership with a local branch of the Special Olympics.  For the boys it was full day spent in manual labor, assisting the disaster relief efforts in Tupelo, Mississippi as they recovered from the recent spate of tornadoes that hit the mid-South. 

Both programs were organized by Rabbi Noam Stein, our Director of Student Life, and his descriptions are below.  Both programs demonstrated to our students and to all of us, the power our children have to make our world a better place.

Special Olympics

This year the GMSG participated in the Special Olympics bowling league. Athletes in the league are developmentally, and often physically, disabled children and adults. Volunteers in the league help the athletes who need help, cheer, schmooze and interact. Aside from the physical assistance, the main purpose of volunteering is to create a natural environment for interaction between the disabled and mainstream populations. Each of our students volunteered at the program, which required taking some time from school and some additional time from the students' personal time, once every other Monday. As a group, we helped staff the program every week.

The program was founded by David Ross and his late wife who found it to be an essential activity for their developmentally disabled daughter. Throughout the year David has been an essential educational and supportive resource for our students.

The closing awards ceremony was held on Monday, May 4th. Volunteers who had maintained steady attendance at the program received certificates of commendation. Each of the GMSG students received a certificate. Our school was also awarded a plaque in appreciation of being one of two schools to provide the most volunteers to the program. In addition, 12th grader Rachel Tsuna, who has been volunteering at the program since last year, received a $500 scholarship in appreciation of her committed service.

Disaster Relief

On Monday of this week the 11th and 12th grade boys went to an area outside of Tupelo MS to partner with Nechama, a Jewish disaster response organization. We spent the day on a chicken farm. The chicken coops, which had tin roofs, had been completely destroyed by the tornado two weeks ago. Mangled slabs of tin were scattered over a radius of at least a mile. The slabs were stuck in trees and brush that had also been uprooted by the tornado. The boys collected the tin and beat it back into flat pieces so that it could be hauled off the property. The homeowners, a wonderful family with whom we had the opportunity to interact, were recycling the tin in order to try and make back a small portion of the money they lost in the disaster.

Throughout the day it was brutally hot, and the labor was hard. The boys did a tremendous job of helping this family. At the end of the day, the homeowner came to shake each one of our hands and thank us. He told us that of all the volunteer groups that have come out, our boys worked the hardest. As he said, taking time to do this kind of work for people really shows what kind of person you are. The boys made a real kiddush Hashem with some people who have had very little interaction with Jews before.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Inspiration from One of Our Own

Even if Parker Mantell weren't a graduate of the Margolin Hebrew Academy, the speech he gave this week before 17,000 people at Indiana University's Commencement Exercises would be well worth watching.  The fact that he's one of our own makes it all the more special.

To Julie, Gary, and all of his teachers along the way: thank you for encouraging and inspiring him.

To Parker: thank you for encouraging and inspiring us.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"The Best Day of the Year"

Over and again throughout the years, I've heard students use that phrase to describe Yom Ha'atzmaut at the MHA.  Yesterday certainly didn't disappoint.

Our kids were welcomed to a building which our talented shlichim decked out as a grand tiyul ba'aretz replete with rolling fields, flowing waterfalls, boulders painted with trail markers, and the requisite ibexes. Following a tefilah chagigit students traveled through different classrooms - each set up as a different destination in Israel - where one of the benot sheirut or Torah MiTzion bachurim, assisted by an 8th grade student, helped the children to learn about that place and do a related activity.

Following the road signs posted at the hallway intersections, the elementary school students then headed outside (steering clear of the High School boys who were intensely engaged in pizza-eating contests, wheelbarrow races, and ping-pong ball balancing as part of their Maccabiah Games).  On the blacktop they rotated through a Bedouin tent where they made fresh pita, a station where they made Israel themed t-shirts, and a station where one of our IDF bachurim gave them a very gentle introduction to basic training. The morning culminated with a festive Israeli lunch and we were thrilled that so many parents came to join us.

Of course, the highlight of the day was our annual march, for which we were joined this year by students from the Bornblum Solomon Schechter.  As always, the march was lively and spirited all the way from our front door to that of Baron Hirsch.  Once we arrived, everyone was treated to snacks and the older kids went to hear some divrei Torah and chizuk from Rav Shai Finkelstein while the younger students watched a series of short, Israel-themed videos.  After fifteen minutes the groups rejoined each other for one last set of dancing before dismissal.

Have a look at the pictures here and the video below and you'll begin to understand why students fondly call Yom Ha'atzmaut at the MHA the best day of the year.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Chidon Update

These are exciting times for the MHA and its Tanach students!

Last night on Israeli national television, MHA graduate Asher Finkelstein competed in the final round of the International Chidon HaTanach.  Of thousands of contestants from across the globe who began the annual Bible Contest last year, Asher was one of the last sixteen left standing.  In the end, he finished 9th in the world.  Not bad for a boy from Memphis...

Looking to follow in Asher's very big footsteps is a group of seven current MHA students who will be headed to New York this weekend to compete in the National Finals (nine qualified, but only seven are able to make the trip).  We wish all of them the best of luck on Sunday and express our deep gratitude to their coach and mentor, Moreh Shimshon Solemon, who has given selflessly of his time inside school and well beyond to make sure that our students are best prepared for this unique challenge.

!יישר כחכם והצלחה רבה

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Celebrating Torah Study

This past Wednesday brought a new event to the MHA calendar: a community night of learning in celebration of our high school Matmidim Program.  The Matmidim Program was created last year as a means of providing both the opportunity and incentive to our high school students to extend their Torah study beyond the confines of the classroom and the school day.  Through Sunday morning shiurim, Tuesday night learning, chavruta study, and faculty monitored independent learning projects, our students were encouraged to find areas of talmud Torah that spoke to them and pursue them on their own time.

On Wednesday night the community was invited to our high school Beit Midrash to get a taste for the remarkable learning which the program has inspired, and to celebrate the impressive achievements of our students in this regard. The evening featured a mix of full-fledged shiurim delivered by several of our students and "teasers" presented by others, as a means of interesting the crowd in reading the more elaborate words of Torah they authored which were printed in a booklet distributed at the event.  The evening concluded with an inspiring siyum Shas Mishnayos made by 12th grader Gabriel Addess and his father and a light celebratory meal which followed.

Below are several clips from our student presentations.  Pictures from the evening can be found here. It is our hope that this wonderful evening was just the beginning and that our Matmidim Program is poised to grow and expand in the coming months and years.

Yom Ha-Shoah

We began last week with a moving commemoration of Yom HaShoah.  Students in grades 5 through 12 were invited to the gym where they first lit a candle before taking their seat.  Six large candles were then lit on stage, each in memory of another group of our people who were lost.  After a student led song, kel maleh, a few readings and some words from me, the high school students reenacted the thoughts of a survivor as he saw his victory over Hitler played out in the Jewish continuity of his grandchildren.  The assembly ended with a moving video and Ha-Tikvah.

This week brings us both Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut which are sure to be both inspiring and uplifting for all of our students.