Thursday, August 25, 2016

We Had An Exciting Week at Rosenblatt High School!

We had an exciting week at Rosenblatt High School!

The 9th grade joined us on Friday, August 19th, for a day-long program preparing them for the transition to High School. On Sunday, our Seniors participated in "College Boot Camp," with Mrs. Rockman, our Director of College Counseling. And, this past Monday, we welcomed everyone to school.

We are excited about all of the courses, programs and activities this year, including the annual Shabbaton this weekend in Orlando. Our Shabbaton committee (pictured), along with faculty and staff, have been working very hard to make it a great weekend.

In addition to new faculty and students, we are also introducing new and updated courses in various departments, as well as a host of new electives: Electrical Engineering; Rock and Roll in American History; Sports, Arts and Entertainment Law; and Digital Graphic Design 2.

Stay tuned as we post updates regularly on our blog.

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, June 10, 2016

Words from 2016 Graduation

The following words of Divrei Torah were shared by Rabbi Lesack with the Class of 2016 at their Graduation on June 5, 2016 which was also Yom Yerushalayim.

Today is an extremely important date in the Jewish calendar, as we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim. On the 28th of Iyar, in June of 1967, the State of Israel overcame tremendous odds and defeated the Arab armies around her. In the process, and without prior knowledge or thought that it would be able to do so, Israel regained full control of the city of Jerusalem, the first time in almost 2,000 years. Once, in 1948, and again in 1967, the Jewish people were witness to the fact that miracles indeed do happen.

In his 2013 work, Like Dreamers:The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, Yossi Klein HaLevi recounts the experiences of those soldiers who were responsible for re-uniting the city.

Let me share with you some of his words, in the moments during and after Israeli soldiers took control of the Old City of Jerusalem:

Arik Achmon circled the perimeter of the Temple Mount plaza: No Jordanians. Silence.
Motta Gur leaned against a wall, as if to steady himself. He took the radio: “Cease fire,” he ordered the battalion commanders. “All units, cease firing.” Then, radioing Uzi Narkiss, commander of the central front, Motta Gur said, “The Temple Mount is in our hands.”(90)

Klein HaLevi continues the story a few pages later:

Motta Gur’s deputy, Moisheleh Stempel-Peles, along with several other paratroopers, was searching for a way down to the Wall…They came upon an Arab man (who) pointed them toward a fenced-off ledge.
The paratroopers  stepped onto the ledge. Below them - the Wall. From his ammunition belt, Captain Yoram Zamosh extracted the Israeli flag, which was given to him just before battle by an elderly woman, and fastened it onto the fence. Then the men sang Hatikvah, the national anthem. (91)

Klein HaLevi recounts how a kibbutznik who had never heard of the Shema, but knew how to play the trumpet, blew the shofar while standing in the narrow spaces next to the Western Wall because Rabbi Shlomo Goren was too overcome with emotion to do so.

And then, concluding this chapter of events, Klein HaLevi shares the following:

Naomi Shemer was in a date grove in Sinai, waiting to sing for the troops, when she heard a radio broadcast of the paratroopers at the Western Wall. They were singing her song, “Jerusalem of Gold/Yerushalayim shel Zahav.” But the words of lament for the inaccessible parts of the city had become outdated; the song needed a new stanza.
Borrowing a soldier’s back, she wrote:
חזרנו אל בורות המים לשוק ולכיכר שופר קורא בהר הבית בעיר העתיקה
“We’ve returned to the wells/the market and the square/ A ram’s horn calls out on the Temple Mount in the Old City.”(98)

Today, our Seniors, you graduate on a day on which we say Hallel. It is a day of celebration, of joy and of remembering. A day, which 2,000 years ago in 70 CE, people may have thought would never be possible.

And while there are many messages that we can learn from the Six-Day war, from the reunification of the city of Jerusalem, and from the story which Yossi Klein HaLevi shares with us, I share the following one with you on this day of your graduation: Dream. Dream. Dream.

Never stop dreaming. Because we know as a people...our history teaches us...that some dreams do come true.

It may take time. It may take hard work. It may take sacrifice. But as we learn from our ancestors like Yosef, to our rabbis who constructed the prayers calling for a return to Zion, to those soldiers who secured the Old City for the Jewish people on this day in 1967, dreams can come true.

So never, ever, stop dreaming.

There is one more idea which I want to share with you. It is found in the prayer for the State of Israel, Avinu She’bashamayim.

The prayer begins with the following words:

אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ, בָּרֵךְ אֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ.
Heavenly Father, Israel’s Rock and Redeemer, bless the State of Israel, the first flowering of our redemption.

This prayer was composed in 1948, at a time when the secular and the religious leaders of the young State of Israel were still figuring out how to work with one another and what the infant state should look like. For the religious zionist camp, they struggled to understand the place of Israel’s establishment in God’s overall plan of redemption and the coming of the Messiah.

In this prayer, blessing the State of Israel, the leadership settled on the idea that this was not the ultimate redemption, but rather -   רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ -   the first flowering of our redemption. It was not the end of something. Rather, it was the beginning of something.

In his commentary on this prayer, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks shares the following:
“The first flowering of our redemption” means that the restoration of Israel as a sovereign nation in its own land was not merely an event in secular history...Israel’s independence was in itself a redemptive moment, a return to Jewish self-determination, self-government and self-defense under the sovereignty of God alone.”

But this return, as I just mentioned, was not the ultimate Geulah, the final redemption. It was the beginning, the רֵאשִׁית , of that process.

So too, today is not the final step of your journey. It is not the end, nor the culmination of all that you will do and all that you will become. It is the רֵאשִׁית  - it is just the beginning - and as we have seen from our own history and through the past 68 years of Israel’s history, there is so much in store up ahead. No one knows what the future holds. But with today, your journey begins.

So as we celebrate your graduation today in tandem with Yom Yerushalayim, I pray that you internalize two of the important messages of the chag which we honor along with you:

Never stop dreaming and remember, today is just the beginning.

May your futures and the future of Israel always be bright.

B’hatzlakha, Kol Hakavod and mazal tov.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year

Between high school and college, a number of students decide to take a year off. This is called a gap year. Reasons to take the time off include: to earn money, get work experience, travel the world, or volunteer. In the news recently, Malia Obama, the President's daughter, is taking a gap year before she attends Harvard in 2017. 

She knows she will be going to Harvard after her gap year because college plans can be put in place before you take a gap year. To do this, you apply to college on your standard timeline (your senior year of high school) before your gap year. Then you request a deferral, meaning you accept the admission offer but it's postponed for a year.

But gap years aren't for everyone. You need to think carefully about the upsides and downsides before making a decision.

How a Gap Year Can Help

For goal-oriented students, a gap year can be extremely beneficial for maturing and trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. Unless something extreme happens, most students are able to continue a successful academic path after the

Advantages of a gap year include:

  • A chance to "recharge" after working hard to get through high school.
  • Time to explore your academic direction and professional goals by working or volunteering.
  • Impressive material for a resume through work experience, volunteer work, or doing something completely unique.
  • Full-time work can help you save up for tuition and other college costs.
  • New experiences that can make you better prepared for college, both academically and socially.
  • A chance to learn new skills.
  • Taking the longest vacation from ‘work’ you will probably ever be able to take in your life.

How a Gap Year Can Hurt

The gap year can be an unproductive experience for students who take it for the wrong reasons or fail to make and/or stick with a clear plan.

Disadvantages of a gap year include:

  • The possible loss of academic focus and consequent inability to get back into an academic routine.
  • Being a year behind the friends and classmates who moved on to college before you.
  • Losing access to high school guidance counselors, peer support, and the scholarship resources that are available for students in high school.
  • Travelling or taking part in an organized gap year program can be expensive.
  • College courses or student financial aid packages can change during your year.
  • Possibly forgetting a lot of what you learned in high school that could be useful in college.
  • Not having a clear plan and wasting a year doing something like watching TV.

Plan for a Successful Gap Year

To make the most of a gap year, you should work with your parents and college counselor to develop a clear-cut plan before taking the time off. Do your research and make sure you analyze your goals and reasons for taking a gap year.  Also do your research before committing to an activity or activities. A gap year can have a major impact on your college plans and later career.

- Submitted by Jackie Rockman, College Guidance Counselor
- Adapted from the International College Counselors blog post, May 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Faculty Summer Programs

This summer, Nicholas Belotto (History) and Cory Laub (English) will attend the Holocaust and Human Behavior for Educators in Jewish Settings seminar in Brookline, MA. The five-day workshop examines the factors that led to the rise of Nazi Germany and the persecution of Jews and other targeted groups during the Holocaust, and allows participants to investigate Jewish identity and the impact of individuals on the world.  The workshop is sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves.

In mid-July, Miriam Taub (Jewish Studies), Cheyenne Oliver (History), and Eugene Davis (English) will attend the 2016 Great Jewish Books Teacher Workshop at the Yiddish Book Center, in Amherst, Massachusetts. During the week-long seminar, they will be exposed to new approaches to teaching modern Jewish literature and culture, while working with other committed educators and top scholars from across the country. The program is funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation.

Rosenblatt High School Featured in the Sun Sentinel!

Click here to read "Local Jewish High Schools Host Moot Beit Din."

Click here to read "Waserstein Selected as Bronfman Youth Fellow."

March Moments

You might think that what I'm about to say is going to be about my emotions during this trip or specifics about moments in the camps that made me want to throw up from sadness, but you're all wrong. I'm going to focus mainly about the thing all grandparents can't figure out, parents hate, and teenagers spend too much time doing: texting. 

On my third day of the March of the Living, I sent out three very memorable text messages (not just three since I am a teenager with a great International plan thanks to T-Mobile). That can hopefully help me explain my emotions and thoughts a little better. These three messages were "your Torah", "I love you", and "refuah shlema". 

Receiving a random text in the middle of the day just saying "your Torah" could be quite confusing without any context, so here is a story that will help my disorganized thoughts make sense. 

That morning we woke, got dressed, and packed our blue March of the Living backpacks with lunch and winter jackets. Instead of praying in the hotel, we drove all the way to a synagogue. 

This synagogue was the Dabrowa Tarnowska, home to 7,000 Jews before the war and only 1% survived. Here we davened and listened to amazing stories about the community, but best of all we danced and sang Hebrew songs, expressing our love for the Torah. 

Then, they brought out a 250 year old Torah saved from Czechoslovakia generously restored by the Golish family. This Torah was hidden in a Russian library and hadn't been used for 80 years until we brought it with us to Auschwitz and gave the first aliyah to a survivor named Max. As the Torah writing was being finished by the survivor, a student, and a staff member to honor them, I quickly snapped a few pictures and videos then sent it to Rosa Golish captioned, "your Torah."

The text "I love you" gets sent so many times a day for all types of reasons. I'd like to think this one will change the way I word my loving text messages from now on. After the Torah celebration we continued our emotional roller coaster of a day with a children's toy. 

"I hope the kids really like my bear. I loved this when I was younger," a friend of mine said to me on the bus. I realized he thought we were going to an orphanage and didn't know what we were about to experience. I wasn't going to burst his bubble. I let the grave site do it. 

We walked through the woods to the very spot 1,500 children weren't "worth the bullet" our guide said, so Nazi soldiers would drink two rations of alcohol and smash children's heads against rocks. "They never got to really have a favorite toy," we were told. "We will give them one right now." 

"They don't have tombstones," we were told. "Their tombstones are in our hearts weighing us down with the weight of carrying on the Jewish faith in their honor." 

"They didn't have anyone to say Kaddish for them," we were told, "so we will say Kaddish right here." After we said Kaddish one of the group leaders shared with us a heart-wrenching letter from a mother who heard about these monstrosities and sent her daughter away the morning the last group was being collected. The letter was so powerful and moving that it really got me thinking. G-d forbid I was that child and my amazing mother was in my position. What would she do? I knew the answer immediately. My life was too precious, I'd be on the last available kinder transport, so that my mom would get the maximum amount of time to love and nurture me, before I could even realize I'd never see her again. I became nauseous with sadness, took out my phone and texted my mom "I love you."

"Refuah shlema" is a prayer for the sick. I've sent this text multiple times in my life either talking about someone who is sick or talking to someone who just needs any type of healing. This time, though, it wasn't about the text I sent saying refuah shlema. It was about where I was when it was sent and what I did with my new information. 

After the children's graves, we took a long bus ride to the Ramah Shul in Kraków right where the Kraków ghetto was. Next to this Shul is the old Jewish cemetery of Kraków where the Ramah himself and many others were buried. We sat in the main sanctuary, listening to a great story told by Rabbi Plotkin and then we all sang the Kraków niggun. 

As we were finishing the tune, a friend of mine texted me saying her mother was going to have emergency surgery and to please pray and keep her in mind. Now here I am in an over 800 year old shul in Kraków, Poland, where people prayed for all sorts of things unimaginable, but I received a text that deserved a prayer. Quietly and off the top of my head I said the prayer of refuah shlema but once I finished I was met with the roaring sound of "amen" said in unison from my entire travel group. I then texted my friend "refuah shlema."

These memories and the texts messages I sent are filed in my brain categorized as "March Moments." Moments I would not have had on just any Poland/Israel program. Later on in my life I know sending similar texts will trigger my memory and bring me right back to those exact moments. The key to March Moments is to categorize them in a sequence of events and not by individualizing each emotion. This is because another major component to the March of the Living that makes it so special is the emotional roller coaster you are sent on. On this particular day I went from feeling joy, to sadness, then gratitude.These are only a few of my many March Moments that I will treasure forever and keep filed in my brain. 

Thank you,
Lena Stein, Class of 2016

March of the Living 2016: Lessons Learned

My name is David Abady and I'm a senior at Donna Klein Jewish Academy. I would like to thank Rabbi Broide, Rabbi Plotkin, and all of the staff members and educators that accompanied me on the March of the Living. Your passion and dedication really showed throughout this trip. A big thanks to Rabbi Goldberg and Rabbi Moskowitz for everything they do in this community. I would also like to thank my parents for raising me in a Jewish home and sending me to Jewish day schools throughout my entire life. They did a great job in preparing me for such a meaningful trip. 

I would like to share with you a couple very meaningful and emotional moments that I experienced while in Poland and in Israel. After touring Auschwitz and Berkenau and hearing and seeing the horrors that occurred in these places, it was finally time to go on the March. 

15,000 plus marchers gathered together to march from Aushcwitz to Berkenau. I could not believe my eyes. As we were leaving Aushcwitz, all I could think about was the people that entered this camp but were never given the opportunity to leave. I felt a sense of pride walking hand in hand with thousands of Jewish people out of the concentration camp. Once we arrived at Berkenau, my emotions shifted. I burst into tears. 

Sitting on the train tracks, I reflected on the lives the prisoners of the Holocaust were forced to live. I could not imagine what they had to go through every second of the day, separated from their families and homes. I thought about Holocaust survivors that I know and have spoken to. This made my emotional connection even stronger. My mind shifted to my family and my home. I thought about how grateful and thankful I should be for the family and friends I have and the community I live in. At that very moment, I so badly wanted to give my parents a huge hug and thank them for everything they have ever done for me. I then understood that I have to show my gratitude more often and I have to appreciate all the little things I have in my life that prisoners of the Holocaust so undeservingly lacked. 

After a few days of reflecting, it was time to shift gears and head to Israel. Getting off the plane in Tel Aviv, a sense of extreme happiness came over my entire body. This is my home. This is a place that prisoners of the Holocaust would have killed to have. I have to cherish this as a place that will always welcome me even if other countries wouldn't. Once I got to Israel, I was looking forward to one event in particular: the March to the Kotel with all the other marchers. 

Surprisingly, the actual march to the Kotel was not the most meaningful part of that day. However, the period right before the march was more meaningful to me. During this hour and a half or so, all 15,000 plus marchers were gathered together outdoors in an enclosed area singing and dancing to Israeli songs. We all united in circles and started singing songs that we have avoided singing for as long as we could remember. I would always feel embarrassed singing songs like Am Yisrael Chai, Tov Lehodot, and songs alike, but not this time. I felt extremely proud singing and dancing along with all my brothers and sisters. Together, we celebrated life and freedom.  

The March of the Living reminded me that I can never forget where I come from. I am a Jew and I'm happy and proud to be one. I promise to never be embarrassed to represent the Jewish people. I now realize more than ever that the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling very rapidly. These survivors will not be able to tell their stories for much longer. We are the generation that has to tell their story and share their memories. I promise to always do so. As much as I learned about the Holocaust in the classroom, there is truly nothing that compares to visiting the camps firsthand. I recommend this trip to everyone. I believe it is something everyone has to experience.

Thank you,
David Abady, Class of 2016