Camping at the beach was a blast. Everyone kept warm at the bonfire. On to Tarzana.
BREAKING NEWS: There will be a second minyan this Friday at 7:15
On Wednesday, Valley Torah students gathered in the social hall to watch an inspiring video clip called, “Hospital Window.” The chesed heads spoke about how during Sefiras Haomar we should work on being especially nice and carrying towards one another, since Rabbi Akiva’s students died from not having the proper respect for one another during this time period. One never knows what small act of kindness can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. The girls then were each given an envelope with another student’s name and address on it within which they wrote personal messages of positivity and love to their peers. The students can’t wait to receive their letters in a few days. Remember to always be kind, for you never know who you are affecting.
This is the latest segment of the weekly video series from Rabbi Stulberger – You’ve Been Called to the Dean’s Office. It’s a short (four minute) message on a timely Torah topic.
It is easy to look at a finished product and see how all the hard work was worth it. It is much more difficult to realize the benefits of one’s unrelenting effort in the middle of a process and take pride in the unfinished work. However, this week I decided to do just that. You see, after we got back from Pesach vacation the third phase of the Principal Project was due. As a quick reminder, the Principal Project is an independent passion-based research project in which 9th grade students research professions they are intrigued by, 10th graders research colleges and Universities, 11th graders work to solve a local issue, and 12th graders develop solutions for a global problem. As this was a new program for the students, at the start of the year it was met with a mix of enthusiasm and hesitation. Yet, as I took a step back this week to read their phase three submissions, which was a narrative of their project and research, I have to say I am impressed and proud of our students.
The 9th and 10th graders have chosen professions and Universities that any parent would be proud of. As Principal, what I personally take the most pride in is the amount of effort our boys put into their research. There have been many instances of freshman coming into my office to tell me about what it takes to get a job in their chosen profession, the mean salary and other things they never even thought about before they began their research. Sophomores would stop me in the hall and let me know about graduation rates, minimum GPA’s and why their chosen University had the best “this” program and “that” program. It has been wonderful to see. The 11th and 12th graders, focused on solving problems in the world with a social entrepreneurship lens, have also blown me away.
Here are a few examples of the social entrepreneurship projects our Juniors and Seniors are tackling:
- A campaign to fight racism
- A method to make donating used clothings, books, furniture, etc. easier
- An electronic sensor to automatically stop drunk driving
- A program to decrease smoking among young people in third world countries due to hunger
- A campaign to reduce local pollution
- A method to reduce poverty in areas of Africa
- A program to get medical supplies to third world countries by enlisting local hospitals
I look forward to sharing the final products with the world, as it is already evident how amazing these projects will be. In the mean time, I am glad I took a step back and reviewed what they are working on, to share these proud reflections with you.
Good to luck to all my students as you perfect your projects in phase four. We’re all excited to see the finished work in phase five!
Commemorating Yom Hashoah this year among the number of different messages, two stood out for me as they were particularly germane to the current situation the Jewish people find themselves. Even though Yom Hasoah has been a fixture in our calendar for the last 70 years these messages had not been as relevant then as they are now.
The first message was the recognition that today’s survivors are not the generation that escaped Nazi Germany, that lived through the labor camps and or the notorious concentration camps. Today’s survivors are their children. While the distinction “survivor” is apt even when describing the next generation the conferring of this title is unfortunately theirs by default. The number of actual survivors has diminished to the extent that one needs to look far and wide to find them. This reality hit me the hardest last may when on May 8th, 2014 Mendel Flaster a Holocaust survivor, who my family and I had come to know fondly, sadly, passed away. Mendel was 19 when the war broke out in 1939. He went through 14 concentration camps and through a combination of self-care, self-sacrifice, and Divine assistance (Siyata D’Ismaya) was able to survive. His powerful message to us was the importance of helping others and he always attributed his survival as being a direct result of his altruism.
The second message was one that Rabbi Stulberger during a special assembly at school and later Rabbi Pini Dunner at a Yom Hashoah event held in his shul (that some of our students were fortunate enough to attend) shared. They both highlighted the resemblance of current events around the world with the years preceding World War II. They cautioned about the dangers of being complacent and ignoring the rearing of the ugly monster known as anti-semitism.
I am not sure if Yom Hashoah was placed in the calendar so close to Pesach for a specific reason but it seems to me that it echoes the Vehi Sheomda passage that we read during the Seder. Lets us never forget that it is HKBH who ultimately is our savior.
The following is from a news article I read last week.
A Brussels-based European Jewish umbrella organization has launched a campaign which calls on Europeans to wear a Kippah, the traditional Jewish skullcap, and other Jewish symbols to fight rising anti-Semitism on the continent. They are being asked to film themselves walking down the street to show their opposition to rising anti-Semitism.
“The idea is to get as many non-Jews as possible to wear Jewish symbols and show solidarity, and that they are a part of the silent majority that is not anti-Semitic.
While I think this is an interesting initiative I feel the emphasis for us should be on the reason we wear a Kippa. We do so to remind us constantly that we are standing before our creator. The purpose of the reminder is to help us be aware of whose presence we are in and to act accordingly. By following in the footsteps of Hashem we are able to be a light unto the nations. This message needs to be shared with our children who I fear are letting go of their Kippas to blend in with their environment. We need to stand proud of our mission in this world and never shirk our responsibility to Hashem and his creations.
Aerial Robotics Club in full swing! Teams learned how to solder in preparation to build their competitive drones!
Four young men from Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, NY (two of them home-grown: Ariel Darrison & Nosson Felt) arrived last week to learn in our beis medrash and to mentor our boys. They will be staying until Shavuos. Their presence has already greatly enhanced the atmosphere.
This years VTHS Auction will be held at Em Habanim in North Hollywood on May 3, 2015. Doors open at 6:00 PM.
Dinner will be served and ComedySportz will entertain you.
You do not have to present to win.
The deadline for the early-bird discount is April 26, so order now!
Mrs. Gross was delighted to present various awards to deserving students. Congratulations to the following girls for receiving an award this month. The entire Valley Torah faculty is very proud of you!
The final score of their final game against Beth Tfiloh at the annual Red Sarachek Basketball Tournament held at Yeshiva University was 68-61. The Pack lost. In fact, they officially only won their first game. However, after this last game the true score for the pack was a tournament win for VTHS. You see, these two competing teams had something more important in common than the shared court they just played their hearts out on. They share a very special student who Valley Torah came to play for as the hashtag #PLAY4YITZI represented on the back of every players t-shirts. You see Mr. Yitzi Teichman was a student at VTHS from 2012-14, is a senior now at Beth Tfiloh and has a rare type of cancer called a Chordoma that occurs in the bones of the skull and spine.
I had the great pleasure of knowing Yitzi most of his life when he lived in Valley Village and later attended Valley Torah. I was not the principal at the time, but I was friends with his family and Yitzi was an active part of our community. To say Yitzi is an amazing young man is an understatement. Even before showing great bravery in tackling his current situation, Yitzi always had a smile on his face. This was true even if the discussion was about things he was less than pleased with. Yitzi had thoughtful opinions and was alway happy to share them, but never without a warm smile. It is no wonder that now in tackling the most difficult challenge of his young life (or anyones for that matter) he continues to keep that smile. In fact, a facebook group started by his friend is appropriately titled #asmileadaykeepssicknessaway. While I am sure the title was meant to support Yitzi, when I first read it, I understood it to be what Yitzi has done for so many with his positive attitude towards others and life. He has kept the sickness away in anyone he has met. Now it is our turn to do it for him, and it is just what our students did at Sarachek.
I had the privilege of speaking with Yitzi yesterday. I wanted to see how he was doing and let him know we are all supporting him. He told me of the events of the last few weeks, from the symptoms (headaches, double vision) that led to his troubling diagnosis to the roller coaster of emotions prompted by the prognoses and treatment plans he had gotten from various doctors. It was painful to listen to, as Yitzi is a young man with a big heart and the last person worthy of suffering anything let alone this disease. However, as difficult as it was to hear, it was not until he said something shocking that the tears I tried to conceal came out in my voice.
I asked Yitzi how he feels about what he is going through. He said “I am lucky.” He said he was lucky it was not someone else, as it is not something he thinks most people can handle. It is not that he does not have bad days, but as he said “it hurts for a minute, and then five minutes later cancer jokes.” Then he continued to tell me how he has been using the “cancer card” lately and how he recently won the student council election, although he did not expect to lose because “come on, I have cancer.” Throughout the conversation he had a positive attitude, cracked jokes and I could hear that smile I am so familiar with from thousands of miles away. However, I was still stuck on how this amazing young man could feel lucky.
Yitzi told me that he has a choice every day. He can either say “this sucks” or “this is awesome and such a journey.” He has chosen the latter and told me that he is focused on all the great people he has met through this and those he plans on meeting, that he has learned so much about the body through all the medical tests and doctors and the astonishing experience he has had with the facebook group created to support him. The only thing that really concerns him is seeing his parents scared. This is why he feels compelled to keep his spirits up and make jokes. Recently, he told me that he was in so much pain, he got to a point where he said “Why me?” and said “that was so stupid, it just made the pain worse.” So, he plans on keeping his spirits up for himself, his family and his friends, but it was clear that when others come out to support him, whether on facebook or at a basketball tournament it makes a difference.
Yitzi was at the first game VTHS played at Sarachek, and when he saw the #PLAY4YITZI shirts our team wore he was speechless. He was later able to say it was “awesome.” He told me he “can’t describe the feeling the support and everyone rallying around him has meant. It was just awesome and great to see. It lifted my spirits.” Dovid Stock gave him his shirt and he plans on having it framed. At the end of the last game between his two schools, which became dubbed the “Yitzi Bowl,” the teams walked off the court together, shared Yitzi stories, said tehillim for him and took the picture above and sent it to Yitzi. Yitzi thought the picture was “mind blowing. It was crazy. To see both schools on two separate parts of the country coming together – that was the best part.”
Yitzi is clearly loved by many, and it has nothing to do with what he is going through. It is because before, during and after this struggle, he has and will always be that smiling kid who cares about his friends, family and anyone he meets. He said he was lucky to have this over someone else. Well, we are truly the lucky ones for knowing him.
Yitzi will be having surgery on April 1st followed by six weeks of radiation. We are sending all our tefillos, love and smiles his way and wishing him a speedy recovery. To Yitzi we say, keep smiling, but we know that you would prefer we keep smiling as you told me to do when we said goodbye yesterday. So, we will do just that and we will continue to #PLAY4YITZI