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25
Mar

Nationwide Shiur by Rabbi Stulberger

Rabbi Stulberger will be giving a nationwide lecture online at ProjectSinai.org this Monday, March 30th at 7:30 PM EDT (4:30 PM Pacific).

20
Mar
Felt

Obedience

Obedience is a word that is somewhat out of fashion but that doesn’t mean it is not important. So how do we learn it and more importantly how do we teach it. The first step is to understand why it is so difficult to be obedient. In Tanach we find a story with Dovid Hamelech on his deathbed making his son Shlomo promise to put Shimi Ben Gera, who at one time was the head of the Sanhadrin, to death. Shimi had cursed King David and was condemned to death. Shlomo once crowned called upon Shimi and instructed him to relocate to Jerusalem. Included in his instructions was the warning that if he ever left Jerusalem he would pay for it with life. What was Shlomo Hamelech the wisest man doing? Who would not want to live in Jerusalem? What is the big deal to live in Jerusalem all your life – there are many individuals who have lived in the same city all their lives.

The Navi continues to tell us that Shimi ends up leaving Jerusalem and as a result got the death penalty. Two of his slaves ran away and in an effort to recapture them, Shimi pursued them all the way out of Jerusalem. As we pointed out earlier Shimi was a very learned person, he was the head of the Sanhedrin why did he risk his life for the sake of two slaves? This story gives us an insight into human nature. We are wired to resist someone controlling us – When there are rules, even if they were made for our benefit, our natural tendency is to try and find a loophole and even risk getting caught to show that no one can control everything we do. Understanding that this is how we as humans are wired will help us overcome this natural tendency.

We just read last week about the Red Heifer. The Torah when introducing the Halachot of the Poroh Adumah says “Zos Chukas Hatorah” – The question is asked, the Mizvah of the Poroh Adumah is but one of 613 so why is it introduced as being a Mitzvah that represents the entire Torah. The commentaries explain that of all the mitzvos in the Torah, the Mitzvah of Poroh Adumah is unique in that it is inherently illogical. There are many Mitzvos that are difficult to understand like shatnez, not eating milk and meat but with all of them we are able to rationalize that these Mitzvos are there for our Neshoma or that they have a symbolic significance such as remembering the Exodus from Egypt – However, with the Mitzvah of Poroh Adumah it just doesn’t make sense. On the one hand it is used to purify individuals who have become Tameh and paradoxically it makes anyone who comes into contact with it during its preparation, impure.

When one keeps a Mitzvah that don’t make sense he is making a statement I am keeping all the Mitzvos for one reason and that is because Hashem wants us to keep it. The Torah here is telling us that when you keep this Mitzvah this demonstrates the reason you keep all the other mitzvos and therefore it is through keeping this Mitzvah you become entitled to get the rewards for keeping the rest of the 612 Mitzvos.

Felt Tips

When children understand that we are ready to follow a higher authority we are helping them get the tools and the skills to be obedient and follow their elders. Society portrays the obedient child or spouse as weak when the reality is that the right type of obedience shows an immense amount of strength. Sure, we need to explain to our children why we want them to do things that they may not want to do – but ultimately they need to understand that we are the parent and they are the child and what we are asking of them is for their best even if they don’t understand it at this point in their lives. When a child gets that and follows what his parents are asking that is what the Mishne in Avos refers to when it says who is a strong person? One who overcomes his Yeitzer.

20
Mar
DeskOfHead

Celebrating Our Students

Schools do not celebrate their students enough. It is as simple as that. Students sent to the Principal’s office are generally asked to go for disciplinary reasons. Phone calls home are hardly ever to say your child did something great today. Even grades are less than celebratory as 60% of our primary grading system (A-F) is a failing grade. It is frustrating and needs to be dealt with because I have to tell you, where I work, there are amazing students!

I recently asked my teachers to stop sending students to me only when they may have made a mistake, but to send me students when they have shined. It is not hard because our students shine quite often. So, with that said, I will be adding a new section to our weekly school newsletter titled “Celebrating Our Students” which will highlight student accomplishments. It won’t be easy to choose each week, but I will try my best. For the first week I have chosen Mr. Benji Halpern.

I called Mr. Halpern over today and told him about my plan to celebrate a student each week. He humbly asked why I chose him. That was one reason. However, Mr. Halpern is an individual I see day in and day out acting as a role model for our student body in his demeanor, care and respect for others and his leadership skills. He is our Gabbai Sheni, Co-Captain for our debate team, center on our JV basketball team, a counselor at Etta (serves people with developmental disabilities and their families) in the summers and each week I see him lead the teen minyan at Shaarey Zedek. He makes us proud at Valley Torah as he represents us and the Jewish people well.

This Jones Soda is for you Benji Halpern! 644404_10155440799285624_6793113134717429526_n-2

19
Mar

Shabbos Parashas Vayikra

Shabbos Parashas Vayikra 5775

13
Mar

The power of yet

This week as I returned from the 2015 North American Jewish Day School Conference and I was asked by one of my teachers what my tolerance for change was? This question came after I was discussing some of the great things I learned at the conference, what I presented and how much of it fit into some of the great growth and growth plans we have here at VTHS. It was asked because as a team we are having growing pains and the teacher was wondering how much “pain” I could handle. As I discussed the other week, change is exhausting even when we are in agreement that it is needed. So, here is my answer.

I have no tolerance for change. Why? Because it is not something I feel I need to tolerate or something I find “painful. It is something I embrace, get excited about and deeply understand that it takes time and is not without its frustrations and setbacks. I also believe strongly that It is necessary and, more importantly, possible no matter how stuck the system you are in seems to be. The bottom line is that when it comes to school change, I work hard at having a growth mindset so that I don’t say we can never get there, but rather we have not gotten there yet.

Growth Mindset is based on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck and her research chronicled in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. To simplify her research to its most digestible understanding is that learners can be broken into two mindsets; fixed and growth. Fixed mindset individuals believe that a basic quality like intelligence is a fixed trait and can’t change. Growth mindset individuals know that basic traits like intelligence can be developed through hard work and it is in their control to change. Unfortunately, most people tend to be of a fixed mindset. However, Dr. Dweck’s research points to the fact that human capacity for growth is not fixed and that teaching a growth mindset to students creates motivation and productivity among fixed students that did not exist prior.

 

Here is an illustration of Growth Mindsets: taschen_informationgraphics10

Recently Rabbi Stulberger, Rabbi Felt and I attended the 4th annual BJE day school and yeshiva administrators’ retreat and the keynote speaker Dr. John D’Auria presented on Growth Mindsets. At the end of his presentation, he illustrated a very powerful idea that should have been obvious to me. The culture of the students is directly influenced by the culture of the teachers which is directly influenced by the culture of the administration. However, most schools, as he pointed out, are fragmented and in order to cultivate a culture of innovation it must become defragmented. This is clear to me being a new Principal and I work very hard with my team to collaborate on vision and change, but it is not without its challenges. One major challenge is simply, as it is with all schools, that often there is a fixed belief that change is not possible. I do worry that if this remains true it can trickle down to the students, which is catastrophic to their learning. Having students think that they can’t grow, overcome and change would be a disaster in any school. So, while we must teach our students that they are always capable, we as educators need to realize that as well.

Simply put, when it comes to change it is not that we can’t get there, but rather we are not there yet.

Enjoy a TED talk on the power of yet and growth mindsets by Dr. Carol Dweck

12
Mar
Felt

Oneg Shabbos  

This weeks’ Parsha (Parshas Vayakhel) the Torah begins with the laws of keeping Shabbos. Following this the Torah continues with the intricacies of building the Mishkan. The Gemora questions the juxtaposition between Shabbos and the Mishkan and tells us that it is from the building of the Mishkan that we learn the laws of Shabbos. The 39 Melochos all have their source in the Mishkan. I would like to share a thought and highlight it with a story I recently read.

The Navi Yeshaya (Chapter 58 Verse 13) tells us that we have an obligation to “call the Shabbas a delight”. The commentaries use this Possuk to teach us about the many ways we are obligated to make Shabbos special. I would like to add another aspect to the enjoyment we need to feel on Shabbos.

Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim, Chapter 26 verse 8 tells us that the Mishkan is the home of Hashem in this world. Using the analogy of the Mishkan as our home and the juxtaposition of shabbos it would appear that we are obligated to make our home a delight specifically on Shabbos. The requirement to make Shabbos a delight in this context obligates us as parents to make Shabbos a delight for our spouses and for our children. Over the course of a regular week we generally find ourselves busy and occupied with work, running a household or for a lot of us, with both. This leaves us with not really having the time nor the peace of mind to give our children the attention due to them. Shabbos is the occasion for us to dedicate to our family. It is the perfect time to give our spouse and children the quality time they deserve and need.

A shailah was once brought to Rabbi Zilberstein a brother-in-law of R’ Chaim Kanievsky. The two parties were husband and wife. The husband wanted his wife to use disposable tableware for Shabbos. He felt that the amount of plates and cutlery used over Shabbos leaves his wife, who having prepared and served the family with shabbos delicacies, wiped out if she then had to wash them all up. His wife understanding the extra burden of using china felt it would not be honoring the Shabbos appropriately if she were to use disposable tableware. Citing a similar case brought to R’ Chaim and wanting to find some compromise Rabbi Zilberstein Paskened that they should use good quality disposable tableware. His reasoning was that if there is no “Oneg (delight)” Shabbos then there is no “Kovod (honor)” Shabbos. Ultimately, the focus on Shabbos has to be to make it enjoyable and a day to look forward to and it starts at home which is the Mishkan we have built for our family.

Felt Tips

Shabbos is our chance to spend time with our children, giving them the quality time they deserve and need. During an interview I had this week with prospective parents, the father of the young man we were interviewing asked if the school had an organized after-school learning program that his son could join. He expressed that he wanted his child to have the opportunity to learn with his peers outside of class, as he felt that would motivate his child to do well in class. I validated his request but shared with him that from my personal experience as well as my professional experience one of the most effective ways of getting a child to be motivated in class is for a father to learn with his child.

This does not mean you should “farher (test)” your son it means learn with him – let your son teach you the Gemora he is doing. Let him see your genuine interest in the Sugya he is learning at school with his Rebbi. Shabbos is the perfect opportunity to set time aside for this, especially now that the clocks have changed and we are beginning to have longer Shabbos afternoons.

12
Mar

Shabbos Parashas Vayakhel-Pikudei

Shabbos Parashas Vayakhel-Pikudei

12
Mar

Dean’s Office – Vayakhel-Pikudei

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.

 

12
Mar

Aaron Liberman Profiled in Sports Illustrated

“An Orthodox Jewish basketball player came to Brooklyn. You’d think this would occasion a parade, thousands of people in the seats, perhaps an impromptu hora.

But a relatively sparse crowd showed up for Tulane’s Dec. 28 matchup against St. John’s at Barclays Center. Those who waited in line at David K’s, the glatt Kosher proprietor, were mostly unaware of Aaron Liberman, Tulane’s center with the winding path to the Green Wave, though the UnderArmour yarmulke gave him away on his first journey through the layup line….”

Read the rest of the article

9
Mar

Annie Jr. – Drama Production

Annie image

7
Mar

Alumni Melave Malka

Over 50 Alumni attended our Melave Malka at the home of Dr. Behzad & Yemina Souferzadeh.

Photo Mar 07, 9 40 30 PM

6
Mar
DeskOfHead

Student-Centered Purim

As you hopefully know by now, I believe strongly in a student-centered or learner-centered model of education versus the more traditional teacher-centered model. If you are not sure what that is click here for a comparison. However, if there was ever a recent example of a student-centered learning environment at VTHS it would have been the 2015 Purim Chagiga. Let me explain and I hope we all learn from it. The party began on campus at 10pm. It was was wonderfully organized by Rabbi Semmel and the many students and staff who helped. Rabbi Samuels rocked the ivories and the students and staff danced the night away with full costumes, laughter and joyful energy. At the midpoint of the evening something became very clear. This entire night, while a celebration of the miracle of our escaping annihilation at the hands of Haman year ago, was focused on the student experience, as should everything at school. At around 11pm, our very own Junior, Mr. Yishai Anatian, or as he is affectionately known as “The Purim Rav”, took the mike and became the MC for the rest of the evenings festivities. These included a highly clever set of Gramin (funny purim poetry) made up by the students that Yishai performed, a skit put on by a couple of the Rebbeim making fun of themselves for the joy of the students and student produced purim videos that pretty much had me crying with laughter long past the evening ended. Throughout the creative student and staff displays, the response to it all by the students could only be described as deep pride in being a Valley Torah student and an even deeper understanding of what it means to celebrate Purim. The night came to a conclusion with awards for the best videos and costumes followed by a final dance and extremely happy students who experienced the simcha of Purim in the best possible place to learn it; their school. There was nothing about the evening that was not about the students and there was very little that was not produced and created by the students. As one 9th grader told me the next day, it was the best Purim he had ever had. I am convinced that was because it was a student-centered Purim and the more we shift our teaching focus on the individual learners the more it will be the best Purim, davening, science class, elective, english class, gemmar class and so on and so forth that they will remember and apply for years to come.

6
Mar

Dean’s Office – Ki Sisa

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.

 

5
Mar

Shabbos Parashas Ki Sisa

Shabbos Parashas Ki-Sisa 5775

5
Mar

Purim Chagiga 5775

This Purim’s Chagiga was one for the record books: Great costumes, special decor, lavish buffet, hilarious entertainment, and – of course – amazing dancing. Here are just some of the pictures. More pictures at the VTHS Online Photo Album.

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