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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 8

Today was the last day of Chesed Mission 2016. Even though our flight is tonight, we had a packed day of chesed like every other! Our first stop was Yad Lakashish - a Lifeline for the Elderly, where elderly people from all around the Israel create/build from scratch certain artistic items. For example, one elderly man would mold ceramics and another would paint the ceramic. By the end, they have a gift shop where their creations may be purchased. Many of us bought some things like salt and pepper shakers, dolls, necklaces and more.
Our next stop was to the third army base of our trip. We joined Thank Israeli Soldiers for this visit. There were a ton of friendly and appreciative soldiers who danced and sang with us. We distributed gifts and thanked them for protecting our homeland.
After a quick lunch at the Modiin mall we made our way to Emunah's Bet Elezraki Children's Home. Bet Elezraki is a children's home for children who can't live at home for various reasons. Each of us interacted with one, two, or three children and had an incredible time dancing our hearts out to great music with them. Everyone was going wild, it was definitely a sight to see! We had a mini kumtzitz, handed out presents to the bar and bat mitzvah children and to the seniors. We then finally said our goodbyes. 
There are no words to describe how amazing Chesed Mission was. It opened up our minds, made us put things in perspective and helped us appreciate what we have. Everyone was always so happy and there was such a warm and special vibe that we've never felt before. Thank you so much to Rabbi Besser, Ms. Susan Franco, and staff for an unbelievable experience. 
~Sari Cattan, Class of 2017

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 7

Even though most of the city is shut down due to the "terrible snow", snow will never stop us from getting our daily dose of chesed. Our first stop on the seventh day of the Chesed Mission was to the Emunah Ethiopian Day Care Center in Mevaseret Zion. 
When new Olim come to Israel they often need help taking care of their children and need to learn to adjust to a new lifestyle they come to Mevaseret Zion. We played with the adorable children all morning with bubbles and toys, starting off our morning on a sweet note.
The next stop we went to was Keren Or. This is an institution for children with severe mental and physical disabilities who are unfortunately blind as well. The teachers explained to us that it is the highlight of their year when the Yeshivah of Flatbush Chesed Mission comes to visit because not that many people come to visit the children at Keren Or. We danced with all the children to amazing music making everyone's smiles in the room glow. This made us even more grateful for what we have and it was amazing to make these people happy.
After our quick lunch break, we went to Tel HaShomer Hospital. There, we distributed all different kinds of gifts to all the age groups at the hospital. All of the families were overwhelmed when we explained that we came from America with presents to give to them. The smile on the patients faces was priceless. Some of the girls went to a special part of hospital, specializing in girls with eating disorders. They talked to them and found out the good things they have in common with these girls, giving them only good things to talk about, distracting them from the hospital.
After visiting the children's ward, we went to the rehabilitation center. This wing helps soldiers who were injured or people injured by terrorists. They told us their stories and inspired us with their courage and bravery that everyone could learn from. As I'm writing this we're getting ready to watch an amazing slideshow of the entire trip. We had an amazing trip! Can't believe we only have one day left!! ~Joan Jemal, Class of 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 6

We started off our day today by going to Aleh. Aleh is an organization that cares for children with severe mental and physical disabilities and helps them reach their highest potential. Here, we interacted with the children in their classrooms. We did activities with them for Tu B'Shvat like planting a tree in small pots and decorating the pots. Although most of the children couldn't communicate with their words, their smiles were worth a thousand words. Aleh made us all realize how thankful we should be for our health and that although they're different from us, they deserve to be treated the same way as any other person is treated.
Next we went to an organization called Special in Uniform. Special in Uniform is a unit in the army that takes in adults with certain disabilities who wouldn't have been able to go in to the army like any other Israeli teenager because of their disability. The director of the program explained to us how he came up with this whole idea and then we talked and took pictures with the soldiers. All the soldiers proudly explained what they did in the army. We then distributed gifts to all the soldiers and then they gave us gifts which were a military dog tag  and hat that said Special in Uniform on it. Before saying our goodbyes we went out to the front and planted a tree with the soldiers. It was amazing how despite these soldiers' disabilities they were able to contribute to the army and feel so proud about it. 
After this we went to Afikim which is an organization that helps children at risk after school for a few hours. We talked to all the kids and sang songs with them. After getting to know some of them, we gave out a minion necklace and cool notebooks to each child. The children were so happy despite all that they go through at home and it made me realize how much we should all appreciate our lives and our families. 
We then went to the headquarters of the United Hatzalah of Israel. It's a group of volunteers from all religions in Israel who respond within 90 seconds to emergencies, so that they can help stabilize the patient until the ambulance arrived. They showed us all of their equipment they use on a call and showed us videos showing the importance of this organization. It was amazing to see how dedicated the volunteers who spoke were. They constantly put everything aside including their families, jobs, and even Shabbat, and go help the person who is in danger. 
Once we left we went to our last stop which was Pantry Packers. Pantry packers is an organization run by Colel Chabad, that gives families food that they cannot afford and helps more than 8,000 families a month. We all were split up in to stations where we helped package the rice that would be delivered to the food banks in Israel. It was a full day of Chesed that inspired us all. ~Grace Sutton, Class of 2017

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 5

After an incredible Shabbat in Jerusalem, we headed to the city of Holon where started the fifth day of the Chesed Mission. On the way, we got to see the beautiful farms and gardens by the mountains of Israel. We went to the Children's Museum of Israel, where we did Dialogue in the Dark - the Blind Museum. We felt our way through the pitch black series of rooms. It was a lot of fun! We couldn't see anything. We didn't know where we were walking so we bumped into our friends. As we were guided from room to room, we began to get used to not seeing and our bodies began to be less dependent on our eyes and more on our other senses. Some of the rooms that we went through were a typical bedroom, a supermarket, a boat, and a snack bar. We touched the surface of the everyday life of people that are visual impaired or blind. In the bedroom, we experienced picking out our clothes without seeing. In the supermarket, we shopped for the foods that we need on a weekly basis and didn't see anything that we were choosing. We developed some understanding of what people that are blind have to go through as they live their lives each day. We respected our tour guides that were blind and saw beyond their disabilities. While in the dark, we felt disabled while our tour guides were leading us and helping us get through it. We appreciate that we have been blessed with the ability to see and hope that we will never take it for granted in the future.
Later on in the day, we went to Save A Child's Heart (SACH) foundation. This organization blew us away with the mission of their lifesaving project. It brings children from over 50 countries that require heart surgeries for heart transplants or heart repairing to Israel to survive. Politics and religion does not matter to SACH. It does not discriminate. Nearly half of the children that they operate on and care for children from countries all around the world. This organization also educates physicians in developing countries to perform heart surgeries. We distributed gifts to the children that were being cared for by this organization. Some were post surgery and some were waiting for upcoming surgeries. We danced and sang with these children and couldn't get enough of their cute smiles! 
After a really fun time, we traveled to the Emunah Achuzat Sarah Children's Home in Bnei Brak, where children at risk from challenges homes live. As soon as we arrived, we were all given presents. The children gave us dried fruit because tonight starts Tu B'shvat! We said berachot on the fruits to celebrate the holiday of the trees, or Chag Hailanot. After dinner, we brought the children that are turning 12 and 13 gifts to celebrate their upcoming bat and bar mitzvahs. After meeting the children, we danced and sang with them, which made them so happy. 
Then, we drove about an hour and a half to an army base where we met the IDF soldiers of that specific base. We thanked them for their dedicated and outstanding service to protect the State of Israel and by them doing this, protecting Jews all over the world. Following the prayer for the soldiers of Israel that Rabbi Besser recited, we sang beautiful Hebrew songs with the soldiers. We distributed care packages to each of the soldiers at this base and got to know them. We're excited for the rest of the week in Israel and are having so much fun doing chesed together! ~Sarah Torgueman, Class of 2016

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 4

Shabbat is always known for being a time of bonding and closeness, but as usual the Shabbat on Chesed Mission exceeded expectations. Throughout Shabbat we bonded, sang songs, relaxed, and just had fun. We heard Dvrei Torah from Middle Division Principal Rabbi Hertzberg, Susan Franco, and Rabbi Besser. On Shabbat day, Rabbi Besser did what he does best and gathered us all into a big circle to just sing our hearts out  with a meaningful kumzits. Everything we did just felt extra special.
After Shabbat we were off to another night of amazing chesed at an Israeli army base with Thank Israeli Soldiers. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the soldiers who fight for our homeland every day. They were happy and extremely grateful that we had come to just say thank you! We sang and danced with them the whole time. As the night was coming to a close we gave out gift bags with necessities just as a small token of our appreciation for what they do. "We cherish the moment when you guys come and visit us- it makes everything we do worth it." One soldier actually said this to one of us tonight, and the feeling we all got was indescribable. All in all it was truly an inspirational day that none of us will forget!
~Denise Azrak and Barbara Schwartzbard, Class of 2016

After we left the army base, one of the soldiers contacted one of our students on Facebook to thank us for visiting them and giving them gifts. Here is their Facebook exchange:

Friday, January 22, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 3

Today, we visited the Michael and Lola Goldstein Emunah Day Care Center. The children, who range from 3 months old to 3 years old, come from needy families who need help to support and watch over their children. The center also provides services for parents in order for them to build healthy family lives. We were split up into different classrooms to play with these children. We were also taken to the garden to plant little trees for Tu B'Shvat. We were able to see them do a special Kabalat Shabbat program with the children. We also brought bubbles to play with the children and get them to laugh. These little kids were adorable and truly amazing.
Next, we went to the home of Abba and Pamela Claman, the founders of Thank Israeli Soldiers. There we had the pportunity to see a breathtaking view of the Temple Mount. We were then able to meet with Israeli soldiers and thank them for all the hard work they do to protect our country. We showed them our gratitude through presents, singing, and a little bit of mingling. We then went to the Rova of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City for lunch. Then we were taken back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat. We can't wait for Shabbat and the week to come! Shabbat Shalom!
~Bonnie Tawil, Class of 2017

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 2

Today we accomplished multiple feats of chesed on our first full day of chesed beginning with a visit to the Ilanot School. This school focuses specifically on helping students with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities. We interacted with the children, playfully entertaining them with jokes and anecdotes. We were also treated to an exclusive performance by the Ilanot choir, which showcased numerous songs which they have been practicing all year. After giving the students a vibrant applause and our final farewells, we headed to our next destination, the Haddasah Hospital in Jerusalem.
At the Haddasah Hospital, we each visited patients in the pediatric ward, greeting them with smiles and presents for the beaming children. Each patient was given a present, reciprocating the gift with large smiles and hugs from the children in the hospital. These small acts of kindness warmed our hearts, helping us appreciate the potential each of us has to bring happiness and joy to others.
After departing from the hospital we headed to the Shalva Children's Center, which provides high quality care for individuals with disabilities, empowering their families and promoting social inclusion. This organization is focused on caring for and nurturing children with special needs, also helping alleviate pressure from parents of these children and provide them with an opportunity to care for their homes without worrying about the wellbeing of their children. After a tour of the facility we held a dance party for the children, dancing with them for nearly an hour amid roaring music and exuberant celebration. We immediately saw the acute effect we had on the children, bringing smiles and fun to their day.
Our last stop for the night was to hear from and interact with injured Israeli soldiers, though an organization called Tikvot. Tikvot aims to rehabilitate injured soldiers and help them lead productive and proactive lives. We heard the stories of various injured soldiers, and the emotional and physical scars that were left on them. The soldiers also described the profound effect of Tikvot on their recovery, and the way the organization helped them regain control over their lives and overcome their grim injuries. We ended by rock-climbing with the soldiers, showing our appreciation for their sacrifices and contributions to the welfare of the state of Israel and the Jewish nation as a whole.  ~Shlomo Husni, Class of 2017

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Chesed Mission 2016/5776: Day 1

While most people cancelled their trips to Israel, we eagerly booked ours. We realized that Israel needs our help now more than ever. The 14th annual Chesed Mission took off on Tuesday night, January 19th for a non-stop chesed experience in Israel. A group of 53 students and 5 faculty members, led by Rabbi Naftali Besser and Mrs. Susan Franco, decided to spend their winter break in Israel visiting the sick, dancing with soldiers, volunteering in soup kitchens, interacting with special children, and so much more. After 10 long hours on ELAL, we were finally able to embark on our journey filled with chesed. We left the airport and decided, what better way to start off the trip then to visit the Kotel. While we prayed Arbit each and every one of us felt the presence of Hashem, while we requested His's assistance to ensure our safety. Many of us either cried, were overcome with pride, or left meaningful notes in the wall.
Shortly after, we headed to the Inbal Hotel to check in, and order in dinner. At 11pm, we packed socks gloves, and other needed clothing for the soldiers that we would be visiting throughout the Mission, which proved that its never too late to do chesed! It was a great start to a trip that I know is going to be great! I am looking forward to the many days of chesed ahead.
~Rachel Nussbaum, Class of 2016

Monday, January 11, 2016

Choices Commission Kindness Program

Recently, Yeshivah of Flatbush 9th grade students participated in this year's first Choices Commission program. Choices commissioners worked along with the members of the Guidance Department to create a program dedicated to the importance of kindness, and awareness of bullying.
The freshmen watched meaningful videos and watched our Choices commissioners act out some funny skits about how students speak to each other or text in chats. While the crowd roared of laughter, there was definite awareness of how bullying is happening in front of our eyes everyday and it is our job to stand up and say something.

After the presentation, the students were split up by class into sessions to discuss the different types of bullying and to analyze the presentation further. The freshmen definitely got a kick out of the candy that was given out in these sessions. Initially, airheads were given out when a student contributed to the conversation, representing the type of language that is not condoned. As the conversation picked up and the students understood the real meaning and importance of the program and of kindness, they were given Hershey kisses as a parting gift, representing the way we should treat each other, with love.

Through this program the students got a sense of how certain things that they might perceive as normal or inevitable are in fact bullying. They learned about covert, or implicit bullying, and overt, or explicit bullying and how they are so different yet are both types of bullying. Whether it's physically hurting someone, not including them, or typing something mean in a class chat, bullying is the biggest problem facing teens today and must be recognized and stopped. The freshmen now have a kick start to being the role models of the school in the way they act and more importantly, how they treat others. Be the reason someone smiles today.
~Linda Guindi, Class of 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

College Kickoff Night 2015

On Monday night, December 21, juniors and their parents attended College Kickoff Night where they heard from Mr. Rob Franek, Vice President and Publisher at The Princeton Review. In an interactive and energetic conversation about the state of college admissions today, Mr. Franek shared some insider tips about the application review process and what colleges are looking for in an applicant. He encouraged students to open their minds to consider colleges that suit their individual needs and goals rather than only thinking about schools with name recognition. Students and their parents were also given their unique log-in information for Naviance, the website used to keep track of their college applications, create a resume and view statistics about past applicants from YOFHS. It was an enjoyable and informative evening for all who attended!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

High School and Middle Division Students Partner in Reading!

Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School and Middle Division students enjoyed pizza and lively discussions for this year's first Partners in Reading event. Students all read "Starters" by Lissa Price, a sci-fi dystopian thriller, and many also read the author's recent sequel "Enders." Over pizza students got to know one another and discussed the book's plot and themes guided by questions posed by High School leaders. Following the captivating discussions, students got creative and collaboratively worked on advertisements for the book. With just 10 minutes students were able to come up with some intriguing campaigns. The ES students and the HS students cannot wait for the next meet in the spring.
This program is coached by E.S. General Studies Librarian Lynne Grant and H.S. Librarians Rachail Kurtz and Brian Katz. The club meets twice per year, once in the fall at the Elementary School and once in the spring in the High School. The HS students enjoy the opportunity to mentor the younger students and the Middle Division students are excited to partner with H.S. students and share stirring discussions about thought-provoking books. Our MD students who participate will then have the chance to pay it forward by themselves being Book Club mentors when they arrive in our High School.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

AP Literature Students Partake in a Shakespeare Rap Battle

Last week, Ms. Bloom and her AP Literature class had a Shakespeare Rap Battle in which students took turns rapping Sonnet 130. To see some highlights of the raps, see video below:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Students Learn Real World Business Skills at VEI Business Plan Competition

On Thursday December 17th, despite the rain, the Yeshivah of Flatbush VEI (Virtual Enterprises International) class traveled to the Manhattan Business Academy to compete in the citywide VEI Business Plan Competition.

VEI allows students to experience working in the real business world. Under the guidance of a teacher/facilitator, students create and manage their virtual businesses from product development, production and distribution to marketing, sales, human resources, accounting/finance and web design. With an emphasis on college and career readiness, VEI provides students with a competitive edge through project-based, collaborative learning and the development of 21st-century skills in entrepreneurship, global business, problem solving, communication, personal finance and technology.
The Yeshivah of Flatbush students worked together throughout the school year creating a virtual business, marketing their products to the VEI marketplace, managing the daily financial aspects of the virtual business and putting together a cohesive business plan and PowerPoint presentation. Students Shlomo Husni, Alan Frastai, Michael Abadie, Teddy Beyda, Isaac Dweck and Amanda Heskiel successfully presented their wealth management corporation, T-Corp, to a team of judges and the competition audience. The students learned a great deal and hope to continue to build on this powerful experience.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Flatbush Student Recognized at Colel Chabad's International Awards Dinner

Colel Chabad's International Awards Dinner recognized Stephanie Franco, the daughter of Michael and Sally Franco, an 11th grader in the Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braveman High School with their Pantry Packers Award. Stephanie visited Pantry Packers this past summer when she was in Israel. The Yeshivah's annual Chesed Mission spends time there every winter break where they repackage bulk food items into family size portions, all done by volunteers. Stephanie was amazed to see first hand how this incredible organization provides food to so many families – more than she ever imagined! This experience inspired her so much that she wanted to continue to be a part of this chesed; she also wanted to give back. She and her family hosted a bake sale/auction in her home to benefit Pantry Packers. Many Yeshivah of Flatbush students baked and supported this chesed project which raised a significant amount of money for Tzedakah. You can read more in this news article. Below is a video of the speech Staphanie gave at Colel Chabad's Annual Dinner: