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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cooking For A Cause: March 2016

Earlier this month we held two amazing Cooking For A Cause events. At our first event, Mrs. Lorraine Betesh, mom or Lilly and Teddy, helped students make over 500 pieces of mini pizzas and apple puffs. At our second event, Mrs. Doris Mosseri, mom or Maurice, and Mrs. Michelle Oved, mom of Joseph and Raquel, helped students make chicken cutlets, meatballs, and potato knishes. 
Mrs. Lorraine Betesh with her daughter Lily. 
Cooking for a Cause gives students the opportunity to learn how to prepare a variety of entrees, dinners, and desserts while participating in a Chesed event. All of the food prepared in these events are sent to needy families who can then enjoy delicious homemade dinners.
Mrs. Doris Mosseri with her son Maurice
Mrs. Michelle Oved with her son Joseph
Mosseri and Oved families with Mrs. Shifra Hanon and her daughter Rochelle Dweck

Friday, March 25, 2016

Color War 2016: Breakout

שלמות אדם

לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנה
(Pirkei Avot 2:16)
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” -Rumi

Every morning we say לתקן עולם במלכות שקי. What does it mean to “fix” the world? How do we do that?

The world is a frightening place. Terror attacks, wars, scandals. Bad news all around. Do you ever look around and think that this needs to change? If you do, you’re right. Making the world a better place is a fundamental belief in Judaism, but it is vague and hard to achieve. To make the world a better place, first we must make ourselves better, more complete people.

Throughout our history we see people improving on their own middot in order to make the world a better place. We can start with the obvious, Avraham avinu. He made himself into a righteous person with integrity and faithfulness. He inspired so many people around him to follow a righteous path, and it is quite evident that he changed the world. He is the father of monotheism! How did he get that title? By first working on himself.

Dona Gracia Mendes was a Sephardic Morano. During the Spanish inquisition she fled to Portugal and was forced to convert to Christianity. She managed to escape oppression, and she fled to Europe. Dona Gracia was extremely wealthy, and with her money she helped Jews escape Portugal and countries that oppressed their Jews, and she built Yeshivot and Shuls. Dona Gracia single handedly changed the fate of hundreds of Sephardic Jews - it is obvious that she made the world a better place. But she was only able to make the world a better place after she escaped from Portugal and worked on freeing herself. She was only able to better the world after she made herself a more complete person with complete freedom.

The reason why we need to start with ourselves when looking to change the world is because the world is arduous and exhausting. Changing ourselves is also arduous and exhausting, but a little more manageable. Working on bettering ourselves changes the world because we all have an effect on everyone around us.

While self reflection isn’t a new concept, it is important to take the qualities we hope to perfect in ourselves and exemplify them in order to improve the world and the communities we live in. As the Jewish people, it is our responsibility to make the world a better place, to improve upon ourselves - spiritually, physically, and emotionally - and it is quite a daunting task. However a small gesture, of kindness, faith, justice, integrity, love, or respect can set off a chain reaction. We are faced with a choice each moment of our lives. Hashem gave man free will, בחירה חופשית, so we may use it to better serve Him. As we reflect upon ourselves, we can see ways and places to improve.

With kindness, justice, strength, and humility, we must take on the role of לתקן עולם במלכות שקי. We must glorify and honor the ultimate gift of life and this world that was given to us by Hashem, and hopefully we will merit a place in Olam Habah.

In Parashat Bereshit, we see the first mention of צלם אלוקים. Chazal frequently cite the concept of צלם אלוקים in order to emphasize man’s uniqueness. But is comparing man to Hashem a slippery slope? How can we possibly imagine or even pretend that we are remotely like Hashem?

The Rambam explains that by depicting man as having צלם אלוקים, the Torah highlights man’s intellectual and spiritual potential. He continues to explain that this combination of spirituality, intellect, and physical capacity is what inherently makes us capable of sin. It is exactly our physical and intellectual limitations that provide temptation and opportunity for us to sin. We see this in אדם הראשון. This person, created in the “image of Hashem” who has the strongest and most obvious connection to him was tempted and sinned- submitting to his physical and intellectual weaknesses instead of using them to nurture his נשמה. We learn from this that it is our responsibility to overcome our physical limitations and temptations, to use the physical and intellectual capacities that we have to develop and strengthen our middot, to become more שלם and exemplify these middot. In doing so, we become closer to Hashem and closer to the ultimate goal of completing the world. This job will never be full complete, and we cannot always expect perfection, but it is the journey that unites us, and the work that is our responsibility. As it is written in Pirkei Avot ב:ט"ז.

“לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנה.” We are not responsible to complete it, but we must always continue to work upon ourselves and the world around us.

So when faced with struggle, when we search for meaning in a world that is often bleak and full of violence and flaws, seek to improve, to better yourself into an אדם שלם - a full and complete person, a person created in the image of Hashem. By internalizing the middot of Humility ענוה, Justice צדק, Kindness אדיבות and Strength עצמה, we can continue the work and merit the משיח and עולם הבא, בעזרת הקדוש ברוך הוא.

This year's color war focuses on the theme of Being a Whole Person. Each team represents a different way of representing this:

Green: Humility - ענוה
Yellow: Kindness - אדיבות
Red: Strength - עוצמה
Blue: Justice - צדק

We broke out Color War 2016 with this amazing video:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Rosh Chodesh Adar II 5776

Yeshivah of Flatbush celebrated Rosh Chodesh Adar II in a festive way. The Seniors dressed up for the annual Senior Masquerade! For Seniors, Masquerade is one of the highlights of the year. It's a time where we get to dress up and have fun. Students had very creative and funny costumes this year, they ranged from Care Bears to Donald Trump! The program started off with a senior grade Rikkudim later joined by the rest of the school. The Seniors danced in their amazing costumes and raised excitement. After Rikkudim, we had a pep rally congratulating our very own Varsity Boys Basketball team and Junior Varisty Girls Basketball team for making it to the Championship Game. Both teams worked extremely hard this season and have gotten so far. This was definitely one Rosh Chodesh we all won't forget. The students and faculty all had a great time. Special thanks to Rabbi Besser for organizing the program!
~ Clarice Soffer and Danielle Dahan, Class of 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Flatbush JV Debate Team Impresses

JV Debate Award Winner, Ezra Faks
The Yeshivah of Flatbush JV Debate Team made an impressive showing at YUHSG/Central's novice debate tournament on the evening of Thursday March 3, 2016. The team of Ezra Faks and Julie Saadia won their first ever debate match and Ezra was awarded as "3rd Place Speaker" of the entire event. Elie Feldman also performed admirably in his matches. We look forward to future success with the team!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pathfinders Update: Students Embark on Bloomberg Finance Program

Through the Yeshivah of Flatbush Pathfinders Program a group of juniors had the opportunity to visit Long Island University's campus in downtown Brooklyn to partake in a real-life finance program. We undertook the first session of an online course through LIU's Bloomberg Financial system. It was exactly like you'd see on TV; two computer screens with an intricate keyboard and complicated software. The program was interactive, we watched videos and answered questions on what we learned. We learned about global finance, markets, and currencies. After completing the program we will be awarded a certificate that establishes us as Bloomberg Market Concepts graduates. Big thanks to Ms. Hanon, LIU Dean Abe Tawil, and Director Izzy Maldonado! ~Joseph BenHaim, Class of 2017

Monday, March 14, 2016

Flatbush Students Compete in Model Congress 2016

Congratulations to the YOFHS Model Congress team on their performance at HAFTR's "Yeshiva League Model Congress" competition that took place on Thursday March 3 / 23 Adar I. Freshman Robert Adler was awarded a gavel as "Best Delegate" in the "Armed Services" committee and Kimberly Alweiss was recognized with an "Honorable Mention" award in "Environment and Public Works." YLMC 2016 consisted of over 200 student “delegates” from various yeshivah high schools, who participated by presenting original bills, debating, amending and voting on other bill proposals and learning firsthand how the legislative process works. Gabe Vizgan, Ben Wade, Shlomo Husni, Florence Deutsch, Moses Bakst and Netanel Benshabat all participated at a very high level, as well. The event was an educational and enjoyable experience for all concerned. We look forward to future success in this program!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Josh Warhit of StandWithUs Speaks to the Class of 2016 About Israel

On Wednesday February 17, Josh Warhit from StandWithUs came to Yeshivah of Flatbush High School to speak with our seniors. StandWithUs is a pro Israel organization that supports Israel around the world. It reaches its aims through education and advocacy. Josh Warhit is the high school coordinator for the North East Region. He began by speaking to the seniors and students from the Israel Activism commission about his experience in the Israel Defense Forces. Josh served as a lone soldier after graduating from college in upstate New York where he grew up. He enlisted a couple of years ago, where he served and fought during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. He explained the army's code of ethics. He also brought in an actual leaflet that Israel dropped in Gaza that was burned. Before Israel entered Gaza, they sent leaflets to warn the civilians in Gaza that they are entering. This was extremely risky. As Josh puts it, "we were telling the enemy we were coming in."

After some time for questions, Josh changed gears. He took the role as StandWithUs North East High School Coordinator. Josh taught us a technique initiated by StandWithUs to answer difficult questions and statements against Israel. The strategy is called A.R.M. First, address the statement without completely stating that it's wrong. Second, reframe the statement and incorporate all proofs and points. Then, end it off with a nice message that completes the conversation with a positive note. The students practiced this technique together. This assembly was extremely informative and helpful. The students are now able to defend Israel in college and in life. ~Sarah Torgueman, Class of 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sophomore Seminar 2016 Reflection

Sophomore Seminar has been one of the greatest experiences in my high school career. Although we left for the Berkley Hotel Friday morning, seminar sessions started Thursday morning in school when Mr. Joey Cabaso, a speaker from SAFE, came to talk to the sophomore grade. Mr. Cabaso's speech about his own experiences with alcohol and drugs really made an impact on both the sophomores and the teachers. He spoke from the heart, telling everyone how he lost a major part of his life to these horrible addictions. His speech connected with the theme of this year's seminar, transitions and changes.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel and settled in, seminar began. Rabbi Besser, the head of seminar, started off the day with both inspiring and emotional videos that led into a speech given by our very own Ms. Sarah Marcus. Ms. Marcus's words brought the room to tears; you could hear sniffling all around you. Her experiences as a a young woman with a family dilemma brought out the emotions in everyone. This was the perfect start to a weekend that was full of feelings - joy and sadness, appreciation and gratitude. We welcomed Shabbat with singing and dancing that was filled with love which was followed by prayers and dinner.
After dinner, there was a meaningful session about relationships. We ended off the night with tisch, which was definitely a huge highlight of the weekend. Students got up in front of everyone and talked about transitions or changes they had been through, which takes a lot of courage. Many students' stories brought students to tears. Every student and adult left that room with immense feelings of appreciation and gratitude for what they have and for the tough changes they didn't have to experience themselves. The night ended around 1:00 AM but resumed shortly after at 9:15 for prayers and Torah reading.

Shabbat day was filled with sessions with teachers and advisers on decisions and transitions. Lunch was followed by free time where students had the option to join a session with Ms. Sally Shatzkes and four Holocaust survivors from Russia. This session was moving and incredible; the survivors talked about the biggest transitions they have experienced throughout their lives. The things they've gone through and witnessed are almost beyond comprehension and it was an incredible experience to be a part of. By the end of Shabbat Rabbi Besser led the grade in rikkudim and Mr. Galpert sang Havdallah while two of the survivors held the candle. We were sad to see Shabbat go but one hour later, class wars began. There were games like musical chairs, name that tune, teacher tweets, and tushi volleyball where both students, teachers, and senior advisers competed for the winning title. Afterwards, there was more dancing and singing followed by an emotional kumzitz. But that's not the end! On Sunday morning there was one last dance and then we were off. Students took many pictures before leaving, both in the hotel and on the gorgeous beach across the street. This was an amazing end to an amazing weekend. I can't wait for junior seminar to begin next year! ~Sylvia Ashkenazie, Class of 2018

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Flatbush Seniors Get Certified to Save Lives

The Yeshivah of Flatbush Senior Class of 2016 had the opportunity to learn CPR and become a certified life saver through Project BLINK. CPR is a simple "procedure" to learn that can save someone's life. The seniors had two separate sessions, which gave them both a theoretical and practical understanding of what to do in emergency situations. 
In the first session we were taught about the human heart and the basics of CPR training. In the second session, the grade was split up into small groups for a more hands-on approach. In these small groups, experts at CPR taught us the many steps of a CPR procedure. We learned how to save choking and not breathing adults, children, and infants. Students were able to practice on dummies. Each student was taught compressions and mouth to mouth as well as how to use an AED, a device that can detect someone who is in V-fib (ventricular fibrillation) and send an electrical shock through the body. At the end we were tested on what we had learned and received certification. This program was extremely informative and fun and is beneficial to all the students. ~Sari Esses, Class of 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Pathfinders Update: Real Estate Club Gets Hands-On Learning Experience

Recently, the Yeshivah of Flatbush Real Estate (RE Develop) Club had the opportunity to travel to Newark, New Jersey to meet with and learn from real estate developer, Mr. Maurice Levy (HS '01). He gave us an onsite tour of a project that's in the midst of being developed from a run down office building to a luxury apartment building. Step by step Mr. Levy described in detail the process from buying a building depending on its location to the actual architectural configuration of what the building will look like.
We also met with Mr Levy's project manager who taught us about coordinating all the sub contractors and how important it is to be on top of every single decision in order for the building process to move swiftly and on time. We were also able to witness actual construction by getting a full tour of all the floors being worked on, which put into color the architects plans that were shown to us in the beginning of the lecture. To end off a productive and knowledgable visit, Mr. Levy treated all of us for a great lunch! This was an amazing hands-on learning experience, which opened up my eyes to the real world of real estate development. ~Sam Laniado, Class of 2017

Monday, March 7, 2016

Flatbush Hosts College Bowl Competition!

YOFHS Varsity College Bowl Team
Five visiting schools came to Yeshivah of Flatbush High School last month as the YOFHS College Bowl team hosted the February meet. SAR, Ramaz, MTA, Westchester, Magen David and of course, Yeshivah of Flatbush HS, fielded teams in a series of 5 matches, as they proceeded to compete their way toward the Championships.
YOFHS JV College Bowl Team
The Flatbush team, led by Captain Max Edeson, displayed a solid and broad ranging knowledge of literature, history, mathematics, current events and science as they played out their matches in challenging and adrenaline filled rounds and ultimately trounced the Ramaz Varsity and the Magen David Junior Varsity teams. Junior Varsity team member, David Azrak, remarked “It’s about challenging ourselves against the knowledge of other students and the thrill of seeing how much we know.” As Coach Mrs. Rachail Kurtz commented, “A team that practices well, does well!” Congratulations to the College Bowl team, and good luck next month at round 3.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sephardic Heritage Trip to Spain 2016/5776: Day 6

Our day started with minyan and our usual deluxe breakfast. We checked out of the Eliott hotel and walked (literally) across the border from Gibraltar to Spain. Next up, a bus ride to the picturesque sea town of Marbella took us to a catamaran ferry to the neighboring town of Puerto Banus. The boat's unique netting allowed us to lounge over the water. We were so close, a wind gust took Marielle's jacket overboard! Thankfully, no passport or money was lost.
Puerto Banus has a luxury shopping district which kept us busy window shopping (and deal-finding).

We then took another bus ride up a winding mountain road to the quaint town of Ronda. Built on the top of cliffs, Ronda features an arch bridge over a steep ravine, providing several outstanding views. We managed to catch a marching band playing traditional Spanish music. It was really cold, so we hurried back to our bus and headed for the port city of Malaga. After starting by the statue dedicated to Solomon ibn Gabirol (we learned his poems in our Hebrew classes!), we had some time to browse the Lario shopping area.
Solomon ibn Gabirol
The day ended with a falafel and pasta dinner in Torremolinos, where we are staying for the night. It was a great day to end off an amazing trip! Tomorrow, we return home to the States.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sephardic Heritage Trip to Spain 2016/5776: Day 5 - Shabbat in Gibraltar

After several days in Spain, where Judaism is barely a flickering remnant, we prepared for Shabbat in the vibrant community of Gibraltar.

We prayed Kabbalat Shabbat in the magnificent Nefussot Yehuda synagogue. The melodies were close to ours, yet at the same time significantly different. We dined in the Tamid catering restaurant. Over dinner, we heard about the life experiences of our guide Moshe "Moti" Hassan. His challenges to raise a Jewish child in Spain and his commitment to overcome them were amazing to hear. In the hotel, we played an intense game of Zoom-Schwartz before heading to our rooms for the night.

On Shabbat morning, we woke up early and went to pray in yet another beautiful Shul, the Abudarham Congregation. Again the melodious prayers were beautiful to participate in and enjoy. After services, we walked down a bustling Main Street, where we noticed a number of stores closed for Shabbat because they had Jewish owners. We were lucky enough to see the Gibraltar reserve army march down the street in what looked like World War I uniforms. After lunch we were met by the Mayor of Gibraltar, The Honorable Mr. Solomon Levy. He told us about his life in Gibraltar and how the 600 Jews of Gibraltar survived the World War II, and about their return and life since. We then had some free time to relax, read or bask in the warm sun on the hotel deck. Rabbi Beyda and the boys then returned to shul while Ms. Bloom and the girls went to Seuda Shelishit with the young girls from Gibraltar. The girls had a lovely time singing and playing games.
We then met up at the hotel for Havdalah, a shower and then headed out for a night of pizza and bowling. It was yet another beautiful day in Gibraltar.
~Mimi Levy and Nancy Tobias

Friday, March 4, 2016

Rosh Chodesh Adar I 5776

On Rosh Chodesh Adar I students and faculty gathered together to welcome in the new month of Adar I. The program started off with Rabbi Besser, Dean of Students, showing us images and telling us a story about, Dafna Meir. A woman who dedicated her entire life to helping others and doing chesed. You could feel the emotion in the air as everyone was touched by her altruism. We then saw a slideshow of this year's Chesed Mission. As a freshman it inspired me to want to go on this trip in the future. As the program moved along we sang our hearts out with so much passion and love for Israel. Special thanks to Rabbi Besser who organized and lead the program.
~Raquel Keda 1V

Sephardic Heritage Trip to Spain 2016/5776: Day 4

We started off our first day in Gibraltar with a deluxe breakfast. Following breakfast, we went down to tour Gibraltar and learn about the culture and history of this Spanglish speaking commonwealth. We traveled through rocks and tunnels and learned about the artificially made water falls that provide water to the ~2 mile long country. 
We stopped at Europa point to see the short distance between Gibraltar in Europe and Morocco in Africa. We learned about the strategic value of Gibraltar and how controlling it gives you control to the Mediterranean Sea. We travelled to the Jewish cemetery and marveled at how Jews in Gibraltar slowly developed their community. We then went to visit caves that are used as concert halls. 
Thereafter, we interacted with the large monkey species on the mountain. We arrived back at the hotel and had 6 hours of free time to get ready for Shabbat. We are looking forward to an excellent Shabbat with the Jewish community of Gibraltar. ~Merle Dweck and Michelle Harari 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sephardic Heritage Trip to Spain 2016/5776: Day 3

After last night's excitement under the bright stadium lights of the futbol game in Seville, we awoke bright and early, prepared to start our third day in this beautiful country. We departed from the Hilton and made our way to the Castillo de San Jorge in Seville, the first Inquisition headquarters in Spain. The ruins of the castle were first found some 30 years ago when the foundations for a market were dug out. On the site a museum was built, which seamlessly created a place to observe the ruins where thousands were killed. This place of reflection was established to ultimately show the dangers of power, especially when it goes unchecked. The original headquarters, built in 1478, was the site of where the Spanish monarchy tortured, charged and burned thousands of Jews. The Spanish monarchy tasked people with finding marranos or secret Jews, and carried out the Auto de fe, the legal process where people where tried and ultimately found guilty of their crimes.
After that somber tour, we strolled through the breathtaking city of Seville, repeatedly taken aback by the amazing architecture and structures that were constructed hundreds of years ago. Although that was all soon forgotten as we approached the massive Seville cathedral, the largest gothic structure in the world, and the overall third largest church ever built. The church was constructed on the site of a mosque that stood in there in the 12th century. As the Catholics retook the city and built their own worship site, they kept the main tower and eventually finished the construction after 75 years in 1506. The upper part of the tower resembled a mosque with its unique architecture so in 1568 it was altered.

We soon went from one architectural marvel to the next visiting the Alcazar the fortress, the palace of the King in Seville. It consists of several buildings, constructed from the 11th century to sometime in the late 19th century with each successive king trying to make it his own. The upper floor is still designated for the King when he visits the city. The most unique part of this ancient fortress is that while under construction in the 14th century, during the monarchy of Peter the First, a Catholic monarch, the palace was designed and built in Muslim style.
We then walked right outside the palace to the Jewish quarter, where we shopped and ate lunch. And if you think we had a jam packed, amazing day, it only got better as we visited a true wonder, the Plaza de Espania which was constructed for the Iberian-American fair in 1929. We relaxed there for two hours many of us taking boats out on the water under the historic arches.
I write this piece to you now from Gibraltar, a commonwealth of Great Britian, where we ate our first resturant meal followed by ice skating. It truly was one amazing day. I just hope the rest of the trip can live up to it. ~Albert Dweck