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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Remembering the Forgotten Refugees

The world has largely ignored the suffering of nearly 1 million Jews from Muslim countries who were persecuted and ultimately forced to leave their homes between 1948 and the 1970's. These Jews are the real 'forgotten refugees.'

Even within the Jewish community, there is a lack of awareness of what happened to Middle Eastern or Mizrachi Jewry. To correct this, two years ago the Israeli government established November 30 as the day to mark the departure and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. November 30 was chosen because it is the day after the 29th of November 1947, when the U.N. Adopted the partition plan, which the Jews accepted but the Arabs rejected. From that day on, many communities of Jews in Arab countries began to feel the pressure and hostility from their Arab and Persian neighbors and as a result were forced to leave their countries, in most cases with literally nothing but the clothes on their back. Many of the refugees went to Israel, others to Europe and the United States, where they had to rebuild their lives and often under difficult conditions.

Here At the Yeshivah of Flatbush, many of us are of Mizrachi descent. The story of the forgotten refugees is our story. Many of us have great grandparents, grandparents, and even parents who experienced brutal antisemitism and had to leave their homes, their businesses, their entire lives and start again in strange new environments.

The world may have chosen to forget the 'forgotten refugees', but we do not. Today we acknowledge and commemorate their suffering and their terrible losses. But we also acknowledge and honor their courage and strength in rebuilding their lives so that we, their children, could live in freedom and comfort.

~Ricky Aboutboul, Class of 2017

Today we remembered the "forgotten refugees" - the Jews who fled from Arab lands by asking students to place a pushpin on their family's country of origin.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Election Season at Flatbush

Fall is an exciting time for the AP US Government and Politics class, taught by Ms. Shelley Kaplowitz. Beginning over this past summer and running through Election Day, the class created a ‘mirror’ presidential campaign. There was a ‘Clinton’ and a ‘Trump’, 2 campaign managers plotting strategy, 2 campaign teams raising ‘money’ and then using that to create posters, campaign commercials, and special campaign events promoting their candidate. Part of the project was for the US Gov’t students to explain the differences between Democrats and Republicans, and the issues that defined each party so that the entire student body would understand what was going on in the ‘real world’. This campaign culminated with 2 debates on Election Day, each for half the school at a time. Here, the ‘candidates’ had to answer a series of questions from Phoenix reporters, as well as the audience, about their policies—no easy task when you’re not the actual candidate, but have to answer what they would answer. Finally, the entire school was able to vote for the candidate of their choice.
The highlight of the project came a couple of days prior to Election Day, when the US Gov’t students were invited, thanks to the annual generosity of Steve Cohn (father of Warren, class of 2005), to a political fundraiser where the students met and talked to, Governor Cuomo, Mayor DeBlasio (who gave Flatbush a shout-out from the podium), several members of Congress, the city and state legislatures, and the most of the Brooklyn DA’s office. (including Flatbush graduate David Klestzick) This was a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and see how politics operate and to do some networking for their future.
Said Ms. Kaplowitz: “The entire project allows for the integration of the real world outside, into the curriculum that’s on the page in the students’ classrooms. No matter who wins in the Mock Election, ALL the students are winners because it makes the subject come alive for them in a way that would not be possible otherwise”.

Photo Gallery:
Mock Election 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

STEM Israel Trip 2016: Days 5 & 6

We woke up on Friday morning thrilled to be in Yerushalayim! After Shacharit & breakfast, we had the last of our series of entrepreneurial workshops, a very interesting and informative session on Industrial Design with Amir Kadouri. We learned about form vs function, how to make the form of your product match the function, and how to choose the right colors, materials and designs that will be the most appealing to your customers. We had design challenges- making a package to show and carry an egg, without breaking it, and other interesting projects.

After this it was on to the Machane Yehudah Shuk for lunch and a little shopping. Finally we went back to the hotel to prepare for an early ride to the Kotel for Kabbalat Shabbat. It was truly moving to see the soldiers dance and sing in the start of the Shabbat. We were praying with extra kavana as we thought about our brothers and sisters who had to flee the raging fires that were set all over the country. We prayed for the much needed rain and for Hashem to bring peace to the land of Israel.

We ate our festive and delicious Friday night dinner at Aish Hatorah, and heard Divrei Torah from our guide, Koby, and from Mrs. Bacon. After our brisk walk back to our hotel, we had optional team building and math games before turning in for the night. 
By unanimous choice, we chose to walk back to the Kotel for Shacharit. It was an incredible experience as Koby explained the history of Yerushalayim. It truly made us feel connected to our history and ties to Eretz Yisrael in a way that is almost impossible to experience in a classroom setting.

We had Shabbat lunch and an optional afternoon activity; most of us chose to rest - but some went to the park to continue to enjoy the Yerushalayim experience. After Seudat Shlishit, Maariv and Havdalah, we went back to our rooms to pack for our early morning departure from the hotel. Our closing dinner, which was held at Piccolino restaurant, included a conversation with Bob Rosenschein, the founder of, and a chance for each of us to say what they found most enjoyable and what they learned. The evening ended with an outing to Ben Yehudah Street for a little more shopping before finally going to bed for the night.
We're now all home, after a long day of traveling, but the what we learned and experience this week will stay with us forever.

Friday, November 25, 2016

STEM Israel Trip 2016: Day 4

After tefillah and breakfast on the 4th day of the STEM Israel Trip we started with a visit to an Israeli public school in South Tel Aviv where we met Israeli students our age. The program was organized by Am Yisrael Echad and led by madrichim Rachel (who grew up in Flatbush before moving o Israel) and Bina.
While initially everyone was reluctant to interact with their foreign counterparts, an intense speed dating style icebreaker helped warm everyone up to each other. After the ice breaker we continued on to a room with snacks for a break, which turned into an impromptu interschool mannequin challenge. After that we moved on to a play a treasure hunt game in small mixed groups. When the program was over we continued to informally talk and get to know each other while exchanging ideas and practicing foreign languages. It turned out to be an excellent cultural and personal experience with our Israeli brethren.
After that we went to the Azrielli Mall in Tel Aviv for a "working" lunch to fine tune our startup pitch to the Zell students. We had a contest in which we pitched our startup ideas that we had been planning for the past week to the Zell entrepreneurial students at IDC University . We had a "Shark Tank" set up and pitched our startup to the mock investors to invest in our company. There were many fantastic ideas, like the gyro toothbrush, the hydrological energy system, and many more. After each company had presented their ideas to the panel, the panel voted on the winner of best pitch and product. It was a great experience!

We then enjoyed a full Thanksgiving dinner with Eytan Buchman, Director of Marketing at Freightos, to discuss co-existence and how it affects the Israeli Startup Nation. Rabbi Dr. Raymond Harari also joined us for the festive meal.  ~Jack Zeitouny and Jack Dweck, Class of 2019

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

STEM Israel Trip 2016: Day 3

The 3rd day of the STEM Israel Trip started with our long-awaited trip to the Technion in Haifa. It was thrilling to be in the university that started all of the technology research and industry in Israel and which is now one of the greatest science institutes in the world.
We took part in a robotics building workshop and produced robots that moved like snakes. It was a pretty thrilling challenge to see which team built the "snake" that was the fastest. We always love competing against each other- and of course it's always in good fun.
After lunch we went for a VIP tour of the underground emergency hospital at Rambam Hospital. They showed us videos of projects that they were working on, like how to restart a heart by using light pulses instead of a pacemaker. They also showed us videos of projects they already completed, for example there is new technology to help stop the tremors in someone with Parkinson's. Insightec has developed an MRI helmet that sends 100 very focused ultrasound waves into the brain. It eliminates surgery and the harm it can do the brain. Then they took us underground to a parking lot that can change into a underground hospital in case of war. Underground, there was a closed off room that was for patients that need to be isolated, like if they had Ebola. After showing us the isolation room they showed us a portable tent that they can be taken to crisis sites to assist patients. The last thing they showed us was the surgical unit they use underground in case of a terrorist or other urgent situation. From this tour we realized that Israel is prepared to medically help its people in any situation that might occur.  ~Esther Hidary, Class of 2019
We then went in to the educational science playground at Madatech and had a great time experimenting with the different machines - especially the giant lever. There was lots of fun action! After the visiting the educational playground at Madatech, we went to a workshop in their STEM research labs with a member of Technion, where we learned how to use the software PicoBlock. We worked in pairs, and each pair was supplied with a robot and computer. We learned how to use the block features on PicoBlock to make the robot travel, stop, and reverse its direction. We also learned how to use "if/then statements," which are conditional statements that search for an input in order to give an output. 
Lastly, we learned how to program an LCD screen, or display screen. Using the block features, we generated numbers to appear on the screen to depicted the number of times the robot touched metal. At the end of the lesson, we saw Madatech's robot that acted on voice command. For example, it obeyed when told to stand, sit, and dance. The robot performed an entertaining dance of the Macarena for us, until it was put back to sleep. After a long and packed day, we finally headed back to the hotel to prepare our start-up pitches in preparation for tomorrow's visit to IDC! ~Lauren Zami, Class of 2019

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

STEM Israel Trip 2016: Day 2

On the 2nd Day our STEM Israel Trip we met with Assaf Luxemburg for a session on “pitching your idea” at his Crowdmii office in Tel Aviv, followed by a tour of Crowdmii and MyMDBand offices. We then visited the Freetime Academy in Herzliya to see the world of Makaree for a step by step guide to the world of app design. Later in the day we met with Hillel Fuld, entrepreneur, and expert on the Startup Nation phenomenon.
Assaf Luxembourg, the CEO of Crowdmii, hadn't found his true calling until he was in his 20's. When he was younger he wanted to be a DJ - and he worked at it. At a certain point he said to himself "Do I really want to do this? Am I really going to be successful at this when I'm 40?" The answer (to himself) was no. So he thought about what his passion was and realized he loved Israel so much, that he had to have a job to represent her. He knew that what he described was being an ambassador to represent and honor his country- and get paid to do it. He went to Hebrew University and worked with big corporations to try to become qualified to be an Israeli ambassador. While in training with many diplomats around the world, they asked him to speak and teach them about Israel. After seeing that he loved speaking about Israel he realized that what he really was best at was being a consultant, talking about Israel and helping people to start up their own businesses- with the focus on businesses that are particularly helpful to many people. One example of this is MyMD band, a potentially life saving device that contains all of a person's medical information on a QR readable wristband. The product is funded to help Holocaust survivors live a healthier life.
Assaf explained to us what makes a successful pitch in order to successfully get funding for your project. When making a pitch you must follow a seven step pitch outline: Intro, team, opportunity, solution, competition, business model, and the ask. Most importantly is to convince investors that you're passionate about your startup. Then you must bring them the hard facts. Many questions were raised about the factual evidence needed. Assaf always led back to the idea that you must show devotion to an idea in order to catch an investors eye. You're really "selling yourself" and the investors need to believe that you're going to be successful.  ~Joseph Ezon and Jacob Shamah, Class of 2019
After having lunch on the beach in Herziliya, we went to Makeree at Freetime Academy. There, we had a fantastic time using their apps as a guide to build a variety of toys made from straws and a hand-made speaker. Going to Freetime academy, I had thought that we were about to learn the steps of how to build our own app. What we really came to learn, was that the company's workshop that we were about to attend was a hands on experience, which taught us how to build things using simple instructions and innovation. Makaree is a business that focuses on teaching people how to build things with their hands using simple steps and processes. They collaborate with other businesses in order to create apps in order to teach people how to create a certain device. 
We used the app that Makeree had developed for Strawbees, a toy company that allows its users to make creations out of drinking straws. Using the app, we created catapults to launch projectiles in the air. The projectiles we used were pretzels, and we began to shoot the pretzels across the room using the catapults. We decided to create a competition to judge the accuracy and strength of our different catapult designs. While Teddy Gindi did in fact beat me at this challenge, we both learned a valuable lesson today. When we walked in, and we saw the straws, we asked ourselves, “Why are we using drinking straws to build these catapults? Why not wood?” Well, there was a definitive reason as to why the building materials were straws. It was because we needed to learn the skills of improvisation, of using your brain, in order to best utilize the supplies that are given. In life, and certainly in business, we will be given challenges, and we may think that we can not overcome those challenges, but we must use the skills of improvisation in order to combat these challenges.  ~Jack H. Dweck, Class of 2019
Later in the evening we heard from Hillel Fuld, one of the top 100 innovators in Israel, speak to us about Israel being a "Start-Up Nation." He told us how almost every big tech company in the world has development centers in Israel, and that people agree that of all places in the world, the tiny country of Israel is on par with Silicon Valley. Israel keeps coming forth with new, innovative technology. For this reason, many companies are eager and willing to fund Israeli start-ups. And now, Tel Aviv and Haifa are not the only high tech cities in Israel -Jerusalem is now also a major development city. Despite its outward image of pretty much being the "Old City," Jerusalem is producing a large amount of successful new tech. Israelis are particularly successful in the field, according to Hillel, because they are naturally determined, hard-workers. He opened our eyes and really made us proud to learn just how relevant Israel is in our modern world -it's really just about the top country in the industry - a great place to live and to work.  ~Joseph Braha, Class of 2019

Senior Seminar 2016

Senior Seminar 2016 started on Thursday morning when the parents of the seniors joined us for Parent-Senior Breakfast. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast with our parents and introduced the program. Next, the seniors and their parents headed to different classrooms to have a discussion with other seniors and parents. We discussed communication and our parents' involvement in our lives. We learned that in the future we are all headed in different directions, but it is important to keep our connection with our parents. Later in the day, we had the privilege to hear from Ike Chehebar speak. Mr. Chehebar made a bad decision, which led to the loss of two innocent lives. Mr. Chehebar regrets the decision he made every single moment of his life. The main lesson we learned is not to be arrogant. The moment you think you are the center of the world, you make bad decisions which will adversely affect others.

On Friday, we headed to the Berkeley Hotel in Asbury, New Jersey for our final seminar as a grade. Cheri Srour, came all the way from Brooklyn just to speak to us. Cheri was an ordinary girl just like us, who's life suddenly changed. Cheri was in tremendous pain and suffered for a long time, and now she is in a wheelchair. The main takeaway was to focus on what we have, and not dwell and what we don't have. In life, there are challenges and the only way to overcome them is think positive and keep moving forward. After hearing Cheri Srour's story we headed to lunch where we met our alumni college advisors. We then had some free time to get ready for Shabbat.
We started off the Shabbat with a feeling of unity and pride from the Pre-Shabbat Ruach led by Rabbi Besser. During Kabbalat Shabbat, Rabbi Kramer gave a Dvar Torah giving us some insight into Abraham's test in this week's parasha. We had a sessions with our college advisors, and then enjoyed a delicious dinner. In our Friday night circle, Mrs. Wielgus spoke about a challenge that she had to overcome. We learned that in life, challenges are thrown at us, but we have to choose wisely how to approach them. Our Friday night session was about spirituality and our relationship with Hashem. We were also honored that Rabbi Wielgus shared his wisdom with us on Friday night. At tisch, many of our peers opened up and shared their stories, making us feel connected as a grade.

On Shabbat morning, we started off the day with a beautiful Shacharit and Dvar Torah by Mr. Engel, which was about having faith in the toughest of times, like Avraham in Akedat Yitzchak. Our sessions dealt with different types of challenges including stereotypes, modesty, integrity, and responsibility, honesty, survival, and happiness. After free time to hang out with friends, faculty, advisors, and witness theater guests, we had Seuda Shilishit and a Kumzitz. Mr. Galpert then spoke about taking advantage of our strengths and not to let anything stop us because we can achieve great heights. After Mincha and Arvit, we said goodbye to the Shabbat with some singing and a special havdalah
Our Motzei Shabbat rikudim began with some lovely dance moves from our witness theater guests. We also had class wars, where we played name that tune, musical chairs, tushie volleyball, and Flatbush trivia. We ended off the night with some inspirational videos and one last emotional kumzitz as a grade. In order to cherish and enjoy the very last moments of our senior seminar, we stayed downstairs together until we were forced ourselves to go to sleep. On Sunday morning we prayed shacharit, ate breakfast, and watched a slideshow, summing up the beautiful weekend we spent together. We will keep the memories we have made and lessons we have learned on senior seminar for a lifetime. Thank you to Rabbi Besser, Mr. Galpert and everyone who worked to make this weekend so special!
~Marcelle Setton, Class of 2017

Senior Seminar 2016/5777

Monday, November 21, 2016

STEM Israel Trip 2016: Day 1

 Wow! We've just completed the first day of our trip and what a day it has been! After arriving at Ben Gurion airport, we collected our bags, prayed, and met with our tour guide, Kobi, and security guard, Peleg. We then boarded our tour bus to head to the warm boardwalk of Tel Aviv. There we found a barbecue spread prepared by our friends at The Jewish Journey. Having replenished our energy, we then headed to the Grand Beach Hotel where we unpacked and debriefed, and got a much needed night's sleep before our first day of activities.
This morning we were out of bed by 6am and after Shaharit and a great breakfast at the hotel, we were off to the first Entrepreneurial workshop of the trip. We met with 2 facilitators from Presentense to brainstorm ideas for social startups. They gave our students a task of coming up with an idea that will improve students' lives. Some ideas we came up with were to use social apps to help students get to school on time, eat healthy lunches and improve curriculum for seniors. One group even had an idea to invent a new type of nasal decongestant! Our groups thought of their target audience, their goals, the purpose of their startups, and catchy names. We then presented our plans to each other to begin the process of becoming comfortable with pitching ideas. We will fine-tune that skill tomorrow when we meet with Assaf Luxemberg of Crowdmii.

After, we went to the "Invitation to Silence" program at the Holon Children's Museum. In this amazing exhibit we learned how many ways we can communicate with each other besides speaking. We used hand gestures, facial expressions, body language and learned some basic sign language. There was even a new appreciation of the concept that a deaf person doesn't relate to their names the way hearing people do - and in fact we made up new names and signs for ourselves that represented who we really are. Our guide, who is deaf, shared that she often feels left out in social situations, even when she's with her family. We came away with a new awareness of and sensitivity to people who are hearing impaired.
Next we visited Israel's premier water purification plant, Shafdan. There we learned about how Israel, a desert country, is able to maintain its water supply. One major way they do this is by purifying the sewage waters coming out of Israeli homes and industries. Shafdan has built a 120 km network of pipes to transport the waste water to their facility. There, they filter out the rocks, sand, and microorganisms to a point where the water is safe for agricultural use. The water produced here and at the 89 other sewage treatment plants supply 70% of the water used to irrigate the Negev. This water translates to about 10% of Israel's total water consumption. No other country recycles anywhere near the 86% of its water that Israel does - the next closest country is Singapore with 35%! We have learned about this process in our Global History classes, and it really was great seeing how it all actually happens.
After visiting the Shafdan sewage treatment plant, we drove to Ramat Dan to visit the educational tech company, Compedia, a privately owned tech company which is motivated to help innovate classroom education. They have many upcoming projects which they hope can change the way we teach our children. Their most recent project has children jumping for joy to learn the Bible. The company has created an application, which when paired with their "Tamar" textbook, brings augmented reality to the classroom. This application scans the textbook page and converts dull text into a live and interactive movie for the children to watch and manipulate. They hope that as more and more schools adopt the software, more students will begin showing interest in the ancient biblical text which many secular Israeli children find irrelevant to their lives.
Compedia doesn't only help in classroom education, they are also helping the military train for future scenarios. They have been using Augmented and Virtual Reality technology to imitate battleground conditions from the safety of a control room. This type of virtual training allows soldiers to have seemingly first hand experience of fighting in Gaza without risking their lives. Compedia is also working closely with the new Biblical Museum that will be built in Washington D.C. to develop a personalized GPS system for visitors which is geared to their particular interests. Compedia is apparently involved in a multitude of technical ventures in Israel and abroad. They seem like a small company, but in truth their impact goes farther than any of our group expected. All we saw was a small office and some workers, but after our time with them we truly understood that this seemingly small company is revolutionizing secular education, biblical education and even the military. We can all learn from what Compedia has accomplished because this small company has the power to change much more than we think. When Ezra Faks asked Shai Newman, the PR person who met with us, how we can be successful he said, "Keep an open mind, be a believer, don't think it can't happen, don't be afraid of failure and believe that you can be someone who can change the world."
We ended this incredibly jam-packed day by going to an exciting and very loud soccer game in Yerushalayim - between the two biggest rivals in Israel. We even joined in the cheering for Beitar Jerusalem! But the game ended in a 1-1 tie, and now we're back at hotel in Tel Aviv getting ready for bed and resting up for another great day tomorrow! ~Moses Bakst and Yair Chaya, Class of 2018

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Students Visit ADWEEK Magazine

Today, the staff of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School newspaper, The Phoenix, and the students of Mr. Hofstetter's Journalism elective took a trip to the offices of ADWEEK magazine. There, we met head editor Lisa Granatstein, along with five other journalists on the magazine's staff. They each spoke about how they embarked upon a career in journalism. They offered advice on internships and how to come by them, and they also told us stories about good and bad experiences they've had working with people in high positions like CEOs and celebrities. They told us that things may not always go as planned but you find a way to work with what you have. They then gave the floor to us and we asked many questions, like their favorite parts of the job and how they put their own style of writing into their articles. We all learned a lot about journalism through the staff's insight. 
~Adina Kameo, Class of 2018

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Yachad & Ohel Event November 2016

Recently, the Yeshivah of Flatbush welcomed members from Yachad and Ohel for our first Yachad/Ohel program this year. We first played JINGO-Jewish Bingo in the auditorium. Then our students mingled and danced with the men and women and had lots of fun. Thank you Rabbi Besser for working so hard and coordinating this beautiful event for us. ~Sara Shtaynberger, Class of 2017

Yachad Event October 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cooking for a Cause November 2016

Earlier this month, our students participated in a Cooking for a Cause event in memory of Gabe Khezrie, A"H. Thank you to chefs and sponsors Mrs. Adelaide Khezrie and Mrs. Shari Tawil.

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.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Sophomore Day 2016

On Tuesday, November 2, 2016 the sophomores participated in our annual Sophomore Day. The program started off in the Laniado Auxiliary Gym, where multiple animation videos were shown. We were then split into groups, by class, and had a discussion with our class mentor about what morals and lessons that we can take away from each video. After, each class participated in various team building and interactive activities, ranging from pictionary, escape the room, and a shoe stacking contest, to name a few. Following these exciting activities, we enjoyed a special lunch in the lunchroom consisting of pizza, falafel, and various beverages. Finally, we joined together in the auditorium, where we concluded our day of fun with a slideshow to reflect on our experience. We then resumed our regular scheduled classes. The sophomores really enjoyed this program. Joe Sutton  exclaimed, “it was a healthy break from all the stress of classes.” The sophomore grade is looking forward to similar programs in the future. Thank you Ms. Mikhli and the sophomore teacher mentors for organizing a great day.
~Sonny Setton, Class of 2019
Sophomore Day 2016 5777

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5777

On Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan the Yeshivah of Flatbush students and staff joined together for an inspiring Kumzitz led by Rabbi Naftali Besser, Dean of Students. The theme was achdut / unity. We watched a short video about Jews uniting all over the world during the various tragedies that we face. We also discussed that we should not need to wait for tragedy to unite as a nation. We should start now! We then sang meaningful songs and heard meaningful stories from Rabbi Besser. As we all sang it felt powerful and emotional and we were all united as one. Thank you to Rabbi Besser for this amazing program! ~Suzy Mosseri, Class of 2017
Rosh Chodesh Kumzitz: Cheshvan 2016 5777