Among the many quotes I have collected over the years, there is one that I always make sure to keep in the front of my diary. I do this because every time I open my diary, I am forced to read it and reflect on it. The quote reads as follows:
“success in life does not altogether depend upon natural ability; it also depends upon determination to grasp the opportunity that is presented to you.”
I refer to this quote because I truly believe that our students are privileged to have access to so many incredible opportunities and, having just passed the halfway point for Term 1, I think now is the perfect occasion to reflect on the variety and diversity of just some of the opportunities available to our students.
The Chesed Project
While tzedakah (charity) involves giving of our material resources, chesed denotes giving of ourselves with our time and with our hearts. To truly understand the values of chesed and the impact of this on society, one has to experience it.
Our new Chesed Project provides the perfect opportunity for our students to give back, not just to the school, but also to the wider community in so many ways. Students are able to choose from a whole range of organisations including Friendship Circle and JEMS as well as Stand Up Aboriginal Partnerships and Royal Life Saving. There are enough organisations to suit the interests of all our students and more organisations will be added throughout the year.
On the subject of chesed, there are times when we are called to ask if we can provide some young men to assist by making a minyan in order to allow for a proper funeral to take place and for the mourners to recite Kaddish. Last week, four Year 11 boys did not hesitate in volunteering to make a minyan for a Holocaust survivor who arrived in Australia in 1949. He never married and had no other family. The following is a letter sent from the Montefiore Home, where he spent the final 12 years of his life.
“Thank you so much for arranging for four Moriah students to attend the funeral this morning of our dear resident Ben Chorzychow, a holocaust survivor without any family. The students enabled Kaddish to be said and afforded Ben the proper Jewish burial he deserved.
Ben was in Auschwitz as a young child and was liberated at the age of 14. He never told his story in full, but from what we can gather his experience was extremely traumatic. One of our staff members befriended Ben at Martin Place station where he would sit every day at the bottom of the escalator. She noticed his tattoo number and began speaking to him. To cut a long story short, he agreed to come into Monte and his last 12 years were quality years spent in a home where he received excellent care and wonderful friendships.
The Moriah students acted as pall bearers and it was very moving and emotional to watch them escort Ben to his final resting place, where he will hopefully be at peace.”
To have our students put into practice the school values of kindness, respect, and responsibility brings a tremendous sense of pride.
Celebrating milestones and Jewish enrichment
We also acknowledge significant Jewish milestones such as Bar and Bat Mitzvah and offer our girls a program that focuses on inspirational Jewish women and the role they play, as well as teaching values including gratitude and respect. They will also make and distribute packages of food to those in need.
Our young boys will have the unique opportunity not just to learn about the mitzvah of Tefillin but to physically make their own Tefillin as part of their Bar Mitzvah year. They will fold, sew and thread the various items to produce a kosher set of Tefillin.
Our Year 7 girls together with a female member of their family have been offered an opportunity to participate in our inaugural ‘Liba’ program (meaning ‘essence’ from the Hebrew word ‘heart’). They will spend a day engaged in discussions and presentations on developing resilience through nurturing values such as self-worth and identity. They will also discuss positive body image and what it means to navigate the world of social media through a positive lens. Our Year 7 boys also have the opportunity to spend quality time with a male member of their family on an overnight camping experience where they too will participate in activities geared towards responsibility and behavioural expectations.
Of course, we continue to offer Jewish enrichment to Primary School students before school and have recently launched our Mesivta (academy) after-school learning program in the High School where 40 students are divided into six groups to learn different topics taught simultaneously by a range of teachers and Rabbis to suit the interests and learning styles of all students.
Special guest speakers
Speaking of opportunities, I also have to mention some of the guest speakers our students have had the privilege of listening to. Born in Israel to Ethiopian parents who made Aliyah as part of Operation Moses in 1984, Nataly Zagaya told of her parents’ struggle to make it to Israel and of her achievement in being recognised by the IDF as a youth with tremendous potential for leadership positions. Likewise, Or Porat who served as a soldier in the Duvdevan unit of the IDF spoke of his determination and tenacity to overcome his injuries after surviving a bomb explosion while conducting an operation in Jerusalem. Just yesterday, our students heard from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom the Jerusalem Post lists as one of the most influential Jews in the world. Rabbi Boteach is the founder of the World Values Network, the leading organisation spreading universal Jewish values and is the best-selling author of 31 books. His presentation focused on our responsibility to defend Israel and the important role our students have in guaranteeing Israel’s future.
Advancing Leadership skills
I have not yet touched on Moriah Scholars in Entrepreneurship or Mikolot: Voices of the Future competitions, both of which provide our students with essential skills they will be able to take with them long after they graduate. These include:
- valuable training in public speaking
- developing confidence
- exposure to a variety of key communal personalities and organisations
- leadership development, and
- the opportunity to spend time in Israel.
We are fast approaching the festival of Purim in which Esther and Mordechai used every opportunity to safeguard and protect themselves and the rest of the Jewish people. I encourage you to urge your children to avail themselves of the tremendous opportunities we have on offer, which we hope will enrich their learning, enhance their commitment and inspire them to act responsibly towards their friends, family, and community.
About the author
Ronnen Grauman is the Acting Head of Jewish Life and Learning at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW