The Boys Division Winter Shabbaton will be held January 1- 4 and will be a three night weekend in Angelus Oaks, CA. Students will enjoy a ”Winter Experience” in the snow on Friday morning, and experience unforgettable, action packed activities and inspiration! Watch the Shabbaton trailer below:
The Early Bird Registration Discount expires on December 5th
Skiing Waiver (must sign & print)
One of the best-kept secrets of parenting is making what you want your child to hold dear, meaningful to you. A basic premise of the socializing theory is that children learn the most from their parents. When a value or a ritual (such as watching football on thanksgiving) is important to parents their children will most likely adopt it. However, with this secret comes huge responsibility. That is, the responsibility to make the proper choice. One needs to be careful when choosing what things are going to be important to you. In addition it is not only what is important but also how important the value or ritual is to you. The “how” is also going to be a factor in whether it will be adopted by your children.
Over the past few Parshas we saw an example demonstrating to what extent a child will be willing to adopt their parents values and rituals. It starts with Avrohom who entrusted Eliezer with finding an appropriate wife for Yitzchok. The Torah tells us that Avrohom made Eliezer swear that he would not take a wife “from the daughters of Canan”. Yitzchok in the next Parsha uses the same languages when he instructs Yaakov to go to Choron. He says to Yaakov don’t take a wife “from the daughters of Canan”. Again a few Possukim later we find that Esau saw that his father didn’t want Yaakov to take a wife from the daughters of Canan so he went to Yishmoel to look for a wife. The Sefornu questions the use of the word “saw” (it should have said “heard”). He explains that Esau’s adoption of Yitzchok’s request didn’t make sense for Esau. In fact it went against the Berochos he had just received after much pleading nevertheless, because he saw that it was meaningful to Yitzchok he chose to adopt it.
This week Valley Torah hosted their annual dinner. It was a wonderful and enjoyable event. My take-away from the inspiring evening (aside from the beautiful rendition of an original composition written and performed by Rabbi Moshe Samuels) was how meaningful Valley Torah was to the honorees and as was evident by their son’s speech, Valley Torah is a integral component of their entire family’s lives. I was also inspired by the show in numbers of parents of current students as well as the number of alumni who attended – clearly demonstrating how meaningful Valley Torah is in their lives. Once again Mazal Tov to the honorees and may you continue to see much Nachas from your entire family.
An area of challenge especially with teenagers is the Shabbos meal. Sitting in one place for any length of time can be difficult especially when the image conjured in a lot of teenagers mind of a formal dinner is one where adults sit around and talk about topics adolescents are not really interested in. So what can we do (the importance of everyone being part of the Shabbos meals will be discussed IY”H in a future blog post)? Here are a few ideas – and if you have any ideas of your own I would love to hear them. For starters any of these ideas should be implemented when our children are still young, way before they become teenagers. We should try and make them part of the program (yes, program!) whether it be in the choice of the menu, or in the preparation of the food. They should have a say in choosing the topics to discuss, they can also prepare which Zemiros to sing or Dvar Torah to share. Another idea is to create a competition where they able to win prizes. When inviting guests try to invite ones that have children their age but whatever you do, please don’t forget that the Shabbos table is about the family and our children need to be a large focus of it.
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. This week’s message: “Seek to Understand.”
Today is Thanksgiving. While I am grateful for many things like my family and friends, in regard to VTHS, I am grateful to be at a school that means so much to me, to have a boss who I have respected and admired for years, to have such a strong partner in Rabbi Felt, an amazing team of educators, a dedicated board, involved parents and a wonderful student body. However, over the years, I have wondered whether today really is a “kosher” day to be thankful? So, I did some research and here is what I came up with.
Thanksgiving to most is a day of Football games, golf tournaments, family gatherings, cranberry sauce and the coveted basted turkey. It is a day off from work or school, a time to relax and has seemingly nothing to do with Judaism. While Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, it is certainly a secular American holiday, which raises the question of whether Jews in America should take part in this turkey feast. Is Thanksgiving Kosher? A closer examination of this butterball bonanza give us some insights to properly answer this question. We begin at the beginning.
As the history books report (students can ask Mr. Safi or Mr. Rutschman to confirm), the first thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by a group of Colonists from the Plymouth Plantation and about 90 Native Americans. They had gathered for a three day event to give thanks for their first successful harvest. This event of “thanksgiving” was adopted by many in the years that followed. However, it was not until the first President of the United States , George Washington, proclaimed in 1789 that there should be an official day of “thanksgiving and prayer”. It is this proclamation that deserves great attention as caramelized yams and half-time shows do not highlight the true intention of this day. It is also this proclamation and true purpose of the day that could help us with our question. So, without further ado, the first Thanksgiving proclamation:
By THE PRESIDENT of the United States of America .
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God; to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and,
WHEREAS both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by The people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and favorable interpositions of His Providence, which we experienced in the course and confusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union and plenty, which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And, also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the Great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us) and to bless them with good government peace and concord.
To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us, and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year 1789.
(Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789)
What a highly inspirational proclamation that does not appear to mention cheerleaders or smoked meats. It really seems focused on connecting with G-d, humbling ourselves and, above all, giving thanks to our creator. In fact, the thanksgiving proclamation appears to have much in common with Jewish values and our daily rituals of giving thanks to G-d. It certainly does not appear to promote one religion over another. It just appears to suggest that we put aside a day during the year where we give forth our appreciation for the many freedoms and provisions G-d has afforded us. What would not be Kosher about this? As Jews, we put time aside three times daily to thank G-d and have many blessing of thanks that we recite numerous times throughout the day. This holiday seems right up our alley. However, it takes more than an inspirational proclamation to green light the adoption of a secular holiday into our Jewish homes. It takes great Jewish minds who understand the great depths of Jewish law. So, we turn to the great Rabbis of our time who have been asked this very same question.
Rav Hutner, the late Rosh HaYeshiva of Mesivta Chaim Berlin and Torah luminary argued that we should not celebrate the holiday. He stated that, although its origins may not be religiously based, it has become an annual holiday observed by non-Jews. In turn, we should distance ourselves from such activities as it has become similar to other non-Jewish holidays that are not permissible to celebrate. However, other great Rabbis, such as Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Joseph Soloveitchik rule it permissible as it is not in any way a religious holiday. It exists as a gathering of friends and family to show citizenship and appreciation for being Americans. In fact, according to most Jewish authorities, celebrating Thanksgiving is permissible as long as Jewish law is observed and it is not celebrated with people who integrate religious worship into it. Interestingly, it is said that Rabbi Soloveitchik would reschedule his shiur (Torah class) for early in the day on Thanksgiving in order to allow time for the celebration of Thanksgiving.
While the origins of Thanksgiving might slowly be getting lost in today’s turkey fest and football madness, the meaning behind the day still remains whether we acknowledge it or not. As Jews, we are certainly aware of the concept of giving thanks to G-d and might feel no need to participate in an activity once a year that we do daily. However, on the day created for all Americans to stop and acknowledge G-d’s presence, we may consider joining them. We may, as Jewish Americans, consider giving thanks for the fact that we can sit around a table with our Jewish friends and family, eat a kosher Turkey and say Birkat HaMazon (say grace after the meal) without fear of persecution. Nevertheless, whether we celebrate thanksgiving or not, it can certainly be a welcome reminder to, as President Washington proclaimed, give G-d “our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.”
In honor of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, Valley Torah girls were treated to a delicious ‘make your own burrito lunch.’ Afterwards, Rabbi Horowitz spoke to the girls about the tragedy which took place last Wednesday in Har Nof, Israel. Rabbi Horowitz uplifted the school with his words of chizuk and guidance in this challenging time.
Because it is essential that each Valley Torah girl use the talents (or ‘sparkles’) that Hashem gave her to help others, it was decided that this month’s chesed activity reflect that idea. The girls received different color sticky post-its and markers, and were asked to write down what they felt they had within them to give to their community, family, and friends. “My patience”, “a listening ear”, and “playing the harp” were just three out of the many skills and talents which the girls wrote down. Once the girls filled out their post-its, they received a sticker to wear that said, “I post-it my sparkles,” as well as a sticker worth five points for the new and exciting Brownie Challenge!
Thank you Valley Torah girls for continuing to spread your sparkles!
Last night’s Annual Banquet was a rousing success! Nearly 500 people joined to enjoy a fun evening that began with an original, moving musical composition by Rabbi Moshe Samuels, entertaining addresses by the honorees, and comedy by Wayne Cotter. Even if you missed the Dinner, you can still get a taste of the excitement by watching the video that we presented.
Our Rosh Chodesh Kislev breakfast was shaken up with a student council sponsored milk shake and whip cream treat!
Rare video footage of our Improv Club
This week we mailed out progress reports to all our students. One question that popped up was what is the point of a progress report when we have JupiterGrades and parents and students can see their grades at all times. In fact logging on to JupiterGrades a parent can get very detailed information about their son’s classes. So why do we send out a progress report!
At first glance the question seems very convincing but upon further examination they may even be more than one reason for a school to insist on sending a progress report and even go to the expense of mailing it (in an era of email and other electronic means of communication). Lets start with a good explanation; progress reports promote reflection. In our fast paced world we get bombarded with so much information that it is practically impossible to absorb all of it – getting a piece of paper with a snapshot of where one is holding is a perfect opportunity to pause, reflect, take stock and internalize where one is at and ask ourselves am I on track with the goals I have mapped out for my future. Another good reason is that parents are not taking full advantage of JupiterGrades. Parents can follow their son’s grade; they can also find out what is behind the grade. How much of their son’s grade is based on academics and how much is based on participation and behavior. Parents can also find out what assignment were completed which were not. They can also see what grade their son got for each individual assignment, have they improved or are they regressing.
There is still another explanation and one that I would like to focus on, which I’ll call having “the talk” reason. In Parshas Veyaira we found Hashem having “the talk” with Avrohom about Sedom. The Torah relates how Hashem appeared to Avrohom to discuss his plans with regard to Sedom. Rashi explained that the impetus for this discussion was the fact that Avrohom was to inherit Eretz Yisroel and with it the title of Av Hamon Goyim – Father of many nations – Rashi continues and tells us that Hashem pronounced “Shall I deal with the children without informing the father, especially one who is my friend”. Hashem felt a responsibility to set aside time to allow Avrohom to hear what is about to happen to Sedom and more importantly give Avrohom a chance to do something about it. I believe the analogy is there – the education our son’s get is what they inherit from us, when it is not in order it becomes our responsibility to talk to them about it. We need to let them know what is going to happen if they don’t change course and at the same time we need to listen to them and give then the opportunity to come up with their own solution. Getting a Progress report gives us the impetus to have “the talk”.
Parents should feel comfortable to confront their children about their lives. We should never be apprehensive to bring up any topic and discuss it with them. We may need to use prudence when to have the discussion but we need to have it. Using the progress report (assuming that your son hasn’t intercepted the mailman and destroyed the evidence) as a catalyst for the discussion provides that time – let us try to take advantage of it. On the topic, it should be noted that a critical component of the discussion for us as parents, is to listen and be ready to allow our child to share their opinion. While we may have the sagacity about life in general they do have the first hand experience about their own life.
Growing up in Los Angeles, I have become accustom to seeing the occasional celebrity at my local eatery, cafe and entertainment locales. However, unlike many near me, I generally have had little to no interest in getting their autograph or take a picture with them. This all changed this Monday when I ran up to a celebrity and asked to take a selfie. Here is the picture of myself and Mr. Larry Rosenstock.
Ok. You may be asking what movie was Larry in? Is he an old TV star? How come I never heard of him? Well, the fact is, he is not an actor. He is the CEO of High Tech High, expert in Project-Based Learning (PBL) and as big a celebrity in my mind than any blockbuster movie star.
I had the privilege of being invited this week by the Covenant Foundation to attend a consultation meeting on Project-Based Learning. It was a fantastic day with a wonderful group of educators and, of course, Larry Rosenstock. We discussed Project-Based Learning in Jewish education and how we can all support each other in increasing innovation, creativity and meaningful learning in our Jewish educational settings. I plan on discussing PBL at Valley Torah in future posts, but I did want to share one new initiative that plans on accomplishing these goals.
As part of our vision at VTHS to support more real-world connections with the learning, an increase in authentic learning and the integration of more creative opportunities for our students, the Principal Project was devised and launched! Click here to view the Principal Project site.
The Principals Project is an opportunity for VTHS students to explore and dive deeper into their personal interests and what they are passionate about. The goal is to support our students in discovering, exploring and refining their passions so that when they graduate they stand out to college admission officers, the workforce and find meaning in all that they do!
The Principal Project is a year long independent project, with my support, that begins with each student choosing an interest of theirs within a specific framework for their grade. Then in teams the students will explore their interests and prepare to present on that interest at an end of the year exhibition. The 9th graders will choose a profession that interests them and the 10th graders choose a University that ties into their interests. They will both research their choices and at the end of the year both grades will produce a presentation and host a job and college fair. The 11th and 12th graders will choose a social problem in the world, explore that issue, develop an innovative solution to the problem and at the end of the year host a social entrepreneurship fair where they will present their solutions.
All the students are currently in phase one of the project where they are making their choices by December 8th, 2014. The next phase will involve the deep dive where they research their interest and prepare to gain the expertise needed for the third phase which is presentation and project development. The final phase is the public expedition where they present their interests, research and ideas to the community.
I am excited to see what our students will produce, but more importantly I am proud to be at a school that supports our students interests and helps them explore them deeply. As the great educational philosopher John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” We cannot and must not separate the life of our students from their learning and vice versa. This project is one way to ensure that does not happen.
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. This week’s message: “Our Responsibility to our Fellow Jew.”
This week I would like to share with you what I said at our open house. I believe it is important even for parents who have already entrusted their children to us to hear again what Valley Torah is all about. By reviewing the reasons, we remain focused on the goals we want from our children and hopefully we will be invigorated to continue motivating our children to achieve those goals (as well as prepare their lunches, take them to practices and be a source of funds for them etc.) It is very easy to lose focus of our goals and it is critical to find venues to re-energize ourselves.
When Yaakov wanted Yosef to remember to bury him in Eretz Yisroel he made him swear that he would. The commentaries ask isn’t this the same Yosef who put his life in danger to fulfill his fathers wishes by going alone to retrieve his brothers who were just looking for an excuse to dispose of him. Even so the commentaries say Yaakov made him swear assuring that Yosef would never forget and get distracted by other perhaps “holy” ventures and not do his fathers bidding. We see from here that even the most committed people need to look for sources of inspiration and motivation to remain focused on their goals.
So here goes:
I was recently asked what is my 60 sec elevator speech about.
The truth is I was at a loss because you can’t talk about Valley Torah in 60 sec, 60 min or even 60 hours. But then if Hillel was able to capsulize the entire Torah on one foot and in one sentence then I should be able to come up with a 60 sec elevator speech for Valley Torah.
Valley Torah is about balance and connectivity.
I don’t believe that in the city of Los Angeles there is another school that is able to balance a fantastic Torah studies program and an amazing secular studies program. Valley Torah is also able to balance the natural curiosity of a teenager with a structure to help them channel that curiosity correctly. Valley Torah is also able to balance guiding our students towards Middos and Derech Eretz with love and care.
The second component is connectivity. Everything we do at Valley Torah is about making a connection. It is about connecting to Torah to Mesorah to their Rebbeim to their teachers to their friends and to their community. Valley Torah is a school that provides these two components so that our students your children can look forward to their future with the skills, knowledge and confidence to be successful.
PS there is no copyright on this speech feel free to use it on your friends and neighbors, especially the ones with 8th grade boys.
We all need to be re-energized that’s why we look forward to weekends – but as with any good thing if time wasn’t spent in planning, it doesn’t usually go the way imagined. Teenagers are notorious for not planning and add to that, they are definitely not ready for anyone to tell them how to spend their free time. But we can plan for ourselves and we can choose things that the family can do, that will be more fun than just staying at home being bored and we should do them – you never know they may even join us.