Batya Stein, a Bruriah senior from Highland Park, has been selected as one of the nation’s top high school scholars and named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.
Coming just weeks after being accepted early action to Princeton, Batya’s extraordinary scholastic achievement has earned her the National Merit Scholarship Finalist honor, attained by less than half a percent of all high school students across the country.
“We are so proud of Batya,” said Principal Rabbi Joseph Oratz. “Batya represents the very best of Bruriah: academic strength, intellectual curiosity, refined midot and service to her friends and community. She is a superior student with an excellent work ethic and incredible character.”
Batya and her family were quick to focus attention on those who supported her success.
“The exceptionally high level of programming at Bruriah, especially in the sciences, opened new worlds for Batya,” said her mother, Mrs. Rachel Stein. “We are very proud of Batya and gratified that all of her hard work at Bruriah paid off.”
Batya praised Bruriah and cited its many opportunities to explore and excel as contributing to her high academic achievement. “Our teachers look for our strengths,” she said. “They match us up with opportunities to grow.
Batya cited a junior year STEM project as an example of how she was encouraged to create and innovate at Bruriah.
“Last year, our CIJE STEM team created a wearable device called ‘HearbyModulated,’ which helps the hard of hearing modulate their voices and gauge their own volume,” she explained. “We designed and programmed it, and hope that the next team will improve the system so that one day it may go to market and help people.”
For Batya, the STEM courses have been formative, piquing an interest in multiple disciplines and setting her on track to study engineering or medicine after high school. Before Princeton however, Batya plans to spend a year in Israel, studying at Nishmat in Jerusalem. “I look forward to being in Israel for a year and learning with young women from all over the world,” she said.
Effusive in her praise for others, Batya credits much of her success to her parents and teachers. “My parents are incredible,” she said. “They are caring, encouraging and supportive of my dreams.”
As for her teachers at Bruriah, Batya was full of admiration. “The faculty doesn’t just teach, they coach, guide and mentor us. They look for our unique characteristics and help us excel.” Echoing her daughter, Mrs. Stein added, “Dr. Erblich for biology and Mrs. Poupko for English not only provide exceptional academic rigor but also are personally approachable and accessible to the students. They are outstanding role-models for our girls and that makes all the difference.”
Elizabeth—February 15 marked the unveiling of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, now an “institution within an institution,” at Bruriah High School. The annual exhibit is created, assembled, constructed and presented completely by the students of Bruriah High School, under the guidance of Joel Glazer, 35+ year veteran history teacher at the school and mentor of this special project for many years running. The curator this year is Ariel Ezra of Elizabeth, and this year’s docents are Miriam Brickman of West Orange, Jennifer Gerstle of Livingston, Chana Rosenbluth of Teaneck and Michal Winkler of Staten Island. The special projects were coordinated by Rachelli Benoff of Bergenfield. Mikayla Elk of East Brunswick is the project manager, tasked with raising funds to commemorate the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished during the Holocaust, for the benefit of the many children’s charities in Israel.
The inaugural tour of the museum was joined by JEC Dean Rav Elazar Mayer Teitz, and Ed Mosberg, a concentration camp survivor. Throughout the tour, as the docents each explained individual exhibits, Mosberg would interject episodes from his personal experience that validated or elucidated the teaching point of the exhibit. He wears his original camp concentration number protected inside a bracelet, and his contributions provided a poignant perspective of what it was really like to live through the horrific existence in a concentration camp. Rav Teitz added commentary on the political, public and governmental responses in the US and around the world.
The originality and ingenuity of the exhibits are simply amazing. While the students were careful to remain true to accurate information, they also went to great lengths to employ highly creative and compelling displays that portray the stark and grim realities of the Holocaust era and experience. A special and impressive feature of this year’s museum is due to the participation of the pre-engineering students who created and constructed electronic displays and exhibits with moving parts or interactive attributes. For example, if you touch the barbed wire in the exhibit, you are surprised by the gentle but unexpected little buzz…a sort of shocking reminder of the reality of concentration camp life. There are also quietly compelling displays, such as the butterfly exhibit. The simplicity and elegance of this display, lifted by the story behind it and related eloquently by one of the docents, describes who and what the butterflies represent.
Another, not so quietly compelling, display is the book-page origami of the Star of David, sculpted into and from the pages of the book “Mein Kampf.” It is strange to stand in front of this sculpture and contemplate the antagonistic significance of what you are witnessing.
Maintaining the tradition of the Bruriah Holocaust Memorial Museum, it is a journey with a beginning and a destination, not really an end but, instead, “A light at the end of the tunnel.” The museum culminates in “the land of Israel,” whose establishment was the ultimate good emanating from the horrors and injustice of the Holocaust. Depicted by sandy and rocky shores and water, Israel serves as the hope and safe haven for our nation. Trailed by this display is the appeal to commemorate the 1.5 children who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
The students of Bruriah ask everyone to join them in their quest to raise 1.5 million pennies to be donated to various worthy charities for children in Israel. They invite you to add your contribution by contacting the school to find out how you can make a difference to Israel’s children, while remembering and honoring those who never had a chance to grow up. Contact them at http://bruriah.thejec.org/index.php/contact/contact-us.
Three leading educators from community institutions have been richly rewarded for their work in educational innovation. Rabbi Yoni Fein of The Moriah School, who serves as assistant principal for middle school Judaic studies and Jewish life, has been awarded a Kohelet Prize in “differentiated instruction.” In the category of “risk taking,” Shira Greenspan, a former limudei kodesh teacher at Yeshivat Noam, has also been awarded a Kohelet Prize for her work with enrichment students in Noam’s seventh grade. Zahava Greenwald, Bruriah Junior High coordinator, received an honorable mention in the category of “differentiated instruction” for her addition of “flipped instruction” to Bruriah’s limudei kodesh curriculum.
A total of 327 educators submitted their work to the Pennsylvania-based Kohelet Foundation, which requires that all applications be released to the public, so that innovations, successes and constructive failures are noted and can be utilized on a national and international scale. One winner and one honorable mention were selected in each of the following categories: Physical Learning Environment, Interdisciplinary Integration, Differentiated Instruction, Real-World Learning, Critical and Creative Thinking and Risk Taking and Failure. Each winner received a $36,000 cash prize.
Rabbi Chaim Hagler, principal of Yeshivat Noam, shared his thoughts on Greenspan’s win. “Shira is an incredibly passionate teacher who is always striving to challenge each of her students. Through her participation in the Katz Enrichment Grant and her creativity and research, Shira developed the B’chol Dor Va’dor anchor activity. Numerous Yeshivat Noam students benefited from this accelerated level of Tanach study,” he said.
“We’re incredibly proud of the work that Rabbi Fein and the Talmud department have been doing,” said Moriah head of school Rabbi Daniel Alter. Rabbi Fein created this program after being influenced by the success of the Moriah Multi-Modal program, which was created at Moriah under the auspices of a BOLD grant.
“This program has brought Moriah to a place where learning is truly personalized,” Rabbi Fein said. “Our new innovative approach to middle-school Talmud instruction is a game changer. The model of Talmud instruction in Jewish Day schools has remained mostly intact for decades. With a team of rabbanim that includes both experienced and first-year teachers with a wide range of technological skills, we’ve established a successful growth mindset and collaborative culture around the transition to personalized learning in Talmud.”
He added that to have had his work selected from the many impressive entries is “remarkable, and I feel fortunate to work in a school that takes pride in trying new, innovative approaches to better help our students be the best versions of themselves.”
Greenspan said of her award, “Sometimes, we teachers set out to meet a goal and, in doing so, challenge the success of another goal. That was the challenge I faced when I aimed to increase engagement and make learning more meaningful for my gifted Tanach students a few years ago. I developed an enrichment anchor activity for students who had demonstrated a unique aptitude for learning Tanach independently, developing and supporting abstract ideas through concrete textual evidence.”
“I’m excited being a part of this movement towards innovation and collaboration, which is exactly what the Kohelet Prize stands for,” said Greenwald. “There are so many creative ideas out there and to have a database where teachers may share and learn from one another—that’s tremendous.”
Greenwald’s project, “Flipped Instruction,” takes advantage of emerging technologies to present new material to students at home or on the road, allowing class time to be spent on discussion, analysis and collaboration.
“Innovative, creative, cutting edge are the first attributes that come to mind when I think of Zehava Greenwald. She is a gem, in a star-studded school that has been in the forefront of young women’s education for half a century,” said Rabbi Joseph Oratz, principal of Bruriah High School.
Rabbi Alter told The Jewish Link that Rabbi Fein’s project established eight basic standards that instructors of Talmud can work to help students achieve, four primary and four secondary. “When you speak to most Gemara teachers about goals, we noted that their answers were something like, ‘to finish 16 blatt,’” which are not helping in creating differentiated instruction or in getting an accurate picture of a specific student’s skills, said Rabbi Alter.
Together with his team, Rabbi Fein used those criteria to develop a program that would track the criteria, in curriculum mapping and assessment of skills, and “once you have goals you can personalize the learning, and differentiate it for each student,” said Rabbi Alter.
Greenspan, whose project was conducted at Yeshivat Noam, won the risk-taking category for “In Every Generation,” the school’s independent anchor activity for accelerated Tanach students that encourages meaningful inter-textual exploration of the Bible. The project called for students to identify underlying themes of Pesach by analyzing 18 events in Tanach that took place during the holiday and create their own seder symbols to be used at family sedarim.
Created to celebrate extraordinary accomplishment, stimulate breakthroughs and enrich the field of Jewish day school education, the Kohelet Foundation accepted entries to the Kohelet Prize from early September through November, 2016. An independent panel of seven judges representing the fields of cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, classroom pedagogy and educational administration conducted an extensive review of each one.
Along with announcing the prize winners, today the Kohelet Foundation launched the Kohelet Prize Database in which all Kohelet Prize entries are available to explore. The foundation designed the database to be searchable by category, subject area, grade level and pedagogical approach. The Kohelet Prize Database can be accessed via the Kohelet Prize website: www.koheletprize.org.
The Kohelet Foundation’s work focuses primarily on Jewish day schools and the institutions that support them. By creating and implementing programs that are replicable and accessible and awarding a variety of unique and targeted grants, the Kohelet Foundation is transforming what is possible for Jewish day schools and their communities nationwide. Visit them at www.koheletfoundation.org.
The Kohelet Foundation plans to award the six prizes again next year. The submission period for the 2018 prize begins in September 2017.