Herzlia High SchoolRead More
I moved here, from Nigeria, on Saturday the 18th of January 2014 and started at Herzlia on Monday the 20th of January. Moving schools is generally described as quite a jarring and disorienting process. A process rarely made easier when one is 7430 kilometers from everyone and everything that one has grown up with. Here I was in a new school and new country surrounded by new people, cultures and languages yet expected to hand in a seemingly never-ending number of tests, assessments and essays.
This ultimately resulted in an overwhelming sense of disconnection and disillusionment. I had no creative outlet and no means through which I could release the pent-up teen angst.
I can clearly remember Mrs Kerbel, my Grade 8 English teacher, calling me out to the front, mid-class and demanding that I read, what I perceived to be a pretty irrelevant essay of mine, to the class. For reasons still unbeknownst to me, she had taken the absurd little story to heart and had believed that my badly punctuated tale of a prepubescent ghost was a story worth sharing with her class.
This marked a turning point for me. Her innocuous act sparked a love of storytelling that provided both an escape and a link to reality for me. It provided a means through which I could reinvent the world and add meaning to the mundane.
Culture, within Herzlia, is a particularly multifaceted pillar and the arts can be explored in various forms throughout one’s school career.
I began attending writers club meetings and photography classes taught by volunteer parents. These skills were brought together by the Middle School media committee through which the school magazines would be produced. From directing, writing and acting in one-act plays to the production of several short films made with friends that might not be here without the support of the Foundation, the collective impact of your generosity on the cultural life at Herzlia is remarkable.
The creative arts are ultimately a culmination of the will to create and the desire to add just a little bit more to the world. As every pupil walks into school, they are confronted with the motto “if you will it, it is no dream” and it is this belief that spurs every creative student within the system to seize the odd stories and images floating about within our brains and add colour to the canvas before us. I would imagine that the same desire to create and improve drives all of you today, without whom I, and countless other pupils, might not have the platform to actualise their potential.
I would like to thank the donors gathered today for their contributions.
In assessing your impact, one might be compelled to consider the number of classrooms and facilities built and refurbished or the number of pupils sponsored but the true value extends well beyond that which can be quantified. One cannot assign a value to the satisfaction of actualising goals or the fulfilment of learning new skills.
It is significantly harder to calculate the monetary value of friendships made in band practices, trust earned amongst fellow cast members after a particularly embarrassing fall during a rehearsal or the comfort found in mutual exhaustion whilst completing art projects with classmates.
Yet the culmination of little moments like these that make the hours spent practising and rehearsing so worth it. Every moment spent perfecting our craft equips us with skills that have allowed us to develop, not only, as creatives but as young individuals (hopefully) ready to take on the world ahead.
My preferred medium of storytelling has evolved during my time at Herzlia but the love for self-expression and the courage to present myself and my works today stems from the interest and support of educators like Mrs Kerbel. Her actions, and the guidance of the many teachers and mentors along the way empowered this little foreign student to own his stories and create his own happy endings.
It’s for this, and for so much more, that we are thankful for. Have a wonderful evening.
Founder and Director Cara Saven Wall DesignRead More
I think the first half of my Herzlia school career can best be described as survive rather than thrive. My true passion lay in finding ways to stay at home from school which didn’t prove easy when your father is a doctor. My other passion was in trying to find any way to make a buck. I remember being taught by our Sub B school teacher how to make those smelly potpourri things you used to hang behind kitchen doors. That school holiday, I became a travelling potpourri hanger sales lady, making large amounts of cash for such a mediocre product which was quickly used to purchase huge stashes of shortbread tumbles and Nik Naks. I was streetwise rather than academic and I think my teachers might have considered me disruptive. But Herzlia was patient with me. Maybe they’d seen my type before… late developers who took time to find their groove in order to commit rather than cruise.
So I cursed my way through Primary School and clawed my way through Middle School and finally, Herzlia’s patience paid off. They presented me with a teacher and a subject that changed my life and spoke to what I was about. Herzlia waited out my E’s for Maths in Standard 7 and 8. They understood that my daily report-induced behaviour in Standard 9 was due to my class not being challenging enough and moved me to a class of similar minded, debating kids. And then they gave me Jill Joubert. Jill was unique. She was a product of the apartheid era struggle and wore red leather shoes and dangly beaded earrings and wouldn’t dream of dying grey hair away. She was a feminist, with a gritty countenance but she found ways to show us love and commitment in a way that many of my teachers might have in the past but which I had not been open to receiving until then. Jill opened up a world for me in her art room that nurtured and challenged and fed and held. She ignited a passion I didn’t know I had. It wasn’t a passion for art. Nah. I like art. I even got a major for in it at University. But the art was totally secondary to what she ignited. Jill ignited in me the need to be the best that I could be, within the confines of staying true to myself. She didn’t compare me to other students. She didn’t require me to be a Picasso or use oils or even stay within the lines (In fact she celebrated going out those lines). All she wanted was for us to find a style that was true to who we were and then to explore that to the best of our ability.
When I look back now, I realise that almost every kid in her class of 93 continued on a path after school which was started in that art room. One student used paint to create patterns that wove and weaved through her paper – she now runs a successful textile design business. Another would take weeks to work on an A5 size rendition of a photograph literally copying it pixel for pixel. This obsession with making sure every part of the story is told, led her into film as a documentary filmmaker. The girl that stayed within those lines became an architect and the one that included font and writing in everything he did, became a graphic designer. And me, I discovered a viewfinder. 2 L-shaped pieces of paper that fit together to create a square and which allows you to isolate a portion of an image, thereby allowing one to create an abstraction from something rooted in reality. This viewfinder in the years to come became a real one on a camera and would later help me to start a business that is now 12 years old and has just been featured for the second time on the cover of Visi magazine.
Art is a hard subject to teach. You are judging someone’s insides that they have offered up to you on a piece of paper or in the form of clay or as one kid was want to do in the form of chunks of burnt plastic (he won the art prize the year before me and is now one of the top art directors in the world, oh and he got an E aggregate for matric!). Art has the power to help kids who have never found their calling before, to locate their true north. It’s the thinking out of the box that we endeavour to teach our kids and it can speak more power to the truth than often words can.
I probably would have eventually found this calling but when I look back introspectively and I am grateful I was able to find it in the safe and nurturing environment that Herzlia created for me. I am grateful that Herzlia recognised excellence in a teacher like Jill. Herzlia left us alone to do what we needed to do. To explore, and debate and to challenge and to fight and to play and to discover. Since a little girl I dreamed of owning my own business and since school, I knew it needed to be linked to something creative. For the last 12 years, I have been living that dream creating wallcoverings that transform spaces. Herzlia provided the foundation of I’m Tirzu, if you will it, it will be and Jill Joubert gave me the building blocks to build on top of that foundation.
I’d like to end off by saying that besides being a late bloomer at school, I seem to also be one in life itself. It is only now in my very adult years, that I am coming to appreciate the incredible work done by people like you behind the scenes. It is only recently that I am seeing and appreciating the incredible community in which we live. I’m currently enrolled in the Eliot Osrin leadership course and for the first time in my life, I am being properly exposed to the extraordinary nature of this Cape Town community. The way we are structured and the time and effort that goes into making sure that each and every Jew is looked after has left me quite overwhelmed. Maybe it’s because I took a lot of things for granted growing up, maybe it’s because I have always looked outward at the broader South African community as my first port of call and maybe it’s just because I didn’t know. Didn’t know there were donors like yourselves making sure that no Jewish child is turned away from Herzlia. People like you who see education even if it’s not for your own as paramount and people like you who allow Herzlia to find the Jill Jouberts of the world and let them do what needs to be done to ensure our youth have the best springboard into this crazy, manic, beautiful mixed up world in which we live today. To you I say thank you.
Herzlia High SchoolRead More
I never wanted to be a Herzlian. I never wanted to attend Herzlia, in fact I wanted to go to Bishops. Wear a fancy necktie, play in the number one water polo derby in the country against Rondebosch, where 600 kids and parents would be in attendance to watch. I just wanted that culture.
For those who don’t know, water polo is a sport dominated by members of these all-boy schools. It’s supposedly “impossible” to even think about rocking up to Western Province trials if you didn’t belong to an “A- League” school, yet alone Herzlia. A B-League school with the current record at the time of 0 wins 8 losses and some disciplinary challenges. Yeah, odds were definitely stacked against us.
I ended up playing Western Province. Herzlia now has a current record of 25-1-1. A formidable derby against Camps Bay which is hyped up by both schools a week in advance and a chance to one day, in the future, move up to the A-League. Now one naturally asks how does this possibly happen at Herzlia?
Well, I would like to sum up my time at Herzlia by the good old saying, give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime. Do you really think Herzlia is going to give you a fish? Let me tell you something, Herzlia won’t even give you a fishing rod. But what Herzlia will do is say, over there is the pole, over there is the piece of string, and over here is the hook. If you are still passionate about fishing by the time you finish assembling the fishing rod as you were when you asked about fishing, well….. Then you’re going to catch yourself a great white shark! And when you do, you will never feel so much pride in yourself then when knowing the fact that you did that and no one else gave it to you.
I spent my High School career asking why they did this. Why couldn’t there just be a massive Camps Bay Derby, why did my friends and I spend break after break organizing this derby day with Mr Sass and Mr Galley? Why couldn’t there be a great Herzlia water polo team? Why did we have to spend most of our free time installing a new system and culture, overriding the old culture of disrespect, why did we have to at one point coach ourselves when coaches wouldn’t rock up to practice? Why did we have to take it upon ourselves to order first team kit from Spain (which Bishops and Rondebosch use) Why did I have to spend so many more hours than usual at Herzlia training for trials? Well, the answer is the reason why I’m up here tonight because Herzlia won’t give this to you. You have to stand up, and work for it and take it, and do it yourself. Why? Because Herzlia instils passion.
The most valuable characteristic in today’s society. Yet as soon as you leave school, it all seems to be lost. As soon as you leave all those all boy schools. The derby’s, the culture, the excellence that you were given is all gone now. And with it, the passion that you had to pursue excellence.
So yes, we spent so much extra (almost unnecessary time) on our water polo programme. But I’ve never been so proud of a project. We have inspired younger kids below us to pursue water polo. Playing A-league (which was impossible when I started playing water polo). Is this now a realistic goal for the future first team? Yes, we had to create a water polo derby out of nothing. However, for Herzlia and Camps Bay sport, it’s now the highlight event of the year drawing crowds that are ever increasing. The pride both schools feel leading up to the game could be rivalled to a Bishop’s vs Rondebosch derby. WE DID THAT.
Yes, I had to spend so much more time training than your A-league player but it paid off in the end. And after all of this, I have never felt so proud to be a part of sport at Herzlia. Because the chance of excellence and success wasn’t given to us, we had to stand up and want it. That passion that we cultivated ourselves will never be forgotten, that passion Herzlia incubated will drive Herzlian’s onward and upwards. The main question tonight is how do they really instill passion and the will for excellence? Genuine belief.
I never used to be like this. I was such a naughty kid when I was younger. Serving an average of five detentions a week, every teacher who knew me, wanted me on Ritalin. I was going nowhere. It was only until Mevrou Botes took me out of detention one Friday afternoon in Grade 9, sat me down in her office and told me that she believed in me. She gave me an opportunity to change myself, and when I started to change I realized that was possible for me as an individual to excel. Bear that in mind, she took me out of a detention for skipping class to jump off the roof of the pool covers into the pool, to tell me and show me that she believed in me. I truly doubt that would have happened at any other school. Someone like me would have easily been lost in the system.
That’s the greatest part about Herzlia. Every pupil is accounted for somewhere during the course of their school career, and has had some form of belief instilled in them. The belief that they can and will achieve what they set out to do. This one small idea alone is something I believe not many schools will do.
You see the motto of Herzlia, doesn’t do its system justice, “If you will it, it is no dream”. Because Herzlia will make sure that you WILL it. And that it will NEVER just be a dream. This genuine belief instilled incubates the passion in so many Herzlians that drives them to excel and become successful in the 21st century – more than most. It is because of this, that I stand up here this evening and proudly say “Im Tirzu, Ein Zo Agadah.” You will it, it will never just be a dream.
Actuarial Associate at Ernst & YoungRead More
They say that a Barmitzvah is the moment in a Jewish boy’s life where he realises that he’s more likely to own a soccer team than to play for one. This certainly holds true in my case given that my athletic ability is about as good as Alan Donald’s running between the wickets in the 1999 cricket world cup final. Nevertheless, I love games and competition and I have been channelling this into the sport of Chess since the age of six.
Before I move onto how accommodating and encouraging Herzlia was in promoting my chess career, I would like all of you to first understand how important chess has been to my development. It gave me logical thought, the ability to strategise, enjoyment, most likely bettered my school marks, and obviously, the best way to impress a lady is to explain to her how great you are at chess. But more importantly, it has given me an understanding which I can apply to life. For example, the idea of making a sacrifice in Chess can easily be compared to life. Temporarily the outlook is negative, but after a few moves or years, you find yourself in a far better position than you were previously. Another example is how a game a chess is not won after a few moves. Sometimes it takes time and patience to implement your strategies. Also, it illustrates how women are far more powerful than men.
In certain school environments, I may have had to make a choice between being popular and playing chess as the two can be seen to be mutually exclusive. However, at Herzlia this was never a concern. This is because at Herzlia the most important part of making friends is simply being a mensch.
I was of the opinion that this was the case for most schools in Cape Town until I went to UCT and made friends with two water polo jocks. They asked me what sport I played at school and I replied without hesitation that I played Chess. They replied with “Were you bullied at school?”. I wasn’t bullied but this made me realise how unusual Herzlia was.
Let me take you back to 2009. I am a Grade 10 student, we have just finished an Afrikaans lesson (where I could hardly focus) and now we are off to play against SACS in a chess match. Now, Mrs Kerbel was my English teacher at the time and was in charge of the school chess team. She is also sitting over there. She was probably more passionate about chess than any of us despite not knowing how to play. Needless to say, being a Jewish school, we were the best chess team in Cape Town. Mrs Kerbel took a lot of pride in this. We would get into her car and immediately the Kit Kats would be handed out to us. That set the tone as we drove to our match while talking about everything, from how badly we did at our English papers to how confident we all were that we would each win our match. Mrs Kerbel would immediately take off her teacher hat and became our friend, in a way most other teachers would not be able to. These car rides also made a bunch of individuals into a team. Herzlia, catching onto our winning streak, ended up announcing the chess results last in the sports report to ensure the report always ended off on a winning note.
The skills that I learnt from those matches I carried with me to UCT, where I won the University Chess Championship in my first year. I was meant to be flown to Russia to represent South Africa University Chess but they made a last minute decision to send the volleyball team instead. Needless to say, I haven’t watched volleyball since.
I am grateful that I was sent to Herzlia but furthermore I will be undoubtedly sending my own kids to Herzlia and hopefully one day I will be sitting in one of your chairs, as I realise that supporting Herzlia means that kids are enabled to continue their passions without the fear of allowing society to dictate to them what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Herzlia not only walks the walk, but also talks the talk as it not only allows anyone to enrol but allows everyone to live their lives in the exact way they want to, with a strong support structure and principles to rely on.
Finally, I would like to thank you all sitting here today and The Herzlia Foundation Trust for being the reasons this school is as successful as it is.
Herzlia High SchoolRead More
I stood there. It was a cold Jerusalem morning and despite that, the streets were filled. I watched the crowds of people rushing around me. Children, adults, men and women all racing to get to their destination on time. Some went by train, some by foot and others in cars but it seemed everyone was going somewhere. There were so many people but each had a different story. I realised then, that even though everyone was going in a different direction, they all knew where they were going. That was when my whole outlook on life changed. I knew then that I wanted to find a purpose in my own life, to truly know where I was going.
When I got back from Israel my drive for purpose continued and began to flourish. Being back at school, I realised that Herzlia had given me the base to go out and discover who I was but most importantly, it allowed me to recognise the opportunity for change and growth when it arrived. I decided that the only way I could find my purpose was through helping others and trying my best to give back to those who had given so much to me. I later noticed that we actually walk these busy streets every day, with many people going in different directions. These streets, believe it or not, are our school corridors. The only difference here is that not everyone knows where they are going but when I look at the walls of all those who have donated to and supported Herzlia over the years, I see the impact that helping others can have and that is a guiding light and inspiration to many.
Life is about growth, finding purpose and helping others. Herzlia, for me, is a school which keeps all of this in mind as I can see the opportunity for bettering myself and others in every aspect of the school.
There is a verse in the Torah that says that Bnei Yisroel will be like the stars in the sky and I only recently realised the true meaning of this passage. The stars, even though there are many, each possess their own light which has the ability to illuminate the way for others. Herzlia is the universe that holds these stars as it allows each student to shine and grow in their own way. The kindness of all those who contribute towards the school gives the students the opportunity to learn about the generosity of giving. Herzlia’s Menschlichkeit pillar says “the most effective way to educate about Menschlichkeit is to be a mensch oneself.” Gathered in this room tonight I see many mensches who have led the way for the next generation by being an example to all.
Menschlichkeit can be embodied through respect, fairness, humility, gratitude, kindness, integrity, compassion and leadership and we as members of the Jewish community all have the responsibility to use these attributes to look after one another. I would sincerely like to thank each and every one of you in this room for doing just that. I truly value the kindness and support of all the donors who give so generously and committedly to The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Standing here tonight, seeing the great impact of helping others, you have all given those you have assisted a purpose.
In the words of Winston Churchill “We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give.”
Co-Founder and Co-Director Chabad on Campus- CapeRead More
First things first, I would like to dispel a myth. The myth is that Herzlia has recently introduced the fifth pillar of “Menschlichkeit” into their educational philosophy.
No! For as long as I can remember and I’m sure many of you do too, being a mensch has been at the heart, front and centre of how academics are taught, sports played, Judaism experienced and arts and culture nurtured at Herzlia. At the core of every one of those pillars was the understanding that I have only succeeded in any of them if I were living as a mensch on every step of my Herzlia journey.
I once heard a story about a young woman who was extremely unpleasant, obnoxious and generally unlikeable. When she came to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ask how she could become a nicer person, the Rebbe gave her some strange advice. Instead of suggesting therapy, or a pile of self-help books, the Rebbe gave her the following simple advice: “Whenever you sit down to eat with friends in the college cafeteria, always offer to serve your friends whatever they may need.”
For the next few months the young woman did just that. She brought her friends pieces of apple pie for dessert, forks and spoons, glasses of water. By the end of the year she was a different person: kinder, friendlier, less selfish, more loving.
I want to share with you two memories of Herzlia that stand out for me with a connection to Menschlichkeit and the service of others.
The first memory, towards the end of Grade 8 when we heard about the opportunities available to us on student council, I was immediately drawn to the CAG portfolio. CAG – The Community Action Group, facilitated volunteerism among our Jewish community and also amongst our general South African community. So, I stood for election and ended up getting nominated as head of CAG. My mini career that followed was a defining period of my life and in retrospect, certainly laid the groundwork for my lifelong love and passion for serving others.
My second memory of Menschlichkeit does not revolve around something I did, but a very special someone I got to learn from. This ‘someone’ is Mevrou Scholtz. Mevrou had unlimited patience for me, spoke to me nicely and like an equal. Simply put, Mevrou had a heart of gold! Being a teacher myself now and a mentor to many students, I think about Mevrou often. In dealing with the many challenges that arise day to day in these formative relationships I still – 10 years later – draw inspiration from the model she was to me at Herzlia.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Herzlia and all of you generous and committed donors of The Herzlia Foundation Trust, who made my experience at Herzlia possible. That includes my amazing parents.
I do not know that I would be leading the life I do today without you.
In 2016, together with my husband Nissen, I founded Chabad on Campus. Today we are serving a community of several hundred 18-25 year old Jews in the Western Cape – our Jewish students on Campus. You could say that at Chabad on Campus, our mission is to make sure the flame that Herzlia ignited/s in our youth is NEVER EXTINGUISHED.
Herzlia High SchoolRead More
Some people know me as the outgoing Jewish Life and Learning student leader, others know me as a proud Zionist and Jewess, many know me as the oldest Wingerin daughter however to my friends and family I am Maddie. In my eyes I am all these personas and more. I invite you to take a journey with me- unquestionably the most life-changing journey I have ever had the privilege of taking …. it all started in 2014 with my maiden voyage to Israel. For me- it was going to be a fun holiday the focus of which would be … eating copious amounts of ice cream and shwarma, drinking loads of shoko and of course shopping. How wrong I was …. this journey was going to be a life-altering journey and I would be changed forever.
On our arrival in Jerusalem- we made our way down to the Kotel for a short tour and to be shown the famous last remains of what was our Bais HaMikdash. I approached the wall, in awe of not only its physical presence and magnitude but more so its spiritual significance as a symbol of our struggle as the Jewish people. While emotionally reciting the Shema and inserting into the wall my message to Hashem, a number of rocks were hurled from the bridge above us- soldiers appeared literally out of nowhere- unbeknown to us Operative Protective Edge had broken out and Israel was under threat.
We returned home two weeks later and with me, I brought back a gift way more precious than any shekels could have bought, my love for Israel and Zionism. To have experienced such unity amongst a people at a time of war I realised this was a country with a passionate people who would do anything to protect itself. At the end of that year, I convinced a few friends to attend our first Bnei Akiva camp knowing it would go a long way in enhancing my Jewish development and identity. As part of this incredible youth movement, integral aspects of Judaism like keeping Shabbos, kashrut and dressing modestly became a part of my reality. Growing up in a traditional Jewish home I always knew of these concepts but they were just…. concepts!
I returned from camp- started observing Shabbat and dressing in a more modest manner. It wasn’t an easy transformation and often was a lonely one, as I was embarking on this journey, with the support of my parents and friends – but ultimately alone. I’ve always been determined and driven and this solo voyage was making me stronger. Having been a student of Herzlia since I was 3, I have no doubt that my passion and love for Judaism was ignited by our weekly Shabbat rings and Shabbat singing with Cantor Ivor Joffe.
In 2016, I entered the High School, we were presented the idea of the Beit Midrash program and I decided to participate in that rather than the standard Jewish Studies program. It was then when I met Rabbi Cannon who has played a pivotal role in my journey and personal development. I have grown, I have learned more, I have grappled and questioned and ultimately have emerged confident in my belief, my roots and who I am. Armed with this secure sense of identity I feel as though I have been able to positively impact the lives of many friends and family members. The best decision I have ever made was to run for the SLC last year as head of JLL at Herzlia. I was able to lead by example and to share the beauty and my love of yiddishkeit with many of my classmates.
Herzlia has given me the opportunity to learn and pray in a beautiful Beit Midrash, participate in stimulating and engaging shiurim, learn the fundamental basics of our religion, host monthly challah bakes, plan fun and exciting celebrations for our chaggim, lead my School while focusing on Zionism and Judaism, and wear my Herzlia badge with pride.
Next year I will be embarking on a new journey in Israel, this time in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem where I will be attending a seminary. Where more fitting to further learn and embrace my Judaism and Zionism, coming full circle from where I discovered it while nurturing it at Herzlia all these years, with the incredible support of Rabbi Cannon and his team. I will always remember what Rabbi Cannon told me: “giving those 5 or 6 people that little push to do more is more important than trying to change a whole grade” and I can honestly say – I’ve pushed those 5 or 6 people and I’ve made my change- thank you Herzlia for empowering me to make my difference.
Rosh Bnei Akivah, UCT Psychology StudentRead More
In yeshiva, we were taught the benefit of not just strengthening the heart, mind and soul, but also the body. They offered us classes in Krav maga training. Training that to this day, I highly value. My Krav magar teacher taught me the concept of body conditioning. The process begins with creating tiny fractures in the bones and as they heal, the bones expand and become stronger. While logically we would think that tiny fissures would weaken the bones, the result is the opposite. When done with the right method one can reinforce the natural strength and capabilities of one’s body.
In parashat Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law (Yitro) comes to visit him. While his obvious intentions are to visit his loved ones, he comes with a deeper motive. This motive is clearly stated at the beginning of the parasha : Now Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that G-d had done for Moses and for Israel, His people that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt.
The first name for Hashem that is used in “Elohim”, which relates to the presence or position of a king. This name for Hashem is used when Hashem is perceived as a judge and is a presence of justice. The second name for Hashem is the abbreviation “ud hey vav hey”. Which means past, present and future. This name of Hashem is used when we perceive Hashem as part of nature, coupled with elements of compassion.
So the obvious question stands…why use two different names for Hashem in one pasuk? In the Torah, there are a few names for Hashem. As stated before, a name is used when we perceive a different facet of the same G-d. We do this, not to separate the “one-ness” of Hashem, but rather to better understand all factors that make him so complete. In this verse, Yitro has one perception of G-d, a G-d of judgment and justice. But he heard about something that fractures his perception of G-d. He didn’t just hear about the swift judgment of G-d who punished the Egyptians for the slavery of Israel. He heard about the loving and compassionate G-d that took his people out of slavery. His previous perception is slightly broken, only to be fixed through gaining wisdom. His outlook is expanded and made stronger, so strong he takes on a new path in life.
This is a lesson I learnt in these walls of Herzlia. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank someone who was instrumental in helping me develop my relationship with Judaism. Morah Sandra Hoffman. One thing I have learnt about teaching Jewish education is that it takes passion above all else to really make a difference.
“Words from the heart, pierce the heart”- Rabbi Dessler
Anyone can learn and repeat information, but I find that the true values and concepts of Judaism are seen through how someone educates. Empathy, understanding and intellectual integrity, these are just a few things that I learnt from my teacher. Developing a relationship with Judaism is something we throughout our entire lives and while it yields more than I can put into words, it’s not easy. So thank you Morah, for helping me develop not just a love and understanding for Judaism, but helping me stand stronger in who I am and to take pride in what I believe in.
I spent a lot of my time thinking I knew what Judaism was and how it worked. But at this school, I was faced with a truth that fractured my perceptions. I learnt different facets of Judaism; not only from my teachers but from the people I went to school with. I learnt that there are different ways to express one’s connection to Judaism, while still being true to it. in this school I learnt to appreciate the different facets of Judaism that I was faced with , and through this process I conditioned my own state of mind and learnt to express my Judaism, in ways I thought that couldn’t be done.
Herzlia is a very unique school; one that I think offers something to the community that is vital towards its growth and development. There is great importance in supporting the perceived needs of a community as more often than not that is what is truly helpful and I think Herzlia offer this community something that really secures its longevity. It provides a place to not only be educated but facilitates a safe space to explore where one connects to who they are and their connection to Judaism. Planting that seed of personal connection and valuing experiential truth is what truly fortifies a person and allows them to take pride in what they believe in.
Herzlia High SchoolRead More
When I was little, I wanted to be that other Annie. The one with the cool patchwork dress & the scruffy dog & the hard knock life. So, I often pretended to be her. The red curly hair was a no-brainer, but the rest of the role required some skillful staging and imagination. I wore a threadbare gown, plastic bucket and defeated expression to family breakfasts at various venues along the Atlantic Seaboard. Dramatically dropping to my knees, I pretended to scrub the pristine, privileged floors, whilst loudly singing of life’s hardships to my bemused audience and embarrassed parents – who had to suffer the further indignity of their respective stage names, Miss Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks. To their credit, they would stick up their chins and grin and hang on ‘til tomorrow, come what may.
As it turns out, the other Annie and I were both wrong. There is nothing enviable about poverty and you can’t always bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow. For many children in the offstage, unpretend socio-economic reality of our country, where the ‘orphan Annies’ outnumber the ‘Daddy Warbucks’, there is no shortcut to easy street or inevitable escape from the hard-knock life. But, it is equally untrue that no one cares for you a smidge, in an orphanage or a place of privilege. Educational institutions do not have to be hostile environments where tutoring is torturing, not nurturing.
Happily, there are more Mary Poppins’ in our school system than Miss Hannigans. These are the teachers who venture beyond the confines of the prescribed syllabus and classroom walls and recognise personal value beyond academic grades/ percentages. They give you knowledge and acknowledgement. During my years at Herzlia, my intellectual and emotional growth has been facilitated by the life lessons I’ve learned from many such teachers. With no disregard or intention to undermine the significant role of all of these amazing teachers, I have cherry picked two examples to illustrate, anecdotally and sentimentally, memorable experiences.
Whilst my brief was to discuss academic experience, I feel compelled to share a significant life lesson in humility, leadership, humanity, and humour that occurred one sunny day on the playground at Herzlia Weizmann. I was mortified when a bird chose to release a generous splat of metabolic waste on one of my frizzy pigtails. Thankfully, I was rescued from my humiliation by the swift actions of Mr Krupenia, our headmaster who ushered me into the office sink and washed the faecal matter away with soap and water and comforting words. Lesson learnt: not all heroes wear capes.
Upon entering High School- an intimidating academic milestone punctuated with puberty, pimples & plenty projects, I was blessed with a happy landing in the English class of Ms Gail Simon- the Mary Poppins of my school career. Ms Simon taught with passion and compassion. She spoke with us, rather than to us. She practised a philosophy of mutual teaching and learning, interaction rather than instruction- never ‘Simon says’. She recognised the value of EACH in tEACH. Her report comments were never generic, one-size fits all and always referenced and validated the unique qualities of everyone she taught. Learning is not just about ABC, 123, Doe Ray Me or solving for ‘x’. Ms Simon was no simple Simon. She was simply someone who saw the ‘one’ in everyone. And that is the most valuable lesson I’ve learnt.
It may not be rocket science, but it’s basic human literacy. And literacy and education are basic human rights. Thank you, Herzlia community for your investment in the sunny tomorrows of ALL learners. It is no coincidence that the universal symbol for an idea is a light bulb, or that one may note someone’s intellect by calling them ‘bright’ – Knowledge truly is power, but there can’t be power if no one turns it on, albeit in the form of a switch, an inspirational teacher or support and generosity from the community.
Theoretical PhysicistRead More
Good evening Herzlians, parents, teachers, friends of the school and donors.
I am a theoretical physicist working on some of the hardest unsolved problems of our time to understand the nature of space and time, how the universe began and ultimately what is driving the accelerated expansion of our universe towards a cold, empty final state. Many of the leaders in my field are Jewish, as was my PhD supervisor and indeed the most famous physicist of all time, the person on whose work I am building – Einstein – was most famously Jewish.
I have often wondered why there is such a high number of Jewish achievers in society. We barely scrape in at 0.2 % of the world population and yet we enjoy nearly 23% of all Nobel prizes to date. What is it that makes us so outstanding in intellectual endeavours?
I have a few theories. Maybe it is because we encourage our best and brightest to reproduce and so we have been steadily breeding stronger genes for intellect. Maybe it is because we take the Torah seriously and encourage professions that use the mind more than the hands. Perhaps it is the natural consequence of bringing the talmudic style of understanding minutiae into modern thought through the Haskalah. Maybe it is because history has forced us out of certain professions and so like the best wines, the struggle has given us, as a people a kind of intellectual terroir. The debate is old and familiar, is it nature, is it nurture? Likely it is multifactorial.
Tonight, I will focus on one answer that is exemplified by Herzlia school.
It is the ways in which Jews teach our young, to think, to learn, to question and the very foundations of what it means to get a *Jewish* education.
My experiences at Herzlia, exemplified through different teachers and subjects illustrates my point. In both Jewish life and secular life we have knowledge that is Lishma and also knowledge shelo lishma – knowledge for its own sake and knowledge for a purpose. Society pushes us to provide the purpose of our knowledge, yet Jewish thought teaches us to value knowledge for its own sake, its own higher purpose. Mr Jeff Cohen, head of mathematics and later the principal of the High School exemplified this ideology. He was never formally my teacher, and yet we would talk together about ideas in mathematics and life, he gave me maths books to read as if they were literature and he taught me that mathematics is like a living breathing entity.
From Pesachim we learn “Mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah”. – loosely translated – what begins not for its own sake will eventually become for its own sake. The school’s practice and Jewish philosophy intertwine to advocate for gaining knowledge for its own sake while reminding us of the dual purpose of knowledge both for the betterment of society and our own inner selves.
When not enthralled by mathematics dancing off the page and into life, I learnt about the boundlessness of when and how we learn. Mrs Marianne Marks, who welcomed us into her home to devour poetry late at night when our class hours were never enough to satiate the overly verbal and excitable lot that was 10D. A habit I still hold, as learning permeates all of my life.
Which brings me to perhaps my favorite lesson from Jewish thought, from Herzlia and from my own scientific heroes. Learning to fail. This is not something that parents, and some teachers feel comfortable with but it is the most important thing we can teach our children and allow ourselves.
The importance of creating a space for being wrong. Accepting the possibility of failure before you consider the probability of success. This lesson I usually attribute to Einstein – who proposed the theory of general relativity in 1915. As a consequence of his theory he proposed the existence of gravitational waves, essentially ripples of gravitational energy permeating all of spacetime. A few years later, he decided that he was wrong about these waves. He wrote a paper explaining why he was wrong and that paper got rejected by Physical Review as the referee realised that Einstein was wrong in claiming that he had been wrong. So even when he was wrong, Einstein was right! Einstein realised that the referee was correct, and he fixed his theory and 100 years later in 2015 after billions of $’s in investments and many many failed experiments, scientists all over the world confirmed that in fact, he was right. It took 100 years for that final confirmation, may none of us have to wait so long!
At Herzlia, however, this lesson did not come from my science teacher, the fabulous Mr Ron Jones who encouraged us to get all of the answers correct because with High School physics you *can* get it all correct. No, it came from the indomitable Ms Jill Joubert whose art lessons contributed as much or more to my development as a scientist and a human being than any actual science class I have taken in any country. She encouraged us not to fear mistakes, to allow ourselves to be wrong, to embrace failure and not to succeed too early in life. To keep striving and to shun intellectual constipation as the worst possible fate for a mind. Her willingness to take her students to any edge and then push beyond also laid the first real seeds of my developing nuanced experience of feminism, womanhood and now motherhood.
Herzlia has also taught me about the importance of community, compassion, and care. My job is not just to change how we think about our universe, it is also to grow and nurture a new generation who will overthrow my ideas and theories, and this emphasis on pastoral care I learnt from Mandy and Howard Goldberg who opened their home to me in my final months of matric when I needed that space.
Herzlia’s magic feels like it is in the teachers, the parents, the pupils. Yet these all change. Maybe it is in the top academic focus, or in the enriching experiences of fashion shows and plays, where the sheer breadth of talent in our community shines. Maybe it is in the balance we bring with sports and chess, or the new Menschlickheit pillar that was always holding up our foundations even before we identified it. Maybe it is all of these things. Or maybe it is because the school is based on the principles of Jewish learning – which is not just about Jewish studies or Hebrew or the chaggim around which our year gains structure. But rather it is about the entire philosophy of knowledge acquisition and knowledge creation that lies at the heart of Jewish thought and Herzlia school.
Indeed, when the Jewish people accepted the Torah – the words we used were Na’aseh v’nishma. And this is as true for mathematics as it is for Mitzvot. The very act of doing brings about the understanding. The very act of understanding brings about knowledge that leads to new doing.
So in yidishkeit and in life, really, book knowledge and lived experience should be one in the same. And we should allow space for different ways of knowing things. To this I will bring one example, from the first real parsha that brings the idea of a Jewish people. Lech lecha. Such is the weight of this parsha that its words are seared into my memory from classes with the legendary Morah Hava Glanger many years ago. Lech Lecha, me artzecha, oome moladetecha, oome bait avicha, el ha aretz asher ar’echa.
There is so much to unpack but in these few moments let us focus on the obvious bracha for a mathematical physicist/an astrophysicist – Vayotzai otoh ha chutzah, vayomer – Habet na hashamayima, ooh sephor hakochavim Im tochal lisphor otam, vayomer lo – co yihiyeh zarecha.
A spectacular blessing if ever there was one. And he *took* him outside, and he said – please, look up to the sky/heavens and count the stars *if you can count them*. And he said to him – so will be your seed. What a bracha! And notice that it is not a passive bracha. Hashem does not just say to Avraham – “I will make your seed like the number of stars”. That is our usual quick translation. Instead – he takes him outside. What does it mean to take him outside? It does not say he told him to go outside or he talked to him while he was outside but rather it is like the force of Hashem is present giving Avraham a great will to take himself outside. Then Hashem tells him to look at the sky and to count the stars if you are able. And then Hashem says – “co yihiye zarecha”. A line we always interpret to mean – and this many will be your seed. The crux of the bracha. But. Just maybe, this bracha is telling us that Hashem has given us an innate drive to go outside and to look up at the stars and to catalogue and count them. He has commanded us to be Astronomers! And so will be your seed – could mean that indeed he is saying that our descendants forever will be curious, will be scientists, will try to count, catalogue and understand our world. But let me come back to a simpler interpretation that Hashem really literally meant – the Jewish people will number as many as the stars in the sky, and as we hear earlier in the parsha, as many as the grains of sand on the earth. Well – if you stood in the desert 4000 years ago and looked up in the night sky and carefully counted, How many stars would you see? You would see about 2500 stars with the naked eye on a good night in an unpolluted place. So, if you knew the world was a sphere, you would realize you only see half at any given time and so you would conclude that there are about 5000 stars in the sky. Wonderful. 5000 is quite a big number from the perspective of a childless man many many centuries ago. And perhaps when we crossed into Israel these numbers match – however, realistically, even the small Jewish community in Cape Town aspires to far more – and the words of the Torah tell us there are more because it says “IF YOU were able to count them”. Which tells us that really – Avraham looking at the stars could not count them. he was literally unable to do so.
And Hashem knew this of course. He knew that he set an impossible task for Avraham. And still, he told him to do it. And he blessed all of our generations to do the same. What is this telling us about us as people? That it is our purpose to always attempt the impossible. That is our blessing, our heritage, our secret. Indeed it is the foundation of a democratic SA – as Mandela said “It is always impossible until it is done.”
But it is also hidden in the Herzlia School motto – “im Tirzu ein zu aggadah” – fittingly a quote of Theodor Herzl, that translates to “If you will it, it is no dream”.
The quest to make real the impossible lies at the very foundations of us as a people and a school. This is why we achieve so much, why we soar so high on the international intellectual stage and this is why we as a people cannot cease in our efforts to ensure the future of our generations, l’dor vador, vdibarta bam. We secure their futures and indeed our own – through education.
And so as Einstein quite famously said – G-d does not play dice with the universe. While Einstein was wrong on this one, we should not play dice with the future of a Jewish education for our children in South Africa. As parents, alumni and donors, We need to support the school as not only is it a school that is inclusive of all Jewish children – exemplifying for us Derech Eretz but it is a school built on the foundations of Jewish learning building for us a place in the future. So thank you, everyone, for being here tonight, for giving so generously to our school and for helping to take us as individuals and as a people as far as our imagination will allow.