On Friday 31 July, eight students participated in the Bialik College Bible Quiz, competing from home and on campus simultaneously: Ashley B (Year 8), Mia W (Year 9), Jennifer B (Year 9), Madeleine B (Year 10), Eden G (Year 10), Dustin F (Year 10), Maya S (Year 10) and Adam E (Year 11).
This was an extremely complex competition requiring lengthy study and preparation. Students were tested, in-depth, on the biblical books of Ruth and Esther. All students volunteered to participate, studying in their own time, and should be incredibly proud of their efforts.
The competition was EXTREMELY tight, but ultimately, the two winners of the Bialik College Bible Quiz for 2020 were: Mia W & Maya S.
These two students will now proceed to the Australia-wide Bible Quiz. They will compete against students from Jewish day schools across the country. The two winners of the national round will then compete in the International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) in 2021. This is a televised event, where, amongst others, the President and Prime Minister of Israel ask the questions.
A Message from Dan Sztrajt, Assistant Principal and Head of Jewish Life
On Tisha B’Av we commemorate much more than the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, we mourn a seismic shift in Jewish identity, a period in time so fraught with rapid change that it altered what it meant to be a Jew for the next 2000 years.
This period was foretold in Deuteronomy, “In the morning you will say, would that it were evening, and in the evening you will say, would that it were morning”. The Talmud, in Tractate Sotah 49A, explains this as a cursed time when each evening we yearn for the next morning to bring better news, but in fact each day brings progressively more troubling news, “because their situation is continuously worsening” (Sotah 49A). The Talmud recognises that the destruction of the Temples themselves were not the most troubling element, but rather the uncertainty of such rapid changes for the community.
This year we are confronted with a very real understanding of what it is like to live through a period of constantly evolving circumstances. We wonder each evening what the infection numbers will be the next morning and how these may impose a different regime of restrictions on us. We are anxious with this uncertainty because it seems that our ‘situation is continuously worsening’. Just like the destruction of the Temples, it is not the existence of Covid-19 that worries us, it is this perpetual flux of changing conditions.
The parallels are even more pronounced when we read Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar’s Talmudic commentary on the same verse which says “since the destruction of the Temple… the taste and aroma has been removed from fruit.” While this may have been meant as a metaphor, it is almost eerie to consider this as analogous to today’s Coronavirus symptoms. We too now long for the sweetness of being in the classroom together and enjoying each other’s company on the playground at lunchtimes.
Having said all of this, what can we learn from these similarities? Perhaps we are now more able to appreciate the tragedy of Tisha B’Av, not only as destruction, but as prolonged uncertainty. On the other hand, we know Judaism adapted to its new reality and would eventually thrive becoming the religion we are so familiar with today. Some would even say that this calamity ultimately lead to the establishment of Rabbinic Judaism, democratisation replaced centralised control by the social elite, and individual prayer substituted gruesome sacrifices. What better lesson could we take from Tisha B’Av than the knowledge that uncertainty eventually ends, and things do get better. When we are challenged, we grow. We find innovative solutions to what once seemed like unsolvable problems. We develop new appreciations for what is really important to us and in the process, make our lives even richer than before. If we are still here thriving 2000 years after the destruction of our Temple, we will surely be here thriving after Covid-19 too.
On Tuesday 21 July, the annual Mikolot Public Speaking Competition took place, this time online.
This is an inter-school competition, which saw Tali U (Year 11) and Megan S (Year 12) compete against students from The King David School and Leibler Yavneh College.
The judges were Mandi Katz and Josh Burns MP.
Students spoke about their visions for the establishment of new organisations within the Jewish community that would fill gaps in areas that are not otherwise addressed. Megan discussed her desire to create a new network which would facilitate communication between elderly members of our community and young people. Tali spoke about a digital interface that would assist Bar Mitzvah boys in learning their material and finding meaning in the experience.
Although our students did not win, they both presented brilliantly and did themselves, and the College proud.
We are delighted to announce that Rebecca P has been selected as a winner of the My Family Story competition, run out of the Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Israel. Our Year 7 students have participated in this program for the past 10 years and we commend Rebecca for her accomplishment.
The program, this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, connects families and Jewish communities from over 40 different countries. The participants are divided into four categories – Israel, English speaking countries, Spanish speaking countries, and Russian speaking and European countries. A small group of students was selected as winners from each category, and from these the first, second and third place will be selected. The winning works were selected by judging committees in the fields of education, art and the Jewish professional world, from among the hundreds of works submitted.
We would like to invite Bialik families to the virtual ceremony in order to announce the winners of the competition and to congratulate all participants from all over the world. The ceremony will be held on Wednesday 10 June (18th of Sivan), at 7pm IDT (Israeli time)/12pm EST and will bring together the participants from all participating countries.
Bialik College is proud to have been affiliated with this competition at Beit Hatfutsoth for the past decade, and we wish Rebecca all the best. Kol ha’kavod!
This year we celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli’s 72nd birthday, like never before, physically apart but together in spirit. Students from Creche to Year 12 got involved in various ways and students and many staff submitted a photo of themselves in blue and white which formed a collage. Some on the day activities included:
Celebrity Shout Outs Part 1:
Secondary School Video:
Primary School Video:
Lockdown by Julian M:
Celebrity Shout Outs Part 2:
In honour of Yom Ha’Zikaron, Zionism Victoria held a commemorative assembly to commemorate the lives of our heroic soldiers who tragically lost their lives defending the state of Israel.
Bialik Vocal Experience were asked to perform Hatikvah. Watch the beautiful video below:
Our students took part in commemorative assemblies or age appropriate educational sessions throughout the day. In addition some of our staff and students worked together to develop a short tekes (commemorative service) that can be watched viewed below.
Tuesday 21 April was Yom Ha’Shoah and as a school community we commemorated those precious lives lost in the Holocaust and we celebrate the survivors. The Shoah is a challenging part of our Jewish history, and it is incumbent upon us, as a community, to honour its memory and to dignify its victims.
Whilst we were unable to have survivors visit campus and share their stories, in Years 6-12 classes students shared family testimonies and lit Yizkor candles to honour victims.
Our annual Purim celebrations were full of joy, excitement, creative costumes and mitzvot.
As usual, all students from Creche to Year 12, as well as staff, arrived at school dressed in crazy, kooky, fun and colourful costumes. Parents came to watch the fun, which included an ELC costume parade, games in the amphitheatre and the always popular Year 12 dance.
The day was filled with amazing activities which were just as educational as they were exciting and fun. There was a reading of the Megillah in the Library, fulfilling the mitzvah of hearing the story of Purim.
As is tradition on Purim, the Year 12 cohort had the privilege of an excursion to meet and engage with the Year 6 leaders of Dandenong West Primary School. The students introduced the Year 12s to their school’s foundation and the values they pride themselves on. This was then followed by games during which everyone mixed together and introduced themselves, making new friends.
In the lead up to Purim, students and parents were asked to bring in donations of tinned goods, pasta, toilet paper, canvas bags, toiletries and more for the Matanot Le’evyonim program run on the day of Purim. The students heard from a wonderful speaker from CISVic, a Community Information and Support service that represents other local community services for those that are in need of assistance and support, and spent an hour on Purim creating care packages and writing letters to those in need. The donations were overwhelming and the students not only spent their time giving to others, they themselves took a lot away from the session.
Once again, Purim at Bialik was a wonderful day of celebration and giving.
One of the most exciting projects of our Bnei Mitzvah program is when the students get to research their family trees. The Year 7 Bnei students dig into their roots with the help of representatives from the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society. The representatives spoke to the students about creating their family trees and gave them tips on how to conduct their research.
There are often many surprises for the students on during this research, whether it’s finding out they’re related to someone sitting in the same room as they are, or that they’re related to a famous or world-renowned Jew!
|A message from Dan Sztrajt, Assistant Principal (Jewish Life)|
For generations Jews around the world have celebrated the joyous festival of Purim by dressing up and wearing masks, just as Queen Ester masked her Jewish identity. As part of our mitzvah to hear the Megilah, we recount how Mordechai helped Ester hide her Jewish heritage in order to marry King Ahashverosh. Unbeknown to Ester at the time, her masked Jewish identity would ultimately allow her to save the entire Jewish people from annihilation.
Haman’s plan to execute all the Jews of the Persian Empire was spawned by his anger at a single Jew who acted differently from other citizens, one who would not bow to him. Haman’s ability to project his rage from one person onto their entire ethnic or cultural group exemplifies the very root of racism. Haman’s excessive response provides us with a mirror to our own biases and the dangers they create. How frequently do we see someone who looks different or does different things from us and make judgments about their entire ethnicity?
Right now, we are confronted with a new reason why so many people all over the world are wearing masks. These masks are not about hiding one’s identity, but rather protecting themselves from others. Our fear of the Covid-19 Coronavirus is quite valid, so much of this new threat is unknown and we are left unsure about how to best protect ourselves. Yet incredibly, long before the bulk of Australians have donned masks, many chose to protect themselves by excluding others. The mistrust of Australians and visitors of Asian origin has been a major feature of this health crisis. Icons of Asian dining have closed down and reports of discrimination and racism have grown. For some, the current climate is scary for more than just the obvious reasons.
So what does our Jewish heritage and the Purim story have to teach us about how we respond to Covid-19? Perhaps our Jewish understanding of being an outsider and looking a little different gives us a valuable sense of empathy. From Queen Ester we know what it is like to have to hide your identity to attain equal treatment. From Haman we understand how quickly people unfairly perceive a threat simply from the way somebody looks. As we don our masks for Purim, let’s heed the lesson of the megillah, and treat others with the same dignity we all deserve.