Bialik Shuk’s Natalie Shostak and Deb Poratt have aligned with Our Village Kitchen and Jewish Care to provide meals for Jewish families in need throughout this challenging time. Each week the women cook between 20-50 kosher parve meals from their kitchen at Bialik College, including soups, salads, main meals and sweet treats. The meals are collected by volunteers and distributed by Jewish Care to the Jewish Care’s Family Disability Respite Centre.
With Melbourne experiencing Stage 4 restrictions, the need arose when Our Village Kitchen who have been cooking Shabbat dinners with Middle School Bialik College students for over four years, no longer had the facilities to cook in.
OVK, Founders, Romy Bursztyn and Jo Star, approached Natalie and Deb who were very happy to help out.
“We have been very fortunate to pivot successfully over the last few months. Our team would all agree it’s such a pleasure to be feeling useful in this time of uncertainty. The Bialik community and beyond have welcomed our Babayit initiative with open arms. By having our food at home, students can experience the taste of school – a little something to normalise these crazy times, and we have provided their families with some respite from home cooking. It’s also been a wonderful opportunity for those outside Bialik to see what we do here, respecting our customers with fresh, innovative, house made produce. Just because you aren’t at school doesn’t mean you leave your tastebuds at the front gate”. – Natalie Shostak, Shuk Manager
Yesterday, our Preps celebrated 100 Days of Prep!
They dressed up to show 100 in different ways, counted 100 treated and shared with their classmates and teachers via MS Teams.
This year has been a different one with 53 days to date at school and 48 days learning via Digital Bialik (47 yesterday on their 100th day).
After learning that counting 100 in groups of 10 was easy, our Preps did 10 reps of 10 exercises as part of the party.
5 Minutes with Lisa Brichko (’06) – Emergency Department Physician talks of her experience during COVID-19
Lisa Brichko (’06, née Tescher) graduated from medicine in 2011 and is now an Emergency Department (ED) Physician at both The Alfred and Cabrini Hospitals. We recently caught up with Lisa and asked her to share her reflections on how COVID-19 has transformed her workplace.
As emergency doctors, Lisa says they are trained to respond to mass tragedy in a short term event like a terrorist attack or a major accident, but “When I picked my career path I hadn’t even remotely considered it as a possibility as something I, or my colleagues, would be dealing with over a prolonged period”.
While describing the impact on the ED as “constantly evolving”, Lisa mentioned that while the initial situation escalated quite quickly and the workload changed, things have certainly eased since March this year. She described the stressful situation some of her co-workers experienced in having to move out of their homes, away from their families, in order to prevent potential spread to family members, especially if they were high risk (elderly or with pre-existing medical conditions).
In mid-March, prior to the government imposing lockdown on international travel, there were not many community screening areas set up, so a large number of people were coming to the ED for testing. Patients that are admitted to hospital and have had a COVID-19 test performed need to remain in an isolation cubicle until the result has come back negative. Early in the pandemic this could take many days, however with improved laboratory resources, test results are now available much faster.
As we watched the numbers peak in Italy, The Alfred hospital rapidly changed the infrastructure by rebuilding large sections of the hospital, such as boardrooms and other sections, to accommodate large numbers of patients. “While there is the capacity to hold large numbers, fortunately, we haven’t had to use those spaces yet,” Lisa says.
As policies and procedures were updated over this time, community testing centres were built and on-site screening clinics were set up to enable testing separate to the ED, freeing up their space again. Now, thanks to the new clinics and community testing areas that have been set up, tests can often be completed within a day. However, things like staff meetings went from 1 meeting a week to 4, and there would be daily running of staff educational programs on how to use equipment they wouldn’t normally use.
In April, during the stricter lockdown period, there was a significant decrease, with ED attendance numbers reducing by approximately 20-30%. Lisa attributes this to less people going out to clubs, drinking, taking drugs and undertaking other dangerous activities. Also, she mentioned that many people expressed fear in attending the ED because they didn’t want to be exposed to Coronavirus while being there. Now, however, the numbers seem to be returning to what they were prior to the pandemic and Lisa has said that people need to know that it is safe to come to ED’s if they’re in an emergency situation.
Lisa also discussed the large drop in numbers of cases of influenza and gastroenteritis as a result of people performing better hygiene, social distancing and staying at home.
While it is hard to predict how things will evolve from weeks to months ahead, Lisa said she is happy and relieved that Australia seems to be much safer and with much smaller numbers in both cases and deaths than many other parts of the world.
We love to hear from our Old Collegians so please stay in touch and email [email protected]
Kinder teacher, Elise, recently travelled to Israel with JNF. As a result of her experience in Israel, Elise returned to Bialik with visions of creating an edible garden. Yesterday with the help of our Grounds Keeper, Peter, and her kinder class this vision was actualised and an olive, mandarin and pear trees were planted on campus.
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:
5 Minutes with Anthony Goldbloom – Bialik Old Collegian and Founder of Kaggle on AI and COVID-19 research
At Bialik we strive to provide our children with an education that will set them up for life and help them to become the leaders of tomorrow. Anthony Goldbloom (Class of 2001) is the founder of the Google acquired business Kaggle, and has been approached by the White House to support the USA’s research efforts into the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Kaggle is a platform that allows data scientists and machine-learning specialists to create algorithms that solve complex issues for businesses, government agencies and health organisations. This platform gives way to data that would normally be untapped, bringing the hidden unknown into view. Not only does it allow data scientists access to new information, it also gives them the ability to develop their skillset further. Anthony has been listed as in Forbes ‘Top 30 under 30’ in technology and been profiled in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
The Whitehouse engaged Kaggle among a small group of AI Technology companies to find new ways to mine and pull the data from the 44,000 research articles on COVID-19 which have been published globally since January 2020. The idea is that machine learning will be able to effectively and efficiently identify patterns and consistencies in the data available to predict the behaviour of transmission, symptoms, incubation period and risk factors of COVID-19.
This is not the first time, the tech giant has been engaged by US Government. Under the Obama administration Kaggle was involved in projects that included working with NASA on mapping dark matter and the US Census Bureau on predicting return rates for the census. I think add the traffic example as this was really practical and easy to understand.
Bialik Vice Principal Gary Velleman said that Anthony’s passion for mathematics and thinking laterally was evident from his childhood and teenage years. Following his completion of VCE at Bialik, Anthony went on to study economics and econometrics at the University of Melbourne.
“Data science as a job title did not exist [when Anthony finished school]. Many early data scientists either came from a statistics or a computer science background”, Anthony explained.
Anthony undertook work experience including economic modelling in Australia’s Department of Treasury as well as spending time as an economist in the Research department at the Reserve Bank of Australia , it was during this time, around 2007, that the idea of Kaggle was conceived. Following an internship at The Economist in London in 2010, Goldbloom moved to Silicon Valley in 2011 to make Kaggle a reality.
In its first year, Kaggle received its first round of venture capital and from there were able to sign early customers, attract employees, and launch new products that saw it gain traction in the data science/machine-learning world. In 2017, Google acquired Kaggle in a multi-million dollar deal that facilitated an integration and balance between preserving what was fundamental and exciting about Kaggle while having powerful collaborative abilities with Google’s other teams.
Bialik is proud of Anthony’s achievements and contributions, especially at this time.
We love to hear from our Old Collegians so please stay in touch and email [email protected]
For more information on the work Kaggle is doing for COVID-19 research please visit www.kaggle.com/COVID-19
As the school term is coming to an end we are about to face the first Passover of its kind in history. For thousands of years Jews have celebrated Pesach together, with their families and friends. Very early in the Seder we point to the matzah and say, “This is the bread of poverty that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Anyone who is hungry should come and eat, anyone who is need should come and partake.” The very essence of Pesach is being together, as a family, as a community and as a people. It is when we welcome those less fortunate than us materially and open ourselves up to those older and wiser than us spiritually. It is the unending chain of knowledge passed down from grandparent, to parent, to child that is the lifeblood of our people.
This year, for the first time ever it appears, on face value this will not happen. Even during the darkest episodes of Jewish history, Jews made every sacrifice to be together, to celebrate Pesach, sharing food they could not spare, baking and distributing matzah in secret and providing wisdom to younger generations at the Seder, in the direst of circumstances.
This Pesach, we will likely sit with those that we live with and no one else. For many of us this will mean no grandparents, no grandchildren, no cousins, and no friends. We might feel completely hopeless and lost. We might feel that a Pesach like this is not a Pesach at all. It is natural to be upset, but we should not stay upset.
There is an incredible story about two brothers, Reb Zusha and Reb Elimelech, which is so powerful for our time. The brothers lived in 18th Century Poland and were once arrested on false charges by Anti-Semitic police. In their prison cell, Reb Zusha noticed his brother crying. “Why are you crying?” asked Reb Zusha.
Reb Elimelech pointed to the bucket in the corner of the room that prisoners used as a toilet, “Jewish law forbids praying next to a toilet,” he told his brother. “This will be the first day in my life in which I cannot pray.””But why are you crying?” asked Reb Zusha.
“What do you mean?” responded his brother. “How can I begin my day without connecting to G‑d?” “But you are connecting to G‑d,” insisted Reb Zusha. “The same G‑d who commanded you to pray each morning, also commanded you not to pray in this circumstance.
Now, you can connect to G‑d by not praying.”His brother’s viewpoint elated Reb Elimelech’s heart. The awareness that the bucket in the corner of the room allowed him to enjoy an intimate — though different — type of relationship with G‑d inspired him so deeply that he began to dance and his brother joined him.
The non-Jewish inmates imprisoned in the same cell were so moved by the sight, that they too joined the dancing. It did not take long before the entire room was swept away by an electrifying energy of joy, as dozens of prisoners were dancing in happiness, completely forgetting for one moment that they were prisoners.
When the prison warden heard the commotion coming from the cell, he burst open the gate, only to be stunned by the inmates enjoying such a liberating dance. In his fury, he attempted to stop the dancing, but to no avail: the prisoners were by now totally consumed by a deeper happiness, stemming from a very deep place within their souls.
Finally, the warden pulled aside one of the inmates, demanding from him an explanation for what was going on.
The frightened prisoner said that it was the two Jews dancing in the centre of the circle who triggered the trouble.
“Why are the Jews dancing?” thundered the warden.
The prisoner pointed to the bucket in the corner of the room. “It is the bucket, they claim, that brought about the joy in their heart.”
“How can this disgusting bucket make them happy?”
“They explained that the bucket allowed them to experience a new type of relationship with G‑d. There was the pre-bucket relationship… and the post-bucket relationship.”
“If that’s the case, I will teach them a lesson.” shouted the angry warden. He took the bucket and threw it out of the cell.
Reb Zusha turned to his brother and said: “And now, my brother, you can pray!
“The times that we are experiencing now will pass. The ‘bucket’ will be removed from our lives. However, we will not be the same. We cannot be, and we should not be the same. There will be a reality of before and a reality of after. The only thing we can control is how we change.
Every single experience in life is an opportunity to make ourselves and the world around us better. In the cycle of Jewish life, which has survived and continued through much worse than what we are experiencing now and will survive this too, we just celebrated Purim.
The very heart of the Purim Megilah is when Mordechai turns to Esther and says, “Do not think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews by being in the King’s palace. For if you will remain silent at this time, relief and salvation will come to the Jews from another source, and you and the house of your father will be lost. And who knows if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.”
None of us knows why we are alive in this time and place. How powerful would it be however, if we all lived every day with the belief that we are right here, right now, because it is within us to bring salvation to ourselves, our people and the world.
We can hide away in the shadows, hoping for history to pass us by, but then who are we and what would we be but “lost.” Alternatively, we can be like Esther and stamp our name on this time as people who faced the challenge of our age and made the world better for it.
We will be isolated physically this Pesach, but that does not mean we must be so spiritually. This Pesach has the potential to be the most important and transformative of each and every one of our lives.
We can all become greater than we believed possible. There are people who are in dire material and physical need and whilst we cannot welcome them into our homes for our Sederim, there is no shortage of things they need from us for their salvation. To help them is, literally, to change the world.
Furthermore, if there will not be older, wiser, people at our Sederim, we must become wiser, now, before the Seder, so that we can fulfil that position. We must become the grandparents or parents that would have been there but are not, for others and for ourselves. We cannot despair of the bucket, but instead must, must understand it for the opportunity that it is.
As Hillel is quoted as having said in Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers), “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” When none stand up to be the person needed in a time and place, be that person. We can decide, like Esther, “if it is not for just such a time that you reached this royal position.”
I wish you the absolute happiest, most meaningful and transformative Pesach we have ever had, because you make it so.
Please click on this link for my end of term video message, with some nice tips for your Pesach Seder!
As we end Term 1, I wish to take the opportunity to extend a huge thank you. I am beyond proud of the positive mindset and can-do attitude of our parents; you have been integral to the success of both our Digital Bialik trial (the three days of real-time Prep to Year 12 learning last week) and the home learning program this week. Overall the program was a huge success and I thank you for your positive feedback, warm messages and ideas for improvement. Your ongoing support and involvement does not go unnoticed and the team at Bialik will be reviewing all suggestions, in particularly with the ELC and Primary School, over the break to further enhance the provision of Digital Bialik if Term 2 commences online. A deep clean is currently taking place throughout the College.
Today, we sadly find ourselves in a completely different world to when we commenced the school year. We are all impacted in some way by the pandemic and I empathise with each of you, the new challenges your family is now facing. What we have seen is that Bialik is more than a school and our community extends beyond the building; we have all been inspired by the many examples over the past week of families connecting and supporting each other.
Lee Howard, our Etgar (Years 8-9 Challenge and Skills Program) Coordinator has put together a program of holiday activities by colleagues who have generously volunteered their time during the break, for the benefit of our children and community. View the program. The Bialik College Parents’ Association will also be running a range of activities for both children and parents. Stay updated by regularly checking the BCPA CLE page and following the BCPA on Facebook. I am delighted to offer some JED talks for parents and grandparents and look forward to engaging with you online, looking at some controversial Jewish texts. Click here to see the topics, times and how to book.
An important survey
As part of our planning, we recently surveyed our Creche and Kinder parents regarding their likely interest in an on-campus Pre-School provision for their children during Term 2 in the event of a general school closure commensurate with a requirement to open our Pre-School.
We are also interested if parents of Prep to Year 12 children would send their children to campus to access Digital Bialik in a supervised capacity in the event of a general school closure (this might be most suitable for essential workers such as those in Healthcare). Please click here to complete the two-minute survey. If you completed the Creche and Kinder survey and you do not have older children, you do not need to complete this one.
Will we open Term 2?
Whilst the duration and total impact of this situation is uncertain, I am confident that as a community we will get through whatever is thrown at us. At this stage we are unsure as to whether Term 2 will commence on campus and I will, of course, be in contact in the final week of the school holidays, around 14 April, regarding this.
However, I am confident that regardless of the format in which lessons are provided, our children will continue to receive a world-class Bialik education. Given the success of the trial of Digital Bialik, we have been inundated with requests from other schools to learn of the Bialik magic!
Bialik is internationally renowned in the educational world for its Cultures of Thinking, an approach that enriches and inspires teaching and learning by encouraging both teachers and students to be curious, ask questions, and be risk takers, while engaging in thoughtful reflection that leads to construction of knowledge. This ethos has never been more relevant and our educators will continue to respond to the current situation in an innovative and cutting-edge style which is uniquely Bialik.
I wish you and your family wellness and health and a Chag Pesach Sameach. Take this time to rest, spend time with your loved ones in your own home and be safe. I look forward to seeing you back on campus when the time comes.
This week we undertook a three day trial of Digital Bialik, an online delivery of our entire Prep to Year 12 curriculum. The trial was a huge success. Every subject, from Maths to English, from PE to Music, and even our kitchen lessons took place online.
Science was supported by our Laboratory Manager videoing science experiments at home, and even the Informal Team had lunchtime ‘hangs’ with our students.
Kol Hakavod to our inspiring teaching and administration teams who have relished the challenge and supported our children to continue learning.