Dear JHSC Families,


The other day, I received an email from a student I taught ten years ago when I was a full time teacher of Judaic Studies.  He said that he was travelling to New York City, and wanted to stop by New Haven to say hi and talk about his life.  He added, "I feel like I am in the middle of a process, and I'm not yet sure where it's headed...Even though we haven't been in touch for a long time, for some reason, I am holding you responsible for some of this!"  Then, as now, I encouraged my students that a meaningful Jewish journey was more important than the destination, and that their Jewish identity-construction process was just as important as the product. 


He stopped by JHSC today.  It turns out he is at a crossroads in his life, unsure of which way to go.  What career to embark upon, where to live, what type of Jew to be...


It is apropos that in the Torah reading cycle, we are currently in the middle of the Abraham stories. Last week, we read the portion of Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), which describes the beginning of Abraham and Sarah's physical and spiritual journey as the first Jews.


Abraham's journey is defined by many critical choices that he made along the way. Our Sages, in Ethics of the Fathers, wrote that "Abraham was tested ten times, and he stood in all of them."  It could have said he passed all of them, which would have been much clearer.  What does it mean that he stood in all of them?  Is it possible that he didn't pass each test? 

It is not clear to me that he made the right choice in each situation. I'm not certain, for example, if Abraham made the right choice in offering up his son for sacrifice.  Some medieval commentators wonder if Abraham made a mistake by allowing Sarah to be taken away to Pharaoh's harem. Is it possible that he made the "wrong" choices in these situations but still passed the test?

I think that the Sages' word choice of standing gives us a clue as to what the Jewish view of a test is, and what passing it means.  Perhaps it is teaching us that we should be making decisions such that we still have our integrity even if it turns out later that we made the wrong choice.  Thus, Abraham may not have made all the correct choices, but he "stood in his tests," meaning that he made choices based upon knowledge, thoughtfulness, and responsible decision-making.  Any time we encounter a crossroads, we need to stand in a place within ourselves that is impervious to the results of the choice.


I've often wondered how my students will turn out in ten years, and whether the type of postmodern Judaism that I've been teaching the past decade will work.  This student who visited me today is a good case study that it does.  He left confident continuing on his journey of meaningful identity construction, and capable of making good Jewish choices based upon knowledge, thoughtfulness and ethical action. 


I look forward to hearing more about this modern-day Abraham's journey, and indeed all of the Abrahams and Sarahs currently at JHSC.



Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Yonatan Yussman, Ed.D.

Head of School



College Counseling Update

Dr. Sack, our Director of College Guidance will be holding an important workshop for Freshmen and Sophomores, and their parents, on October 23rd at JHSC from 6:30pm-8:00pm. 



For those who signed up to take the PLAN, that test will be held in the Community Room on November 4th, starting promptly at 8:45am.  The test will end at approximately 12:00pm, after which students will return to classes.


Student Council

Congratulations to the following students elected to the 2013-2014 Student Council:


President: Alex Schiff

Director of Social Programming: Tori Sesmer

Director of Community Service: Eva Gerber

Manager of the Student Store: Matt Morganthaler


Senior Grade Representatives: Natalie May and Shaina Gluckman

Junior Grade Representative: Zoe Brodsky 

Sophomore Grade Representative: Ben Gerber 

Freshman Grade Representative: Alex Frenzel


Bronfman Youth Fellowship

The Bronfman Youth Fellowship is a fully-funded Fellowship that is among the most prestigious programs available to outstanding Jewish students of all backgrounds who are in their junior year of high school.  The purpose of the Bronfman Fellowships is to invest in a cohort of bright young Jews who will be leaders of tomorrow in all areas of Jewish and public life.  The program includes an all-expense paid five-week trip to Israel and two seminars in New York City where Fellows explore Jewish identity, Jewish ideas, and connect to other young Jews from both Israel and America. 


Interested people can learn more and sign up at www.bronfman.org.  Application deadline: January 6, 2014.  Summer dates: July 1, 2014 August 7, 2014.


Spirit Week

The Student Council is very happy to announce the first spirit week of the year, October 28-November 1:  

  • Monday: Pajama Day 
  • Tuesday: Decade Day (dress up in attire from any decade you want)
  • Wednesday: Grade Color War (details below)
  • Thursday: Costumes 
  • Friday: School Spirit (blue and white)

Color War: The grade representatives are working on some fun activities for Color War, a day where each grade gets to show it has the most spirit. This includes dressing in the grade's color, as follows: 

  • Freshmen: Blue
  • Sophomores: Green
  • Juniors: Purple
  • Seniors: Black
  • Faculty: Red

In addition to having daily themes and grade color war activities, we're going to be having a Halloween themed movie night on Thursday, October 31st, directly after school. You will be able to catch the late bus if you stay. We're going to watch Hocus Pocus and have snacks and popcorn and drinks all included in the admission price of only $3, and pizza will be available upon request for an additional price.


Thank you to Tori, Director of Social Programming, and the entire Student Council for planning these events.


Chess Competition

We've reached the quarter-final stage of the chess competition. In this round each player will have 12 minutes to make all of their moves. The game details are as follows:

  • Monday Lunch = Korey and Zev
  • Monday Period 6 = Max and Ben S.
  • Tuesday Lunch = Alex and Gregory
  • Wednesday Lunch = Emma S and Jacques

Thank you to the Chess Club advisor, Dr. Castle, for arranging this competition.


Can Jewish Women Have It All?

JHSC Trustee Doris Zelinsky will participate on an intergenerational panel from a variety of professional backgrounds and Jewish affiliations.  The panel will explore the age-old balance of work and life through the lens of Jewish women. This event is co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Greater New Haven, and Women's Philanthropy.  Please come out and support Doris!  Further details can be found here.


Soccer with Bridgeport International Academy

Many students will remember the nice day we had with Bridgeport International Academy (BIA) two years ago.  The students at BIA have invited us to play a game of soccer with them. They have suggested that we mix teams, and have a fun "pickup" game with students from both schools. Those who don't want to play soccer can just hang out.  There will be free pizza and drinks available.  There will be buses available to take students home as usual. Please join us at JHSC on October 24th from 4:30pm-5:30pm.  


"Like Us" on Facebook    

JHSC is looking for fans! Please "Like Us" on our Facebook page. Please put an update on your Facebook page requesting that your friends "Like Us."


Open House

Our Open House will be this Sunday, October 20th, from 1pm-3pm at JHSC. Please help us spread the word about the Open House and invite as many prospective families as you can.  Families can RSVP for the Open House here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OnlineRSVP 


Kristalnacht Speaker

On November 8th at 10:00am in the Community Room, we will have a guest speaker in memory of the anniversary of Kristalnacht.  This awful event, often translated as "Night of the Broken Glass", marks the beginning of state-sponsored Nazi violence against the Jews of Germany.  Many consider it to be the beginning of the Holocaust.


Holocaust survivor Judith Kallman will be coming to speak with us on that date.  She has recently published a memoir of her experience in the Holocaust.  She has been kind enough to give each student a copy of her book, entitled "A Candle in the Heart".


Parents and community members are encouraged to attend.  Please RSVP to tblume@jhsct.org.

Jewish High School of Connecticut | 1937 West Main Street | Stamford, CT 06902 | 203-357-0850 | info@jhsct.org