Hadar Bet Yaakov girls enjoyed a multi-faceted approach to t’shuvah this year that began at Student Orientation with a “New Beginnings” presentation on the overlap of the onset of school with Rosh HaShanah and continued through Erev Yom Kippur via academic curricula as well as extra-curricular programming.

Student Orientation began with Mrs. Friedman’s “New Beginnings” program presenting Rosh HaShanah as Hashem’s “new beginnings” gift to us that is also reflected in the myriad of possibilities inherent in our new school year. Incoming 9th graders teamed up with 10th graders in a round-robin “get-to-know-you” interview game, followed by a comedic quiz at the end. Girls experienced their own new beginnings of friendships and meaningful connections.

Rabbi Bensoussan, Hadar Bet Yaakov Halachah Teacher, delineated the halachos of t’shuvah, and Rabbi Robenov, HBY Menahel, spoke to the girls on Erev Yom Kippur and explored realistic approaches to t’shuvah and what it means to take a kabalah upon oneself. Rabbi Robenov’s presentation culminated in a beautiful, contemplative writing activity, where girls were given pen and paper to write their own letter to Hashem. “You can write whatever you want in this letter,” Rabbi Robenov explained, “but you all have to begin this way: Dear Hashem, I know that you love me and that you think I’m awesome…” Girls separated into private corners of the room onto several tables as they brainstormed their own introspections and musings.

Mrs. Simes orchestrated a fascinating yom iyun themed with “raising the mundane,” which joined conceptual exploration with art. Students first explored the relationship between the concrete and spiritual followed by their own reflective art projects. Girls created their own mosaics showing their understandings of raising everyday objects of their own choosing from the mundane to a level of k’dushah.

The day peaked in a surprise “Big Sister–Little Sister Mystery Trip” where girls were told that they would have to join together b’achdus, as one, and realize that relationships can be far more than mundane connections and can really help “raise” us to a level of k’dushah. Girls were instructed that they would have to raise the mundane and create meaningful connections with one another if they were to make their way out of where their surprise trip took them. Students ended up in a corn maze, where they had to join cohesively b’achdus to make their way out.

Hadar Bet Yaakov, Queens’ premier Sephardic high school for girls, utilizes an array of academic, arts-based, extra-curricular and creative programming activities to immerse students in experiential learning throughout the school year. Girls investigated the many dimensions of “new beginnings” from the onset of school until Erev Yom Kippur’s corn maze. They’re primed for a year of exploration, academic rigor, and personal growth.

By Shoshanna Friedman