Alongside Hadar Bet Yaakov’s multi-faceted approach, focused on student personalization of Judaism and academic rigor, is another equally all-important focus: student relationships and school achdut. “Although academics is important, we also stress that social-emotional piece that turns a school into a warm place everyone’s excited to come to each day,” noted Mrs. Rambod, Kodesh Principal.

Students celebrated the end of last year with HBY’s annual white water rafting trip that brought all girls together into rigorous rowing teams as they battled with Pocono Mountains’ rivers. “This is an amazing trip,” Mrs. Friedman, General Studies Principal, exclaimed. “The girls have to work together for three hours plus, and they have a ball.” Although there are moments of calm in the river when the girls can get off the rafts and into the water, the most excitement comes when navigating the whitewater. Girls and staff row together with professional guides and emerge from the day’s adventure as a cohesive group, bonded together by forging through as a unified group.

HBY Activity Coordinator Ms. Miriam Yakubov introduced the G.O.’s “Thank You, Hashem” theme for this year by showing students a video of themselves that they had made during the summer. Ms. Yakubov sent out emails to all the students asking girls to make a video of themselves talking about what they were thankful to Hashem for. It wasn’t until they arrived on Friday, during Shabbat Connections time, that the G.O. announced their “Thank You, Hashem” whole school video.

“The girls loved seeing themselves in the video – no one realized they would be introducing this year’s theme,” quipped Ms. Yakubov. “It’s important that they start the year with a whole-school activity so we get that whole group cohesion going right from the start.” To maximize that effect, G.O. heads are chosen from all grades and girls start working together from the first day of school.

Student Orientation was another opportunity to build group spirit and achdut. As the day’s culminating activity, students were broken up into four groups with all grades represented and given an engineering task to build a two-story building using spaghetti and marshmallows. The task didn’t end there, however; while building their structure, girls also had to complete other tasks: memorizing everyone’s name in your group and finding out one thing about each girl’s summer and each girl’s family. The activity ended with a lot of laughter and a quiz to see how much everyone actually remembered. “This really helped us to get to know one another,” Osnat Navon, incoming ninth grader, observed after the game. Everyone enjoyed a pizza lunch after orientation with newfound friends.

“The whole point of creating Hadar Bet Yaakov was to build a community school,” Rabbi Gavriel Robenov, Head of School, explained. “It’s not just about teaching information; it’s about making the girls take ownership for their learning and their Yiddishkeit. To do that, our first job is to create a place of warmth and caring where we cultivate a culture of achdut.”

 By Shoshanna Friedman