Hadar Bet Yaakov’s multifaceted approach to Chodesh Elul, t’shuvah, and new beginnings infused students with positivity and warmth. Girls enjoyed a meaningful “HBY Challah Bake” with activity director Ms. Miriam Yakubov, where girls learned about the davening opportunities inherent in each step of challah making.

Girls focused on asking Hashem to help “sift” out the negative influences from their lives when they “sifted” the flour into their bowls. They concentrated on the richness of the oil and asked Hashem to send them parnasah and that they should be zocheh (merit) to see the anointing of the Mashiach soon. Girls particularly focused on the sugar, especially in Chodesh Elul, as they asked Hashem to “sweeten” His rachamim (mercy) and that they too should have a sweet and positive perspective on everything and everyone.

Before actually doing the mitzvah of separating challah, Ms. Yakubov explained that the moment of taking challah was an important and opportune time to pray for anyone who is sick. Names of those in need of a r’fuah sh’leimah (speedy recovery) were recited and everyone took challah. Girls took their dough home and created their own beautiful array of braided shapes and sent in pictures of delicious golden challos all through the evening.

Rabbi Robenov, Head of School, addressed students on Erev Shabbos on the subject of t’shuvah and making a fresh start. He challenged them to think of their future selves and to shape present-day small-step goals with future dreams in mind. He ended by asking students to write a letter to their “future selves” to help concretize their sense of the future and how close they really can be to their future goals and dreams.

On Tzom Gedalya, Mrs. Simes, Chumash teacher and Kodesh Programming Director, led an insightful yom iyun that called for “all hands on deck” as students turned into captains of their own ships and to determine what helps us to “stay on course.” Girls divided into groups that were called “ships” and then participated in a series of activities and games all designed to help them analyze their own thought processes and feelings as they make the choice to either stay on course, or not.

HBY’s programming highlight was the first trip of the year to help build “bein adam l’chaveiro” bonds as the new school year begins. Students took the ferry to Governor’s Island to ride “surrey” bicycles, have a picnic lunch, and say Tashlich by the shore. Girls joined together in teams as they peddled together all around the island. “It was a real workout!” many of the girls commented after the trip. Girls had a great time maneuvering along the shoreline and through the winding roads. Tashlich by the shore was a really moving experience and students came back on an energized high, ready to enter the new year with newfound connections both within themselves and with each other.