Hadar Bet Yaakov is passionate about connecting students to literature, critical thinking, and self-awareness. Tenth Grade students Odelya Yakubov, Sarah Davydov, and Abigail Ustayeva launched the HBY Book Club for students who love to read for pleasure. They created their own bulletin board space to announce the books they’re reading and post their “Book Lunch” dates for everyone to get together for book talk. This past month, book club leaders organized a trivia game about their latest read, and you could hear girls enthusiastically screaming out the answers a room away. The event ended with members going back and forth in heated debate and voting on their next read.

Mrs. Grossman’s 11th graders are beginning Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and after an intro that gave students historical context on the Puritans and their perspectives, girls were assigned parts to read and act out. The play pairs nicely with the other play the girls read this year, Twelve Angry Men, and Mrs. Grossman used both as vehicles for understanding the myriad of ways in which people react when faced with the “other” and a break-down of what motivates prejudice and fear.

In Mrs. Friedman’s 9th grade English class, students completed John Steinbeck’s The Pearl while also reading Grit, a non-fiction piece by Angela Duckworth. Aside from the literature organizers and literature essays that are uniform throughout HBY’s four-year English curriculum, students ended this novel with another activity: a debate about the responsibility for Coyotito’s death. Girls divided into two groups and prepped answers to questions using the text and Duckworth’s book and debated the merits of living in a society with fixed attitudes about class and fate versus personal responsibility. It was a lively encounter with students from both sides offering animated and heartfelt arguments. Mrs. Friedman assured them that being forced to defend an idea that you don’t really agree with builds good evidence finding and reasoning skills. Students had to anticipate what the other side would say and make sure their answers incorporated those arguments.

The class that really cultivated flair and originality into Hadar Bet Yaakov students was a bit of a rest from academics and a debut into creativity: culinary arts. “We give our girls an array of creative courses where they get to do artsy stuff because that enables the whole gestalt of academic success. We need to develop other skills to help the more classically academic skills grow,” commented General Studies principal Mrs. Friedman. Culinary Arts with professional cook, caterer, and cake designer Mrs. Ilana Yakubov is just the way to cultivate that creativity. Girls loved their first class, with frosting tips and bags, as they piped buttercream into leaves and flower petals. They laughed and had a great time with endless re-dos as Mrs. Yakubov traveled around the class, helping girls understand how to apply just the right amount of pressure to the bag and what the right angle needs to be to create that perfect flower.

By Shoshanna Friedman, Principal, Hadar Bet Yaakov