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HAFTR Highlights

Carrying on with the learning – although differently


The halls of Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway High School are bustling once again albeit six feet apart with a return to in-person learning. Students and faculty alike are ecstatic to be back in the building. Though they experienced a successful four months of online learning last year, students were eager to be back in the classroom.

HAFTR has taken initiatives to support students in their transition back to in-person learning and help make this school year feel as “normal” as possible while still being safe. HAFTR has adapted many of its clubs and programs that are traditionally an integral part of students’ high school experience to fit the circumstances.

A new social and emotional learning program is helping students readjust to in-person learning and giving them the tools to achieve their goals this year. The program is designed to strengthen students’ ability to manage their emotions and channel their energies towards achieving their goals. In these unprecedented times of Covid-19, many students are experiencing additional stress and anxiety that can impede their focus and learning.

Teachers and students discuss the concepts of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making and how students can develop and harness these skills in order to achieve success. The knowledge and tools students attain through the social emotional learning program will undoubtedly help them in their academic and personal ventures during the pandemic and beyond.

As always, HAFTR is committed to fostering the spiritual and religious development of its students. The Aseret Yemei Teshuva, or Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, is a time of reflection, introspection, and rekindling one’s relationship with God. Students had the privilege of hearing from Rabbi Shalom Hammer, a senior lecturer for the Jewish Identity Branch of the IDF who has lived in Israel with his family for over 30 years.

Rabbi Hammer discussed how hope and positivity can enhance one’s prayers and strengthen one’s relationship with G-d. Rabbi Hammer shared his personal experience of how he found hope and positivity when grieving the loss of his daughter last year. Rabbi Hammer’s thought-provoking words left students feeling inspired about how they could use these 10 days to better themselves and become closer to God.

HAFTR’s Debate Team is in full swing and has transitioned to online. On Sept. 24, HAFTR hosted the first virtual debate tournament of the school year. Students from HAFTR, Ramaz, HANC, DRS, Kellenberg Memorial, and Chaminade all competed from their own homes in the Lincoln Douglas, Public Forum or Extemporaneous events.

While in-person debate offers many advantages, including the social element and award ceremonies, online tournaments hold a wide range of possibilities such as the ability to compete against schools that would have been too far to travel for an in-person event. The team is looking forward to a successful season with more speech, debate, and model congress tournaments taking place in the near future.

I’m happy to be back with you as your HAFTR Highlights columnist. Looking forward to a successful school year filled with inspiration, lots of learning and good health for all.