A few weeks ago, I proudly wrote about two of our current students who stood up for Israel at the Model UN (Click HERE to read this post).  In this post, I want to commend one of 2014 TCW graduates, Billy Schwartz, who attends Queens University in Kingston, ON for doing something similar.

Billy is a film student who just completed a first year undergraduate film course taught by Dorit Naaman, an Israeli-born Jewish professor.  At first he was excited to be taught by a professor with whom he shared a common bond.  Then he discovered that despite her heritage she was virulently anti-Israel.  Billy did not remain silent.  Below is something Billy wrote to alert the university and the public what is going on in at least one lecture hall at Queens University.

In this week’s vodcast (video podcast) Professor Naaman talks about how the Jews in Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” (2009; See the trailer HERE) were unjust war criminals and that the Nazis are the victims of the Jewish brigade’s “illegal war crimes.” The professor then compares the Jewish brigade to a pack of Roman gladiators. Her views become even more obvious when she raises the argument that Shoshana, the protagonist of the movie, was equivalent to a suicide terrorist. Professor Naaman illustrates her argument by drawing on the example of when, in March 2002, Hamas – a radical Islamic terrorist organization – carried out a suicide bombing attack at a supermarket in Jerusalem that killed an innocent 17-year old Israeli girl along with an innocent Israeli man.

Professor Naaman put this example side-by-side with the conclusion of “Inglorious Basterds.” At the end of the movie, Shoshana, a young woman who is secretly Jewish and had escaped the murder of her entire family years earlier, burns down her cinema to kill a large number of Nazis at an organized event inside the theatre. The fact that the professor equates innocent Jewish civilians with the evil that caused the death of 60 million people in 6 years is disgusting and utterly offensive.

The video proceeds to display two clips from a Palestinian film that depicts martyrdom in terror attacks against Israel. The vodcast ends (and thus concludes the term) with Professor Naaman telling the viewer that we should not follow the “labels that society has set” in clearly regard to what society labels as terrorism, evidently placing the Arab-Israeli conflict in this precise context.

Professor Naaman seems to believe that her dispositions towards the Jewish state allow her to twist a curriculum in favour of her own ideals, and to emphasize those very concepts every single week. As an educator of hundreds of young minds, most of whom most likely know very little to almost nothing about the countries in the Middle East, especially Israel, it is unacceptable to say anything about the conflict at all. Professor Naaman says in the video that the society we live in tends to label and twist certain ideologies. The irony of the situation is that she is doing exactly that. A close friend of mine recently pointed out to me that “the impact that a college prof can have on a large group of students to inspire hatred and violence is huge.” If someone were to have only listened to Professor Naaman and had come in to the term with having no prior knowledge about the topic, they would formulate an understanding that Israel is an oppressive, tyrannical and unjust state. In reality, Israel is truly the single beacon of human rights and true democracy in a vast region where freedom does not exist.

Billy concludes by saying “As a proud Jewish student at Queen’s University, I will continue to remain outspoken about these issues at all times.”  As Head of School at TanenbaumCHAT, I am proud that we are graduating a generation of students who have the courage and knowledge to stand up for Israel.

CHAI Engineering Academy

I have always believed that a school cannot cut its way to excellence.  Important as expense management is, a school must continually invest in its educational program.  That is why I have been leading the way in creating and implementing opportunities for advanced learners who seek enrichment.  One example is the Advanced Placement program, which will begin in 2016 and which will give qualified students the opportunity to earn university credit or placement.

Now, I am thrilled to announce a second initiative that I have been working on for the past two years.  In 2016, we will open the Chai Engineering Academy, a program of study that will offer students Ministry-approved courses in areas related to engineering design, coding, and robotics.  Thanks to a generous gift from Daniel and Anita Chai, grandparents of one of our students, we are inaugurating courses that will prepare students to become some of the most desired applicants to elite university engineering programs.

The goal is to empower students with a robust approach to solving complex authentic problems.  Through hands-on classroom discovery, authentic projects, field trips, and exposure to guest speaker engineers in medicine, technology, energy sciences, business and industry, students will gain intrinsically valuable and transferable skills in problem-solving, creative thinking, and critical reasoning.  A connection to the high tech world of Israel, the “Start-up Nation,” will be an indispensable part of the program.

The Chai Engineering Academy will open officially in the fall of 2016.  However, we will begin to excite students about the Academy with comprehensive and cutting-edge robotics programming in September 2015. Through co-curricular and extra-curricular clubs, we will introduce students to hands-on robotics projects where students learn about and use robot mechanisms, mircro-processors, and intelligent controls.

TanenbaumCHAT will also partner with several companies to expose students to the various uses of robotics technology and introduce other technologies (e.g. CAD).  At the start students will primarily utilize Arduino, which is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software that enable students to make interactive projects.  A highlight for students will be the partnership with the leading robotics team in Israel at the Goldwater School in Eilat.

The Chai Engineering Academy further underscores the value of a TanenbaumCHAT education.  It demonstrates one more way that we reach higher and higher in order to provide our students the tools to contribute something of enduring significance to the world around them.

Every week, TanenbaumCHAT students seem to set new records and exceed past accomplishments.  I could list dozens but I’ll name four:

  • The TCK Moot Beit Din team won 2nd place in a North American competition in Los Angeles with 25 Jewish high schools who debated the Ethics of Social Media and Privacy.
  • Yoni Katchan from TCW was one of 11 students in the Province who earned the second highest mark of 8,336 students in the Cayley Mathematics Competition.
  • Ryan Ripsman  from TCK won fourth place in the International Bible Contest broadcast live on Yom Ha’atsmaut in Israel and was the highest non-Israeli finalist.
  • The TCK physics team placed 3rd out of 72 teams from all over the world in the International Weizmann Physics Competition.

Each accomplishment has a story behind it, and I’d like to share one of those stories.  However, although it’s a story about two of our students, you won’t see them standing on the victory podium.

Last week, a delegation of 23 TCW students participated in Southern Ontario Model United Nations simulation held at the University of Toronto.  Our students represented countries like Romania, Peru, and North Korea and participated in a variety of committees such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the European Union.  Among the topics of debate was the Palestinian refugees.

A girl from one of our local private high schools for the gifted represented Israel.  She wasn’t Jewish and admitted later that she couldn’t find Israel on the map.  Unlike most of the other students, she did not come prepared to represent her country.

True to UN politics, countries hurled one accusation after another at Israel.  The girl remained silent.  Somehow, perhaps as an act of conciliation, she entered into an agreement with Arab nations to give the Palestinians control over air space and the borders of Israel.  More anti-Israel resolutions were proposed.

The moderator asked the girl if she wanted to respond to diatribe.  She was flustered and silent. Students were required to have done all their research beforehand and were not permitted to use any electronic devices during the simulation; they could only use human resources, i.e. the other delegates in the simulation.

The moderator again asked her if she had a response to offer.  Again, the representative was silent except this time she asked to go to the bathroom.  She left the room.  Two of our TCW students Jonathan Aronowitz and Josh Benjamin saw her leave the room and excused themselves too.  A staff member raced out to make sure that the girl was safe.  Indeed she was.  Jonathan and Josh spoke with her encouragingly and intelligently and then handed her two pieces of paper.

The girl returned to the hall and delivered a speech in defense of Israel and received a standing ovation.  Jonathan and Josh had written her speech.  It was replete with cogent arguments, relevant dates, and incontrovertible facts.  This girl—no, these two boys—made the case for Israel.  Our team may not have won the competition but they took the prize and set a standard worth emulating for all Jewish students. It was a proud day for TanenbaumCHAT and for the State of Israel that brought honor to both.  That’s the TanenbaumCHAT difference.