We’re still getting notes of appreciation from schools who participated in the Global Hatikva. Schools have submitted video clips of the event at their school; we hope to create a video montage to document and celebrate this event.

Recently, someone asked how this all got started.

The idea began about three months ago when the violence first started in Israel.  Some called it the Third Intafada or the Stabbing Intifada.  We tried to organize a rally of our local Toronto day schools, but we couldn’t find a common date.  And then, seeing that the attacks in Israel hadn’t abated and neither did the world’s silence in the face of this violence, we continued to brainstorm and remembered the global electronic rally that was held years ago when Gilad Shalit was held hostage.

Jory Vernon suggested we coordinate a massive Hatikva singing. The Global Hatikva was born.

With the help of our shlichim, TanenbaumCHAT was not just the organizer. The school emerged as a thought leader.  Our students were in the forefront of gathering the voices of Jewish children around the world to send and sing one united message of support in solidarity with Israel.

The participants were varied: Young kids and older kids, kids who come from Orthodox families, and kids who come from Conservative or  Reform families; students who wear uniforms and students who don’t; kids whose mother tongue is Spanish and kids whose mother tongue is French; those who speak English with an Australian accent and those who speak with a southern accent.

It was our student body who showed they aren’t only the leaders of the future.  They are today’s leaders. They are thought leaders.

Thought leadership is about building awareness.  It’s about leading with ideas.  It’s about teaching students in other schools, that in the face of apathy, we must choose activism.  In the face of  silence, we must be the ones to raise our voices. That’s what our students did and taught others to do.  That’s the vital role that TanenbaumCHAT plays not just in Toronto but in the Jewish world at large. And that’s why I continue to be proud to be Head of School of this fine institution.


I just returned from taking our students on a nine-day robotics mini-mester in Israel.  Thirteen of our students joined 12 Israeli high school students and spent part of the time at the Technion building a robot that models snake locomotion and part of their time at the Ben Gurion University-Eilat campus building a robot that was designed to prepare our students to enter the First Robotics Competition this January.

See photos and students’ reflections at http://tanenbaumchatroboticsisraeltrip.weebly.com/pictures.html.

The program was a valuable learning experience for many reasons.  First, our students learned how to design, construct, and program autonomous robots.  Second, they worked with Israeli teens their age who shared a common interest and now have friends who can be a resource their future academic and professional pursuits.  Third, they learned a range of “soft” skills like collaboration, problem-solving, and risk-taking that will benefit them throughout life.

On this third point, students learned that in the robotics lab, failure is part of the learning process.  As opposed to school where cost of failure is high (low marks, impaired chance of getting into university), failure and mistakes play an important role in robotics.  They motivate the “engineer” to improve the design.  They often drive innovation.

One of the professors at the Technion said it this way:  “The outcomes in robotics competitions are not winning or losing, but winning or learning.” Danny Chai, our robotics funder and an engineer himself, reinforced this message in an email to me writing:  “Learning from failure is the key to success.  It’s like Henry Ford once remarked, ‘Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.’”

This week’s parasha makes a similar point.  Just after Yaacov makes peace with his brother Esau and thinks life is going to be calmer, trouble starts up again. Joseph is sold into slavery.

The midrash says that Satan felt Yaacov didn’t deserve a life of tranquility.  To annoy him, Satan stirred up trouble between Joseph and his brothers.  Rashi quotes this midrash but makes a subtle change in the language.  He says it wasn’t Satan but God who was behind the scenes in the Joseph story, not as a way to irk Yaacov, but as a means to challenge him and foster growth.

In this small editorial emendation, Rashi conveys an important message.  When we encounter some type of failure or setback, we can look at it as the work of Satan.  We can view it as an obstacle that is meant merely to annoy us.  Or, we can look at it as an opportunity to learn.  We can see it as a challenge that is meant to promote growth.

It’s this latter way of thinking that was one of the most enduring lessons of our mini-mester in Israel; for it applies not just to robotics, but to life in general.