We’ve had a great start to Term 2, with Carmel students returning in their smart winter uniforms and appearing refreshed after a good break.

Changes to COVID-19 restrictions have meant that we can welcome more people onto the campus, which is great.  Planning has moved into overdrive, as we re-work our schedules and invitations to see which assemblies and other gatherings can now be put together. We continue to work hard to keep our staff, students and community safe and it’s only now that I am starting to notice that ventilating my office by having windows open is getting a bit chilly. I shall seek out my thermals this weekend and get more prepared for winter.

I have learnt so much more about various commemorations and ceremonies during the past fortnight and have very much felt the emotions associated with various events in the Jewish community. 

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was established by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) as a memorial to the six million Jewish people who were killed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. Attendance at the community evening event hosted by Carmel School in the Sylvia and Harry Hoffman Hall was excellent, with parents, staff, students, CSG guards and members of the Jewish community coming together to remember the horrors of the Holocaust. A beautifully put together ceremony incorporated songs and readings, poems and prayers and highlighted the need to remember this horror so that it can never happen again. I found it particularly moving to be presented with a candle with the name of a Jewish person who perished during that time. Somehow it makes what happened less like a history lesson and more about real people.

The following day, a very professional video created by Michelle Galanti and a team of students was shared with High School students in their mentor groups. The subsequent conversations and discussions reinforced the collective memory that is so important.

The first returning group of parents to our campus involved Year 3 parents attending a Torah lesson in the Primary School. The children demonstrated the impressive level of Hebrew reading they have already achieved, sang some lovely songs and helped their parents answer a booklet of questions about the Parsha they have been studying. A highlight was a Kahoot quiz on their Torah learning, with much competitive spirit in evidence from both parents and students.  The event culminated in the formal presentation of the children’s first Chumash, with Rabbi Dan speaking about the importance of this learning and how, despite his advanced age, he still uses his precious, first Chumash. We hope that our Year 3 students will treasure theirs in a similar way over the years.

I watched this year’s virtual Yom HaZikaron ceremony on YouTube.  Although this would normally have been held ‘live’ at school, at the time of planning it wasn’t known what COVID restrictions would be in place, so a pre-recorded Yom Hazikaron Ceremony had been organised for this year.  The aim was to remember and honour Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror.  Carmel students featured in the recording, including the beautiful singing of Adi G, who also sang at the High School assembly the following morning.  Rafi L lit a candle to represent Carmel School and Ori, a member of our Tzevet, also lit a candle.  Various other students played their part and helped with the commemoration.

I thoroughly enjoyed the depictions of family music, which reminded me of my childhood when we would sing and play musical instruments as my dad played the piano. It also brought back happy memories of playing the piano and singing while my own children played their flute and ‘cello.

I was struck by the way in which we have entirely changed our thoughts on how technology can be used over the last couple of years.  If anybody had said three years ago that we could hold such a moving ceremony in this way – pre-recorded or live, but online and not in person, the idea would have been laughed out of the room.  But the recording enabled us to be able to safely share in the music, prayers and messages from a variety of thoughtful and talented people.

Various students had warned me that some festivals and commemoration days were happy ones and some sad, and this fortnight has illustrated this.  From the despair of Yom Hashoah, we transitioned seemingly without issue to the celebration of Israel’s birthday and a fantastic Yom Haatzmaut resulted. I think this has been one of my favourite chags so far – a relaxed day, wearing my favourite colour of blue (with a bit of white in there), some singing, a “Who is the Israeli?” quiz featuring various celebrities and one of the Tzevet’s dad, a cuddly animal farm and some impressive dancing and ruach. It was a fabulous day of celebration and learning, including a rather wonderful ‘museum’ set up by the Tzevet and depicting various historical aspects of Israel. I have not previously encountered quite so many commemorations and celebrations in such a short period of time. I could get used to this.

On a different note, the marvellous P&F, led by Laura Golding, organised a fundraising sale of some beautiful glass jars of brownie mix which were sold outside the Primary School in good time for Mother’s Day on Sunday. Demand outstripped supply to the extent that the group met and re-stocked overnight, to ensure that no customers were disappointed. Thank you to them for their hard work on this.  I know they are planning some exciting events for later in the year and look forward to sharing these with you.

I hope all the Carmel mums have a fabulous Mother’s Day on Sunday and that their children treat them to an extra hug or two and maybe even breakfast in bed.  I am personally hoping for some flowers or perhaps a new cactus for the garden but am not confident that my offspring read anything I post, so I have secretly planned a personal visit to the garden centre, just in case.