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2nd-Grader Secures Spot in National Science Bee

March 27, 2024
By Amanda Birger

Leo C., a second-grade student at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, has secured third place at the recent regional level of the International Academic Competitions Science Bee, earning him a spot at the upcoming National Science Bee in Orlando, Florida.

Leo's journey began when his LAUNCH teacher, Mr. McClure, introduced him to the competition. Leo recalled, "I must admit I didn’t want to at first." He added, "I liked the spelling bee more, and I didn’t think the science bee would be as much fun. I thought science was useless facts at the time."

While he had his initial reservations, Leo's perspective shifted as he delved deeper into the science bee. "I started to like it more because I realized I'm really good at it," Leo explained. Preparation for the competition involved watching videos, making flashcards, and tackling challenging questions with Mr. McClure. Leo's participation in the LAUNCH program, designed for high-achieving and gifted learners, provided him with valuable support.

Maintaining his observance of Shabbat, Leo participated in the online competition, which was held on Sunday. "The in-person competition was on Shabbat," Leo explained, “so I did the online one, which was held on Sunday, and I still kept Shabbat.” For the upcoming national competition, a unique solution was devised for Leo to compete on Shabbat. Instead of using a buzzer, Leo will indicate he is ready to answer by tapping someone on the shoulder as if they were a buzzer.

Despite facing tough opponents, Leo excelled as the youngest competitor in his division, making it to nationals through hard work and dedication. "There were lots of kids better than me," Leo admitted. He added, "I did really well against smart kids; my hard work paid off when I made it to the finals."

Looking forward to the nationals in Orlando, Leo expressed his excitement, stating, "I didn't think I would do as well as I did. But now that I enjoy it, I'm very excited for nationals." Despite initially favoring spelling competitions, Leo's success in the science bee has ignited a passion for both disciplines.

As he embarks on this exciting adventure, we extend our congratulations and best wishes to Leo. With his talent and determination, there's no doubt he'll continue to shine brightly on the national stage.

5th-Grade Student Heads to National History Bee

March 12, 2024
By Amanda Birger

Caden F., a fifth-grade student at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, has made waves in the academic world by clinching third place at the recent regional level of the International Academic Competitions History Bee! His outstanding performance has earned him a ticket to the highly anticipated National History Bee in Orlando, Florida.

When asked about how he stumbled upon the competition, Caden credited his teacher, Mr. McClure, for introducing him to the opportunity. “Mr. McClure told me about it,” Caden explained. “We went on the computer and did a little pre-test, and it said even if you get half the questions right, it's really good! I got 40/50 questions right.”

The road to success wasn't without its challenges. Caden, a participant in HBHA’s LAUNCH program (Learning and Understanding Nature through Creativity and Hard Work), is known for his academic prowess and passion for learning. This program, tailored for high-achieving and gifted learners from kindergarten through fifth grade, provided Caden with the support and resources he needed to excel. "The Sosland Foundation granted to the LAUNCH program, so Caden's registration for regionals and nationals was completely paid for,” revealed Stevens McClure, the LAUNCH facilitator at HBHA.

The event itself was a nerve-wracking yet exhilarating experience for Caden. Surrounded by peers in a bustling cafeteria, he faced off against competitors in a series of rounds featuring history-related questions. “We each had a buzzer in front of us. If you buzz in and get it right, you get a point,” Caden detailed. “It was a stressful atmosphere.”

Despite the pressure, Caden's love for history shone through, propelling him forward. “I feel good about myself when I get the questions right. History is my favorite subject,” Caden expressed. His profound interest in the subject matter, coupled with his dedication to learning, paid off as he won crucial points round after round. His final point of the day was won by correctly answering a question about U.S. presidents, Caden’s favorite topic. “One of my special skills is that I can name every single U.S. president,” Caden said proudly.

When asked about his passion for history, Caden's eyes lit up with enthusiasm. “I always wanted to learn about how we started,” he explained. “We started living in caves hunting for food, now look around. We have giant skyscrapers. We have evolved as a society so much that it makes you wonder, how did all of this happen?”

Caden's journey to success serves as an inspiration to young students everywhere, showcasing the power of passion, dedication, and a thirst for knowledge. As he prepares to represent our community on the national stage in Orlando, Florida, we extend our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Caden. With his unwavering determination and love for history, there's no doubt that he'll continue to make waves and inspire others along the way.

Fourth Graders Win Stock Market Competition

May 10, 2023
By Amanda Birger

Two fourth-graders from Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy (HBHA), Havi S. and Isaac U., recently made history by winning the statewide elementary division of the Stock Market Game. The competition, organized by the Kansas Council for Economic Education, is designed to help students learn about the stock market and investment strategies. This was the first year that the challenge was open to elementary-age students, and HBHA's fourth-grade team emerged victorious.

What is even more impressive is that the two students, despite being the only elementary team to take on the challenge, beat 40% of the middle school teams. Two fourth-graders beat almost half of the middle school teams! This is a testament to their dedication, hard work, and enthusiasm for learning about the stock market.

The game took place over a six-month period. Their teacher, Mr. Stevens McClure, taught the two students about stocks for a month beforehand and continued the lessons during the game period. The students traded stocks for two months and held them for the last four months, which is called a buy-and-hold strategy. They started with $100,000 and invested in approximately 20 stocks. Their best pick was Microsoft, which gave them a return of over $2,000.

Havi and Isaac spent most of their time learning about the stock market, what stocks are, how only public companies are traded, and more. They also went on Yahoo Finance to read graphs and long-term data. They learned about beta and risky stocks and, during the game, had to research a stock, look at long-term trends back at least 10 years, and look for news articles to see what the company was currently doing before buying a stock.

This was a fun way to take the math skills they had worked on and apply them in a real-life challenge. The students used their math skills, including reading graphs, looking for trends, basic multiplication, and calculating percentages, to analyze stocks and make informed investment decisions. Overall, this experience was an excellent way for the students to learn about the stock market, investment strategies, and financial literacy in a hands-on way.

Special HBHA Shabbat at Beth Shalom

May 05, 2023
By Adam Tilove, Head of School

This weekend, Congregation Beth Shalom generously hosted an HBHA Shabbat to highlight our school and the students and staff that make it so special. This is the first time that a community synagogue has hosted us in such a way, and we are thrilled that it was a huge success! We are grateful to Beth Shalom for including us in their Saturday morning services, Rabbi Glickman for taking this initiative, Cantor Ben-Yehuda for helping pull it together, and everyone who joined us on Saturday morning.

In addition to Lower School and Middle School students helping to lead parts of t’fillah, Torah reading was completely done by HBHA students and staff, Rabbi Philmus read Haftarah and led Musaf, and Rabbi Bonney-Cohen gave a powerful D’var Torah about creating a cycle of holiness in our world. The D’var Torah, which featured some of the profound work being done in our 6th grade right now, began:

“In this week’s Torah reading, God commands us, ‘Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.’ Be holy. Wow. What a command. So powerful, so daunting, and also so abstract. What does it mean to be holy, anyway? And not only to be holy in and of itself, but to be holy as God is holy. How are we supposed to know how to emulate God’s holiness? What even is God’s holiness in the first place?...”

She continued the D’var Torah by talking about a lesson she taught in sixth grade. In discussing how to be holy as God is holy, Rabbi Bonney-Cohen asked the students, “What if, instead of calling out all the bad we see around us, we built a practice to lift up the good?” This is a Jewish practice called “Hakarat HaTov,” which literally means “acknowledging the good.” She challenged the students to write Hakarat HaTov about every student in their grade, including themselves.

“Some students had never heard particular kids say something kind about them until that day. Others said that they had never noticed within themselves the qualities that their classmates acknowledged in them. They all voiced how powerful it was not only to hear so many positive things about themselves, but also how good it felt to be asked to recognize the good in others.”

The moving D’Var Torah ended with a call to be holy.

“May we heed that sacred calling to tap into the Divine sparks within us, to use them as a source of goodness to seek out and elevate the sparks of those around us. And in doing so, may we tap into our power to bring kedushah into this world, lighting the way for a new cycle of holiness to emerge.”

We were grateful for the opportunity to showcase HBHA's exceptional Jewish education, and it was inspiring to see the pride our students take in Jewish life and ritual leadership. Kol Hakavod to our Torah readers–Ellie Glickman, Naftali Tilove, Ayla Williams, Elia Ellis, Molly Solomon, and Dani Glickman–and to all our students who lift up our whole community through their dedication to Jewish life and learning!

We hope that this special Shabbat is the first of many to come, and we are excited about the possibility of participating in similar events in other community synagogues. If any other congregations are interested in a special HBHA Shabbat, reach out and let HBHA know! Contact Rabbi Bonney-Cohen at [email protected]

Once again, thank you to everyone who helped to make this event a success. We look forward to more opportunities to come together as a community and celebrate our shared values and traditions.


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Project Based Learning: A Teacher's Perspective

October 28, 2021
By Adam Tilove, Head of School
Students experiment with musical sounds by the musical instruments they created during their sound and hearing unit.

I am excited to share with you information about one of our newest endeavors at HBHA: Project Based Learning. Even better, it's coming straight from the source ... one of our teachers!

Shabbat Shalom,
Adam Tilove


Project Based Learning

This fall HBHA teachers spent two days learning about Project Based Learning (PBL). PBL teaches students to learn through investigation and respond to a question. During training I thought to myself  “this sounds great ... but how in the world will I do this with first graders?” Fast forward two months and the first graders have finished one PBL experience and are in the midst of two more! 

Our first PBL experience was a science unit on sound. Highlights included a trip to the science lab and creating musical instruments out of recycled materials like egg cartons, boxes and beads. The unit culminated with a musical performance at Taste of Shabbat.

This week, first graders began learning about light. We opened with a story about a boy who went spelunking and thought he would be able to see without a headlamp. Spoiler alert, he was wrong! The next day, we decoupaged clear visors with three different types of paper (see photo at right). Options included construction paper, tissue paper and cellophane. Once the visors were dry, students tried them on. Within seconds I heard a chorus of “I can’t see!” “Everything looks pink!” “The paper is too thick to see through!” Mission accomplished!

Next week we will discuss translucent, transparent and opaque materials.

Yesterday the weather was rainy and cold, which meant indoor recess ALL DAY. At morning recess, the first graders pulled out a large box of building blocks. By the end of recess, they had built a city! They were so excited about all the things they had built. Landmarks included a stadium, a movie theater, a parking garage and even street lights to name a few.

I did not have the heart to ask them to put the blocks away, so instead we had an impromptu civics lesson. We talked about building a new community and all the things that our new community would need.  After the next recess our city had a hospital, a farm, a restaurant, homes and many more important things. There were even a few natural disasters. At the end of the day, we put the blocks away and next week we will continue learning about building a new community.

I went into PBL training questioning how I would use this teaching method in first grade. Today, I see things through a different set of glasses. Before PBL training, I would have demonstrated how light travels through various materials. With PBL, students learned through investigation how different materials allow light to show through. Next week I will teach them the vocabulary to name their experience. Through my own investigation I was able to answer my original question. 

Mission accomplished! 

Shira Zigler
First Grade General Studies & Hebrew Resource Teacher

Strategic Planning

October 08, 2021
By Adam Tilove

The holidays are over and we made it through a full week at school! I absolutely love the Jewish holiday season, but it feels good to get back to work with more of a routine, doesn’t it? Now that we are returning to some semblance of normality, I am going to begin sending more weekly updates so you are aware of some of the things happening at HBHA outside of the classrooms.


Sometimes in the midst of a journey it is good to check in and make sure you are still on the right path or you might just end up in the wrong place entirely. But it's a funny thing about being lost. If you are lost on the road, you know where you're going, but you don’t know where you are. If you are lost in life, you might know where you are, but not know where you are going. But to truly find one’s way, one must know where one is AND where they are going!

As Head of School, one of the most important roles I play is ensuring our school knows where it is, and knows where it’s going. We are currently embarking on the journey of developing and writing a new strategic plan. In order to do this work properly, we have hired NoTosh, an internationally recognized Design Thinking firm that specializes in working with schools. They have helped hundreds of schools from around the world find their new strategic visions, from the Nanjing International School, to the American School of Warsaw, to Ottawa Community Jewish School. 

Instead of simply setting pie-in-the-sky goals without understanding who we are or what is possible and desirable for our community, Design Thinking starts with empathy.

We all know HBHA is a special place. But what are HBHA’s core values that set it apart from all other schools? What is it that makes this place so unique and dear to so many people? The first stage of our strategic plan is to boil down our shared communal vision of HBHA into 5-6 core value statements... our North Star. 

This isn’t redefining our school or giving it a new mission statement; but rather it is taking the time to understand who we are already and articulate it in clear and concise terms. This will help us guide every aspect of our program, from academics to Jewish Studies; how we give assessments to how we manage our classrooms; from marketing to how we raise money. By articulating our core values, we will have inspiring shared language and goals to move our school forward, together, towards our desired result. 

Simmering down an entire community's values, passions, hopes and dreams into a set of widely agreed upon value statements is not work that is easy or clear cut, but with the help of No Tosh, we feel we are ready to work and up to the task.

No Tosh has helped us build a diverse Design Team, made up of teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community stakeholders. Each member of that team will be interviewing at least 10 people in their social network to hear the voices of our entire community. Just that interview process will bring together the voices of almost 200 people that love and care about HBHA.

Over the course of the next few months, we will continue to solicit feedback from the community. This is the community's school and we want to continue to support its growth and pursuit of excellence on our own terms. This is our chance to set that path for the next 5-10 years.

This is a year-long process, and more updates are sure to come. I am excited to share this process with you, and I hope you feel some of the same enthusiasm and energy we at HBHA feel about this process!

Great Start to the School Year

August 20, 2021
By Adam Tilove

It has been a wonderful start to the school year! There is a palpable sense of joy and excitement coming from everyone - teachers, students, even (and maybe especially) parents! We are thrilled to have everyone back in person and looking forward to an awesome year!

It takes a lot of work to open the school in a way that looks effortless. The faculty and staff have spent the past two weeks working tirelessly to set up their classrooms and engage in teacher training. Over the past two weeks, our team has:

  • engaged in training about safety and security with Chuck Green, the Jewish Community Director of Security;
  • reviewed HBHA's COVID safety protocols with Nurse Elisa Pener; and
  • done a deep dive into Project Based Learning, which you will hear more about in a future email. 

In addition, HBHA School Psychologist Sara Whelan has already brought together Middle and Upper School student leaders for a Sources of Strength training with Sondra Wallace, JFS Mental Health Coalition Coordinator. Sources of Strength is an evidence-based approach to preventing significant mental health needs among youth (including suicide) through harnessing the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture. Our student leaders will work together this year to introduce the program, demystify mental health issues among their peers, and spread messages of hope, help, and strength throughout their school and community. We are very proud to introduce this program to HBHA.

I want to take a moment to thank the COVID Task Force for setting clear guidelines to keep our kids safely in school this year. We will be following the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment school guidelines - including universal mask wearing, physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and limiting the number of visitors into the building. Our Task Force will continue to meet periodically to keep abreast of the most current developments and make sure to maintain a safe environment.

There are many other things happening at HBHA this year - far too much for one email. But I wanted to start the year by telling you how excited we are as a whole team to be working with your children again. We love our work of helping your children learn, grow and thrive. And we are grateful for your trust and partnership. 

Here’s to a great year!

Only Joy!

May 21, 2021
By Adam Tilove

This week, I want to focus only on Joy!

Sure there is still plenty for us to worry about, but this has been a tremendous week for HBHA and for one glorious week, I think it's OK to block out the world and just feel proud of ourselves and our students.

On Wednesday night we celebrated graduation IN PERSON. And while we were all still physically distanced and wearing masks, it was incredible to see everyone together in one room. Our graduates spoke beautifully about their pride, resilience, camaraderie, and enthusiasm for HBHA and their eager anticipation to get out there and take on the world.  

Four of those seniors were the children of HBHA alumni - which give me such a sense of pride in our school. We are an institution whose roots run deep, and will continue to run deeper. Our school is teaching a living, loving Judaism from generation to generation.

Two of our graduates finished a tractate of Gemara and were able to reflect on the wisdom they had gained from the Talmud to the community before reciting a long and joyous Kaddish in honor of the work they had just completed.

This morning, the entire school was able to congregate outside to celebrate the first (in-person) and final Taste of Shabbat of the year. Rabbi Avi led us in a rousing rendition of our favorite niggun that made everyone - even the high school students - giggle.

This afternoon, the Lower School students performed in and watched the annual Talent Show, which we missed last year. I watched these amazing kids get awards from running over a hundred miles in the 100-Mile Club; I giggled as they told jokes and danced; and I was awed by their collective resilience and talents.

All and all, this was an amazing week of school, which highlighted our students' learning, creativity, courage, and joy. We were able to literally see the space between us diminish as our celebrations and rituals began to return to normal.

I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom - one in which you can take a moment to focus only on joy and pride in our children - and one in which you too can feel the distance between us shrink.

Celebrating and Mourning

May 14, 2021
By Adam Tilove

This is an unusual message for me, as I have so much to celebrate - and mourn - this week. 

From a school perspective, we are able to take a moment, look around us, and celebrate all that we have accomplished at HBHA. From a global perspective, it is difficult to watch what is happening in Israel right now. But first, the joy:

First and foremost, our school made it through the year without any major COVID outbreaks. While both children and adults in our school contracted the virus, thank God no one in our community became seriously ill. 

But there is so much more to be proud of: On Tuesday alone, I was able to watch our Upper School students use trebuchets they built themselves in their conceptual physics and honors physics classes. One student team was able to launch a softball up to 44 meters! As tradition holds, the final launch for each team was a water balloon, aimed at Todd Clauer, Upper School Principal and honors physics teacher and Cody Welton, Science Department Chair and conceptual physics teacher. Standing in the middle of the landing field, Todd was thrilled that one of the trebuchets was so accurate, that the water balloon struck him right in the middle of his chest. It was a first in all the years he and physics teacher Cody Welton have worked on trebuchets with their students. Watch the water balloon launch here (Video credit: Shai-El Luger, HBHA 11th grader)

Later in the day, a group of our 12th graders met with city council members from Lenexa to discuss issues of climate change - an ongoing effort through their Social Justice Project. And immediately following that, a tremendous number of people came to cheer on our girls varsity soccer team in the last game of the season (which they won); and the Middle School girls soccer team (which they didn’t win, but who’s counting?). 

Again, all of these things happened in just one day at HBHA.

It serves as a reminder that we are finishing this year as we finish every year: with pride in our students, with joyous celebration, and most important, as a community. As the administration begins reflecting on the year and discussing where we are and how far we’ve come, we were able to acknowledge the “class, courage, intelligence, and knowledge” of our students. And we were able to celebrate that there were so many “engaged and happy families” present at the soccer games this week - one of the few events where parents have been able to join us this year.

While it was, at times, a struggle this year, I think we can look back and let go of a sigh of relief that we made it to this moment. There’s even a prayer for moments like this:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higiyanu, laz’man hazeh.

Blessed are you God, Sovereign of everything, who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this occasion!

At the same time, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that our brethren in Israel are struggling right now, hunkered down in shelters from relentless rocket fire. It is hard to celebrate and mourn at the same time, but this is what we have to do. Hold two truths, and two emotions at once. So while we have praised God for helping us reach this moment, I would also like to quote the Prophet Isiah: 

“No more will violence be heard in your land, devastation nor destruction within your borders. But you will call your walls salvation and your gates praise.”

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