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Award Winning Essay - Moral Courage: Heroes


"On behalf of the Anti-Defamation League and No Place for Hate®, we are honored to congratulate you on being the Grand Prize winner in ADL’s 2016 Spring Essay Contest, Division II: 7th and 8th grade. We received over 350 essays, and your essay, Moral Courage: Heroes, resonated with judges and stood out among all the others.  As the Grand Prize winner, you will receive a cash prize from the contest’s sponsor, TD Bank." gavi mellman

Moral Courage: Heroes   By: Gavi Melman

Not all heroes wear capes and fly. Normal people do amazing things every day, risking life and limb for another human being who they might not even know. Without these courageous acts of loving-kindness the world would be much different and crueler than it is today. These types of people do everything from opening the door for an older person, which is something we can all do, to putting themselves in harm's way to protect the defenseless. While some acts are more astounding than others, every action counts.

According to the dictionary, moral courage is defined as "the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences." I think this is mostly true, but that they left out a key part: it is the courage to take action against injustice despite the fear of negative consequences in the future, AND despite the current and recurring pressure to conform and "go with the flow" even when one knows that "the flow" is morally corrupt.

Loukas Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos are heroes who impacted the world, despite immense risk, for the better. Loukas Karrer was the Mayor of Zakynthos, an island in Greece, during the time of the Nazi occupation soon after World War II began. When the Nazis conquered Greece, the governor of Zakynthos asked Karrer for a list of the names of all the Jews that lived there. The Mayor was indecisive at first, and decided to ask the Bishop Chrysostomos on his opinion of what he should do. Everyone knew that every single person whose name he put on that list would be 'exterminated'; the only question was if he would comply with the macabre request or have the moral courage to fight it.

As it turned out, the answer was that he not only could, but would fight. Both Karrer and Chrysostomos showed immense moral courage and refused to sell out their loyal Jewish citizens to worshippers of the Angel of Death. Enraged, the governor gave them one more chance to change their minds and demanded that they give him the paper with the Jewish names on it. Most daringly of all, they decided they would give him a paper with names - though not the ones he was expecting. When the governor took the note the men had given him, it had but two names on it: Loukas Karrer and Dimitrios Chrysostomos. They vowed that if the Nazis wanted to take their Jews, they would have to take them first.

Not only did Karrer report to the governor; he also wrote a letter to Hitler, the man who had ordered the deaths of Zakynthos's and the rest of Europe's Jews. In the letter, Karrer explained that the Jews in his land were officially under his protection and could not be taken away to be killed. Karrer wanted to make it as clear as possible that his Jews, if no one else's, would survive the Holocaust, regardless of Hitler's wishes.

Even without the names, the Jews could still hypothetically be sniffed out by the Nazi bloodhounds, so for their safety Karrer ordered them to hide. Many hid in Christian homes where they were protected and treated like family. On an island of thousands, with less than 300 Jews total, not one Christian gave up their Jewish friends' identities to the Nazis. All of them knew about it; if even one had been too weak to keep quiet and had caved in and told, the whole Jewish community might have been lost. Fortunately, the group effort and the work of each individual payed off and not a single Jew was caught.

Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos did not die while standing up for the rights of their fellow Greeks. Loukas lived from 1909-1985, while the Bishop's life spanned the years from 1890 until 1958. They both survived to see the good they caused and the 275 Jewish lives they saved. Neither thought he was being a hero - they had simply done the humane, respectable thing to do.

Doing what one thinks is right - even if in reality it is really wrong - shows moral courage. Unless one takes control of his own situation and changes it, nothing gets better. The brave mayor and bishop took the matter of their Jews lives into their own hands and decided to save them. Hopefully people will have the chance to be heroes like Karrer and Chrysostomos by changing lives for good.

DC with Mrs. Barmach

My name is Jordyn Meltzer and I am an 8th grader here at Kellman Brown Academy. I would like to share a little bit about my DC experience but before I do so, I need to hit rewind and take you back to three years ago when my older sister Gabbi, a KBA graduate, was in my position.Three years ago, I couldn't understand the excitement she had about politics, current events and the then 'g-d awful news'. She talked about this thing called "Barmach" and how she aced "A Barmach test". It seems that all of her friends wanted to do just that! It was a bit scary for me. Let's fast forward to today. I have since learned that Barmach is a person - Mrs. Barmach, our Social Studies teacher. I now understand the excitement about current events and the importance of knowing what's going on in the world around us. I now understand how our leaders impact relationships across the globe. I now understand the importance of voting and making sure the right leaders represent the United States of America. I now understand the "Barmach Thing" and her rigorous push to get us involved and in the know. Mrs. Barmach brings the classroom to life with real world, current events that we can all relate to today. Mrs. Barmach's learnings are often at the heart of our family dinner conversations or as we call them 'political chats' amongst family. She teaches us that any one of us can represent the USA in Washington DC. She believes in us. Yesterday I was able to meet Senator Booker. Senator Booker was the mayor of Newark, NJ and is now one of our Senators. I was very excited to have this opportunity to meet with someone who has the ability to effect change in what happens with New Jerseys laws. Each and every day, I watch and learn about Senator Booker and other politicians in the news. Senator Booker was friendly and I was surprised to hear him speak about how much he knew about Judaism. He even used some Hebrew phrases as he spoke with us. It was comforting to know that someone who represents our state was in touch with Jewish-ness. I can't quite describe the full feeling, but I can say that to have the experience of seeing the politicians in action was exhilarating. To have the ability to watch a bill become law, or not, was empowering. While watching congress in action, I had the honor of sitting next to Mrs. Barmach and the excitement as each senator or congressman walked in was infectious. We saw Senator John McCain and Senator Mitch McConnell to name a few. I am willing to bet you don't all know who Senator Mitch McConnell is, but rest assured the 8th grade class does! I thank my parents and my grandparents for giving me the opportunity to be here at Kellman Brown Academy. I thank Kellman Brown Academy for creating and providing a great learning environment. Last but not least, I thank Mrs. Barmach for being Mrs. Barmach. My sister Gabriella still says you had a great and positive impact in her academic life. I am proud to say that I second her motion. Thank you.

What a new KBA parent is saying about KBA:

Rubins 2016 Flower ShowAnna Rubin (mom of Joe-P4)

When we were looking for schools for Joe we pretty much ruled out public schools in Philadelphia instantly. Adam went to public school and didn't like it and frankly the state of public schools in Philadelphia (center city where we live) is a bit sad. I went to a Jewish day school (Solomon Schechter) for elementary school and loved it (my yeshiva - modern orthodox - high school, not as much).

Since private school was going to be a definite we wanted to send Joe (and Ben now of course) to a school that we could identify with and one with a community we felt comfortable with and that we were excited to become a part of. We looked at a few local schools, Friend schools and a local progressive private school, and while they were nice and certainly physically closer (at least in miles, never mind that with traffic it could take forever to get to one or any of them) they just didn't get us excited.

We then looked at Jewish education opportunities in our area. There are a few synagogues that offer preschool programs but we liked but we would then be on the hunt for a school again come kindergarten. we looked at other area day schools and they were not a fit for us (and Joe wouldn't have been able to start until Kindergarten). Then we found KBA (thank you google!!) and I went to visit and fell in love from the minute I walked in the door. After spending an hour learning about the school and touring the building I couldn't wait to bring Adam.

Here is a list of features that sold us on KBA over our other Jewish school options:

1. The preschool program - so awesome that we could send Joe there from preschool through 8th without having him have to switch school. I only wish we had found KBA sooner so he could have started in P3.

2. The building - the bright and happy facilities.The artwork along the walls had us smiling and made the building warm and inviting. The care for the environment. It's wonderful that the building and school are so green.

3. The love of Israel (huge seller for Adam) and the Israel trip  - what an amazing opportunity!

4. The education and program. The balance of Jewish education and secular studies is great, interweaving Jewish morals and values through out. We also really appreciate the integration of current technology in the middle school. I was particularly impressed by the art program. The after school offerings are also fantastic!

5. The amazing community. From the start we felt welcome and like we were being taken in by a family.

6. When considering the costs of a private education the value of a KBA education for the tuition is phenomenal!

Even when we take into account the travel from our home in Philadelphia (gas, toll, etc.) we are still more than happy we chose KBA. It only takes 30 minutes (less without traffic) to get from our house to school and that is the same or less time than it would take Joe to travel to a Philadelphia school on the bus or even car pool.

April – by Alison Coyne, Guidance Counselor

blog-1blog-4Our school pledge reminds us of the importance of treating others with kavod.  I think we can all say that the values exemplified by KBA students have always been a hallmark of our school.  Nothing warms my heart more than seeing our students offering their help and support of one another.  Do you remember the Kindness projects started in 2014 after our Fifth graders read the book Wonder?  I know that their stories left a lasting impression on me. It should come as no surprise that Kellman Brown Academy has had their first project as an applicant to become a No Place For Hate School approved.  This past fall students in grades Kindergarten - Eighth submitted drawings for what they envisioned a No Place for Hate School to represent.  A few of these drawings will be selected to become the future Tribute Cards used by KBA.  Each time a donation is made to KBA, the Community will be reminded of the values that we encompass as a school.  The No Place for Hate Initiative provides schools and communities a framework for combating bias, bullying and hatred, leading to long-term solutions for creating and maintaining a positive climate.  It provides one consistent message supported by the Anti-Defamation League that all students have a safe place to belong when at school. We have all taken the No Place for Hate Promise:

To treat others fairly. To do our best to be kind to everyone- even if they are not like us. To tell a teacher if we see someone being hurt or bullied. To allow everyone to feel safe and happy at school. To want our school to be a No Place for hate.

In our Middle School Advisory, students made banners that will be displayed in the Gymnasium depicting the school theme of responsibility and how this relates to how we treat others.


On May 19th, “Cheese” (Brawley Chisholm) from the Harlem Globetrotters will be visiting KBA to do a special program for Gan through 8th graders - “The ABC’s of Bullying Prevention.” Designed by the Globetrotters in collaboration with the National Campaign to Stop Violence, this program will help us further our goal to be a No Place for Hate.

blog-2 blog-3 blog-5What will our next projects be?  A book club?  Starting a pen pal program with students in different parts of the community, country, or world?  Making a commercial or infomercial to teach others?  I welcome your ideas and suggestions!

“Keeping it R.E.A.L. in 2015″ (Responsibility Equals Accountability and Leadership)

Random Acts of KBA Kindness

February 3, 2015

Recently, I caught a glimpse of a TV show on the Food Network – The Kids Baking Championship. Some of the best kid bakers from around the country were selected to compete in a contest to win $10,000, a spread in Food Network, and the title Kids Baking Champion. What struck me in the clip I watched was how, in the middle of a competition, one girl who had finished a particular baking challenge went over to help another boy. He had burned his finger earlier in the day and was having difficulty finishing his dessert.

It really got me thinking about the random acts of kindness I see every day at KBA.

Picture this…

  • A student accidentally spills his chips on the floor at lunch. Another student rushes over to help him clean them up.
  • Two girls walk in to the nurse’s office during recess. One has fallen and scraped her knee. The other child is there to hold her hand.
  • A middle school student forgets a book in class; a peer brings it to her next period.
  • Every hand in the classroom goes up when a teacher asks for a volunteer to help her with something.
  • I’m walking down the hall in the afternoon, a boy comes up to me to say goodbye and wish me a good day.

While these all may seem like small, expected, and insignificant moments over the course of a day at any school, I can assure you they are unfortunately not. However, we not only make a habit of these kind actions at Kellman Brown Academy, we make a point of honoring them.

In today’s fast-paced world in which people are more focused on themselves than ever, day school environments like ours, and of course your homes, are places in which students are challenged, nurtured, and above all else reminded what it means to be a kind person and take responsibility for his/her own community.


"Keeping it R.E.A.L. in 2015" (Responsibility Equals Accountability and Leadership)

I’ve been thinking about… Responsibility As most of you heard at Back to School Night – we have a theme for this year – Responsibility. Faculty, Students, and yes, even Parents will have the opportunity to explore this theme in an organic way throughout the school year.

I recently read this blog on HuffPost. It’s all about reframing the typical milestones that we expect to see our children make. The three milestones she suggests we focus on all have something in common – children taking responsibility. While we are certainly not throwing away the milestones of walking, talking, reading and counting, talking about responsibility can help us rethink our goals for our children.

The recent article in the Washington Post titled, Are you raising nice kids?, also makes this point. Through his project, Making Caring Common, psychologist with the Harvard graduate school of education, Richard Weissbourd demonstrates that we have to raise children to be moral people; they are not born this way. Weissbourd and his team conducted a study that showed most children think “their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others.”

I am a big school person (this is how I refer to myself) – I love the rhythms of the school day and year. I love high quality, work-hard, challenging academics. I love the interaction and integration of subject matter such as between English and Social Studies, Math and Science, and General and Judaic Studies. I love reading and writing and ‘rithmetic. And I celebrate each milestone within the content areas every time our children reach success in ways appropriate for each learner. However, we can have all the success we want in these areas and still not be our best if we don’t take responsibility and learn how to treat others. As Jews and as human beings we are obligated to do this.

This school year we’ll focus on this idea of Responsibility (though it doesn’t stop after one year). We’ll talk about it and we’ll live it. As always, you are our great partners in all of the work we do here. So…what can you do?

  • Foster conversations with your children, not just about what they’re learning in each subject, but how they connect to one another and how they connect to the idea of Responsibility.
  • If/when they don’t automatically see these connections, raise them yourself – we find examples of this theme in literature, civics and social studies, and daily acts of giving tzedakah, following mitzvot and learning about our Jewish heritage.
  • Join our No Place For Hate task force – contact Ali Coyne at We are looking for parents to join us!
  • Have conversations with your children about what they are responsible for in their lives: homework, chores, kindness to others, etc. and what it means to them to have that responsibility.

That’s what I’m thinking about…what are your thoughts on Responsibility, Accountability, and Leadership ? Feel free to email me at

U.S. Secretary of Education Names Kellman Brown Academy a 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School

Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Mike Boots, joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to announce that Kellman Brown Academy of Voorhees, New Jersey, has been named a 2014 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award honoree. Kellman Brown Academy was nominated by the Educational Information Resource Center [EIRC] through the New Jersey Sustainable Schools Consortium. Established in 1958, the early childhood through eighth-grade school is founded upon the principle of providing an unparalleled academic experience through integrated general and Judaic curricula.

Click here to read more

"I've Been Thinking About" - Our Students as Leaders


As we are in the full thrust of our recruitment and retention season, I am in conversation not only with current and prospective families, but our alumni too as they aid us in the process. When I speak with the alumni, I am struck by their poise and confidence. That’s something that stands out to me even in young adults – their ability to speak eloquently to their former teachers, adults they don’t know, and me – a principal they never had. These are certainly qualities that we hope for in all young adults, and yet I have worked with so many over the years that I know it’s not automatic. These qualities make me think about leadership. We talk about our students as leaders – but what does that mean? Being a student leader is more than being involved in student council as a middle school student, though that is certainly one wonderful leadership opportunity, as is being a captain of our basketball team, or one of the older students in the musical.

On Monday, I took our 8th graders to Harrisburg for day of service and fun with the Silver Academy students with whom we are going to Israel. While on the bus, I asked them what comes to mind when I use the words “students” and “leadership” (I did not plant these). Here were the first two:

• 8th Grade at Kellman Brown Academy • Younger students look up to you as their role model, and you want to be a good role model.

I believe that the everyday learning activities here at KBA help instill leadership qualities that we see in our alumni – confidence, poise, and teamwork. From a very young age students can be found around school leading others in Tefillah, visiting Lion’s Gate and performing for elderly residents. They make allocation decisions at our Mitzvah Mall, give presentations in class, read to adults during Author’s night, they teach and read to younger students, meet and interview politicians, and the list goes on. Are some of these also mitzvot that we are going to do because we’re a Jewish school? Yes. Are some of them indicative of what it means to be a mensch? Absolutely. Should these activities be found in any quality school? Definitely.

So what makes our students and alumni stand out as leaders? The acts of leading tefillot, presenting in front of others, debating each other over important issues are continuous throughout the curriculum. Students learn to advocate for themselves with their teachers. They learn how to be articulate and self-confident in their class presentations.

I did a little searching online for leadership qualities and everywhere from Forbes to, ‘communication’ and ‘confidence’ are on the lists. These skills will no doubt be important and useful as our students graduate, go on to high school, college, and beyond. And yet, we are constantly striving to do more for and with our students, particularly as leaders. The Student Ambassador Program is one example. We introduced this new project to 5th-8th graders on our “Be A 6th Grader For A Day,” and it will be officially kicked off next year as students will be trained to speak about and articulate what they love and know about Kellman Brown Academy to potential families, younger students, and any visitors.

What other ideas do you have? What leadership qualities have you seen your child(ren) develop? What other qualities do you hope they will continue to gain? I look forward to hearing what you’ve been thinking –

I've Been Thinking...

Emily Cook As I spoke about at our Back to School Nights, one of our goals here at Kellman Brown Academy is to enhance communication with families this year. While this is a work in progress, one of my new efforts is to write a blog about education and KBA.  I’d welcome your feedback and comments, and hope this blog becomes the source of new dialogue with the school about education. Please feel free to share your questions or comments.

Here is the first…“I’ve been thinking…”

I am working on my doctorate in Jewish education from the Davidson school at the Jewish Theological Seminary. My research is on teacher collaboration in Jewish middle schools. While collaboration is something we here at KBA practice and believe in, it's not necessarily easy. Any of the research into teacher collaboration (and in the fields of business, medicine, law, etc…) acknowledges both the importance in this work and also the challenges and important steps that groups go through in their formation.

Here are some examples of the types of collaboration that can be seen at KBA on a regular basis:

·      Our Jewish studies teachers meet bi-monthly and during four 2-day workshops to determine the standards for teaching Tanakh (Bible) that they feel are crucial for our students to learn, and have begun developing the benchmarks that we believe all of our KBA graduates need to reach. This is part of the Standards and Benchmarks program that I have shared with you previously.

·      The fourth grade teaching team regularly works collaboratively to connect general and Jewish studies. This is currently highlighted in the play students performed at Lion’s Gate before Chanukah and Thanksgiving in which students will teach the audience about each holiday as well as compare and contrast the two traditions.

·      Middle School teachers meet weekly to discuss students’ strengths and challenges, work out a test and project schedule, and share study skills strategies that are used across the curriculum. These help middle school students have a balanced schedule, ease into the workload, and learn more advanced study and organizational skills.

·      Fifth grade students will participate in Literature Circles. This is not a form of group work in which students work near each other, asking questions if desired. Rather, students are each responsible for parts of the conversation about what they are reading and dependent upon the involvement of each of their peers.

The examples go on and on – and exist in all grade levels and subjects – I’ve only mentioned a few. Some of these may be familiar to you, while others are new. These forms of collaboration (for teachers and students) require common planning time, a flexible curriculum that allows for integration, and a faculty that is open to this type of work. In turn our students benefit from even more clearly articulated curricula, teachers who communicate and understand expectations as learners grow, and a learning environment in which each individual’s contributions is celebrated along with the power of the larger community.

I’m curious to hear from your perspective. How do you collaborate in your own work environments? What have been the benefits and challenges you have faced? I welcome your emails and conversations.