Cheerleaders Spark New Passion for Lion Pride

By Ella Diamond (‘20) and Ariela Moel (‘22)

A brand new cheerleading squad intensified the spirit at San Diego Jewish Academy basketball games in the 2018-2019 winter season. Last year, Dalya Khan (‘19), Maya Baltinester (‘20), and Maya Sharf (‘20) all pictured the Lady Lions wearing a blue and yellow cheerleading uniform since there wasn’t already a cheer squad. This year that dream came true.

Baltinester recalls how when she first approached Coach Hill to ask about starting a cheer squad, Coach Hill replied, ‘Maybe next year.’ One of the major reasons Coach Hill was reluctant to create a cheer team was the fact that CIF hadn’t officially classified cheer as a sport.

However,  in 2017, former California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 949, which classifies competition cheer as a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sport, just like basketball, cross country, football, gymnastics, lacrosse, volleyball, and soccer.  

The passing of this bill prompted Coach Hill to reconsider adding competitive cheer to the SDJA athletic program. When asked what led her to make the final decision to implement cheer, Coach Hill replied that it came down to “CIF making cheer a sport in 2018 and having a substantial number of girls interested in it.”  


Cheer Squad (1) - Spring 2019

The first cheerleading squad in SDJA history prepares to cheer at the varsity teams’ basketball game. (L-R: (Ariela Moel (‘22), Geena Benson (‘21), Ella Diamond (‘20), Rikki Dorfan (‘21), and Rena Novom (‘22)) Photo: Karina Evans (‘21)

As it turned out, there were 15 student athletes willing to participate, and the squad was successfully formed in a matter of days. Enthusiastic fans were soon coming to home basketball games to watch the action and hear the cheer squad roar “Take it to the hoop, Lions, WHOOP! To the hoop!”

Fans agree that the cheer squad has increased the level of school spirit and excitement at basketball games. Kayla Swartzberg (21’) concedes that this was the first year she ever went to watch a Lions basketball game. Swartzberg says, “The main reason I went to watch the game was to watch the cheer squad,” adding “I had a lot of fun! I can’t wait for next year so I can attend more games.”

Rena Novom (22’), a back spot on the SDJA cheer team, says her favorite part of this sport is stunting. “It’s always thrilling when we get to throw people in the air,” Novom says. As a back spot, her job is to make sure the flyer, who gets thrown into the air, doesn’t fall to the ground.

In cheerleading, there is a spot for everyone. Novom doesn’t like going up in the air and doesn’t feel extremely comfortable being a base, so being a backspot is the perfect position for her. Another cheerleader, Ariela Moel (22’), embraces this opportunity, unlike Novom, Moel prefers to be thrown in the air rather than pushing others up.

Cheer Bow

One of the many additions to our cheer uniform is our eccentric bow. Photo: Ella Diamond (‘20)

The success of the cheer team has driven SDJA Athletics to extend the sport to both the fall and winter sports seasons for the coming year. Many student athletes have already signed up to join the sport and are excitedly awaiting the beginning of the season in August. Novom says, “Cheerleading has been such an incredible experience. I loved it, and I can’t wait to do it next year!”

Indifference: the True Problem with the Newport High School Party

By Moriah Seyman (‘19) and Joseph Vilenski (‘19)

On Saturday, March 2, a group of high school students gathered for a party in Newport Beach, California where they played a popular drinking game called “rage cage,” except with a slight, disturbing modification: for this version the teens set up their cups in the form of a Nazi swastika.

Unbeknownst to them, their actions would soon spread through social media across the country, highlighting the growing problem, in the United States and elsewhere, of ignorance about the Holocaust and Jewish struggles throughout history. Although these teenagers claimed in their apology letters that they had no intention of reviving Nazi culture or Hitler’s ideals, they, and their peers, as the last generation within living memory of the Shoah, still have the responsibility to ensure that the world never forgets this atrocity. They should also try to prevent insensitivity to racial, cultural, religious, and ethnic bias by spreading knowledge and awareness of the persecution that the Jewish people have suffered for so long.

The morning after the incident, Ava Ganz, a senior at Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in Irvine, California, re-posted a photo she saw on social media. “Scrolling through Snapchat and see this from a Newport high school party. Absolutely disgusting,” tweeted Ganz. The post garnered national attention after a few hours.

The picture shows the high schoolers playing the aforementioned game, the revelers all standing with their right arms raised to resemble the Nazi salute.

Various students at San Diego Jewish Academy offered their opinions on the matter. Kayla Swartzberg (‘21), believes that “our mission should be to educate and give ignorant people like these the knowledge to make decisions that everyone is proud of.” To Ariella Markus (‘19), it is “hurtful” to use the Holocaust as a joke. “It’s horrible because the Nazis killed so many people,” Markus says. “However, compared to all the other acts of antisemitism going on in the world, this one is not as big but I still think it’s bad.” Evan Levine (‘19) agrees, adding, “I don’t think it is acceptable for anyone to make light of what the Nazis did.” Gil Zucker-Abudi (‘22) acknowledges this, but adds that “what they did was wrong, but I don’t think they deserve to have any long-lasting repercussions.” Nonetheless, some of the photographed students reportedly lost college scholarships and admissions. Daniel Acks (‘19) says, “It was an awful, ignorant thing to do, but the rest of their lives shouldn’t be ruined. I feel as if it’s a poor reflection on how they teach about the Holocaust at other schools.”

Madeline Ramirez (‘21) points out how these partygoers failed to consider that if these pictures spread across the Internet, it would give the world a platform to respond. “They thought it was funny and did not think about the consequences,” she says. “They should have known it was going to backfire on them especially with it being posting on social media and should’ve never even thought about doing it in the first place.”

While most responses to Ganz’s post voiced support for the Jewish communities, some, unfortunately, were directly opposed to Jewish culture. Most troubling, however, were the many statements of indifference. Some people posted truly tone-deaf comments on social media like, “It’s literally a party, if you are going to get your panties in a twist then you can just leave.” Kayla Swartzberg agrees that “those kids revealed the true power of ignorance and that it is NOT, in fact, bliss.”

Sadly, people who are openly anti-semitic do exist in the United States today and it’s nearly impossible to convince them to think otherwise. However, the ones who are indifferent to such acts are possibly the most dangerous. Their apathy could lead to more acts of ignorance. Other posted remarks such as “jokes are jokes” and “if these kids were actual Nazis they wouldn’t be making a swastika out of plastic cups, they’d be beating people in the streets” dismiss the fact that anti-semitism is not a “joke,” especially when it comes to the Holocaust. It is impossible to eliminate all bad elements from society. However, if no one cares enough to stop them, people’s actions can only get worse.

Luckily some teenagers are willing to take a stand. Joey Sable, a Jewish senior at Orange County School of Arts, posted a lengthy reply to the partygoers on his Instagram. His post spread to places like Miami, Mexico, England, Israel, and even Australia. Sable wrote about his experience with anti-semitism and questioned the supposed comedy of such an act, asking “Why is it hard for people to understand that the death of millions of people at the hands of Nazis is nothing close to a comedic joke? It is still felt generationally, and will continue to regress society.” At the end of his post, Sable invited his “non-Jewish peers” to “Saturday morning service,” to “attend Shabbat dinner,” to a “Challah bake,” and most importantly to take action by using social media and conversation, instead of resorting to hate. The next week, Sable and Kaitlyn Turner, a senior at Tarbut V’Torah appeared on CBS’s “Inside Edition” to speak about the situation. Turner emphasized the fact that “it’s our job to educate [the students at the party] and help them realize how hurtful their actions were that night”

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel once said, “to forget the Holocaust is to kill twice.” Swartzberg (‘21) says that anti-semitism can’t stop until people “open their eyes to the truth of the Holocaust.” Indifference to ignorant acts could cause people to overlook the gravity of truly anti-semitic acts of violence done by those who genuinely hate the Jewish people. In September 2018, America saw the reality of hatred and antisemitism in the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. While the recent party in Newport Beach showed some disturbing ignorance, it also proved that most Americans fully support their Jewish communities and refuse to let casual bigotry go unnoticed.

Chile National Team Trains on SDJA Field/ Equipo Nacional de Chile Entrena en SDJA

In honor of the recent visit by the Chilean National soccer team to San Diego Jewish Academy, Joseph Vilenski (’19) offers the following bilingual report about the thrill of welcoming star athletes to our campus.

Chile National Team Trains on SDJA Field

Longtime students at San Diego Jewish Academy can remember lower school teachers and administrators scolding them for picking and playing with the grass on the sports field. “This is an award-winning field” or “this is the best field in all of San Diego” the teachers would say with great dignity. In fact, this splendid field, which can accommodate the demands of numerous different sports, has won the Best Field of the Year award from the Sports Turf Managers Association.  

In 2016, the Mexico National Soccer team trained on SDJA’s highly touted field in preparation for a friendly match at SDCCU stadium, (formerly Qualcomm Stadium). Recently, however, SDJA hosted Mexico’s opponent, the Chile national team, from March 18th to the 22nd, for their second friendly match against Mexico at SDCCU Stadium on the 23rd.

For the Chilean team, choosing the Jewish Academy field was a “matter of logistics”, as stated by  Carlos Eduardo Velasco, an assistant coach for the team. The team “looks at all the possible scenarios that can accommodate the standard that our national team is used to,” continued Velasco. This meticulous approach helps Chile find the “ideal locations” where their team can practice.” However, for many students and soccer fanatics at the academy, like Eitan Breziner (‘20) and Ruben Veinbergs (‘19), the occasion was much more than just soccer practice.

Sion Memun (‘19) posing for a picture with one of Chile’s star players Arturo Vidal Photo by Simon Shoshani (‘19)

“It was an honor to have some of the players like Arturo Vidal, who I grew up watching on TV, play on our field,” said Breziner, who found it astonishing to watch star athletes whom he idolizes using the same nets that he kicks goals into. “I can’t believe such big people in my eyes, would come to our small school”.

The Chilean team and the Mexican team have some memorable history together. The last time they played in sunny San Diego, Mexico won 1 – 0. However, that same year, Chile handed Mexico one of its worst losses (7-0) in the 2016 Copa America, going on to win the whole tournament. For Ruben Veinbergs who has Chilean and Mexican roots, this rivalry has been entertaining. “My Grandma is Chilean and everyone else is Mexican” Veinbergs said. “It’s been fun to see the back and forth, but I can’t believe that both of my favorite teams came to play at my small school” continued Ruben with pride in his voice.  

However, “pride” was not something many Chileans could say they felt about their soccer team. “La Roja”, a popular nickname for the team, failed to qualify for the World Cup, only a year after winning La Copa America. The team brought in new coaches, including Velasco. After being asked what the future holds for “La Roja” after not qualifying, Velasco said, “that is the great task that awaits our coaching staff, we hope to be in Qatar in 2022, to do a good job and raise the expectations of the Chilean fans, and eventually make it back to the World Cup”.  

Despite all the excitement about the Chileans visit, on March 23rd, 2019, Mexico beat Chile 3 – 1 at SDCCU Stadium. Many Mexican students rejoiced saying “Viva Mexico!” Maybe in a few years, the Chilean fans will say “Chi chi chi le le le – viva Chile!!!”.


Equipo Nacional de Chile Entrena en SDJA

Los estudiantes de la San Diego Jewish Academy pueden recordar a los maestros y administradores de la secundaria regañandolos por picotear y jugar con el pasto en el campo de deportes. “Este es un campo premiado” o “este es el mejor campo en todo San Diego”, dirían con mucho orgullo. De hecho, este espléndido campo deportivo versátil ha sido premiado como el Mejor Campo de San Diego por el Sports Turf Managers Association.  

En 2016 el equipo de fútbol nacional de México entrenó en el campo altamente promocionado de SDJA en preparación para jugar un partido amistoso en el estadio SDCCU, (anteriormente estadio Qualcomm). Recientemente, sin embargo, SDJA recibió al oponente de México, el equipo nacional de Chile, desde el 18 hasta el 22 de marzo 2019, para entrenar para su segundo partido amistoso contra México en el Estadio SDCCU el 23.

Para el equipo chileno, elegir el campo de la Jewish Academy fue un “tema de logística”, como lo expresó Carlos Eduardo Velasco, un asistente del entrenador del equipo. El equipo “miró a todos los posibles escenarios donde podía cumplir con una norma estándar que tiene nuestra selección nacional,” continuó Velasco. Este proceso meticuloso les ayudó a encontrar el “idóneo para nuestra selección nacional.” Sin embargo, para muchos estudiantes y fanáticos del fútbol en la academia, como Eitan Breziner (’20) y Ruben Veinbergs (’19), hubo mucho más que eso.

Sion Memun (’19) con Arturo Vidal foto: Simon Shoshani (’19)

“Fue un honor tener a algunos de los jugadores como Arturo Vidal, a quien crecí viendo en la televisión, jugar en nuestro campo”, dijo Breziner. Para Breziner, el hecho de que los jugadores que él idolatraba llegaran a practicar en el campo de su escuela fue asombroso. “No puedo creer que gente tan grande en mis ojos, vendría a nuestra pequeña escuela”.

El equipo chileno y el equipo mexicano tienen una historia memorable juntos. La última vez que jugaron en sunny San Diego, México ganó 1- 0. Sin embargo, ese mismo año, Chile le dio a México una de sus peores derrotas (7- 0) en la Copa América de 2016, y ganó todo el torneo. Para Ruben Veinbergs, quien tiene raíces chilenas y mexicanas, esta rivalidad ha sido entretenido. “Mi abuela es Chilena y todos los demás son Mexicanos”, dijo Veinbergs. “Ha sido divertido ver de un lado a otro, pero no puedo creer que mis dos equipos favoritos vinieron a jugar a mi pequeña escuela”, continuó Rubén con orgullo en su voz.

Sin embargo, el “orgullo” no era algo que muchos chilenos pudieran decir que sienten sobre su equipo de fútbol. “La Roja”, un apodo popular para el equipo, no se clasificó para el Mundial, nada más un año después de ganar La Copa América. El equipo trajo nuevos entrenadores, incluido Velasco. Después de que se le preguntó qué espera para el futuro “La Roja” después de no calificar, Velasco dijo: “esa es la gran tarea que espera que nos han traído a nuestro grupo técnico, esperamos que podamos estar en Qatar en 2022, hacer un buen trabajo y elevar las expectativas del grupo de chilenos y volver a estar en el Mundial “.

A pesar de toda la esperanza del equipo chileno, el 23 de marzo de 2019 México venció a Chile 3 – 1. Muchos estudiantes Mexicanos de SDJA celebraron diciendo “¡Viva México!”, pero en unos años los fanáticos de Chile tal vez dirán “Chi chi chi le le le – viva Chile!!!”.


Hard Work in Houston Helps Erase Harvey’s Footprint

By Rosie Alchalel (‘21)

In August and September of 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houstaners, yet, when the San Diego Jewish Academy sophomores visited in early-November 2018, the community was still in mourning, living with the storm’s impact.

The visiting tenth graders also witnessed the hurricane’s prolonged effects. “It’s never too late to help,” says Fania Pupko (‘21). “We went to Houston 13 months after Harvey but people still needed my help. Help that I didn’t even know I could provide.”

Along with fellow SDJA faculty Kristine Schneid and Tommy Collins, English teacher Brendan Riley joined the students on their trip. “We weren’t there primarily as tourists,” Riley says. “We spent two days in a neighborhood that we probably never would’ve visited otherwise.” He points out that this trip was different than field trips the Academy has undertaken in past years. “Meeting people, going into their homes, and actually putting our hands to work, doing manual labor, and having to cope with the unfamiliarity of all that is very different than sightseeing.”

Nearly forty students spent two days working on three different homes that had been left in ruins. “The days were definitely very long,” affirms Alex Waiss (‘21), “but I gained a lot of insight into different people’s lives from the experience, and it was definitely worth it.” Gabriel Simpser (‘21) was also happy to describe the time he spent in Houston. “The first day I painted the whole day,” he said. “Paint got everywhere and it was very messy, but it was very fun because I got to work with all my friends.” His second day was different, however. “They moved me to a house where I put up drywall. It was honestly much harder work, but I felt like I made a big difference.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 3.07.44 PM.png
Sophomores (left to right) Parker Goodman, Mark Zaga,
Jayden Youngleson and Devin Markus hang up drywall.
Photo: Brendan Riley

Another sophomore on the Houston trip, Michaela Simble (‘21), recollects, “my team and I did a thing called caulking, which is this white stuff that you put in the walls to close holes. It was hard so I took a lot of breaks.” Leya Shaw (‘21) adds, “caulking made an enormous difference once I took a step back to admire my work. Although my time in Houston wasn’t much, I think that a little went a long way.”

Students returned to school the following week with many new memories. “Once we finally finished working for the day,” Jed Edelstein (‘21) recounts, “it was incredible to take a step back and look at all the little differences we made and how they added up to make a big impact.” Edelstein is also eager to work on future programs that involve the different construction skills that he acquired. “The look on Mr. Chambers’s [the homeowner] face,” he says “was priceless and it filled me with joy.”

The trip to Houston not only opened the students’ eyes to a different demographic of the United States but also opened their hearts to a new part of their souls. As Fania Pupko (‘21) declares, “I think people need to realize that helping others doesn’t take away from their personal lives. I believe that we are all interconnected, so doing something nice for someone who can’t do it for themselves will inspire them to help someone else in turn and continue the cycle, a domino effect.”

Blue House? Red House? White House.

Potential Candidates Warm Up for the 2020 Presidential Election

By Gabriella Wellman (’20)

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 3.03.04 PM
Photograph of the White House Exterior, Photo: Moriah Seymann (‘19)

With new presidential elections coming up in 2020, many Americans long for new Republican and Democratic candidates to emerge.  Particularly now, after the longest government shutdown in America’s history and the many other aberrations of the Trump administration, candidates from both parties are being pushed to enter the presidential race.

From the Democratic party hopeful, American citizens are hoping for Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Beto O’rourke, and former Vice President Joe Biden to take steps towards the oval office. On the opposing side, Republicans such as current President Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, and Governor John Kasich are being name-dropped for chief executive.

As of this writing, only two Democratic senators, Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), and Bernie Sanders (Vermont)  have formally announced their participation in the 2020 elections. Committed to reforming the government’s treatment of the middle class, Warren said, during a press conference about her candidacy, “I’m in this fight all the way.”

A recent CNN poll has shown that President Trump has a diminished chance of winning reelection. According to this poll, approximately 54% of Americans believe that Trump will lose the upcoming election in 2020.

“Although the economy is very strong now, there is arguably more downside than upside for Trump (voters have high expectations, but growth is more likely than not to slow a bit),” says electoral expert, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.

At the same time, it seems as though no other Republican candidates could defeat Trump during the primaries. “Other [Republican] candidates really don’t stand a chance against Trump at this point,” says San Diego Jewish Academy history teacher Dr. Carleton Cunningham, who adds, “It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump serving a second term.”

Especially after the prolonged government shutdown, many Americans have lost faith in the Trump administration. Mrs. Yvonne Webber, SDJA Judaic Studies teacher, says, “Under the current administration, I try to ignore politics. This way I can pretend the world is a happy place.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was also a front-running candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016 has, according to Silver, he has a 35% chance of entering the 2020 race. Ohio governor John Kasich, a weaker candidate from the 2016 election, was given an 80% chance of running.

From the SDJA perspective, Rebecca Datnow (‘20) says, “I believe that the current administration is destroying the progress that America has been making for a long time. It is time for something new, we need a Democrat in the office.”

This line of thinking reflects the opinion of many Americans who want to see a change in the form of new democratic leadership. Recent polls by CNN, conducted by SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services), showed Joe Biden in the lead with 30% of potential Democratic voters. With years of experience, in the Senate and as Vice President to former President Barack Obama, Biden has established his credibility and proven his ability to get the job done.  

With the presidential election still two years away, there is still time for new candidates to emerge. Candidates who are placed in the lead now by the polls will not necessarily end up as the party nominees on the ballots in November 2020. This is especially evident through polls from the 2o16 election which gave Hillary Clinton a 71.4% chance of winning the electoral votes, but when the last vote was cast, Donald Trump ended up in office.

Making History

Living in the Longest Government Shutdown

By Natalie Goldwasser (’22)

The record has been broken. The 35-day government shutdown was the longest in United States history. A government shutdown is a funding gap period in which there is a full or partial shutdown of government agencies. The citizens of the United States are now living in a time that will, one day, be considered an important part of history. In the future, textbooks will be opened to pages that will tell the story of the 21st shutdown, which commenced midnight of December 22, 2018, and ended January 25, 2019.

The shutdown began because of a dispute between Congress and the White House over government spending for 2019. The Trump Administration refused to sign any budget that didn’t contain $5.7 billion set aside for the construction of a wall along the southern border. “No wall, no deal,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

However, Congress has not yet ratified funding for the wall. The budget bill passed in the House of Representatives, but the Senate voted against it. Rosie Alchalel (‘21) says, “It is an issue that calls for a discussion between both [Congress and the White House]. They have to be in agreement before they make choices, but I don’t think it should be causing a disturbance in daily American lives.”

The Department of Defense and other government agencies had already obtained funding for the year to come, while the economic fates of the State department and Justice department were still unknown. Workers from government institutions that weren’t funded yet were furloughed, temporarily leaving them without pay.

Over 800,000 workers did not receive payments since December 22. Many people who struggle to pay their bills and live paycheck to paycheck were heavily affected by this. Some even resorted to selling their furniture on Craigslist to be able to pay their impending bills. 420,000 of those employees still continued to go to work, while no paychecks arrived in their mail. Fortunately, the Senate passed a bill which will repay many of the workers for money they didn’t receive during the shutdown.

Employees who were not allowed to work took the issue to the streets. People protested outside the White House, hoping to catch the President’s attention. President Trump also took the issue to the streets as he visited the border and talked about his plans to build a steel wall. Trump appeared on the news standing behind bags of money, drugs, and guns, to make the point that a wall is needed to stop the influx of such items. However, as reported, most of these things have been collected at legal ports of entry along the border.

“Either we’re going to win or make a compromise,” says President Trump. “Compromise is in my vocabulary very strongly. So either we’re going to have a win, make a compromise – because I think a compromise is a win for everybody- or I will declare a national emergency.” American citizens are being hurt by this matter, and so far there seems to be no Band-Aid to cover the wound.

It wasn’t until 35 days after the government had partially been shut down, that Congress and the White House reached an agreement. Currently, the government is funded for three weeks, until February 15. During this three week period of funding, Congress has tried to come up with an immigration policy acceptable to both parties, which will most likely not include all the money Trump wants for the wall. Trump has stated that if there is no money for the wall, then he will declare a national emergency or shutdown the government again.

“If Trump’s not willing to compromise, I won’t be surprised if he uses the nuclear option, and calls a state of emergency, but it will go straight to the courts and the courts will reject it,” says Dr. Carleton Cunningham who teaches AP Comparative Government at San Diego Jewish Academy. If Trump declares a national emergency, he will be able to bypass Congress and get the money for the wall. He has repeatedly announced that he will take that action if he deems it necessary, but such a move could greatly undermine his chances of being reelected.

“My gut instinct is that they won’t allow the government to shut down again,” says Dr. Cunningham. “I’d like to think that there is going to be enough pressure on Senate Republicans to persuade the President to make a deal for less money for the wall than he asked for. I don’t think Democrats are going to give much, if any, on a wall.”

Fear of what is yet to come hangs over the country. Will it be the wall, another government shutdown, or the end of this battle? 

Making it Easier to Discover Great Books

By Ana Gerson (‘21)   

Students walking along the upper deck at MUS recently might have noticed some of their friends sitting on the floor in the former Learning Center, sorting through boxes overflowing with hundreds of books, and wondered just what they were doing.

The answer lies with Mrs. Sara Hansen, English teacher and Humanities Department Chair at San Diego Jewish Academy. Last September Mrs. Hansen decided to organize a new book room so that high school students can have access to a broader range of books. “I’m really excited,” she says, “I think it’s going to be a great project.”

So far, Mrs. Hansen has organized several meetings about this book room. During the first few meetings, students brainstormed answers to her question about how to use “the space to create and encourage opportunities for students to interact with words and books.” For this purpose, they created an idea wall where they wrote down even their craziest ideas for the room.

Screen Shot 2019-02-06 at 3.09.56 PM
Idea Board for Book Room  Photo: Ana Gerson

Students involved briefly discussed the free library model, and Mrs. Hansen loved the idea. “We could do a free library thing out front,” she suggested. She also thought it might be a good idea to have the kids exchange a book they had previously read with one they wanted to read.

Sophomore Kayla Swartzberg (‘21) suggested that the first step should be deciding what type of books they want. Mrs. Hansen told the students that a lot of books were left over from when the school’s old library shut down. “We have to start having the boxes delivered and go through them,” she said.

The first four boxes got to the room about a week after that meeting. The students set up places around the room and assigned them each a category for organizing books. Natalie Goldwasser (‘22) suggested they dedicate a whole corner to classics. “We are going to need a lot of room for those,” she said. The boxes were sorted quickly. The big pile of books that wouldn’t be appreciated in the book room was packed back into a box that will be donated to literacy groups in the area. Friday, October 26 saw more boxes being delivered for students to sort.

This library will positively impact the culture of SDJA. Having a space full of books will encourage people to read, and to tell their friends to read as well. The dream is that the number of SDJA students who are currently reading a book outside of class should grow exponentially. When asked about her thoughts on this new library, Mrs. Hansen says, “I think that every school should have a space where students are invited to read.”

Kayla Swartzberg and fellow sophomore Geena Benson (‘21), hope “to have the room done by the end of this school year.” Swartzberg feels that “once we have the room done, it will speak for itself. People will come here to read and hang out and have fun.”

The next meeting about this exciting project will be held on Friday, February 8 at lunch in Room F206. Anyone interested in being a part of this project should feel free to attend and contribute their ideas about how to make it easier to discover great books.