Lions Under Quarantine

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC BY MEMBERS OF THE LIONS’ DEN, THE SAN DIEGO JEWISH ACADEMY STUDENT NEWSPAPER

In_a_field_Hospital_on_the_Tugela_River

In a field hospital on the Tugela River, South Africa, 1900. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19: NO FAIRY TALE

By Gaby Wellman (‘20)

March 19, 2020

We are living in a fairy tale. We are living through, or living in fear of, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When we think of a fairy tale, we think of a happily-ever-after ending. Snow White receives a true love’s kiss from Prince Florian, Ariel finds her voice, Pinocchio turns into a real boy–the list goes on. As kids, these fairy-tale movies gave us dreams and hopes for our own happily ever after. But, the reason that these happy endings have such a great effect, is because of all the tension, drama, and destruction that precedes them.

We tend to look back at princess stories and remember only the best parts, the ones that made us laugh or smile, and we forget all the moments we begged our parents to fast forward through or the scenes that made us cover our eyes.

We are living in a fairy tale. We are living in the part of the story we wish could be erased. We are experiencing the rising tension, the climax of the story.

Right now, it seems like COVID-19 is ruining our lives. Has the annual SDJA senior trip to Poland and Israel been cancelled? Yes. Have Ken and Tzofim activities been suspended? Yes. Has the school campus been shut down with classes swapped for virtual learning? Yes. 

 Is this a difficult, unwarranted situation? Yes. It is, and there is no shame in having doubts, fears, or emotions about it. In an email to the senior class, Mr. Chaim Heller, San Diego Jewish Academy’s Head of School, wrote: “You get to be disappointed, you get to be angry, and you get to be flat out really bummed about this.” However, we shouldn’t get stuck in this negative spiral. We can have hope that, soon enough, we will get the happy ending that is to come. And while our happy ending might not necessarily mean returning to the way things were before, we can hope that a better, healthier alternative will arise from this situation. 

We are living in a fairy tale. We are living in the gut-wrenching, terrifying height of the story, but we are also living in the storm before the calm.

Almost overnight, our familiar routines have been ripped to shreds.  For the time being, at least, we don’t even have to get out of bed to go to school. Change is always a daunting idea, but a necessary one at that. 

We have suddenly had to face this harsh reality of social distancing and worldwide pandemic, but in this situation that has been forced upon us, we have a choice: to have self pity or to have hope and strength. 

 I urge you to choose the latter. Yes, fairy tales tend to have a happy ending, but this happily ever after doesn’t happen magically or on its own. It takes one character to stand up against all the negativity and choose to be hopeful to create the happy ending we so desire. It takes a Jack to climb up the beanstalk or a princess to admit that a tiny, little pea kept her up all night—we need to have the courage to make the necessary changes so that, in the end, all of the pieces can fall into place. 

We are living a fairy tale. We are living a fairy tale whose ending has not yet been determined. Certainly, the outcome of COVID-19 will not involve a knight in shining armor, ready to save the day, but, instead, it could result in economic prosperity, an increase in environmental awareness, and, surely, a more advanced medical field. 

The truth is, of course, that this is no fairy tale–it’s an unfortunate, unprecedented reality.  In fairy tales people are not issued mandatory “stay-at-home” orders or face a shortage of Coronavirus tests or ICU beds. In fairy tales a pandemic does not affect over 245,000 people, kill more than 10,000, and even then continue to spread. In fairy tales, the whole world does not face quarantine. But this does not mean that we cannot hope that something good will eventually come from such a calamity.

The COVID-19 story may, sooner or later, have its happily-ever-after ending but in the meantime choose to be the person who has hope that the ice will thaw, that Sleeping Beauty will wake up, and that the frog will turn back into a prince.

The Majestic Art Works of SDJA

A campus tour of the artistic works that brighten our campus with vibrant radiance and mystic Jewish values.

By Brannigan Stone *

For thousands of years, humans have been expressing themselves and drawing from their environment through art. This human characteristic has been passed down for generations, eventually lending itself to the San Diego Jewish Academy Community. With this creative outlet, our community has been able to create beautiful works of art for the school campus, placing an emphasis on what it means to be Jewish.

The Foot

SDJA Foot

A statue of a large foot, located in the Golda Meir lower school, shows the foot in mid-step. This stepping action signifies the families who took a chance, leaving their native countries to settle in San Diego. This sculpture showcases the bravery these families demonstrated as it is a life changing move to leave behind everything one knows in their old life, and take up one that is new and foreign. The foot was originally designed and sculpted by José Sacal. He titled his work First Step, and intended the piece to be surrounded by sharp and rugged rocks to show the difficulty of making the first step as an immigrant to a new country. San Diego was the symbolism for that new country where immigrants from Canada, Mexico, South Africa, and Israeli settled. However, the school opted to replace the rocks with something gentler, grass and flowers and smooth stones being more appropriate to the elementary school setting. According to SDJA Head of School, Chaim Heller, “It doesn’t change the message of the step onto new soil for immigrants, but it doesn’t have the same association with the tragedy, pain, and suffering.” 

Levana’s Garden

Levana's Garden Gate

Nature, although mysterious, is a beauty that cannot go unacknowledged, especially for its artistic finesse. In the hopes of seeking this beauty on our campus, one should look no further than Levana’s Garden, across from our middle school quad. This garden doesn’t just have history, but a spiritual presence that gives its visitors a sense of well being upon entering through its decorated gates. 

Upon entry, one sets out on a mystical journey with rainbow turtles, beautiful matriarchs, and symbolic quotes. With each step, they are a witness to the beauty of nature, and all of its facets. 

The Four Matriarchs 

Four Matriarchs

Within sight distance of The Foot, near the entrance to Levana’s Garden, the Four Matriarchs of Judaism stand in commemoration of the four matriarchs of the Torah. These include Sarah, Rachael, Rebekah, and Leah, showcasing the communal aspect of our community, as well as our journey and the survival of the Jewish people. The communal aspect is symbolized in the giving of the water portrayed by the matriarchs and how much of a role women play in nourishing our community. 

Trash Cans 

Trash Cans

The trash cans in the Maimonides Upper School used to serve solely as the dumping grounds for trash and lunchtime leftovers. These waste containers were given little thought until SDJA art teacher Elizabeth Nebo got the idea that they might become something more than that. She saw the surface of the bins as a canvas, rather than an ordinary facility unit. Ms. Nebo, with the help of her students, busted out the paint and brushes, and got to work. This installation has inspired positive feedback from the student body, including Nathaniel Manner, who admires the “different colors and vibrancy they bring to our campus.””

The Butterflies 

Butterflies

The entire SDJA campus – from the walls of the administration building to the Upper School office is adorned with butterflies. Each butterfly signifies a child killed during the Holocaust. These butterflies were created and painted by members of the San Diego community, and symbolize a project that is greater than just the SDJA community, one that includes other Jewish schools and communities. The idea for the butterfly project came from a film called Paperclip, and it spread to becoming butterflies that decorate our campus. The butterflies are some of the most popular decorations among the high school students and teachers, with Brendan Marx (’22) and Mark Zaga (’21) appreciating “all the pretty colors, and the positive essence the butterflies bring to our campus to remind us of the fallen children of the Holocaust.” 

The Menorah 

SDJA Menorah

The Menorah is one the most popular defining symbols of Judaism. Its 6 distinctive branches, and middle shammash, are symbolic parts of the piece representing Jewish life. As a Jewish school, the San Diego Jewish Academy built this piece to represent our progress and Jewish identity. We began this process as one of five Jewish schools that participated in a project called Jewish Day School 2000. The idea of this program was to figure out what the future of Jewish schools would be like. At the time, the schools involved, including SDJA, vowed to create a high school as they were all K-8 schools at the time. To commemorate this dream, the schools each constructed their own sculptures with the Jewish Academy creating a menorah. 

Just as the menorah commemorates this idea of Jewish progress, we ourselves can look towards the artworks on our campus, and appreciate them for their Jewish influences. widening our view by admiring their details as we migrate back towards our spiritual roots. 

* All artworks photos by Brannigan Stone (’21)

Who Wants to be Princess?

Harry and Megahn’s Royal Exit

By Kayla Swartzberg (‘21)

Harry and Meghan (1)

Meghan (left) and Harry (right) stand together on January 19, 2018 (Public Domain).

“I’ll do it,” Mr. David Sered announced to his audience of one on a cloudy afternoon. He would gladly trade places with the newly dubbed Duchess of Sussex and wife of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle. Picture it: Dave Sered—currently a high-school history teacher—strutting down the aisle to meet his much-deserved royal destiny of fortune, fantasy, and fervent fame. 

“I would love to be a princess,” Sered reiterated. And—like in many royal fairy tales—his wish may come true.

Indeed, for both Harry and Meghan have decided to “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family… becom[ing] financially independent,” as the couple wrote in an Instagram post on January 8, 2020. They plan to spend their time in both the United Kingdom and in North America. While the royal newlyweds make a point of mentioning their unwavering honor to the The Queen, Harry and Meghan stand strong in their decision to create space between them and the royal regime. 

Dr. Carleton Cunningham, San Diego Jewish Academy’s AP Art History and AP Government teacher, felt “shocked” when hearing the news. He explained that while he “heard that there was dissatisfaction from Meghan and Harry about the way they were being treated by the British press,” he was still stunned at their so-called “extreme measure.”

“They are prominent royals who are part of the inner core of the royal family. The idea that they would decide to not take on major royal responsibilities was a surprise for me. Also, it was surprising that Harry would do something that would cause a rift between himself and the royal family,” Cunningham said.

“If you’re going to marry a prince, you’ve got to be a princess,” Sered adds.

Sered as Princess

Mr. David Sered enjoys his newfound power as princess. Photo: Kayla Swartzberg (‘21)

In addition to SDJA teachers, young American subjects are royally stumped by the whole conundrum. Josh Miller (‘21) says he is a “little confused” as to why Meghan and Harry have decided to separate. But, he continues, “they are independent and can make their own decisions.” Miller speaks personally when he remarks, “[I] would do what I knew was best for me.” Similarly, Rikki Dorfan (‘22) says she would “do what makes me happy.” Both Dorfan’s and Miller’s views on the matter most likely stem from their beliefs in American ideals—most notably the belief in freedom.

Ron Gneezy (‘21) sympathizes, “It’s a complicated situation, really. I think back to Diana, and how her fame is what got her killed.”

Prince Harry’s mother, Diana, died at the young age of 36, only one year older than Harry now. The beautiful “People’s Princess” was tragically killed in a car accident in Paris in August, 1997, likely due to the swarm of paparazzi aggressively pursuing her car.

Cunningham points out that “Harry is seeing playout again in the context of his own marriage and directed at his own wife. In a country with a free-press, you can’t control them, directly. So how can you change the perception?”

For one, Meghan Markle has become a verb for “to value yourself and mental health enough to up and leave an environment in which your authentic self is not wanted.” Harry and Meghan are receiving praise for their actions, for paving the way for change, and—as some would say— for valuing each other (and their adorable son, Archie!) over the pressing public, and the public press.

So, regardless of whether the royal Prince and Princess are ruthless rebels or radiant revolutionaries, one thing remains true: Sered wishes to take over for them.

Super Tuesday? Or Super Fiasco?

AIPAC holds annual policy conference at the height of the Democratic primaries 

By Gabriela Wellman (‘20)

AIPAC 2020 (1)

AIPAC attendees take their seats before the General Sessions screens.  Photo: Gabriela Wellman (‘20)

Election years are notorious for their heated debates and ever-changing polls; especially infamous are the neck-in-neck primaries as candidates fight to win their party’s nomination. 

Every four years, presidential hopefuls travel all across the country trying to swing votes in their direction in each state’s primary or caucus. However, the be-all and end-all of the election year’s national convention stage omes in early March: Super Tuesday. 

Super Tuesday is the date when primaries are held in 14 states including California, Texas, Massachusetts, Alabama, and Virginia among others, accounting for over one third of the total delegate votes. In preparation for this critical date, candidates focus all of their energy on conquering the hearts and minds, and votes, of states’ residents. 

The importance surrounding Super Tuesday is well known among politically-minded groups, so why, then, did AIPAC schedule its annual policy conference for 2020 to coincide with the same date? Was it a political statement? An error in scheduling? Whatever the reason, the high-hopes held for AIPAC 2020 quickly plummeted. 

At AIPAC 2020, attendees represented all 50 states, both political parties, and many schools and universities across the nation, including San Diego Jewish Academy. 

“It was kind of disappointing that the presidential candidates couldn’t come because of the primaries. I thought since it’s an election  year, this was one of the best years to attend the conference,” Daniela Surpin (‘21) said after the first general session on Sunday morning. 

Bibi Netanyahu (March 2020)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via live video feed during the AIPAC Afternoon General Session on Sunday, March 1, 2020. Photo: Gabriela Wellman (‘20). 

Democratic front runner Joe Biden, as well as recent dropouts Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobucar, publically opted to skip the conference. However, they later decided to submit  prerecorded video messages to be played at the general sessions. (Buttigieg’s video, for some reason, was never shown). Elizabeth Warren also decided not to attend the conference but made no official statement. 

Bernie Sanders, Biden’s main opponent for the nomination, vocally refused to attend the conference, tweeting that he “remains concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” Sanders’ statement sparked outrage from many AIPAC supporters. 

AIPAC’s public response criticized Sander’s position, saying, “by engaging in such an odious attack on the mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel. Truly shameful.” Additionally, in a live video feed, Prime Minister Netanyahu shamed Sanders by speaking out against his “libelous” accusations.

The only Democratic candidate who was in attendance was Michael Bloomberg. Speaking out against Senator Sanders’ decision to openly reject AIPAC for 30 consecutive years, Bloomberg shouted, “Let me tell you, he is dead wrong!” 

 

AIPAC 2020 - Bloomberg

Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg addresses the crowd live during the Morning General Session on Monday, March 2, 2020. Photo: Gabriella Surpin (‘19).

Despite the negative commentary from, and about, the Democratic candidates surrounding the event, and, specifically, its chosen date, the conference managed to amaze its attendees. “Even though the political candidates were unable to attend, it was still an amazing experience,” enthused Ilan Leisorek (‘20). “I loved learning about the way Israel is moving forward technologically and developing products that can help every country around the world.”

SDJA alumnus Sharon Cohen (‘18) reflected, “It was empowering to see world politicians, including the President of the Republic of Serbia and the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, pledge their allegiance to Israel and promise to take steps towards furthering their relationship with the Jewish state. Just to have the opportunity to see Republicans and Democrats all in one room, supporting one cause, was beyond incredible.”

Throughout the conference, speakers stressed the importance of standing behind Israel and supporting the mutually beneficial relationship between Israel and the United States. The speakers, of all races, ages, and political affiliations, continuously criticized those who spoke out against AIPAC and demonstrated, time and time again, that the institution, founded in 1963, is anything but prejudiced. 

Some speakers even dared to call critics unpatriotic. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said, “We need to understand that patriotism is a love of country, and you cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and women.”

So, super fiasco? Definitely not. 

AIPAC exceeded all expectations and showed its attendees that even in the face of criticism and hatred the American-Israeli alliance will rise above. 

 

1917, or: The Great War Against Repetition

Director Sam Mendes creates a stunning retelling of events in WWI – elevated to untold heights by its crew

Movie Review by Ron Gneezy (‘21)

In recent years, as film-making technology has grown exponentially in quality — both in restoring old footage and in creating stunning new imagery — recreations of the Great War have begun to seem as numerous as the Westerns of old. Yet even in this ever-filling pool of blood, discarded shells, and dust of the trenches, Sam Mendes’s 1917 manages to swim to the top.

The sight of the trenches, the horrors of mustard gas, and the hail of machine-gun fire, while all harrowing images, are now known by people throughout the world through innumerable films, documentaries and mini-series. Mendes, however, has created a new story, drawing on war stories told to him by his grandfather to create a wholly new journey which, while not 100% faithful to any one story from the war, weaves a stunning image of the bravery, valor, and persistence displayed by so many dedicated soldiers on both sides.

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes, director and writer of 1917, who was inspired by his grandfather’s stories of the Great War

1917’s greatest trait is one that cannot be understood without actually watching the movie, and is what won it the illustrious Academy Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography: the movie is shot in such a way that, if the viewer isn’t paying too much attention, it seems to all be composed of two very long shots.

The genius of cinematographer Roger Deakins shines through in a way seen in very few movies before — the most recent successful example being 2014’s Birdman. He has managed to make each shot flow into the next so that the cut is hidden behind natural elements of the scene — be it a spin around a soldier’s legs, the jostle of a backpack, or the walls of a trench. By the end of the film, the viewer feels as though they have been exhausted by the same trek to the new German front made by the film’s protagonist.

Roger Deakins

Roger Deakins, cinematographer for 1917, winner of the 2020 Academy Award for Achievement in Cinematography

George MacKay’s Lance Corporal Schofield is the prototypical model of the British soldier in WWI — for better and for worse. He values his nation above all else, and sees his mission only as saving as many British soldiers as possible, no matter the cost. While this yields great heroic moments where he charges over the walls of the trenches just to deliver his orders, it also leads to a harrowing scene where, to keep the enemy from being alerted to his presence, he has to smother a young German soldier, slowly suffocating him to at least the point of unconsciousness, if not death.

Mendes’s meticulously crafted storyline displays, above all else, the horrors of war — officers sending soldiers to their deaths by the hundreds for the sake of the fight, a pilot fighting to his last breath simply to kill an enemy, and seeing one’s brothers-in-arms die in their arms. Mendes’ achievement is that he has created a unique, top-quality story of the Great War, while never glorifying these sorts of bloody conflicts.

 

Dynamic Duos 

SDJA celebrates the bond between teachers and students 

By Madeline Ramirez (‘21) and Sammi Weiss (‘23)

While every high school seems to have its share of the stereotypical jocks, nerds, popular kids, and loners, San Diego Jewish Academy is different: there is something here that goes deeper than just superficial names. We have dynamic duos which consist of students and faculty members. 

One dynamic duo was sculpted in the ceramics classroom. Senior Tali Eichner (‘20) and her art teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Nebo, have been close friends for nearly two years—ever since Eichner first stepped into the earthy-smelling, clay-filled classroom. 

Despite the difficulties of creating art pieces, Eichner feels she has Ms. Nebo to lean on, like an easel. “I went to pod to ask questions and made a continuous effort to get better at ceramics,” Tali says. Ms. Nebo was always there to answer her questions, help her with technique, and develop her skills. “That’s when it all started,” Ms. Nebo says. 

Tali Eichner and Ms. Nebo

Tali Eichner (‘20) and Ms. Elizabeth Nebo laugh together outside the Ceramics classroom.

From then on, their friendship evolved into lunch dates in Nebo’s classroom, talking about the most miscellaneous and heartfelt things, including family, college, classes, and food. Ms. Nebo, a new teacher at the time, was able to feel welcomed by having a student look up to her as a mentor. “We started bonding over projects in class, then it progressed to our families,” says Ms. Nebo. Every day Tali would walk into Ms. Nebo’s classroom just to talk, even if she only had a couple minutes. 

Another friendship blossomed three years ago when Rosie Alchalel (‘21) was in Mrs. Annie Watt’s 8th grade advisory. Alchalel, now an outgoing junior, caught Mrs. Watt’s attention. They began to develop a friendship that lasted through the ups and downs of their lives. 

“[Rosie] demanded more attention than other students,” Mrs. Watt explains. Watt goes on to explain that Alchalel was eager to come in during breaks in her day to check in with Mrs. Watt about everything; college applications, school life, advice, and personal drama. 

Rosie & Mrs. Watt

Mrs. Annie Watt and Rosie Achalel (‘21) pause from their busy schedules. 

Mrs. Watt provided Alchalel with an experienced outlook on life, as well as advice that her student friends couldn’t provide for her. 

Rosie says their friendship works so well because “she is really understanding and provides an older perspective. I’m the opposite.” Having this different point of view helped Rosie paint a different picture of life. 

From Yearbook picture deadlines to the stress of leadership roles, senior Gali Laska (‘20) sparked a friendship with Mrs. Yvonne Webber. The sparks ignited when Mrs. Webber was Laska’s 7th grade Judaica teacher. As the years progressed, so did their friendship. 

Mrs. Webber describes their friendship as ecstatic and stress-free. “[We] share the stresses of being in charge of people who aren’t doing their assignments,” she says. The excitement of creating SDJA’s unique yearbook, The Roar, makes them proud to share it with everyone. 

 

Gali & Mrs. Webber

Gali Laska (‘20) and Mrs. Yvonne Webber run the yearbook with smiling faces.

Laska and Mrs. Webber share a smile almost every class. Whether it’s about something personal, or the mistakes the yearbook staff make, they always share that smile. 

Gali explains that their friendship works so well because “She is always just there.” No matter what is going on or how busy they are, they always find time to just talk, listen, and reflect on their days. Good or bad news, their ears are always open to listen to whatever the other one needs to discuss. 

All of these dynamic duos work well because of their similarities, experiences, and passions. Whether it’s the love of art, the stress of leadership, or the everyday check-ins, they have all found the one person at SDJA with whom they can connect on a deeper level. And as the years pass, both students and teachers will always have their memories to reflect upon and celebrate.

 

The Real Value of College Admission

Colleges’ True Colors Finally Revealed After Admissions Scandal Shakes Public

Ariela Cohen (‘21)

For decades, a student’s SAT or ACT scores and GPA have been two of the principal ways for universities to decide which students to admit to their incoming class. 

As the college application and admission season comes and goes, students across the nation take standardized tests, often devoting several hours each week to preparation. “From the summer before junior year, until June at the end of the year, I would spend at least four hours a week studying for the test,” Gabriela Wellman (‘20) comments.

 

Rosie Alchalel & Victoria Cohen with College Sweatshirts

Rosie Alchalel (‘21) (left) and Victoria Cohen (‘20) (right) rock their dream college hoodies! Photograph Ariela Cohen (‘21)

Most students agree that the pressure these tests inflict on students is brutal. Why? College admissions have typically placed a lot of importance on an applicant’s test results. These results, in combination with the students’ GPA, have often meant the difference between being admitted or denied at a certain school.

“It is very nerve wracking having to take these tests because there is a lot of pressure from colleges, especially the more competitive ones, to have a high score,” Ella Diamond (‘20) admits.

However, since March 12, 2019, when a bribery scandal perpetrated by college counselor Rick Singer was brought to light, the entire college admission process has faced endless criticismespecially greater importance being placed on scores than on an applicant’s character. 

The most notable individual involved with the college bribery scandal so far has been actress Lori Loughlin, famous for her portrayal of Aunt Becky from Full House. Loughlin pleaded not guilty to the charges, which accused her of paying to get both of her daughters a false credential as rowing athletes as well as inflated test scores. Although the family decided to pay half-a-million dollars to Singer, the real cost might be a trip to jail.

Asked to identify the culprit of these scandals, Mr. Steve Khan, San Diego Jewish Academy college counselor, had this to say: “Fear. Parents are afraid of the unknown. So they turned to Singer because he promised them to take care of their worry and turn it into admittance.”

Students among the SDJA community have discussed the immorality of the college admissions process, especially the advantage that seems to exist for the upper class. “It is ridiculous for someone to get into college through the help of money and bribery,” Natalie Lombrozo (‘20) commented. Indeed, many people across the country have begun to wonder how a person could find fulfillment and satisfaction through this transgression.

Despite the negativity that the scandal has caused, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel: change. For starters, the ACT has added new advantages to their way of testing. Starting in September of 2020, scoring higher on the ACT will be much easier for students across the country as they will be able to retake each section (English, Math, Reading and Science) individually. In addition to this, students will be given the option to take the test on a computer at a testing center, yielding automatic results. 

Many people realize that the Loughlin-Singer incident is not an isolated problem, and while there have been many illegal and unfair situations regarding college acceptance, more facts about this scandal have become known. People are beginning to learn the consequences of taking such actions when applying to college, but as college admissions keep getting more competitive, we are left to question if these types of scandals will ever come to an end?