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.”

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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)

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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.

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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.

More Than Football

A look at how the SDJA community rallied behind the Lions following the Pittsburgh tragedy

By Joseph Vilenski (’19)

“They’ve got their guy! We’ve got ours!” said Mr. Larry Cobb, San Diego Jewish Academy bus driver, as he held up a Moses action figure. On November 10, 2018, the SDJA football team, for the first time in eleven years, was on the way to their playoff game against their longtime rivals, the Calvin Christian Crusaders. The Lions, having lost to Calvin earlier in the year, were on the prowl. Cornerbacks sniffed out screens and defensive tackles scarfed down inside runs. Ruben Veinbergs (‘19), Quarterback, hunted down the opposing corners, while Moi Kanarek’s (‘20) shifty moves left the crusader linebackers tackling thin air.

Larry Cobb’s Action Figure Photo: Joseph Vilenski (‘19)

SDJA took an early lead against Calvin Christian at the half. However, it was the Crusaders turn to run up the scoreboard. By the mid-fourth quarter, they had almost completed their astounding comeback with the score being 30-36. With a few minutes still left on the board, it was 4th and 2. Lion’s ball. A first down iced the victory.  SDJA star running back Moi Kanarek (‘20) recalls how he groaned in pain before the next play. Battered and bruised, he fumbled the ball after a 15-yard 1st down run, which gave Calvin a shot to tie the game up in the remaining seconds. However, the defense stepped up and assured the win after an offensive pass interference call against Calvin. “It felt like the end,” Kanarek says now. “It felt like the end of our season. It felt horrible because we had made it so far,” he said, concluding that “it was probably one of the best days and the worst days of my life.”


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The following week, on November 12th,  the Lions played a tough game against the Foothills Christian Knights, but unfortunately came up short of winning the championship. The stands showed unwavering support for the Lions down to the end. Despite the loss, the 2019 SDJA football team brought the community together like no other. Gabriel Simpser (‘21) described it as a “privilege to belong to such a close group that accomplished so much and made history.” The following Monday, in the 3A Hebrew 8 class, Morah Yedid expressed what the playoff run truly meant to her and the school. “Yosef (Joseph Vilenski (‘19), Defensive Lineman) and Yoshua (Josh Nachassi (‘19), Linebacker), please stand up… Never in all my years at this school, have I seen the school community so united,” said Moriah Yedid. “Yes, I was cold the whole time and I don’t understand football, but I want to congratulate you guys for making it so far and for showing people what SDJA really stands for,” she continued.


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Around 200 people from the community showed up to see the Lions play. Teachers, students, alumni, parents, relatives, and even Rabbi Ezagui from Chabad La Jolla and members of his congregation all gathered to watch the Lions play. Jack Hanlon (‘21), O-lineman on the team, described the energy at the game as “electric.” Whenever the Lions would make a play, or gain momentum, the crowd would let out a deafening roar. The occasional “Let’s go Lions!” would boost the player’s spirits tenfold. Josh Barforough (‘19) felt that “the game brought us together as a community… it did mean something to me”.

Lions crowd showing support Photo: Sally Eichner

A week prior to the final, Rabbi Ezagui himself visited the SDJA campus give the football team a blessing. The Rabbi handed each player a Kippah to wear under their helmets as a sign of their faith. “Listen, the Jews, the Maccabees, were winners, and so you guys will be winners as well,” said Rabbi Ezagui. “Even if the score is not in your favor, making it this far is winning the respect and admiration from the rest of San Diego. You guys are proving your strength in the wake of an atrocious event done to the Jewish people.”

The event that Rabbi Ezagui was referring to was the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA on October 27, 2018. This baseless act of hatred left Jewish communities all over the United States reeling. The players, the audience, and even the opponents had similar feelings. Before the game against Calvin Christian, the Crusaders held a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives. Kicker, Eitan Breziner (‘20), Quarterback, Ruben Veinbergs (‘19), and a plethora of other players wrote down the names of the victims, the word “Pittsburgh,” and a Jewish star on their wrist tape to show their support. Moi Kanarek (‘20) said that it felt amazing to be able to represent the Jewish community through football.


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Moi’s father, Bernardo Kanarek, nicknamed Patusi, shared the team’s sentiment to play for Pittsburgh. Patusi purchased over 100 shirts that said “Stronger than Hate,” the national slogan in support of the victims, for the crowd to wear during the game. Kanarek also bought wristbands with the same slogan for the players to wear during their final game. “This game changed the school,” said Josh Barforough (‘19) “It definitely made us feel all together and people had their Pittsburgh shirts too. It was good for us a Jewish community to get together.”

Lions celebrating their victory Photo: Sally Eichner

For the Lions, football became more than a game. It became an opportunity to represent their people after the tragedy in Pittsburgh. “Play for that J on your chest,” was the phrase Joseph Vilenski (‘19) said before both games. As one of the captains, he wanted the team to play for something bigger than themselves. That meant to show the world that even after a horrific event done against the Jewish people, like the shooting in Pittsburgh, the team will stand united as a brotherhood, a family. The pride felt by the Lions for who they were made them realize that these games had a deeper meaning. After the win versus the Crusaders, captain, Isaac Rosen approached Vilenski and said “I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but there was something more to that game. Something more than football.”

New School Year, New Me

Updates in School’s Schedule Changes Students

By Ariela Cohen (‘21)

A sea of San Diego Jewish Academy students smiled from ear to ear as soon as they received the news of the permanent late start. “This past year I got so much homework and had so many activities outside of school,” Alex Waiss (‘21) states, “however, now with school starting at 8:20 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. it helped me have a better experience at school.” This year SDJA implemented various changes which have created a better, fresher, and easier environment to successfully progress through the Maimonides Upper School. Mrs. Hansen, a humanities teacher, is enjoying the new schedule, saying “I just want my students to be happy.”

Samantha Veinbergs (‘21) also likes the new schedule. “I feel refreshed and more awake during my classes,” she said. “I know that it’s only twenty minutes, but it’s more than you think!” The additional time is helping students focus in their classes as well as be better organized. Ana Gerson (‘21) added, “I don’t understand how the seniors and juniors went through sophomore year without this extra time.”

Students aren’t the only ones that enjoy the later starts. Mrs. Hansen states, “It has enabled a calmer start to the day and it also seems like the days are less frantic.”

Another change the school made was taking a few minutes off of Minyan. Maiya Hirshhorn (‘20) explained, “Last year I felt like it was too long. As it would come close to the end of Minyan, I could tell students were dozing off. It’s a change the school certainly needed and I’m glad they made it.”



      Photo: Nicole Dondisch (‘21)              Photo: Ariela Cohen (‘21) 

However, not all these changes left every student feeling happier to be at school. To accommodate for the late start, there are now three POD periods a week rather than four. This upset many students, who complained about not having enough time to meet with teachers or get work done. “Most students are complaining about the new POD schedule,” Kelsey Grolman (‘21) commented. “At the beginning, I didn’t like it either,” she says. “However, now I think that this year, with these POD limitations, I have learned how to manage my time better.” Parker Goodman (‘21) agrees. He doesn’t like the schedule because, “If you have a test on Tuesday, you have to ask teachers questions on Thursday the previous week.”

Overall, the changes to the daily routine have helped students have a better school experience. Shaye Youngleson (‘20) comments that it has been “a new school year, and a new me.”

The Golden Rule of Deaf Culture

How The Hearing-Impaired Are Treated vs. How They Should be

By Ariela Moel (’22)

San Diego Jewish Academy student Rena Novom (‘22) sits in Mrs. Hansen’s classroom during POD talking to her computer screen. However, there is no sound coming from her mouth. But how? Through an online class with Brigham Young University, made accessible by SDJA, Novom has been able to spend her first semester as a freshman studying American Sign Language (ASL), a language carefully crafted for English-speaking deaf people in North America. “Learning a unique language that isn’t spoken through verbal words has been incredible,” says Novom, who enjoys communicating in ASL with her online instructor.

People who are hard of hearing or fully deaf often struggle with the way society treats them. At a restaurant, for instance, people often talk slower and with more emphasis when they learn that someone is deaf. Because of this treatment, some deaf people try to hide the fact that they cannot hear.

“ASL” in sign language executed by Natalie Goldwasser (‘22) and Ella Diamond (‘20) Photo: Ariela Moel (’22)

Despite some common misconceptions about whether or not deafness impairs normal, everyday abilities, such as driving, research from the University of Sheffield shows that deaf people from ages above 15 have 20% better peripheral vision than those who are not deaf, making them more aware of their surroundings. In addition, when licensed to drive, they are supplied with alert systems in their cars for the situations when ambulances need to pass by. Although research supports their abilities, deaf people have had to fight for their right to drive their whole lives.

Many hearing people feel pity for deaf children, but why? Jimmy Cohen (‘22) feels sympathy for people who are hard of hearing “because they can’t hear, obviously.” But many are unaware that some deaf people actually appreciate their difference and express a well-known pride in their linguistic culture since it has helped form them into the people they are today.  

To feel more comfortable, some deaf people go to clubs designed for people like themselves. Most SDJA students interviewed for this article were unaware that such places exist. However, deaf clubs are not hard to find in the San Diego area. One is even as close as UCSD. Eliza Kolmanovsky from the UCSD ASL Club stated that the club is open for anyone—ASL-speaking, deaf, or hard of hearing. The club meets for weekly hangouts which include “Silent Game Nights.” These events provide an environment where San Diegans—hearing impaired or not—can join together as a community. “Anyone interested is welcome to come,” Kolmanovsky states. “Once a quarter, we try to organize ASL performance nights or invite deaf panelists.” Deaf clubs are a very important part of deaf culture because they allow deaf students and people to communicate and have fun together.

Some people might incorrectly assume that the only language for the hard of hearing is ASL.  “I only know ASL exists, I’ve never thought of other countries using sign language in a different way,” said Talia Abu (‘22). In fact, there are over 200 different sign languages around the world. People in China, Israel, Argentina, and Japan all communicate using their own unique sign languages. Some believe that a universal sign language would unite the deaf community, however, there are those who contend that such a language would eliminate the enjoyable cultural learning experience that different sign languages provide.

Deaf people can do most things that hearing people can. By knowing and understanding deaf culture, it is easier to know how deaf people appreciate being treated. The few aspects that have been mentioned are only a small part of deaf culture, but knowing the basics is vital. According to OCDeaf, an organization for the hearing impaired based in Orange County, there are over 3 million deaf people in California alone. Given this fact, SDJA students need to be aware of how to appropriately treat their deaf neighbors.

Lions Weigh In on Duck Boat Danger

By Dalia Benson (‘19)

In the last 20 years, 41 people in the United States and Canada alone have died while riding duck boats. Many of these vessels sunk during storms, while others crashed on the road because of their low land speeds and large blind spots.

On July 19, 2018, a duck boat sank on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri. The vessel, which carried 31 people, capsized during a storm with high winds. Unfortunately, 17 people died due to their not so fun day on the lake.

What do duck boats have to do with Jewish Lions from San Diego? On some school trips, San Diego Jewish Academy students and teachers have ridden these duck boats as a form of entertainment and tourism. Who knew that these vessels were also potentially dangerous?

In 2017, the current senior class traveled to Washington D.C. on their 11th-grade student trip. There, students explored parts of the nation’s capital on a duck boat tour with the company D.C. Duck Tours. When asked about their experience, many students said that they felt quite secure while aboard. Josh Nachassi (‘19) remarked, “I don’t think these boats are at all dangerous,” and Annabelle Simble (‘19) agrees. “I felt safe,” she says. “They have been running a long time, and they have the engineering to make them safe.”

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Class of 2019 riding on a duck boat during their Washington D.C. trip last year. Photo: Moriah Seymann (‘19)

Duck boats were originally designed as transportation for amphibious units in World War II.  Nowadays, however, they primarily used to give tourists some fun. “It is interesting that what we used in war is now used for entertainment,” states Tikva Velasquez (‘19). While there haven’t been many major improvements on these boats since the war, necessary ones, such as life jackets, have been implemented. Seth Novom (‘19) says, “they were not designed for safety but I think some recent updates have made them safer.” However, these changes may not have made these boats safe enough.

SDJA history teacher, Dr. Cunningham, accompanied the juniors on their voyage to Washington D.C. and rode the boat alongside his students. He states that he did not know about the dangers associated with duck boats. “Knowing the dangers I think it is likely that I would not have encouraged it,” says Dr. C, “but honestly I did not really look deep into their issues. Had I known I would have done more research.”

After the tragedy that claimed 17 lives in Branson, Missouri, the question some may ask is whether or not these duck boats are safe for our students. Daniel Acks (‘19) says, “I think that they are OK to ride for recreational use as long as they are in good condition.” His classmate, Josh Nachassi (‘19) agrees, saying, “I won’t let fear of death prevent me from living.” Overall, knowing of the tragedy in Branson, students will be more cautious and informed when it comes riding duck boats. Still, many will not let the fear of a tragedy hinder them from experiencing a fun day of touring the land and sea. Given the school’s excellent safety record on student trips, we expect nothing less than smooth sailing in the future.

SDJA Rocks Out

SDJA unveils a new sensory garden 

By Ella Diamond (’20)

In November, many students asked what the rocks in the quad were for. Construction workers drove forklifts and other construction vehicles all over campus delivering and transporting these giant rocks. But why?

These rocks were the first of many steps in creating a sensory garden for SDJA’s Kindergarten and first-grade class. The board of the lower school has been working on this idea since last August and plans for construction were finalized in September. Shani Abed, San Diego Jewish Academy administrator and teacher initially told The Lions’ Den that the project would be completed no later than December, but recent rains have forced a slight delay.

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Progress on the sensory garden as of December 18, 2018. Photo: Ella Diamond (‘18)

A sensory garden is an environment designed to stimulate the five senses in order to teach lower school children to understand how to communicate with the world around them. The school’s new garden will feature several educational surfaces such as chalkboards, magnetic boards, two knitting boards, and tables where kids shape objects from clay, upon which students can discover their creativity through artistic projects. For some students who might not be so artistically inclined, the garden will also include stepping stones, a small tree house, and a reading area, offering students a variety of places to direct their energy.

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Planning is everything; the blueprint for the sensory garden. Photo: Shani Abed

SDJA loves to improve the school. Almost every year, the school takes on a new project to reach new levels of excellence. In 2017, the school rebuilt the preschool playground. This year, the school wants to improve the kindergarten and first grade with the sensory garden.

Many students wish they could have experienced a sensory garden during their time in elementary school. “Having a sensory garden when I was younger would have encouraged me to learn more,” Micaela Hayes (‘22) says, “it would have also helped me pay more attention to what we were learning.”

School is generally thought of as a place full of desks in classrooms. For 5-7 year-olds, the traditional classroom experience can actually hinder their ability to absorb information. Experts believe that children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural excitement, energy, and curiosity.

Geena Benson (‘21) sees the value in having an oasis like the garden. “It is very necessary for kids at this age to experience learning outdoors.” Benson says, “today, many kids don’t go outside as much. They spend all day in classrooms and then they come home to play video games.”

Edudemic, an online organization that gives helpful advice to teachers and students, believes that the best way for kids to learn is through hands-on, active learning. When teachers use activities that make learning engaging and fun, the students are more willing to participate. Having fun while learning also helps young learners retain information better because the process is memorable and enjoyable. SDJA’s new sensory garden will make this a reality on campus.