Children of Better Times

How the Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

By Kayla Swartzberg (‘21)

sunrise-in-the-mountains

Looking on the bright side (Photo: Public Domain).

Power stems from words and from actions. We can’t sit around yearning for better times when we ourselves hold the power to better this time. Perhaps the power to find the vaccine or create the tests is out of reach. Perhaps the power to diagnose or to find the treatment lies elsewhere. Perhaps the ability to reassure others sounds impossible. But that doesn’t make it acceptable to lose the strength. The chutzpah. The inspiration to, yes, get off the couch or roll out of bed. 

The sad truth is that we have begun to pray to the news and transform into strangers hiding under the blanket of “bad times.” Hiding in houses, hiding behind screens, hiding behind stories to the point where it seems like there will be no tomorrow. If we are blessed with the mental and physical capacity to change how we are dealing with this, then it is in our best interests to improve our minds and bodies instead of giving into fear. And while in this particular case the only thing to fear isn’t just fear itself, it’s undeniable that people’s fears have, indeed, smoked personal views of the situation and clouded the logic so much that it’s hard to distinguish between fact and feeling.

That is not to downplay the gravity of this pandemic. Not at all. Suffering is occurring, and people are dying. It’s saddening, and these spiky realities hurt those who are aware of them. Ignorance isn’t bliss. Yet a child’s innate lack of knowledge could have correlation with his or her happiness and willingness to be carefree. 

Now, I’m not proposing that we should ignore the problems of our times, quite the opposite. Staying informed is staying aware is staying protected. Knowledge trumps all. I’m proposing that we should revert back to our days as children (not that we aren’t still children, just bigger children I suppose) and remember what got us out of our beds and couches in the first place. Maybe we were excited for breakfast. To see our parents. Brothers and sisters. Puppies. Cats and dogs. To see friends. To read a favorite book or watch a good TV show. To color. Paint. Write. Run. To sing (perhaps off-key, perhaps horribly, perhaps all in the name of good fun). To dance. To run, and to play, and to laugh, and to love. To discover. To indulge in our curiosity. Therefore, because we are unable to venture out into the physical world around us, we must create our own world right here at home. Just like children.

Step one: start prioritizing passion over lazy preference. Example: if one has a passion for baking, one should bake instead of taking the easy way out and buying a cake. Another example: if one nurses a passion for painting, one should paint instead of going back to sleep. My brothers used to watch a television show called “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu,” and one line from Sensei Wu really rings true for this, “Never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” Time is precious, and we have now been given time at home to explore hobbies and interests. And while sleeping through the day and buying cakes have their own time and place (any form of relaxation does), it can’t start coming at the expense of losing one’s own joie de vivre, joy for life. Even hunger for life. Sometimes, you just gotta bake that cake and eat it too.

Step two: start talking. Talk to Mom and Dad. Or just Mom. Or just Dad. Brothers and sisters. Talk to Auntie and Uncle. That crazy cousin. Friends. To the dear grandparents. Speak to anyone willing to listen. Get the words flowing, the emotions spilling faster than apple juice out of a sippy-cup. Act like the one kid in preschool stomping his or her feet and saying, “I’m mad about this.” The more we’re able to truly communicate how we are feeling, the easier it will be for people to understand and relate to us. We’re all in this together (sing loud, sing proud), and the more that realization crystalizes in people, the better emotional state we’ll be in as a nation. And if we are in an improved emotional state, our amygdalas won’t go haywire as soon as we press those all-too-familiar buttons on the remote to watch the news. 

On a similar note, it’s imperative to revert back to the times of the Declaration of Independence and place importance on the “pursuit of happiness.” Which leads us to step three: laughter. While laughter doesn’t actually qualify as the “best medicine,” and while calling it the “best medicine” will make me sound like a political nincompoop (due to our medically-focused times) and literary loser (cliché much?), something should be said for how laughter makes people feel good—even if just for a second. Children laugh at almost anything, even themselves. Unfortunately, in these times, nothing is a laughing matter. We’ve got to get creative. Perhaps pull out those old Robin Williams tapes. Watch some Seinfeld or The Office. Board games, Mad Libs, improv, karaoke, SNL, even old childhood videos are funny. Sharing and laughing during a phone call with a best friend. Drawing pictures for Pictionary. 

See, all of the steps to create our own inner worlds are related to each other. Passion, communication, happiness… all three are intertwined to help us achieve that feeling of stability and that confidence to say to ourselves—to the sort-of-scared, sort-of-hidden inner children of ourselves, “The sun will come out tomorrow.” Even to sing it.

 

101 Totally Random Things You Can Do Entirely From Home During the Quarantine

By Alchalel, Rosie (’21)

Quarantine can be boring… VERY boring. So here is a list filled with an assortment of activities to help alleviate some of that boredom. There is something for everyone, from readers to artists to binge-watchers. Do one thing or do them all, but make sure to have fun! 

  1. Clean out your closet (you know you have to)
  2. Binge-watch Victorious on Netflix
  3. Read!!! (A couple of our quarantine favorites include The Handmaiden’s Tale, The Alchemist, and All The Light We Cannot See)Books
  4. Draw a tree
  5. Make your own list
  6. Draft a 2020 version of We Didn’t Start the Fire
  7. Learn the Renegade Tik-Tok dance
  8. Write thank-you notes (to your teachers, best friends, inspirations)
  9. Do 100 sit-ups
  10. Take a bath
  11. Stretch (touch your toes, reach for the stars)
  12. Make a DIY hair mask (there’s an article on how to on The Lion’s Den!)
  13. FaceTime your grandparents (They definitely want to hear from you during this time)
  14. Take a nap
  15. Research the Stanford Prison Experiment
  16. Put on a face mask
  17. Print out coloring sheets and start drawing
  18. Write a book
  19. Bake some brownies
  20. Karaoke with your family
  21. Learn how to cartwheel 
  22. Online shop (always Google coupons before you checkout)
  23. Do some yoga
  24. Learn how to write your name in different fonts
  25. Clean your room (you know you need to)
  26. Drink a cup of tea
  27. Dye your hair
  28. Tie-Dye an old shirt 
  29. Do a 1000 piece puzzlePuzzle
  30. Learn to play a new instrument
  31. Learn how to embroiderEmbroidery
  32. Learn to speak a new language 
  33. Meditate!
  34. Recreate old family photos
  35. Put on a play
  36. Join Instagram live dance classes 
  37. Paint your old white shoes (cow print looks nice and is so in!) 
  38. Read old Lion’s Den articles
  39. Zoom your friends. Be social even from far away
  40. Watch your favorite childhood movies. 
  41. Go viral on TikTok (or die trying)
  42. Organize the pile of papers that have been on your desk FOREVER
  43. Makeovers 
  44. Catch up on needed sleep
  45. Grow a gardenSeeds
  46. Read a Newspaper, it’s important to know what’s happening at times like this
  47. Make a photo wall 
  48. WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!!!!!
  49. Clean out your email 
  50. Paint your nails
  51. Write something you are grateful for every day
  52. Listen to a podcast (On Purpose with Jay Shetty is really getting us through quarantine)
  53. Play around on the Acapella app
  54. Make whipped coffee 
  55. Take an online course (Coursera has great college ones)
  56. Learn how to make different smoothies
  57. Make friendship bracelets
  58. Start a blog
  59. Listen to albums you haven’t listened to before
  60. Call an old friend
  61. Take an online workout class
  62. Start studying for your upcoming SAT/ACT ( Kahn Academy is a great resource for the SAT)
  63. Research different topics that interest you
  64. Put on a fashion show with your siblings
  65. Take a swim 
  66. Play around with makeup
  67. Play some video games
  68. Learn some new hairstyles
  69. Make a DIY hair mask
  70. Paint something random
  71. Play some board games like Rummikub, Life, Monopoly, or….Board Games
  72. Go sit outside for a bit
  73. Clean out your closet and find some things to sell online on websites like Depop and Poshmark
  74. Learn how to write with your non-dominant hand
  75. Catch up with an old friend… over text of course 
  76. Virtually ride Disney roller coasters 
  77. Watch old home videos 
  78. Deep clean your shoes
  79. Watch virtual concerts 
  80. Prank your family
  81. Build a fort
  82. Take Buzzfeed tests
  83. Write a short story
  84. Binge-watch America’s Funniest Home Videos
  85. Dive into Masterclass and discover something new to learn about 
  86. Clean out your photo library
  87. Organize your fridge and pantry
  88. Make a scrapbook
  89. Jump rope
  90. Learn how to photoshop 
  91. Watch documentaries on topics you’re interested in
  92. Paint your room (with your parent’s permission- of course)
  93. Design clothing
  94. Learn a new word everyday
  95. Learn some gymnastics
  96. Detangle your jewelry  
  97. Put together an impressive resumé 
  98. Clean your makeup brushes
  99. Join Houseparty and have fun with your friends
  100. Make a spotify playlist 
  101. Wash your car (or your parents’s)

All photos by Rosie Alchalel, except jigsaw puzzle photo by Alex Wellman (’23)

Masks Made Easy

Make your own protective mask to stay healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic

By Rosie Alchalel (‘21)

After COVID-19 hit, my organization, Good Hair Day, which gives free haircuts to the less fortunate, could no longer supply haircuts. So, instead I decided to make masks to donate as they are on back-order and hard to get a hold of.

Making my own masks turned out to be incredibly easy, so here I have shared with you a step-by-step guide to help you make your own. 

What you’ll need:

  1. Fabric (for this example I am using an Urban Outfitters bag)
  2. Scissors
  3. Sewing machine (you can sew by hand but it is recommended to use a machine)
  4. Elastic cord
  5. Carbon filters
  6. Clothing iron

Steps:

  1. Cut out two 6.5 in. by 10 in. rectangles and make small cuts, simply for indentation, three inches from either side on the 10 inch side.
  2. Bring the indentations in and fold down the excess into clean lines. Iron it out to form creases. If you are using something like an Urban Outfitters tote bag, be careful with the fabric as it burns easily.

3. Sew one side together

4. Cut out two 7” pieces of elastic cord

5. Sew in the elastic cords. It is important to make sure they are aligned evenly on either side.

6. Fold over a little bit of fabric and sew it down in order for the mask to have a clean finish

.7. Sew in one inch on either side. It is important to leave a section open in order to put in the carbon filters 

8. Flip it inside out and put in the filter! 

All photos by Rosie Alchalel

That’s it! Make sure to change the filters from time to time in order to keep your mask most effective.

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. 

 

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?

Programed for Victory

Lions robotics team ends its most successful season yet

By Ana Gerson (’21)

The San Diego Jewish Academy robotics team competed in its first meet of the season on Sunday, December 15th, following their 7th place win in a meet the previous year. The well-oiled machine, led by co-presidents Jesse Gan (‘21) and Noah Katcher (‘20), has worked hard to improve both its robot and their code.

Robotics Meet #1

The team intently watches their robot at their first meet on December 15, 2019. Photo by Micheala Simble (21’).

The team started preparing for meets months in advance, coming together on Thursdays and Sundays to work. Mr. Patrick Hagerman, SDJA science teacher and the faculty adviser for the robotics team, says that they “have always had a strong building team; the mechanical engineering side has always been strong. We have focused a lot of energy in the past few years on improving our fundraising and marketing. We have been trying to raise our profile, not just on campus, but around the area.” 

The team is made up of different subgroups. Captains Gan and Katcher oversee the work done by all the groups. The builders, led by Jed Edelstein (‘21), construct the robot from scratch. The coders, led by Devin Marcus (’22), focus on the autonomous portion of the game; they make sure the robot can move without anyone manually driving it. 

Ron Gneezy (‘21) leads the wiring team, who are “basically the middle ground between the code and the hardware,” explains Gan. Yin Wenduo (’22) leads the crew that sets up the field for practice, so they know the rule manual inside and out. 

The team has recently added Ariela Cohen (‘21) to their marketing team. Ariela, who joined in mid-September, describes her experience as “fun and interesting. I don’t think that people realize that there is more to it than coding.” 

One of the marketing team’s most recent projects was designing the annual hoodie. The team reaches out to donors every year, and wears their logos on the hoodie during competitions. Micheala Simble (21’), who is leading the marketing effort this year, joined the team during her freshman year. She describes her experience as, “a fun way to connect and learn from the people around me in an exciting environment.” 

 

Jessie & Jimmy for Robotics

Jimmy Lai (‘23) and President Jesse Gan (‘21) show off this year’s hoodie.  Photo by Ana Gerson (’21).

Excitement seems to be a common theme among team members when discussing their experience. Ariela Moel (‘22), team note-taker, describes the December 15th meet as “a collaborative team effort. You feel nervous. No one feels prepared because we don’t know which team will be paired with us, but we are always excited to find out.” 

Lions robot builders have competed in four meets this season. The final one was held on Sunday, February 9, in the SDJA gymnasium. Adviser Mr. Hagerman noted, “I was very proud of our team this meet. I think we had our best technical performances.” The team is continuing to work hard during their off-season, and are ready to score higher than ever in the coming year.