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. 

 

What a Non-Movie-Lover Loved About Ford v. Ferrari

Movie Review by Rosie Alchalel (’21)

Ford-v-Ferrari(109)

The Hollywood racing extravaganza won two Oscars, for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing. (Reproduced under Fair Use Copyright Act).

 

I’m not the biggest movie fan. Typically, going to the theaters translates into nap time for me, and movies tend to feel like a complete waste of time. Nor am I the biggest car aficionado. I can’t tell you that I understand the car craze nor the typical teenager’s craving for speed.

But I can tell you that I enjoyed Ford v. Ferrari

Not because it is a cinematic masterpiece–Ford v. Ferrari is definitely not that. It is clearly a movie formulated for the big screen, with every minute of it screaming Hollywood. I enjoyed it because it is a film made for everyone, not exclusively for car fanatics nor only for cinephiles. It truly is a movie that everyone in the audience will find worthwhile.

Why? Because it tells a human story. Because it evokes human feelings. 

Christian Bale Press Conference for Ford v. Ferrari

Ford v. Ferrari star Christian Bale takes a selfie with a fan during the film’s premiere. (Public domain).

 

Halfway through the movie it finally resonates with race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) that the 24 Hours at Le Mans are not about speed at all; instead, they are all about perseverance. He realizes that they are about the racer’s ability, or inability, to keep moving for 24 hours and not simply about getting from Point A to Point B. The same can be said about the movie itself. It is not about portraying a series of events efficiently, moreover, it is about conveying the feelings felt by both auto racer and engineer Caroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles leading up to, and during, the race itself. 

And there sure are a lot of feelings. 

For one, there is a whole lot of frustration. Some towards Ferrari, some towards Ken Miles, and a whole lot towards Ford. (Just wait until the end of the race, you’ll see what I’m talking about.)

Of course, the audience also experiences a thrill any time a racetrack is involved

But there’s also a whole lot of love, apparent in the adorable relationship between Miles and his son Peter (Noah Jupe), in the romantic relationship between Miles and his wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe), and in the unlikely friendship that develops between Miles and Shelby. 

And the best part of all is that these feelings are not simply found on-screen. Magically, perhaps due to the exceptional acting, they jump out at the audience and suddenly, you are rooting for Ford in the same way that you root for your favorite sports team during a playoff game. 

Excitingly, this win was never guaranteed, and Shelby preaches this. He goes as far as telling Ford that, “you can’t buy a win, but you can buy the guy who can give you a shot,” referring to Ken Miles, who although being thought of as “difficult to work with,” is given a second chance by Ford. Whether this ends up being a good or bad move, you will have to see for yourself on the big screen.

In all, Ford v. Ferrari is not just for the car lover who walked into the theater knowing exactly what happened at the Le Mans race of 1966. Nor is it just for movie fans in general. It is also for those who had no idea that Le Mans existed until they watched the trailer. 

This movie truly is for everyone, and that is why it worked for me. 

 

A Living Legacy: Juan Suaste

Long-time SDJA staff member looks back on his time at the school 

By Talia Gold (‘20)

Juan Suaste (Jan 2020)

Juan Suaste photographed by Talia Gold (‘20)

When speaking of Juan Suaste, there is no person– staff, student, or parent– in the school community who doesn’t have something fond to say about him. His entrance into a room never goes unnoticed thanks to his loud, unabashed, “Shalom, Shalom,” announcing to everyone that he has arrived. 

“Juan learned how to say hello in like six different languages so that he can greet every student in their native language,” comments English teacher Sara Hansen fondly. “I think that’s really special.”

Throughout the course of our conversation, it became clear that Juan’s comfort and relationship with the students at SDJA had progressed over the years. He quickly recalled multiple memories of his interactions with them. Singing like mariachis with the graduating senior class, joking with students, making up silly names for them–the stories went on and on. 

His relationship with the students, beyond friendly joking, has played a big part in his learning Hebrew. Working in a place where students were learning a language he didn’t know sparked his interest in learning the language himself. With determination, Juan learned small phrases like “Shalom,” “Ma Shlomech,” “Boker Tov,” and “Sababa.” This small handful of phrases proved to be substantial enough to hold a minor conversation with the Hebrew teachers when he walked into their classroom. Juan fondly mentioned all of the students who helped him learn Hebrew.

As a main member of the school’s marvelous maintenance crew, Juan’s responsibility for keeping the campus clean, well-maintained, and looking sharp is endless; he often seems to be in several places at once. If someone were to say, “it’s almost like he lives here,” Juan would say, “I do.” Juan not only works at San Diego Jewish Academy, he also calls it his home, for real. Situated above the tennis courts, Juan’s house provides a spot from where he can watch over the campus he cares for so deeply, morning, noon, and night. 

Se siente un poco de responsabilidad por vivir aquí (There is a certain sense of responsibility that comes with living here),” shares Juan. “Cualquier problema pues anteriormente tenía que levantarme a chequar cosas ya, ahora ya como los últimos años hasta la fecha que han puesto mucha seguridad y todo, pero pues está bien. Osea que es conveniente para ellos y para mi que alguien esté viviendo en la escuela (Before, any problem that arose, I’d have to get up and go check it out. Now, the updated security makes things easier. It’s both convenient for me and the guards to have me here. We rely on each other).”

But Juan’s job isn’t his only priority. What many people don’t know is that he also spends time working on and improving his ranch in his hometown of Guanajuato, Mexico. 

“Soy dueño de un rancho que mide por ahí de cuatro acres y tengo mi propio negocio vendiendo pipas de agua ahí. (I own a ranch that’s about four acres in size, and I run a little business there selling water pipes).” Whenever he gets the chance to go home, which is about every two months, Juan says he works on further developing his ranch which is home to cows and sheep and his two dogs.

However, Juan doesn’t just go home to improve his ranch. His contributions to bettering the community extend past the gates of the San Diego Jewish Academy and travel with him to Guanajuato, where he hopes to make life in the small town a little better.

Hago cosas para mi pueblo (I do things to help my town). Ahorita tengo un club de emigrantes de mi pueblo que hemos hecho cosas para ayudar. Lo último que estamos acabando es que abrimos una escuela de música y nosotros hacemos rifas para poder hacer dinero y comprar instrumentos para los niños (I’m a part of a club with other immigrants from my town and together we raise money to help fund things there. The last thing we raised money for was a music school we opened for the kids who live in our town. We got money doing raffles and other fundraisers and as of now have been able to buy instruments for the kids to use).

If one asks Juan about his future plans, he will gush about his dream to move back to Mexico, his voice filled with longing to be reunited with his six brothers and their families. 

Cuando me retire, pienso irme a gozar mi ranchito aya con mi esposa en México, andar en caballo, cuidar mis borregas, mi burro, y trabajar un poco con mis trabajos que hago aya (When I retire, I plan to move back to my ranch with my wife, ride my horses, look after my sheep and donkey, and work more actively with my projects there.)” 

Nada es eterno, pero los mejores de mis años han sido aquí (Nothing lasts forever, but I can say that my best years have been here).

Juan’s time here has been very well spent. Having built a relationship with his coworkers and community, including parents, students, and staff, Juan has become a man no one can pass by without smiling. In his 22 years at our campus, he has worked his way into the hearts of everyone who visits our school. It truly wouldn’t be SDJA without Juan.

Cheerleaders Spark New Passion for Lion Pride

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cheer Squad (1) - Spring 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Cheer Bow

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

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