Lion-ing Up for Lunch

New MUS Cafe and Lunch Area Spark Gustatory Adventures 

By Alexandra Wellman (’23)

Standing in line to purchase hot lunch, Jessica Podolsky (‘20) tries to peek through the swarm of people to see what’s on the menu, ready to get her hands on the day’s meal. “I love how convenient it is to get lunch here,”  Jessica states, adding how “ it’s not only easy to just swing by and pick it up but it’s also delicious.”

This year the SDJA hot-lunch has had a major influx of hungry customers. Why? Because, thanks to the new Lion’s Cafe, the lunch experience has been changed for the better.

In past years, students had to walk from the upper school to the lower school playground to pick up their hot lunches. This process took precious time out of students’ short break. Upon arriving at SDJA, Executive Chef Giselle Wellman, took it upon herself to change the hot lunch experience in the Maimonides Upper School.  Just two years later, the Lion’s Café opened to the hungry Lions in the upper school. 

The new Lions Café was the perfect solution to students’ lunch problems.

However, the success of the Lion’s Cafe has not come without hardship. The new café brought the challenge of more students coming in to receive lunch every day. “I’m a lot busier this year moving food from one kitchen to the other but it feels great to be able to feed more people,” Giselle Wellman shared. 

With the shortened wait time and easy access to the café, more students choose to buy lunch. However, the increase of students has made it harder to keep track of each person who walked in the door. The solution? Each student now has a PIN number which they type into a computer before selecting their meal. 

Which, of course, brings its own technological difficulties. 

Although it may sound simple, memorizing a PIN number does not top the list for most students. Mrs. Anna Falkiewicz, MUS Dean of Students, who helps out at the Lions Café every day, expressed that it was definitely frustrating at first to have to remind students of their PIN every day. Despite the difficulties, every student who remembers their PIN number means faster food for everyone else. 

Although there have been some twists and turns along the way, there is one thing the Lions Café has definitely done right–the food! For example, students all know that Wednesdays are pizza days, lining up ahead of time pouring in as soon as lunch starts. 

When asked about past meals she has enjoyed at the Lions’ Café, Noa Rosenbaum (’23) says, “I am never disappointed by the food. Regardless of what is served, it is always delicious.” 

Bringing the school healthy lunches has been the main goal for the Lions Café. Ms. Wellman explains that, “Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy. I always try to incorporate fruits, vegetables, and healthy ingredients into the lunches for the students.” One of the delicious meals that exhibits this perfectly is a campus favorite: butternut squash macaroni and cheese. “Yes! It’s mac and cheese day” students excitedly whisper in class rooms, hallways, and all around school. Diego Kohan (’22), already excited for the next one, says “I honestly never knew it had butternut squash! I think it’s great to know that the delicious lunch that I eat all the time is good for me, too.”

 

Eitan Breziner and Chicken Fingers

Eitan Breziner (’20) savors every bite of his chicken fingers and potato wedges . 

Photo by Alexandra Wellman (’23)

The Lions’ Café is not the only recent addition to the SDJA lunch experience; students are also making good use out of the handsome new tables, a welcome replacement for some of the old worn out tables. These new brown wooden tables have improved the ambiance of students’ lunch time experience. “The tables added a sense of community to SDJA, since some of the new tables are bigger they’ve allowed more people to sit together.” Kate Aizin (‘22) shares.

SDJA is experiencing a new lunch-time dynamic. Bringing hot, healthy, and delicious lunches to the MUS, and adding new, unifying tables and a more efficient delivery system has sparked an eating renaissance on campus. What delicious item will you have for lunch tomorrow at the Lions Café?

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.

It’s a Family Affair

An inside look at the SDJA family through the eyes of new teachers

By Ella Diamond (‘20) and Sammi Weiss (‘23)

 

It’s 2:00 pm on a Friday. There are still 45 minutes left to go in Rabbi Frank’s senior seminar class, but instead of staring at the clock waiting for the weekend to start, the entire senior seminar class sits engrossed in a debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Rabbi David Frank, the new Chief Rabbi at the San Diego Jewish Academy, incorporates heated debates into his teaching style–a technique that has proven beneficial for students at SDJA. One reason Rabbi Frank accepted his position at SDJA was because he wanted to teach in this inclusive manner that allows students to feel at home. Why? Because SDJA is not just a school but a family that prides itself on making students feel this way, even in the classroom. 

“The administration puts their heart into what they’re doing,” Rabbi Frank says, sharing an insight he learned from having watched all three of his children go from kindergarten through 12th grade here. Coming to work here gave him the feeling of a homecoming, allowing him to find his place in the SDJA family once more.

Rabbi Frank (Jan 2020)

Rabbi Frank pauses from planning the school’s weekly Kabbalat Shabbat. 

Photo: Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Rabbi Jacobson, another new face in the Judaica department, also came to SDJA because of the family feel. She has taught at several day schools across the country but none of them, she says, are like SDJA. “This is the first school [where I’ve been] that encourages students to ask questions,” Rabbi Jacobson says, recalling the Jewish values she grew up with, which encourages curiosity. She believes that by asking many questions, students feel a part of the teaching process and are encouraged to take a greater interest in their learning. 

Rabbi Jacobson (Jan 2020)
Rabbi Jacobson preparing to answer her students’ questions during POD. 

Photo: Ella Diamond (‘20) and Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Other fresh faces at the school include Mr. David Sered, the newest history teacher and his daughter, Ms. Allie Sered, a teacher’s assistant in the Golda Meir Lower School. This father-daughter pair have really taken the idea of SDJA as a family to heart. Mr. Sered explains that, “everybody here is very much a part of the community, and people are invested in each other.” Compared to the other schools where he has previously taught, including a Catholic school in Los Angeles, Mr. Sered appreciates the fact that SDJA is open to using conversational methods in the classroom; he believes that giving the class a sense of freedom allows students to feel heard and pushes them to learn even more.  

David Sered & Ally Sered (Jan 2020)

The fabulous father-daughter duo, Mr. David Sered and Ms. Allie Sered. 

Photo: Ella Diamond (‘20) and Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Similarly, Dr. Perry Strahl, the school’s newest resident mathematics expert, has also found the tight-knit family environment at SDJA to be “super friendly.” Coming from UCSD where he taught in a huge lecture hall filled with over 400 students, Dr. Strahl feels like the small classes here are a breath of fresh air. He appreciates the school’s “resources and motivated student body,” because they allow him to truly pass on his knowledge and help students with their individual needs. After only one semester of classes, he says, SDJA already feels like home. 

Perry Strahl (Jan 2020)

The smiling Dr. Strahl at home in his element.  Photo: Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Regardless of where the new teachers came from, or how they got here, all agree that they have found comfort within the walls of SDJA. This can only happen in a school like SDJA; not the school, the family. 

 

Firewall Frustration

SDJA students speak out against Internet blocks on controversial websites 

By Gabriela Wellman (‘20)

 

Internet Firewall by Elizabeth Nebo

Illustration © Elizabeth Nebo (2019)

 

While searching for information for an assignment on Roe v. Wade, Galia Cohen (‘20) looked up plannedparenthood.com only to be met with the following message, “Your connection is not private, please navigate back to safety.” Shrugging it off, Cohen attempted to open the second hit from her Google search–‘abortion’–but once again, she encountered the same message redirecting her back to the main Google page. 

“It was so irritating,” Cohen explains. “Planned Parenthood is a way to access important information on issues you might not know well enough. The school’s WiFi prohibiting access to it felt like limiting our access to information.” 

Ana Gerson (‘21), a student in AP U.S. Government who faced the same impediment as Cohen, says, “It made me feel outraged and confused. I feel like by blocking access for students on that website, the school is trying to influence us into believing something we don’t necessarily believe.”

Similar to AP U.S Government, Judaism and the Body, and Jewish Ethics are classes that push the boundaries of traditional classroom topics. Just like with Cohen’s and Gerson’s experiences with Planned Parenthood, students in these classes were asked to do school-sponsored research and were also surprised to find that websites containing sensitive information were blocked by the SDJA WiFi’s Firewall. 

“As a parent, especially thinking of middle school students, I would want to know that they have the freedom to be on the Internet while safety features are in place,” History Department Chair, Mrs. Susan Wu adds, “But I do not understand the block on Planned Parenthood.”

Dean of Students, Mrs. Anna Falkiewicz agrees that the block, specifically on this website, sends a negative message to pro-choice individuals, making them believe that this is not something our community supports, which, she clarifies, is not the intention. 

Of course, it is understandable that parameters must be put in place in order to ensure that students navigate safely and resourcefully on the school WiFi, but, based on conversations with students and teachers, there seems to be an overarching request to widen those parameters. 

Gali Laska (‘20) thinks that “these parameters are valid, to a certain extent. There are some websites, for example, those which include inappropriate information or photos, that should not be able to be reached under school WiFi, but anything containing valuable information to students should not be blocked.”

But, the school’s WiFi firewall raises some questions: What is being blocked? And why? 

Mrs. Sara Hansen, English Department Chair, describes how every year she demonstrates to students her ability to freely access Martinlutherking.org, a website whose name sounds credible but is actually owned by the KKK. How is it that such sites can be visited, but truly informative ones, such as plannedparenthood.com are blocked?

The Lion’s Den decided to reach out to the school’s IT Director, Mr. Chris Hill, to find out more about the firewall and how the restriction might be used more effectively. Apparently, SDJA’s firewall works by identifying and flagging certain words or phrases, such as ‘drugs,’ and ‘sex,’ and blocking out websites that includes those red-flags. 

“[It blocks] any standard sites that aren’t appropriate for kids or employees at work,” Hill clarifies. But, regardless of how this block happens, many students can agree that widening the parameters on technology would enhance their learning experience. 

Jimmy Cohen (‘22) is among a number of students offering potential solutions and next steps toward fixing the block. “First and foremost, I think that [plannedparenthood.com] has to be unblocked immediately,” Cohen says. “I also think that, at the very least, we need to be provided with a list of approved websites for research, especially on these more controversial topics such as abortion and drugs.”

Another popular suggestion around campus is the idea of a ‘teacher override,’ a solution allowing students researching topics for a specific class to request access to blocked websites directly from their teachers. Teachers could then override the firewall’s system on those specific devices. Given the amount of student interest in improving Internet access, it remains to be seen what the solution may be.

Amidst the controversy, it is reassuring to hear that SDJA administration and the IT department are not seeking to steer students’ minds with any political bias.

Mrs. Falkiewicz reiterates the fact that, “SDJA values individuals’ own opinions on political issues and is, by no means, trying to formulate opinions for its students.” 

Hopefully the entire student body can look forward to a solution that fosters the use of the latest technology in their learning in a way that doesn’t expose them to distracting, and even harmful, information. 

 

 

Can Israeli Politics Thrive at SDJA? 

By Dalia Gerson (’23) and Rosie Alchalel (’21)

Netanyahu & Gantz - Wellman (January 2020)

Illustration by Gaby Wellman (‘20)

BIBI CHAIM SHELI, Sharon Cohen (‘20) proudly scribbles on Mrs. Webber’s whiteboard during the busy Yearbook class period. This simple Hebrew phrase roughly translates to “Bibi is my life,” alluding to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. 

“Are you crazy?” Gaby Wellman (‘20) wittily remarks, “I think you misspelled Gantz,” referring to Netanyahu’s most prominent political opponent, Benny Gantz. 

Both inside and outside the classroom, this year’s Israeli elections have slowly taken over SDJA. No surprise considering that the school has Israel rooted in its foundation, seen in such facts as the Lower School being named for Prime Minister Golda Meir, the larger-than-life portrait of Theodor Herzl in the MUS lobby, and the annual schoolwide Israel week celebration in late January and early February. 

Although students tend to maintain loyalty to the United States by tuning into American politics more than they do to the situation in Israel, politics in Israel continue to play a strong role in students’ lives. And while most, if not all, SDJA students share a love for the Jewish state, many differ in their political ideology and their hopes for the state. But how much do they really know about Israeli politics? How deeply do they care about the future of their home away from home? 

Many students from non-Israeli backgrounds, such as Eli Lerner (‘21), do, in fact, follow Israeli politics. “It is the home of the Jewish people and I have a connection to it,” Lerner comments. “I check to see how it is doing.” Similarly, Gaby Wellman cares about Israeli politics because, as she says, “Israel is a country that I hold close to my heart.” 

Yonatan Boukobza (‘23), who is visiting from Beer Sheva, Israel for a year, thinks that it is important to follow the politics of both Israel and the United States. Israeli politics matter to him because Israel is his home while “American politics also matter because they can help Israel because the U.S. is stronger.”

Mr. Torens' Jewish Values in the Israel-Palestine Conflict Class (January 2020)

High School students sit attentively during Mr. Jeremy Toren’s Jewish Values and Israeli Palestinian Conflict class.  Photo by Rosie Alchalel (‘21)

 

But where are these students getting all of their information from? 

Some students, such as Eitan Breziner (‘20) and Reef Gonen (‘22), turn to Israeli news outlets like Ynet in order to stay updated, yet the majority of SDJA students rely on social media. Rikki Dorfan (‘22) stays updated by viewing the Daily Mail story on Snapchat, and Talia Abu (‘22) uses social media to stay connected with current news. 

Instead of allowing students to rely solely on the media for the news, the SDJA Hebrew department sees it as its mission to provide students with Israeli political knowledge. Morah Shira graciously shared some insight about the class with The Lions’ Den: “We cover the current issues and current news in Israel, especially the elections, without giving any opinion, using just facts about what’s happening.” Additionally, a lot of students turn to Morah Shira outside of class. She claims that students come to her with questions about the topic “at least once a week.” 

As well as acquiring information about Israel from the Hebrew department, many students enroll in the Israeli Palestinian Conflict class led my Mr.Toren. While this semester-long class does not emphasize current events, politics do play a role in its curriculum. “A big part of our discussions [focus on] the connection between values and politics,” comments Mr. Toren. 

Overall, the task at hand is educating more students about the issues that matter in Israeli politics so they can develop their own opinions and decide how deeply they want to get involved. Many students feel as though a course strictly about Israeli politics would be beneficial. Eli Lerner (‘22) thinks that  “a class [like that] would be cool because I know I am not as educated as I could be.” Talia Abu (22’) says that it could be a good idea “if it is in a way that is unbiased.” It seems that the challenge is about keeping it factual and objective in order for people to freely develop their own opinions.

While the school definitely has room to grow in its coverage of Israeli politics, one thing is for certain: conversations between students will continue to circle around their beloved homeland. 

 

A Galaxy Not So Far Away

A Film Review for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

By Kayla Swartzberg

Faceless Rey by Gaby Wellman

Illustration by Gaby Wellman (’20)

I believe with great certainty that Lucasfilm is the definition of ethos. Find it in a dictionary. Look it up online. Because Lucasfilm has delivered so many out-of-this-world Star Wars movies that it’s hard not to give the company credit. And as the Star Wars reputation becomes engraved in stardust gold, the more people watch the coveted films with one thing in mind: to find the flaws.

Why? The Dark Side made them do it.

The newest Star Wars feature, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is Episode IX in the series, and the last installment of the third trilogy. In other words, it finishes the stories of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren, and their relationships with the “O.G.”s, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie. Emperor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious (rhymes with “hideous”), makes a comeback in this movie, looking deadlier than ever. 

Going into the theater, I had very high expectations. I think most people did, hence the hunt for imperfections. The question of “Is this the last one?” hung over everyone’s heads, and we all knew that if Star Wars was ending, then this movie better leave a lasting mark on the cinematography universe. 

So, did it? Depends on who you ask.

As for myself, I have some thoughts. Buckle up.

Firstly, the three musketeers in The Rise of Skywalker (Rey, Finn, and Poe), however loyal they are to the cause of the Rebels and saving each others’ lives, don’t actually show signs of real friendship. Poe and Finn hold quick conversations of one-liners, trying to out-macho each other. Maybe for Rey’s sake, when she isn’t abandoning them. All three fail to notice a certain furry friend getting captured.

You know who.

Secondly, the lack of narrative is prevalent in this film because there are so many hellos, goodbyes, and face-offs—none of which are bad, per se—that the storyline gets washed away. What’s left? Snippets of different stories mashed together into one. 

The Chosen One.

Thirdly, the movie doesn’t shy away from the classic Star Wars theme of “keeping it in the family” (remember “Luke, I am your father”?) especially concerning Rey’s identity. And while the reveal itself seemed anti-climactic, Rey’s identity fit the storyline relatively well.

But my lips are sealed.

Until they aren’t sealed. A big concern I had with the movie was its constant violence. At some point I developed a sort of numbness toward it, and I pondered whether this is why real violence and gore has become such an apparent American phenomenon.

Too much Force, I suppose?

The truth is, the movies with young Luke, Leia, and Han were more memorable than the newer movies because they weren’t filled with fighting the entire time. No, in those movies colorful aliens danced and sang, old spaceships sputtered, garbage compactors squished, carbonite froze, and ewoks cheered. People talked, talked, instead of smoldered. They took their time, and that was the sign of the times. 

As for The Rise of Skywalker, I would recommend it to Star Wars fans. Not that a warning would stop the hard-cores from kicking open the doors and wrestling for a seat in the theater. I would recommend the movie because of its fantastic film score (God bless John Williams), its hypnotic visuals, clever cinematography, purposeful acting, and, of course, its long-anticipated reveal of Rey’s identity.

Knock yourself out.

It’s purebred entertainment. And, not to mention, there is something very philosophical about the whole “good side and bad side” of a person, or of two people. It reminds me of the Jewish belief in “yetzer ha-ra,” the evil inclination, and “yetzer ha-tov,” the good inclination. It also reminds me of the angel and the devil. Of Cain and Abel. Esau and Jacob. Rey and…  Kylo?

You tell me.

And for all of the Jedi and Sith out there, beware of a few jump scares that will startle you in your seat. One of them being a kiss. 

Muah.

The film also kisses goodbye to the sweet Princess Leia played by Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away in 2016.

For now, I’d say Lucasfilm wears its gold ethos nicely. The Star Wars reputation upholds. Because although it’s not easy making movies across the galaxies, I think it’s even harder making movies for our galaxy. You can’t please everyone.

Especially with the aliens and all.

If the Lockdown Had Been Real 

Gun violence continues to menace schools and communities nationwide

By Rosie Alchalel (‘21) and Kayla Swartzberg (‘21)

Gaby Wellman - Gun Illustration (December 2019)

Illustration by Gaby Wellman (’20)

“16 seconds is all it takes for a 16-year-old boy in Saugus High School to take a .45 handgun and shoot five of his fellow classmates,” Rabbi Frank somberly remarked at an SDJA high school Kabbalat Shabbat on November 15.

In the crowd, students barely seemed surprised because school shootings have become commonplace in the United States. Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, an estimated 223,000 students have experienced school shootings. Although these numbers may seem unfathomable, an accidental code-red lockdown at SDJA on November 7th reminded everyone that a school shooting is not inconceivable. 

“I was kind of prepared because I had done lockdown drills at my old school,” Sivan Gabai (‘23) explains, “But when I got inside everyone else was very serious about it so I didn’t know if it was real or fake.” 

Thankfully, Ken Freshwater, Director of Security and Safety, soon realized that the alarm, which initiated the lockdown, was triggered by accident—no actual threat was present at the school. 

This isn’t the first time both faculty and students dealt with the repercussions of gun violence. Just two years ago, they initiated a walk-out on campus after the infamous shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that claimed 17 lives.

Walkout

SDJA students show solidarity with victims of gun violence during the SDJA walkout in March, 2018
Photo by Elizabeth Nebo

 

But many schools around the country have come face-to-face with real danger. Most recently, Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, located just north of Los Angeles, suffered a school shooting on Thursday, November 14. 

Although many students don’t have a direct connection to Saugus High School, Hannah Moel (‘20) says that “everyone knows somebody who knows somebody” who has experienced gun violence first hand. As it turns out, this is true even within the SDJA community; Eli Lerner (‘21) comments that his camp counselor witnessed both the 2019 Poway synagogue shooting  and the Carlsbad Elementary School shooting in 2010.

Mass shootings have become an American phenomenon and are occurring faster than the nation can process. The day following the Saugus High School Shooting, Pleasantville High School in New Jersey experienced a school shooting of its own in which two boys and a man were shot;  one of the boys later died. On a Saturday morning, November 16, a man in San Diego shot his wife and three children before turning the gun on himself. 

“It’s been less than 24 hours since you interviewed me about the Saugus High School shooting, and now we see gun violence yet again. This time even closer to home,” Moel states.

Another issue is the fact that some of these shootings can become lost in the media. Shootings seem to occur at such a rapid pace that they almost inevitably cease to shock the public or raise much concern.

Since the first day of the school year, on August 20, shooters have shot, killed, and wounded students at 23 different schools throughout the nation. On August 30, during a high school football game in Mobile, Alabama, ten teenagers were shot and injured by a 17-year-old young man. Less than two months later, on October 9, two men in Lowell, Massachusetts used BB guns to open fire at kindergarteners. Five children were hit and two were taken to the hospital. On November 4, a student at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri was shot and killed after a gun was accidentally discharged. Not even two weeks later, on Sunday, November 17th, in Fresno, California, two gunmen snuck into a house party and opened fire; four people were killed, six wounded. On a Saturday morning, November 24, two boys, aged 11 and 14, were shot and killed outside an elementary school in Union City, California. 

“It is time to wake up and ignite the change that is necessary.” Jessy Podolsky (‘20) says, “There’s not a single solution that will solve this, but we definitely need more gun regulations.”  Jessie Gan (‘21) adds, “There should be emotional regulation of those who own guns already, although it is important to not cross the line of invading privacy.” 

Following the mass shooting that took the lives of 22 innocent shoppers at Walmart on August 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas, a beautiful memorial was unveiled. Called the “Grand Candela,” this memorial shines as “a beacon of hope for the survivors, and a lasting reminder to all of the enduring strength, resiliency and love that unites El Paso,” the plaque reads.

“At the end of the day our lives are on the line,” Joshua Miller (‘21) explains, “and sadly we don’t see much being done about it.”

Since January 2019, over 440 innocent people have been brutally shot and murdered in the U.S.A., and the numbers only seem to be increasing. As this article was being edited for publication, two more tragic shootings occurred in the United States. On Saturday, December 8th, a Saudi Arabian air force lieutenant studying in the U.S. opened fire at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida resulting in three deaths and leaving another eight people wounded. And on Tuesday, December 10, two gunmen in Jersey City, New Jersey murdered a policeman near a cemetery and three civilians in a Jewish grocery store before being killed by police in a violent shootout.     

 

Crunch Time

A Loud Reminder to Eat Breakfast

By Kayla Swartzberg (‘21)

Rumbles echo throughout the Ulam–they’re long and deep. Swiveling in unison, the students turn to lock eyes with each other, rubbing their stomachs with guilty smirks. No breakfast? No problem. Right? Wrong. At San Diego Jewish Academy, the Lions need to eat.

Every day presents new choices, new options and opportunities to grow and learn–blessings at our fingertips. Most SDJA students take such freedoms of learning for granted. 

“I get to choose subjects that I’m passionate about, and I’m not forced to take classes that disinterest me,” Geena Benson (‘21) says.

However, such opportunities can be diminished. By breakfast–or, more accurately, by students’ lack of it.

 

“For me, personally, breakfast is not the biggest meal,” Gabi Acks (‘22) states. Her classmate, Diego Kohan (‘22) agrees that breakfast isn’t his largest meal, “I may eat a piece of bread for breakfast on a school day.” 

Both Kohan and Acks believe that a good breakfast can give them energyor as Kohan remarks, “a daily boost.” Why, then, do they not take advantage of it?

Time. Students do not have time to eat breakfast in the morning. Coach Nicole Trotta, science and anatomy teacher at SDJA, offers a solution to this problem. “Wake up five minutes earlier!” she exclaims, adding how eggs, smoothies, and oats are easy to make and eat on-the-go.

But don’t be sly and cheat the system. Eating a breakfast of junk food, while quick and convenient, is not the answer. Athletic Director Stefanie Hill explains it is “typically high in sugar, will provide an initial burst of energy but then burn out quickly.” She finds that eating a breakfast of junk food will not keep one satisfied but will rather make them hungrier sooner than if they had eaten a healthy breakfast.

Healthy breakfast? 

“A healthy breakfast should always have a mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates,” Coach Trotta explains, “Also, drinking water right when you wake up is very important. It rehydrates and wakes up your body, organs, and muscles.” 

As for the food itself, SDJA Executive Chef Giselle Wellman says, “I usually make two scrambled eggs and fruit with yogurt. I think it’s a great source of protein.” 

Above all, Coach Hill reminds students that  “it is important to eat balanced meals throughout the day.  Balanced meals at regular intervals create consistency for your body.” She continues by comparing food to fuel for a car. A car can’t run without fuel, just like a person can’t function without food. Simple logic.

And with that, some simple facts: skipping breakfast hinders progress in the gym. Teens who sit and eat breakfast with their families hold a more positive body image than those who don’t. With that great body image, teens who eat breakfast actually have better-smelling breath than the non-breakfast eaters. One also performs better academically with less risk of becoming obese and dying—all because of eating breakfast.

So tomorrow morning, fry yourself an egg. Crunch on some toast. Slurp down a cup of orange juice. A little crunch time will guarantee a better day.

Cheerleaders Spark New Passion for Lion Pride

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cheer Squad (1) - Spring 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Cheer Bow

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

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

Indifference: the True Problem with the Newport High School Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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