Page 1

Official Newspaper of SAR High School

The Buzz

October 2012 — Vol. 8, No. 1

creating an imPACT

What’s Inside

SAR’s Role in Students’ Outside Lives By Zachary Nelkin

Divrei Dani Page 2

“The noise from a Simchat Torah party made it difficult for my kids to fall asleep and caused my dog to bark.” This anonymous New Jersey resident’s holiday night was spoiled by a group of kids who just wanted to have a good time. Her situation illustrates that sometimes our actions have unintended consequences; all of us are bound together tightly whether we like it or not. Just how strong those ties are is the crucial question when it comes to the school’s expansion into a foreign area: our homes. This new frontier is being breached by two vehicles: an initiative the school calls PACT (Parents Ask Call Talk) and a new policy replacing parsha quizzes with athome learning between parents and students. The idea of PACT has been gestating for several years in the minds of both administrators and active parents. It had its genesis in a lecture series for parents on drugs and alcohol. The school wanted to follow up with a set of expectations for parents and even debated giving them a document to

sign, though they later decided not to. Rabbi Harcsztark has a very clear vision of what PACT is. He states that “it is not policy because we don’t feel we set poli-

Courtesy of Andrew Frenkel

cies in terms of what people do outside of school... We do feel we can set guidelines around what our expectations can be.” He further explains that PACT is about “trying

to create a parent culture where it is an ‘in thing’ to talk to each other, to make sure that the environment being created is appropriate for kids.” The new parsha program is a replacement for the system of parsha quizzes that was previously in place. The school and many students felt as though no one took the parsha quizzes seriously and that they were inconsequential. Some also wondered why Gemara teachers were in charge of executing a program that was essentially Tanakh. Under the new system, students must learn the parsha with their parents for 30 minutes each week with help from school provided guidelines and questions. They then have to separately fill out forms talking about what they learned, and the responses are factored into their Tanakh grade. It was first tried out as an option for last year’s freshmen and was evidently enough of a success to justify its expansion. Many students express excitement about this new system. Ricki Heicklen (‘14) exclaimed that “the new approach to parsha Continued on page 12

Can Students and Teachers be “Friends?” Buzz Book Review: Koren Talmud Bavli Page 13

Op-Ed Debate Page 5

The New Staff-Student Communication Policy

By Toba Stern “Once I beat Rabbi Kroll in Words with Friends, and I was so proud I made it my Facebook status” declared Shalhevet Schwartz (‘15). At SAR, boasting about defeating a teacher in an online word game has become the norm, not the exception. However, a new communications policy introduced this year threatens the existence of these interactive games, as well as many other forms of technological interactions between students and teachers. A recent email from Rabbi Harcsztark details the new guidelines for staff-student communications and social media. It establishes a clear policy for communications, to “ensure the safety of students and the propriety of their relationships with their teachers.” The email includes an attachment with an elaboration of the specific rules and prohibited technology forums, as well as a justification for the policy. The new guidelines state that students and teachers are forbidden to text each other, video chat, and

be Facebook friends. It also forbids teachers from calling students on their cell phones, emailing students on their personal emails,

Shalhevet Schwartz’s Words with Friends victory over Rabbi Kroll

or directly messaging students through aim, gchat, and twitter. The document explains that “the close-

ness engendered by the ubiquity of online communication, cell phone technology, and social media platforms can also encroach on an individual’s privacy and create questions of propriety.” It establishes specific guidelines for social media, “[i]n order to clearly mark the boundaries so that we can protect and enhance the relationships between staff and students at SAR.” In general, these guidelines place the burden of responsibility on the teacher. If a teacher receives a text from a student or an email from a student’s personal email account, he or she is required to respond stating the new media policy and asking the student to contact the teacher through the student’s official SAR High School email. It is the teachers’ responsibility to make sure that no forms of inappropriate communication continue. Though this is not a problem for many teachers, Yoram explained, “It really applies to me. It affects me deeply and pains me. I understand why the school does it and it makes sense, but I had defriend 500 Continued on page 15


The Buzz, June 2012

Advice Editorial Column

“Action Expresses Priorities” redefining our view of sar’s standards

By Danielle Pitkoff

The title “Parshat Hashavuah Program” has quickly become synonymous with the phrase “homework for parents.” Every day I hear about more offended parents who question whether SAR has the right to create a program demanding that they learn the parsha with their children each Shabbat. Quite frankly, if the half hour of learning and 39 seconds it takes to type in my name online are considered homework, I’d willingly ask for more from all of my teachers. I’ve also heard people go as far as to claim that the new PACT system is “illegal,” because it infringes upon lives outside of school. Really? And finally, to this day I truly can’t comprehend how any student could protest three homework-free and test-free heavenly weeks of school we were supplied with last year, otherwise known as Lishma. These mistaken complaints lie with those parents, students, and teachers who hold SAR to the standard of other educational institutions. This reflection is unfair--SAR breaks the stereotypes of the typical Modern Orthodox high school, both in the realm of Modern Orthodoxy

and in the realm of high school, simply because it is a school that operates on a mission with a specific set of goals. Whether or not these goals line up with those of other institutions is irrelevant, because the key difference exists not between the specific goals themselves, but in the focus and dedication with which SAR implements those goals in the everyday lives of the community it hopes to build. Action truly does express priorities. On an institutional level, this means that every school can talk the talk of a great mission, but who is really able to walk the walk and execute it? The dedication to programs such as parsha, lishma, and PACT is a tangible representation of how SAR has mastered the bona fide walk. For example, SAR does not just boast its value of halachic awareness and obligation, but actually mandates that each of its students take Beit Midrash. In keeping with the value of a continuation of lifelong Jewish learning, SAR created the Bogrim program to involve its graduates in critical analyses of controversial issues like homosexuality in Judaism. The creation of the Lishma unit last year was the actualization of the school’s value of learning for the sake of

Layout Editors Rose Frankel Harry Varon Associate Editor Anna Ballan Features Editors Avidan Grossman Hilla Katz Miriam Lichtenberg Rebecca Siegel Copy Editor Zach Nelkin Online Editors Chanan Heisler Shalhevet Schwartz Photography Editor Andrew Frenkel Research Manager Elana Rosenthal Faculty Advisor Dr. Rivka P. Schwartz Faculty Supervisor Rabbi Jonathan Kroll

responsibility to embrace our opportunity as the guinea pigs of an experiment that has the power to redefine both Modern Orthodox Judaism and high school in general. We are not the only ones with the responsibility of upholding the mission. The school itself cares so much about the community’s approval that its mission can end up diluted. For example, the negative feedback that the school received about the Lishma unit last year was enough to completely erase the initiative from the school curriculum. This action suggests that the school does not value learning for the sake of learning nearly enough. Keeping the Lishma units despite the pushback would have demonstrated that the school has the backbone to stand up for its principles. SAR will always have to deal with the pushback from new initiatives. However, SAR must be able to draw the line somewhere. Though it should continue to give ear to the community’s feedback, I sincerely hope to see it protect its current initiatives, PACT and the Parshat Hashavuah program, as a reflection of its true commitment to the mission.

The Buzz 2.0

STAFF Editors in Chief Ricki Heicklen Judith Kepecs Danielle Pitkoff

learning; it demonstrated SAR’s ability to go where no school had gone before. SAR may only be in its tenth year, but I could produce a grocery list of examples of how SAR’s blueprint pushes its walls beyond anyone’s comfortable limits. Looking at the school through this lens, the parsha program is evidently not just “homework” for the parents; rather, it is a concrete effort to create a community in which we value family relationships and Torah study. Note: community is a key word here. SAR’s mission isn’t exclusive to the people inside its building. I recognize that even one who agrees with the values in the mission can disagree with the way those values are implemented. Picture SAR as an incubator, with Rabbi Harcsztark and the administration all dressed in white lab coats and green goggles, sitting in the -08 rooms for hours, hypothesizing about the best techniques to shape our community. Sometimes, they are successful in their experiments and findings. But in order to achieve success, they must experiment multiple times, and yes, sometimes they will get it wrong before they get it right. Rather than offering criticism and unhelpful feedback, we, as students, teachers, and parents have the

The Buzz has been SAR High School’s official school newspaper for eight years. It has thus far been an invaluable source of information, observation, and entertainment. To that, we credit an impressive canon of editors and writers alike, as well as a devout commitment to bringing the most up-to-date news to the SAR student body. Our predecessors set a high standard, and we intend to build on their accomplishments with a host of new developments ourselves. It is for this reason that we believe it is imperative that we address our SAR community, to impart to you our changes and to promise you that we will strive for excellence and integrity in every way we can. When setting out to take The Buzz to the next level, we first approached the most important people to an SAR High School paper: you. We asked our readers for suggestions, and we heard a resounding response. You asked for a sports column– on page 8, you have your sports column. You asked for more features– page 9 boasts a full page of color features. You asked for pictures, pullouts, and polls– flip through these pages and see for yourselves. And you can keep asking. We have a Buzz Box for suggestions located permanently in the main office, because we want to hear from you.

Your most challenging request so far was undoubtedly also your most significant contribution. At your suggestion, we will be fundamentally changing the nature of SAR High School news: for the first time in Buzz history, appearing online. Our website will include an archive of all printed articles as well as news reports that appear only online. This will allow us to report on events, policy changes, and games immediately after they occur, instead of whenever The Buzz is next due to come out. We our proud to welcome six new online correspondents, who will be responsible for reporting on up-to-date news and keeping our website fresh. You can check us out at But paramount to all these changes is something more: a colossal change to our philosophy as a newspaper. This year, The Buzz will try to reinvent the approach we have taken towards writing articles in previous years. This means sometimes deviating from the “typical” Buzz article format. It means allowing ourselves to cover articles that don’t necessarily fall directly within the scope of SAR happenings, but are nevertheless relevant to the SAR student body. And it means asking ourselves, to paraphrase The Newsroom’s Mackenzie McHale, “Is this the best possible form of the argument? Are

Staff Writers Isaac Breslow Gilad Fortgang Ariella Gentin Rebecca Harris Liat Katz

Melissa Lavine Ronit Morris Deena Nerwen Maya Pretsfelder Olivia Rosenzweig

Dalia Scheiner Harry Scheiner Lilly Scherban Samantha Schnall

we doing the best job we can to provide you with the most relevant news? Are we presenting the facts in their accurate context?” Our new ideology manifests itself in our newspaper meetings, where we spend hours discussing and debating the relevance of articles, the angles and arguments for each side, and the context in which to portray them. You can experience the ramifications of our new approach by reading page 5, where we will feature an op-ed debate in each issue in which two of our writers will argue about a given question. You can read Commentary on page 3, where a writer gives his opinion about a phenomenon without necessarily giving a detailed, interviewbased report, but magnificently delivers his own opinion free of cluttered and redundant quotes from students and faculty. In Dani’s editorial above, she praises SAR’s ability to “break the stereotype” of a typical Modern Orthodox high school, and urges the school to take this further. This year, The Buzz will break its own stereotypes. For now, we can only aspire to follow in SAR’s progressive footsteps. But with your suggestions, a stellar new staff, and our hard work and dedication, we hope to make these aspirations a reality.

Online Correspondents Gavriel SteinmetzSilber Toba Stern Rachel Weintraub

Emma Cantor Alon Futter Jessica Kane

Jennifer Kleiman Arly Mintz Benjamin Perla

The Buzz, June 2012


Advice Commentary Column

Quote a French Guy, Impress your Brother sibling rivalry in sar high school

By Avidan Grossman Legouve Pere once famously remarked, “A brother is a friend provided by nature.” I’m not sure who Legouve Pere is, but he sounds mad French and intellectual, so y’all probably think I’m very cultured and worldly, when really, that was the caption under a photo on my Instagram feed. Despite his obvious extensive knowledge of baguettes, berets, body odor, and other wellknown French contributions to mainstream American culture (French fries are Belgian bro, calm down), Mr. Pere clearly remains quite oblivious to the stark reality of having older siblings in high school. The fact is, Mr. Pere, your older brother is not your friend in high school. Now, maybe Legouve was busy orchestrating a revolution against the absolutist French monarchy or whatever it is typical French adolescents do during their high school glory days (Samuel Helwaser, where you at?), but that doesn’t excuse the rest of you uneducated hooligans from knowing what’s up. So let me clue you in, homies. The sad truth is, having siblings in high school can suck. You know some poor fool really has it rough when his older brother is one of those pseudo-intellectual types, walking around all motivated and prodigious like

the lovechild of Socrates and Albert Camus, and not bothered by mundane activities like eating, sleeping, and having fun. He assertively struts around the building like it’s the Harvard quad, with a battered edition of An Advanced Guide to Theoretical Astrophysics (you know, just for kicks) and a tendency to sorrowfully articulate a favorite Hamlet

“We may look suave, confident and debonair, but internally we are still recovering from 17th century primogeniture” quote whilst lamenting the lack of traditional Baroque influences in the architectural structure of the SAR building. This dude pretentiously prances around the school like he’s got more titles than Jonathan Sacks, racking up the academic accolades like it’s his job, and constantly labeling the pitiful plebeians in his way “so bour-

geois.” While he’s busy anointing himself Supreme Overlord Exalted Leader the Third of the entire student body, you’re still just trying to figure out the sixteenth thing Rabbi Harcsztark told us to remember during his State of the School speech. If it isn’t bad enough that this erudite aristocrat receives all the praise at home, his younger siblings now have to attend school forever eclipsed by his scholarly shadow. Don’t get me wrong; it can be convenient to have an older sibling in school, mooching off his lunch credit and blaming the startling depletion of money in his account on a decimal error. Sure, there are definitely all sorts of advantages to having a sibling who already experienced the rigors of high school, but getting congratulated on your sibling’s 8.6 GPA can get repetitive. With the exponential growth SAR has experienced these last few years, it is now more common than ever to have many siblings scattered throughout the school. Less and less frequently is an incoming freshman at SAR the first in his family to attend the high school. Problems only begin to arise when faculty at the school, however inadvertently, start to evaluate students in comparison to their older siblings. Then, younger siblings may feel as if there is pressure to uphold the same academic standards and intellectual interests as their

gifted older siblings and even to maintain similar standards and values-- like if your brother was captain of every single academic team and editor of the Literary and Math magazines as well as the school newspaper, but all you really want to sign up for is Arts in the Park (just as esteemed!). I’m not trying to introduce brotherly tension or resentment into any familial dynamic, but the fact still remains: Younger siblings can have it tough. With that in mind, I humbly appeal to your innermost feelings of empathy, patriotism, and national pride, hoping that you will eventually appreciate younger siblings as distinct from their older counterparts. We may look suave, confident and debonair, but internally we are still recovering from 17th century primogeniture. Older siblings, try to encourage your younger brothers and sisters instead of making snide remarks about their productivity level. Teachers and parents, try to appreciate each individual student for who they are, not for who their siblings were. And younger siblings, the next time your scholarly brother barges in on you muploading fishfaced selfies in the bathroom, quote an abstract French guy and impress the hell out of him, because chances are he used the same quotation before you in one of his college application essays.

It’s a Boy-Girl Thing dating policy at sar

By Chanan Heisler From the freshmen who are just starting to make friends to the seniors who are already a ‘family’, there are always couples in each grade. But how should the school deal with student relationships? What should students tell or not tell their teachers about their dating history? The issue boils down to a major question: how much should SAR be involved in our personal lives? Officially, the administration is very clear: they do not oppose student dating in any way. Dr. Schwartz specifies that “Our rules should govern behavior (i.e., no PDA in school), but we cannot govern personal relationships any more than we can govern friendships.” Though oftentimes overlooked, many teachers are aware of student relationships. Are students comfortable with this reality? Some students, like Alex Rosh (‘14), agree that students could tell their teachers about their personal relationships, but need to be cautious while doing so. Rosh explains, “Obviously, here at SAR, we are really close with our teachers. But, I mean, they are adults and there should be a general line that shouldn’t be crossed.” Dr. Schwartz

believes that if students truly want to keep their relationships hidden, then it is within their control to do so. She explains, “If you don’t want me to know, don’t spend every free second hanging out by his or her locker. I’m not the KGB, but I’m not blind, either.” Some students, like Leah Slaten (‘13), find it “a little disconcerting when teachers seem to know everything about students’ lives.” Slaten continues, “I don’t think teachers should be gossiping about students. Only if a student is really close with the teacher, it might be ok.” Students generally agree that teachers should only talk to a student about his or her relationships if they happen to be close with that particular student. An anonymous student confided, “Last year all of my teachers knew about my relationship and would make jokes and comments about it to me. It was extremely unnerving and made me uncomfortable.” Many students believe that comments by teachers sometimes cross the line between friendly conversation and creepy intervention. Though inappropriate behavior should not occur in school, when it does, teachers may be caught in an uncomfortable situation. A group of students, who will remain anonymous, believe that “most people know

that school is not the appropriate time or place to do that but if the situation occurs, a teacher standing in silent disappointment will discourage those kids from ever doing it again.” The embarrassment students may

“We cannot govern personal relationships any more than we can govern friendships” feel in such a situation may deter students from breaking the shmirat negiah policy in school. As another anonymous student said, “Why would I risk trying to hook up in school where there’s so much at stake? If the situation comes up, I usually just hang out outside school like a normal person.” Many students have heard stories of their peers at other yeshivas being caught and getting into trouble for acting inappropriately in school. Although some students do end up breaking the school rules, the majority knows it is just

not worth it. Issues involving student relationships definitely affect a large percentage, but not all, of the student body. Not every student is even interested in dating. As Lauren Levy (‘13) says, “People shouldn’t go out in school anyways because it’s stupid and please no one go out with me.” Still, students (aside from Levy) are free to date whomever they choose. The administration gives students the freedom to experiment with dating and commitment, and not every other yeshiva high school can boast such tolerance. SAR trusts its students to act properly in school and lets them make their own choices. Students are able to be open about their relationships here at SAR, but at the same time, our school still expects them to uphold the expectations of a Modern Orthodox yeshiva. Students are still expected to refrain from touching or from “hanging out” alone in the auditorium, field, roof, or on the track with a member of the opposite sex. If students make sure to stay Shomrei Negiah in school, then the administration has no problem with their relationship. So ladies, yes I am single, yes I follow the rules, and yes SAR approves.


The Buzz, June 2012

School Life Advice Column

Letter in the Scroll

a unique introduction to dveykut By Samantha Schnall In the midst of a frenzy of cramming for last year’s finals, students of all grades were assigned the summer reading of A Letter in the Scroll by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. While this assignment might not have seemed any different than previous summer readings, the choice was deliberate and distinct from the summer readings of the past. The book serves to simultaneously build upon last year’s theme of Arvut and introduce this year’s theme of Dveykut. In previous years, different teachers have suggested books for the Judaic reading assignment, and students selected the book they were most interested in reading. Rabbi Kroll brings up the problem with this system, explaining “that [not only has] the assignment been residing in Gemara classes, which doesn’t make much sense since it doesn’t relate to anything that’s happening in the Gemara classes, [but it also] doesn’t relate to anything that’s going on in school.” The solution to these problems is quite simple: assign reading that relates to the theme of the year, Dveykut, and have it “reside where Dveykut resides,” namely, in Beit Midrash classes. Once this solution was reached, questions arose as to which book to assign, and whether the entire student body would have the same assignment. Rabbi Kroll shares, “we decided to sacrifice a little bit on the idea of what is appropriate for a particular grade in the interest of having something

uniform and unified.” Mr. Fleischer adds that he believed “it would be very impactful to have every student read the same book.” The next step was to select a book, one that was “accessible, wasn’t too difficult to read, and had enough intellectual and spiritual content,” according to Rabbi Kroll. The book also needed to address similar ques-

half of the students who participated in a recent poll, of those who read the whole book or part of the book, felt indifferent about it. This is likely due to the fact that 43% of the students who participated in the poll skimmed the book or started it but didn’t finish it, making it unlikely for them to absorb a full and complete picture of the reading. For

tions to the ones Dveykut raised. Rabbi Kroll pointed out that the scope was further narrowed to works of Rabbi Sacks since “there was a general agreement that [he] is probably the most eloquent, well-spoken and interesting contemporary writer out there.” Though much time and effort was dedicated to finding the “right” book, almost

the nearly 20% who didn’t read the book at all, the main reason was because of a general lack of interest in the topic of A Letter in the Scroll. Students’ reactions to the book were split down the middle, with some loving A Letter In The Scroll, and others finding it boring, repetitive, or disappointing. Does

the fact that only 37% of students read the entire book account for such a low approval rating for A Letter In the Scroll? Or is the general discontent perhaps because students will rarely find a Jewish book more engaging and exciting than other summer activities? Or is the answer rooted in the fact that students had no choice of what book to read, as they had in previous years? The students who disliked the book comprised about 31% of the students in the poll. Several students remarked that the reading wasn’t intellectually or spiritually challenging. DD Naiman (’16) says that he wasn’t spiritually influenced by the summer reading, but this lack of influence could be attributed to his general dislike of reading. Yitzhak Goldstein (‘16) thought the book was “okay”, explaining that though it presented a few interesting arguments, it didn’t change his view of Judaism. Anna Peterman (’14) recalls, “There were parts of [A Letter in the Scroll] that exposed me to an interesting understanding of Judaism, but I do not think the book actually affected my views.” While she found the first chapter “compelling and exciting”, her high hopes for the rest of the book weren’t met because she felt the initial questions weren’t answered. Zach Nelkin (‘13) shares a similar critique: “I felt that [Rabbi Sacks] dressed up subpar answers to his original questions with some flowery language that he found in a thesaurus.” Some students disliked the book beContinued on page 15

We were going to think of a title, but we ran out of time procrastination at sar

By Rebecca Siegel There is no doubt that SAR students have talents, passions, dreams, and hobbies. Yet, many students claim that they are too pressed for time to pursue their hobbies. “I have always been in the play at SAR, and loved it. But I had to give that up,” explains Miriam Lichtenberg (‘14). What causes this situation to arise? According to Lichtenberg, “It’s the work this year. I think if I didn’t have the pressure of SATs and harder classes and just being a junior, I would have joined the play.” A long, arduous day terminated by hours of homework leaves little time for hobbies. Ben Dobkin (‘13) admits that after completing all his homework, he has very little time or energy left. “If I had less homework, I would devote more of my time to the things I love to do,” he acknowledges. But is this the case for every student? Are there some variables that are unaccounted for? Many students spend so much time glued onto a computer or television screen, that despite all of their work, they still might

not have time for their hobbies. After all, who wants to paint when there’s a marathon event of The Vampire Diaries on the CW? Even Lichtenberg concedes to the fact that she spends time on social networking sites and watching television. “I do spend maybe more time than I should watching TV and going on the internet,” she explains. Lia Hartman (‘14) expresses even stronger sentiments: “At night, whenever I have free time, I spend it on the computer or watching TV. And with less homework, I’d like to say I’d pursue hobbies, but TV…it’s just so good these days.” The results of a recent poll confirmed that SAR students spend an average of 2.2 hours per night engrossed in unnecessary and distracting entertainment. The time students spend texting, watching TV, playing video games, and roaming through websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr definitely adds up. For a student who doesn’t even complete school until 5:10, 2.2 hours represents a significant portion of free time. While many students, like Hartman, admit that these online and mobile distrac-

tions detract from time that could be better spent, not everyone thinks that social networking is a waste of time. Rabbi Schwab, the face behind the tour de force that is @ arijay918, defends social networking: “So much of the interaction between friends, family, and coworkers is now happening online,” he explains. He believes that social networking isn’t a silly fad or a waste of time, but a way of connecting. If a large portion of socializing occurs in online forums, then social networking isn’t a waste of time. “That being said, do students waste time on sites like Facebook and Twitter? Yes, they do. We all do,” Rabbi Schwab admits. Not only do students search for distractions that will temporarily push aside their overwhelming workload, but faculty do as well. Rabbi Kroll recounts that once, when faced with the daunting task of grading papers, he avoided his work by cleaning his house. Suffice it to say, he probably would not have been sweeping crumbs off his kitchen floor if that stack of tests wasn’t glaring at him from his desk. People have always procrastinated, but

in the age of Facebook and Twitter, is procrastination easier and more effortless than ever before? For a student that doesn’t want to confront an overwhelming workload, social networking sites and funny YouTube videos are the ideal distraction, and are just one click away. And while social networking might be important, couldn’t those precious hours be better spent pursuing a student’s passion? “I once told one of my teachers that I had too much work,” an anonymous sophomore explains. “She told me that only if I could honestly say that I spent all my time doing things that were, in her words, ‘constructive’, then she’d give me less work.” Can this student honestly say that if he were given less homework he would devote more time to his hobbies? Are students really too bogged down in work to make time for the things they love? “If you love something enough, you’ll make time for it,” explains Hartman. So whether it’s physics or Facebook that stands in the way of students’ passions, students should work harder to make room for the activities they love most.

The Buzz, June 2012


Advice Op-EdColumn Debate


should religious observance be a factor in sar hs admissions? AFFIRMATIVE By Miriam Lichtenberg Last week, I was skirted. I was forced to walk in a thick, long SAR skirt that could eat my skirt for breakfast. I was not pleased. But I can understand why I was skirted. The school is conveying a certain message as to how we should present ourselves as observant Modern Orthodox Jews. I recognize the message even if I disagree with the details. However, for someone for whom observance has no meaning, the big picture is lost. When first presented with the question of whether religious observance should be measured in admissions to SAR High School, the answer seemed so obvious. SAR is a Modern Orthodox Yeshiva that values religiosity and the principles that go along with it, such as Torah study, Tefillah, engaging in meaningful conversations centered around a religious way of living, and so on. It strives to mold students into Torah observant Jews that are committed to leading a life of mitzvot. The mission statement is clear in its dedication of “shaping an environment of discourse and action where mitzvot inspire respect, obligation and aspiration.” We are trying to build a religious environment where observance is imbedded in each student. To make this a reality, religious observance needs to play a factor in SAR admissions. SAR’s standard of observance encompasses a diverse spectrum. The grand conversation benefits from people for whom observance means different things. But SAR is not a pluralistic school nor is it claiming to be one. Therefore, the majority of the accepted students should have a religious observance that complies with the ModernOrthodox observance of the school. Having a school that is too accepting leads to an environment where mitzvot no longer “inspire respect, obligation and aspiration.” Yes, diversity is great. But the reality of admitting everyone, regardless of their religious observance, is sacrificing an observant, committed, environment. At Rabbi Harcsztark’s “State of the School” address, he outlined the many ways in which the school can improve. He expressed his desire for religious observance to be the ‘cool’ and ‘good’ thing to be doing. If your friend is interested in becoming a more devout davener, he proclaimed, you should be supporting them. He aspires for SAR to cultivate an environment in which mitzvot and Torah studies are encouraged. A place where students feel comfortable with their religious observance and dedication. If SAR chooses to ignore religious observance as a factor of admissions, this vision can not be fulfilled. If there are no standards, then this vision will remain a distant dream. I do not, however, believe that reli-

gious observance should by any means be the sole factor in admitting a prospective student into SAR. The same way in which grades should not be the only quality SAR looks at, however, they must be taken into consideration. So too, religious observance should be considered as well. I think most would agree that a report card is not a perfect indicator of intelligence. Does that mean the school should disregard a prospective students’ previous report card? We need to use a report card as our only metric, despite the imperfections of this system. Similarly, observance is not a perfect indicator of religious commitment. But it is all we got and we can not just ignore it; to say that religious observance should play no role is inconsistent with our school’s mission. So how do we measure religious observance? If it is such an important value, how can we assess that in an eighth grader? Religious observance can be shown in a number of ways. It can be shown during the interview process by a student showing a real passion for Judaism and observance. And vice versa, if a student were to admit that observance does not matter, I would respect their frankness and tell them this is just not their right school. The application and interview should consist of a few questions that deal with religious observance. Students can obviously lie, but some will be honest, and it is good to discuss the student’s best interests openly. I

“To say that religious observance should play no role is inconsistent with our school’s mission” do not give much credence to the argument that religious observance and dedication is undetectable at the age of fourteen. There is character in an eighth grader. Religious observance can also be demonstrated by speaking to references such as the applicant’s teachers or family rabbi. The application should specifically ask for a letter of recommendation from a religious mentor. Having somebody who is aware and conscious in your religious life is just as important as having an academic reference. Wearing my skirt above my knee did not violate a halachik prohibition. Yet there are values that go beyond halacha that are just part of who we are. We are all in the game, grappling with these issues, having conversations as to how to deal with tzniut, kashrut, davening, and other values that are central to SAR. But if observance meant nothing to me, I would not be interested in having this conversation.

NEGATIVE By Hilla Katz Over the summer, I happened to end up at the same Shabbos table as an SAR alumnus from the first graduating class of SAR. Over the course of the meal, we discussed various teachers, policies, and administrators. At a certain point, I remember him saying to me that when you are a student at SAR, you do not realize how special the school is. You leave, and you realize that wome n teaching gemara and a co-ed judaic studies class is uncommon in the rest of the Jewish world. I responded by telling him that in addition to these qualities, SAR is also a place where almost no topic of halakhic conversation is considered taboo. Examples include the sexuality unit in Beit Midrash, the challenges of davening, and this year’s theme of Dveykut. In considering the question “Should religious observance be a factor in admissions to SAR”, another special quality of the SAR student body comes to mind. That is the diversity of opinions of the 500 students in our building. There are students with different styles, opinions and religious backgrounds. Without this diversity, our unique conversations would be quite boring and short-lived. This diversity can be attributed to the fact that religious observance is not the determining factor in deciding which students to admit from elementary schools. The reason that religious observance is not and should not be a factor in admissions is that accepting a select group of students that have proven themselves to be religiously adequate makes the student body of SAR religiously elite. This is not the goal of our school. SAR is supposed to be a community school, which is, by definition, the opposite of an elite school. If SAR is a religiously elite school, then we are essentially giving up on the idea that our controversial and engaging conversations provide any sort of religious enlightenment. Even if SAR were to strictly adhere to the criteria of Modern Orthodoxy, this would be extremely difficult, because our religious denomination is not so easily defined. While SAR does cater to the Modern Orthodox community, that community has a very wide range of religious beliefs. It is not as easy as running a separate-sex school, which filters out the modern-orthodox and orthodox families by definition. In addition, monitoring a student’s religious observance at home is not only difficult but also irrelevant. We cannot make these decisions based on the behavior of an individual eighth grader because I can guarantee that no one is religiously mature at the age of thirteen or fourteen. The counter argument is that, in its mission statement, SAR defines itself as a Modern Orthodox school and should therefore only accept students who truly define

themselves as Modern Orthodox. It is my belief, however, that a close reading of our mission statement provides us with a process through which SAR takes a bunch of 13 and 14 year olds with varying religious backgrounds and beliefs, and over the course of four years teaches them how to be a community of Modern Orthodox Jews. While some students may be more comfortable in their different denominations, any student applying to SAR should theoretically be willing to open their minds to the value system presented to them in our institution. The first step is to “challenging each learner to move beyond his or her comfortable limits”. Clearly, this doesn’t mean that SAR only caters to the students who have a strong religious background. This means that you accept a percentage of not-so-Modern-Orthodox students and you push them beyond their comfortable limits by exposing them to the mitzvot in an open and non-aggressive way. Religious consciousness and openness are far more valuable than whether a student meets a checklist of “orthodox” practice. The way in which we expose these students to the mitzvot is by teaching them how to “immerse themselves in a culture of learning and service as participants in the grand conversation between Torah and the world” with programs such as Beit Midrash, Mach, and Jewish Identity. I have witnessed several incidents in which students with less religious backgrounds have been able to connect to the sources in these curricula. These sources have the power to expose these students to ideas that are not necessarily available at their homes or communities. In addition, the Gemara and Tanach curricula, having taken a certain dominance over every student’s schedule, also have the ability to enhance our understanding and appreciation for mitzvot. And through these steps that we take, we reach our goal. We ensure that every student, despite their background upon arrival at SAR, leaves with a greater understanding and appreciation for Torah and mitzvot. Ideally, every student graduates with a positively reinforced Jewish identity. Ideally, we apply the mission statement in order to shape “an environment of discourse and action where mitzvot inspire respect, obligation and aspiration”. These may be difficult ideals to reach but the process through which we fulfill them is not by screening a student’s or a family’s religious observance. SAR is a school that thinks beyond our comfortable limits even when it comes to admissions. SAR is thus strengthened by the reciprocal relationship between its diverse student body and its open-minded Modern Orthodox mindframe that contributes to the many conversations and halakhic questions that we discuss on a daily basis.


The Buzz, June 2012

Advice School Column Life

More RPT, Less Right Places and Times By Rachel Weintraub As every rushed test taker knows, five minutes seems like nothing. However, when students were welcomed back to the 20122013 school year, the new changes to Tefillah attendance policies and RPT made them reconsider the value of just five minutes. One of the most significant changes this year is the new policy addressing late attendance to early morning Shacharit. In previous years, a student would be ‘marked’ late if he or she arrived after 8:10, and absent if he or she arrived after 8:20. Now, all students will be marked late if they arrive after 8:05, and absent if they arrive after 8:15. Why was the attendance policy shifted? First, it prevents students from deliberately arriving to school within the 8:05-8:10 time slot. SAR set up the 8:10 policy for the rare case in which a carpool overslept or a bus came late, but not so students could intentionally time their entrances into school to be nine minutes later than the ideal attendance time. The policy also ensures that students who arrive early to school go directly to davening at 8:00. Previously, students spent time talking to friends or catching up on homework, and would finally stroll into davening at 8:09. Dr. Schwartz explains,

“Students walking into davening a minute before they would be marked ‘late’ were abusing the time meant to relieve sincere late arrivals. They understood the extra nine minutes to be an excused cut.” Student exploitation of the old attendance policy clearly seems to have inspired the new one. To account for students whose carpools or buses were stuck in traffic, the school now discounts lateness in the event of an external holdup in the student’s commute. Carly Jankelovitz (‘16), who commutes on the Stamford bus, states: “This policy [automatic discount of lateness] will definitely help if I’m ever stuck in that situation [heavy highway traffic].” With the new policy, teachers encounter less resistance from students to be at the “right place and time”. Since students do not wish to get RPT, heading to Shacharit on time is in their favor. Mr. Lannik confirms this: “I have noticed that there is less student resistance this year than others,” he explains. The 8:05 policy compels students to keep track of their own arrivals. In addition to the new Shacharit attendance policy, strict Mincha attendance is taken now as well. Previously, teachers stood on the grade floors, yelling at students to stop their conversations and proceed to

Mincha. Ms. Germano recalls, “It was terrible! Students would ignore me, and I would have to approach individuals and ask them to go to Mincha.” This year, Ms. Germano helps run a sophomore mincha minyan, and finds that it runs much more smoothly. She attributes this improvement to the smaller minyan groups, as well as the strict attendance. Josh Blustein (‘15) additionally agrees that the Mincha ‘atmosphere’ has improved because of the new attendance policy. Last year, teachers would have to ask repeatedly for silence in order to commence with tefillah, and students would end up missing most of their Mincha break. Now that students’ attendance is being documented, students are “more eager to start davening on time, and then finish on time, to allow for a good chunk of a break. I barely have to control them, except for the occasional ‘shhh,’” explains Rabbi Kroll. Although there are benefits to the new Mincha attendance, many students voice complaints over the stringent rules. Laura Smerling (’14) and Moshe Schwartz (‘14) both have gym ninth period on Wednesdays; they have to change and then rush up to the fourth floor annex to make it on time for Mincha. Moshe complained: “I think SAR

doesn’t fully realize how rushed we students are.” With the new Shacharit and Mincha attendance policies comes a new RPT system as well. RPT will no longer be administered one lunch period a week, but will be administered daily, further increasing the likelihood that a student will ‘get’ it. In the past, if a student was caught riding the elevator on a Thursday, he or she would see no reason not to continue riding the elevator until the following Wednesday, when he or she would sit through RPT. Now, that same student would receive RPT the following Friday, and would receive an additional session of RPT for each subsequent time he or she took the elevator. “This increase in RPT sessions tightens up the system,” Dr. Schwartz explains. “Obviously nothing will be perfect, but it reduces the number of disturbances in SAR.” While many students find these new attendance regulations to be confining and severe, the reasoning behind them actually serves to benefit both students and teachers alike. Students are now forced to take it upon themselves to come to school and Tefillah on time, while teachers are relieved of their duty of playing ‘babysitter’ when trying to convince students to go to Tefilah.

Double or Nothing?

sports and academic team limitations By Deena Nerwen Anyone who has read SAR’s Cocurricular Handbook (yes, it exists), knows what all SAR activities have in common. They have something any organized system must have in order to function: Rules. The rules that are implemented affect many aspects of co-curricular activities, particularly the size of a team or club. Size considerations are an integral part of sports and academic teams alike. Most sports teams have between 10 and 20 members: “They determine this based on what they feel is best for the team and the players on them, bearing in mind that an oversized team can be detrimental to all,” explains Mr. Berlin. He continues, “At this point in SAR’s sports team development, all teams have to make ‘cuts’ because of the large turnout at tryouts. For example, if a team is too large, it would adversely affect the athletes’ practice and playing time.” There are only two sports clubs that are open to all students: the Boys Wrestling Team, and the Track Team. Since Fall sports require a greater time commitment than Spring sports do, a student can generally be on one sports team in the Fall season, but, with the coach’s approval, can be on two in the Spring season. In rare situations, if a student has good academics and the school’s approval, he or she can participate in two Fall sports. Daniella Herman (‘13) thinks this rule,

not being allowed to participate in more than a specific number of teams per season, is unfair. “A player should be able to be on more than one team in the Fall season if they [sic] can manage it and sustain their GPA, and if the two sports do not interfere with each other too often.” Nurit Haberman (‘15), who made soccer, hockey, and softball in her freshman year and was forced to drop one of the three, agrees with Herman that the rule should be changed. She observes: “The kids who are good at sports don’t get to be on all the teams [that they made] so that just makes the teams worse, because not all the best players are allowed to be on them.” The rule was created in part to ensure that a student would not have to juggle two possibly conflicting commitments, and would be fully dedicated to a specific team. Herman admits, “For the season I was on both hockey and soccer. There were some times when I had to choose one sport over the other for a practice or game, and I could therefore not be as invested as the coach wanted me to be.” Though the sports team limit rule is fully established, there are additional rules that are currently in the working. One of these rules is that if an athlete gets more than two C’s in Investment in Learning on his or her January report card, he or she will no longer be able to participate in any sports team.

Academic teams, like sports teams, are often mutually exclusive and have strict rules limiting participation. Of the four main academic teams (Model UN, Mock Trial, Debate, and Model Congress), a student is only allowed to participate in one. This both opens spots for additional students, and ensures that students do not have an overwhelming workload that they cannot handle. This rule poses a problem for students who try out for multiple teams, and then are accepted to more than one. These lucky few must consider their options and make their choice. Hilla Katz (‘14) made both Mock Trial and Model UN last year, but had to choose one. She explains her decision, “I chose Mock Trial because it is a varsity team, as opposed to Model UN which was JV. Mock Trial also sounded a lot more interesting and relatable. The team is also a lot smaller, it’s only 12 people, which creates a more intimate environment.” Ben Perla (‘15) faced a similar dilemma last year when he made Model UN and Debate. He “chose Model UN because it’s supposedly more prestigious and [he] was told [he would] be more fit for Model UN than Debate.” Perla continues, somewhat wistfully, “it would have been great being on both. Aside from honing my oratory and arguing skills, it just looks a lot better for college.” Ricki Heicklen (‘14) agrees with Perla that students should be allowed onto multi-

ple teams, wishing she could have officially been allowed to be a part of the two teams she made. She elaborates on her position: “I believe that if a student [who] made it onto multiple teams can handle his or her work and extracurricular load, and deserves the spots more than other students who didn’t make it, his or her position should not be taken away and given to another student.” Some students believe that the rule is fair, valuable, and should continue to take effect. As Katz puts it, “If you are on two academic teams, then you can’t possibly put 100% effort into it, and then the experience is just not worth it.” Heicklen acknowledges that though she understands why the rule exists, “I think all it does is create competition between teams for the best candidates and frustration for students who want and deserve to be on multiple teams.” Though these sport and academic team rules may be frustrating for a large chunk of the student body, they are beneficial to many students as well. Certain students, who would never have had a chance to participate in certain sport and academic teams, are able to do so, because these rules give them a greater shot. When questioning the extracurricular policies, students must understand that there is another point of view, and that it is difficult to create a policy that will please everybody.

The Buzz, June 2012


School Life Advice Column

Moneyball: The Investment Team’s Challenge By Isaac Breslow It’s a familiar story. Our team is down most of the game, not losing badly but not quite pulling ahead either. It’s the end and things don’t look good, but amazingly, under the leadership of Hockey Captain Matt Landes (‘13) and basketball star Jacob “Tank” Sternberg (‘13), the team pulls through for an SAR win. The real difference is that this isn’t floor hockey or court basketball, no, this is the investment team. Though not as large a spectator sport as our athletic games on better days, the investment competition is every bit as fast paced and intense, and the game stretches over a number of weeks rather than just an hour or two. And, of course, the stakes are also much higher: last year’s Sy Syms Investment Competition’s first prize was no less than $750. The high pressure, high risk, and high potential payout nature of the competition – which appropriately mimics real trading – is palpable in Matt Landes’ description of the game’s last hours, in which SAR pulled through for the win: “The last day of the competition was a Friday, and Shabbos was coming in very early. I checked the competition page at 4:00 pm, right before I went to shul; keep in mind the market closes at 4:00. When I checked, we were in second place by around $500-$1000. Pretty much I was [angry] all Shabbos because we barely lost. We had an amazing return, something like 75%, yet we still lost; it was painful. After shabbos I checked my email and in my inbox was an email from Akiva that said something like, ‘WE WON!!!’ Immediately, I checked the competition page and, lo and behold, we did win by a couple thousand dollars.” The way an investment competition works is that all of the teams compete over

the internet on a fake stock market. The value of everything on the mock market is tied to their actual value – therefore the strategy is to actually anticipate the performance of the market, which companies’ stock will become more or less valuable, and which commodities will rise or fall in value. Everyone starts with the same amount of money in the beginning, and the goal is to make the most money by the end, called the “highest return.” The key to our team’s victory was trading futures. As Landes effusively insists, “The whole time we were being carried by Akiva and Ilan, our two freshmen futures extraordinaires.” A future is a “high risk, high reward” – the two are typically-correlated investment types in which you agree to buy a commodity in the future at a particular price. Trading gas futures proved the critical edge for SAR. The team went to Yeshiva University’s Business School, Sy Syms, for a celebratory lunch with the Dean where they got their trophy, took pictures with the Dean, and had a chance to enjoy their victory. The SAR victory was twofold. One half was in the form of an an invitation, the other, of course, was the reward money. The invitation was to join the “3rd Annual Exeter/Andover Investment Invitational.” The competition features the preppy lineup of Exeter, Andover, St. Paul’s, Hotchkiss, Choate, Peddie, Milton, Loomis Chaffee Lawrenceville, and of course, our very own SAR. The competition is currently underway, and our team is apparently doing respectably but is not in the lead (this competition doesn’t permit futures trading, and we are unable to trade during the various yomim tovim, while the other schools still can). However, the story of the prize money is a more complicated one.

All discussion over how the prize money should be spent took place informally, and there was no conversation on the subject over e-mail, of which there would be a clear record. Jacob Sternberg insisted that the last discussion on the topic took place “before the summer. And [Mr. Gotel] gave the impression that nothing’s going to realistically happen with the money.” He went on to elaborate that Mr. Gotel “explained to us that it was complicated to get the money through Yeshiva University, which was true.” True to this assessment he insists “Till this day I haven’t seen the money, heck we

“‘Till this day I haven’t seen the money, heck we haven’t even smelled it.’” haven’t even smelled it.” It seems that the money was simply lost in translation– the reward was never received – and the discussion of how to spend it broke down because it never materialized. However, what complicates this conclusion is the 50 dollar entrance fee that, among other things, is required in order for SAR to enter their prep school competition. The team is in the midst of competing, so presumably the 50 dollars were paid. Who paid it, and where did the money come from? Matt Landes alleges that the 50 dollars were paid out of the $750 YU reward money claiming that, “Gotel claims that he used $50 from the winnings to pay the fee for the prep school competition.” This

would of course imply that the reward was in fact received, and at least Mr. Gotel has access to it. And, if the reward money really was used to pay the $50 fee to Andover, then $700 of reward money is sitting unused, and by all accounts inaccessible to the group of people who fought so hard to win it in the first place. In the end, Mr. Gotel confirms that the school is holding the money for use by the investment team. He explained the difficulty of deciding what to do with it, “We had discussions regarding what to do with the money. The more serious [ones] revolved around how we could use this money to make even more money. While this sounds great, the implementation would be rather difficult. 750 dollars is not a lot of money, and there would need to be a serious commitment of time. For the time being, the money is being held by the school until we come up with a plan.” The money is still available for the investment team’s use, at some point in the near future. Some members of the investment team rightfully resent the school for reserving the right to decide the fate of the money. After all, it was the investment team’s hard work that earned the prize money in the first place. Regardless, the team can be reassured that the prize they worked hard to earn will ultimately be put to some good use, even if it isn’t what they had initially planned or hoped for. As they turn their attention toward the Exeter competition, it is interesting to reflect that this reward is a mere $200. Say what you will about Yeshiva University or the Yeshiva League, we know how to offer a good prize, even if we’re shakier about delivering it.

Strengh in Numbers? By Melissa Lavine It seems that every year, the size of SAR High School’s student body increases, and more and more students are relegated to the balcony of the auditorium for school assemblies. While the class sizes may have started off small when SAR was founded, they are now anything but. The smallest grade this year is the senior class with 97 students, with the largest being the new freshman class with 151 students. The question of the ideal grade size is being raised yet again. With 151 students in the freshman class, many feel that the number of students is overwhelming and deters the formation of grade unity and the prospering of new friendships. “You meet less people when there is a big grade,” explains Sivya Schochet (‘16). Her classmate Sara Bernstein (‘16) adds,“It’s harder to meet more people.” However, Maya Apfelbaum (’13) feels that

while the effects of a larger student body aren’t necessarily negative, a larger student body definitely changes the ‘feel’ of the school. Apfelbaum explains, “It takes longer to form relationships when you are in a huge grade because it is hard to meet people quickly. Every day I see someone new, and I wonder if they go here.” In addition to a wave of colossal growth, SAR has been undergoing a shift in student hometown demographics. While SAR High School was once populated with SAR Academy kids from Westchester, Riverdale, and New York City, the school now attracts lots of students from Teaneck, Englewood and Stamford. Tamar David (’16) notes: “There is a big group from New Jersey. [About h]alf the grade is from SAR [Academy] or New Jersey, and then there are the other kids.” Notably, there are 31 graduates of The Moriah School in the freshman grade, and five new jersey school buses. In SAR’s early

years, it was composed predominantly of SAR Academy graduates and Riverdale residents. As SAR grew, it began to attract many Manhattan students, particularly teenagers who would otherwise have opted towards Ramaz. Recently, SAR has witnessed a huge influx of Moriah students, both elementary students attempting to switch into SAR Academy and prospective eighth graders applying to SAR High School. Many students feel that this diversity of backgrounds is beneficial. David mused that “it’s good to have other kids [from different areas] because you get to meet them.” Bernstein admits that though it can sometimes be harder to meet people, the size of her grade is “nice, because you meet a lot of new kids.” Other students, such as Apfelbaum, have mixed feelings regarding the new diversity in the school. She notes: “While there is more diversity, which can be seen as a positive, the huge environment can discon-

nect students.” Alan Shain (‘16), expressed similar sentiments. Shain enjoys the “diversity” that comes from having kids from different areas and schools, but is frustrated that with this diversity comes an additional 20 or 30 students. Still others feel that the diversity itself represents a movement away from the SAR ideal of a “community school”. Ricki Heicklen (‘14) feels that “as the radius of students’ neighborhoods increases, SAR becomes less of a community school and need to work harder to instill its values to students from varying backgrounds.” Two years ago, both teachers and students gawked at the number of freshmen in the Class of 2014, and many wondered if there were just too many. “I remember my peer leader telling me that she remembered a time when there were grades with, like, 90 or 80 kids [per grade]. They said our grade was Continued on page 15


The Buzz, June 2012

Advice Features Column

Sports Corner By Harry Scheiner On Monday, October 15th, the SAR Boys Varsity Basketball team played their first game of the season, an exhibition game against Frisch. The game took place in the Hive, SAR’s home court. Last year, the SAR team experienced a bad loss in their exhibition game. David Apfelbaum (’13), one of the captains for the Varsity basketball team spoke mainly of teamwork: “We’re looking for a better flow than we had last game, it’ll take time, we’re a young team.” As for coming out with a win, he added that “nobody wants to lose on their home court.” The tip off is up, and the game is underway, SAR’s starting five include: Jacob “Tank” Sternberg (’13), Josh Gurin (’13), David Apfelbaum (’13), and juniors Sammy Hyman (’14) and Zach Wohlberg (’14). Despite being the underdog, they ostensibly do have the match-ups to beat Frisch, especially given the huge size advantage. All game

Frisch had no answer for Sternberg and Marcus down low, as coach Rafi Halpert’s plays created considerable space for them to execute a number of exemplary drop steps. The other part of the game plan includes hitting open jump shots, which unfortunately wasn’t happening. But Rafi wasn’t deterred from this, as he said post-game: “If the plays are working and the shots just aren’t going in, maybe I’ll switch the player, but not the strategy.” Josh Gurin (’13) agreed, stating that “If I don’t take the jump shot, the opposing team won’t have to play defense, and that ruins the entire offensive scheme.” All throughout the game SAR seemed to be accomplishing Captain Apfelbaum’s hope: the players were passing the ball well, exemplifying great team chemistry, way above the expectations of a team only playing their second game together. After the game Rafi said “I came in expecting to be blown out by 50, but I was very impressed by their chemistry and play execution early on.” But again, the shots just weren’t falling

so SAR found themselves trailing the entire duration of the game. With shots not going in, SAR began feeding their big men a considerable amount, climaxing with a steal on one end leading to Apfelbaum lobbing a gorgeous pass up to Marcus for an easy layup. Sternberg did an especially good job of making it to the line. And once there, he reminded us of the “Tank” Sternberg we all know and love, letting out a comical “Aaaah” before shooting a free throw. He missed it, but he did hit the next one. After a determined comeback, SAR was down by only 2 points going into the fourth quarter, with all the momentum swung their way. But Frisch’s persistent pressing the entire game finally paid off. With a couple of quick steals, they created an eight point buffer early in the fourth quarter. With six minutes left and a six point lead, Frisch deployed their notorious strategy to hold the ball and waste time until the game’s end, and the win was theirs. When challenged about

this controversial strategy, which in essence kills the competitive nature of the game, the Frisch coach, Avi Borenstein, said simply “When it’s win or go home- like in this tournament, I do what’s necessary to get a W[in]. But in a regular season game I won’t do that until four minutes are left.” Impressively, he claims the strategy has never failed him once in fifteen years. This irritating strategy, however, doesn’t frustrate Coach Rafi, as he considers it to be to his advantage, explaining that “it actually takes [the opposing team] out of their rhythm, and will often give us the opportunity to get a couple easy baskets.” The season is early, and the team is young. Sternberg emphasized that what Rafi told the team in the huddle was to “[keep on doing what you’re doing, the shots will fall.]” That will be their motto going forward. The amount of teamwork displayed, along with the skill and height that is undeniably manifest on this team, is sure to help the team go far this season.

Davening Poll

To survey students’ observance of and perspective on davening, the following poll was taken. Elana Rosenthal obtained the following results, polling over 200 students. A more extensive verision of this survey can be viewed online at

In the following three polls,students were able to select more than one option, so percentages do not add up to 100%.

The Buzz, June 2012


Advice Column Features

The Buzzer Name three SAR High School non-administrative faculty members who have worked at SAR since its inception The first person to tweet or email us the correct answer will be featured in our next issue’s Pop Culture Grid. You can reach us at @TheSarBuzz or


Gabe Billig (‘16)

Micah Levy (‘15)

Top 5 Announcements That Haven’t Yet Happened 5. Hakshivu Na, Hakshivu Na, 12.41 TSBP class please learn when you have fellows 4. The track is for running not driving, seniors please move your cars immediately 3. The flash mob is going to be in 5 minutes in the library. Don’t be late 2. Dr. Schwartz, please leave the elevator to make room for more students 1. The temperature inside of the building is warmer than outside


After a summer of hard work, the start of the school year saw the culmination of several of the Student Government’s long-term projects. Lactaid milk from Riverdale Kosher Market is now being served everyday at breakfast so lactose intolerant students can enjoy breakfast with their friends. Also, you all recently received your brand new SAR High School Student Discount Cards. This is only the second time that discount cards have ever been made by the student government and hopefully this will be something that every student government will make in the future. The card gives you discounts for various restaurants in Riverdale, Westchester, Teaneck and Manhattan. Right now we are working on getting some SAR branded accessories and clothing so you can represent the Sting Nation in style. Plans for a recycling committee are in the mix, so keep your eyes out for further updates if you want to get involved. Also, be sure mark your calendars for Homecoming on January 12th. All the cool kids will be there; you won’t want to miss it. I promise. For more updates please follow us on Twitter @StingSG. Matanya Landes, Student Body President

Faculty Facts Each issue, The Buzz will be featuring an interview with a faculty member at or around SAR High School. Buzz Correspondent Dalia Scheiner sat down with Riverdale Kosher Market saleswoman Erica Infante, an RKM employee who frequently works within SAR. This is an abridged transcript of their conversation. For the full interview, visit The Buzz’s website at Dalia Scheiner: What was your childhood like? Erica Infante: I lived in the South Bronx until high school, when I moved to Florida. I went to Deltona High School. Name: Erica Infante DS: What was life like in FlorPosition: Employee, Riverdale ida? Kosher Market, SAR EI: It was very different from Age: Twenty Three Birthplace: Lincoln Hospital, The the life I was used to, so it took me some time to adjust. But it Bronx Family: One brother, two sisters, didn’t take long. I made friends right away, and ended up lovand two older half-sisters Education: [Is planning to attend] ing it. However, I did miss seeing snow and being able to hop Bronx Community College on a bus or a train, being that in Favorite Food at RKM: Deli Florida you need a car to travel. Roll and Sweet Apple Kugel

At 16, I started working at a supermarket called Publix; this kept me occupied. I ended up moving back to the Bronx in 2007. DS: What did you start doing when you came back? EI: I started working right away because I was expecting [a child]. I had my child in 2008. I started working for Supersol; this was my first time working with Jewish people and learning about what ‘kosher’ is. DS: How was [working at Supersol] for you? EI: It was new and the whole

meat and dairy thing was hard to get used to, but it was an awesome experience. I got to learn a little about your culture and beliefs, and this made me understand and appreciate what you do. DS: When did you start working for the [Riverdale] Kosher Market? EI: I started working for RKM last year in May. DS: Is it weird interacting with high-schoolers? Or are we “little twerps”? EI: (laughing) No, it isn’t actually. I like it. It’s a little different

than just working with regular customers. I know students by their faces now. DS: What are your hobbies? EI: I’m too busy for hobbies! I spend free time with my child and my close friends. When I’m done with [college], then I can do whatever I want. DS: So does that mean you’re only staying temporarily? EI: I’m not planning on staying for long because I’m going on to college.


The Buzz, June 2012

Advice NewColumn Staff

Dani’s Grand Return By Gavriel Steinmetz-Silber You may have noticed a young, goodlooking fellow roaming the halls of SAR this year, someone new to the scene. No, I’m not referring to my own triumphant return to SAR, but to a man slightly older than myself: Dani Bauer. Dani is one of the YU/ SAR Kollel fellows, and is spending the year learning and teaching at SAR. When asked about coming here, Dani exclaimed, “being back in high school is great.” He continued to say that he was particularly glad to be working with high school students rather than college students, noting that “high schoolers don’t have the same kind of cynicism or sense of entitlement” that college kids do. Dani said he wanted

to be a fellow because he was looking for something that would allow him to “continue teaching informally while gradually getting involved in the classroom.” Dani is enjoying his work so far and he “really like[s] the kids” in SAR. He expressed his admiration for the “thirst for learning both secular subjects and Torah as well.” Learning seems to be a consistent theme in Dani’s life. He is a stellar learner of the Talmud, and is the go-to guy in the Beit Midrash, his home away from home. He is often present in Rabbi Hain’s 11th grade Talmud class, where he received his nickname--Jack Bauer. Despite any resemblances between Dani and Jack, Dani’s favorite character from modern film is Hansel from Zoolander, because “he’s so hot right

now,” Dani explains. He describes himself as a “big fan” of Rabbi Akiva, a man who reinvented himself at 40 and became a leading figure in the Jewish world. Dani particularly values Rabbi Akiva’s perseverance and mentioned that Rabbi Akiva “had and lost 24,000 students to disease, and then he picked up and went back to teaching and found some more students down south who became the leading scholars of the Jewish people.” While learning is central to Dani, he understands that learning and success in school are not synonymous. He believes that there is more to life than just school. Dani wasn’t thoroughly content with his experience in high school “the first time.” He says that high school students “[have to] take time to appreciate life too.” He further

noted that “if you go through high school and find yourself not smiling, you’re doing something wrong.” Dani is overjoyed that he can have a second chance in high school, and this time he doesn’t have to worry about grades, just learning and “work[ing] with great kids.” So if you see Dani around SAR High School, don’t hesitate to approach him, whether it is to ask a question about Talmud or to just talk. Dani is using his second high school experience to learn and to enjoy life. He thinks that SAR kids are great, so he’d love to talk with you. In just a few words: how does Dani feel about being in high school again? “It’s good to be back,” he says with a smile.

SAR: The Final Destination By Ronit Morris After meeting Ms. Naomi Portnoy, a new SLC teacher at SAR, you would be struck by her friendly and gentle demeanor, but you might not guess that her life has been full of exciting adventures. About 7 years ago, she jumped headfirst into a challenging teaching job on the Lower East Side. Then, after five and a half years of teaching, she made another huge life change; newly married, she and her husband left their jobs and traveled around the world for eight months. Ms. Portnoy started her teaching career as a New York City Teaching Fellow, a member of a prestigious program in which college graduates go directly to teaching at city public school while simultaneously studying for advanced degrees. With no experience, she began working mid-year at University Neighborhood High School, where the graduation rate has increased from 48% to 71%, an impressive change for a school where 78.1% of students are poor enough to qualify

for free lunch. She taught English, humanities, and some art. During her first two years of teaching, she also studied for her Master’s degree and certification at night.

“With no particular plans and nothing booked but the flights, they traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, China, Hawaii, Galapagos, Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay”

Five and a half years later, after getting married, Ms. Portnoy and her husband quit their jobs and dove into a new, very different kind of adventure: backpacking around the world. With no particular plans and nothing booked but the flights, they traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, China, Hawaii, Galapagos, Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay. “Our favorite places were India and Nepal, because they were the most extreme,” says Ms. Portnoy. “India was super busy and crazy and colorful and everything was so intense: the smells, the flavors, the food.” In Nepal, they trekked for five days in the Annapurna Mountains, climbing to about 5,000 meters and seeing Mt. Everest. In Tanzania, they climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. “I think it’s really important to get out and see what else is out there in terms of beautiful places, experiencing different cultures and food, meeting people,” says Ms. Portnoy. “One of the best parts of the

trip [was that] we met travelers from all over the world.” In Tibet, the Chinese government only allowed travel in organized tours. “Our group happened to have a number of couples who were the same age as us doing the same kind of thing, and we really bonded with them,” says Ms. Portnoy. “One of the couples actually just stayed with us at the end of their trip last month in New York City, their last stop.” After the trip, while Ms. Portnoy was looking for a job, she saw Ms. Landowne, who told her about an open SLC position. “I always liked working with students one on one the best,” she says. “This seemed like a really good fit for me.” Having traveled around the world, she is going to treat New York City like another destination to explore. Ms. Portnoy brings excitement and an adventuresome spirit to SAR.

The Renaissance Man By Alon Futter Some people are born to sing, others to entertain, but Mr. Broder was born to teach. “I love teaching. I think it’s one of the most human things you can do; it’s one of the most ancient practices of transmission of knowledge, and its rewards are in its own practice.” When asked what he would do if he weren’t a teacher, he gave a rather surprising answer: “it would have to be farming of some sort.” Mr. Broder hails from Silver Spring, Maryland and attended Yeshiva University as an undergraduate. He then went on to earn a master’s degree in English literature from Queens College. Three years ago, he began a PhD program at the CUNY Graduate Center.

He had been on the fast track to law school, but after interning for Jack Abramoff for two summers, he decided he had no interest in being a lawyer; instead, he wanted to find something to do with his English major. It was during his senior year at YU that Mr. Broder decided that he wanted to be a teacher and applied to Teach For America and New York City Teaching Fellows. In 2007, Mr. Broder began teaching at MTA, and he continued teaching there until this year, when he came to SAR. Mr. Broder also has a passion for Jewish thought and philosophy. He spent three years teaching the seniors at MTA as a part of the Tikvah High School Scholars Program. So it is no surprise that if he were able to create his own class, it would be “some-

thing that would be interdisciplinary... I’d be interested in creating classes that were Bible as literature or thinking about the Talmud and philosophy”--otherwise known as a Grand Conversation class. Mr. Broder currently lives in Riverdale with his wife and two young children. In his spare time, Mr. Broder enjoys reading, playing guitar (which he’s been playing since tenth grade), hanging out with his kids, and doing yoga. In response to a question about his potential impact as a teacher on his students, he stated, “it’s a really difficult kind of question to answer. I think it’s the kind of thing that I don’t know yet because I’m sort of young in my career.” When asked why he came to SAR, he simply stated, “I was looking for

something great, and SAR is a great school.” Based on his previous teaching experiences, he thinks that the open school “does something really great for the students--it creates a sense of shared responsibility for keeping a certain level of learning always in action... students are always aware that they’re in a learning environment, because the classrooms are all open.” While Mr. Broder’s time here at SAR has just begun, he is already extremely impressed with what he sees from the students every day, especially “the tremendous love that the students bring to school every day, the positive attitude generated by the student body in creating such a wonderful learning environment.”

The Buzz, June 2012


Advice NewColumn Staff

Torah in South Africa By Ariella Gentin Rabbi Ben David is not what you might expect of a typical Judaic studies teacher. He recently returned from Cape Town, South Africa, where he had been working in adult education at a shul. Making the switch to teaching at a high school was not an easy transition for Rabbi Ben David. “I’m not used to having to discipline,” he says, “but I love the ‘aha’ moment students have when they understand something.” Rabbi Ben David loves teaching because he loves watching his students grow. The energy in the classroom, combined with the values of the school (love the building!) make Rabbi Ben David’s SAR experience so far very special.

He also loves the teachers and how they make SAR such an exciting environment. Today, Rabbi Ben David lives in Teaneck, but he grew up in New York and is planning to move back there soon. He attended Yavneh Academy and went to Frisch for high school. Rabbi Ben David also attended Moshava IO, and he went to Bnei Akiva in South Africa. When asked what qualities he liked in a student, he responded that, “I like students who are passionate and inquisitive about what we are learning, but I also appreciate troublemakers (at least those with good intentions), since I used to be a big one.” For the athletes out there, you will be pleased to know that Rabbi Ben David is a

huge sports player (he is also a fan of the Yankees and world cup soccer.) He loves basketball, squash, skiing, and the gym. He also listens to a variety of different music, particularly classic rock and soundtrack music. In addition to learning Torah, Rabbi Ben David loves reading, traveling, and spending time with family. If Rabbi Ben David was a student here, he would want to be on the basketball team, a member of one of the chesed clubs, an Israel advocacy club, and the debate team. When asked if he had ever had a pet, he laughed and said, “I once had a cat named George Gogga (pronounced chucha, meaning insect in Afrikaans).” Another interesting fact about Rabbi Ben David is that he

makes fresh tea every morning before coming to school to teach lemudei kodesh, and he particularly likes to study the Ramban because “he synthesizes many different approaches to studying the Torah.” Rabbi Ben David was inspired to teach because he loves Torah, enjoys the classroom environment, and felt teaching was a meaningful way to spend his time. In addition to liking his teachers in elementary and high school, Rabbi Ben David was fond of his professors at Columbia, YU, and NYU. Throughout his schooling, Rabbi Ben David was inspired by his teachers, and he hopes that he can inspire his students in similar ways to help them grow as learners and as people.

Thank You Sam Yam By Gilad Fortgang Leah Chaya Ruth Greenstein. Remember that name, because she will likely not remember yours... but at least Leah admits it. She is a self-described “people person who has trouble with names.” It’s funny how that works. And speaking of names, Leah hates her own middle name, Ruth, and so she uses Chaya, her Hebrew middle name. And no, I didn’t ask her what her middle name was. Leah is a Frisch graduate, class of 2008, and a current Columbia student expecting to graduate this coming June. She spent her gap year in Israel studying at Migdal Oz. As if that hasn’t kept her busy enough, she recently married Avi Grumet, another Columbia graduate who works at a hedge fund in Manhattan, where they reside. When asked what shul they attend, Leah proved just how much of a “Teaneck-ian” she is, quickly rattling off the names of four different shuls she frequents in Manhattan. For Leah, however,

there are still not enough shuls in Teaneck or Manhattan--she and her husband want to make aliyah. She has loved Israel since her days as a Mach-Hach camper and counselor. “I admire how Jewish life and culture is a part of everything,” Leah says. When asked how she would describe herself, Leah refused to answer in a few words; rather, true to her multi-faceted personality, she threw descriptors out and left it up to me to make inferences. For example, Leah is a big fan of the restaurant Noi Due and is an especially big fan of its Gnocchi in Rosa-Rosa sauce. Can you blame her? So, what do I infer from her affinity for Noi Due? Well, one, she has good taste in restaurants. Two, she is extremely social and is a typical Columbia/Barnard woman, because Noi Due is the loudest kosher restaurant near Columbia--and the one most heavily populated by college women. As further proof of her excellent culinary insight, she generally loves burgers, but hates

“When asked what shul they attend, Leah proved just how much of a ‘Teaneck-ian’ she is, quickly rattling off the names of four different shuls she frequents in Manhattan” the ones served at SAR. Leah has a love for music, too, which was heavily influenced by a music class she took at Columbia. She now loves the opera, along with pop hits and “just about everything.”

Finally, and perhaps most tellingly in describing this exceptionally well rounded “fellow,” Leah is very fond of the movie Legally Blonde. While this is something that, personally, tells me nothing about her, because I (thankfully) haven’t seen it, I know enough to conclude that this just further serves to prove Leah is anything but simple. About now, you are likely wondering: why title the article “Thank You Sam Yam”? Excellent question! You see, Leah had a friend at Columbia named Sam Yamshon. According to Leah, Sam spoke about his amazing experiences as an SAR fellow “literally 24/7.” So when asked why she decided to become a fellow, she responded in her best Sam Yam impression, “it seemed to be a good life experience to have.” So, thank you Sam Yamshon for helping SAR continue its line of incredible fellows by spreading the word about our wonderful school.

A Biologist and a Role Model By Lilly Scherban Inspirational words aren’t hard to find. Google the phrase “inspirational quotes” and you will hit upon 38,300,000 results in 0.20 seconds. But real people, with whom you interact daily and who can inspire you with their actions as well as with their words are rare. As one of these people, Dr. Bader, the new biology teacher, is a great addition to the SAR staff. Dr. Bader was born in Cape Town, South Africa, but she grew up in Toronto, Ontario. She received her Master’s degree

in biology from NYU while helping teach science in the NYU’s undergraduate university. She has also been a biology teacher at several other New York private schools. She currently lives in Riverdale, is married, and has two young children, both of whom go to SAR Academy. Dr. Bader was influenced by one of her own teachers when she was very young: “I have strong memories of my teacher in 9th grade showing us a video of how an autistic boy, through therapy, learned to communicate and resume a ‘normal’ life. “ This experience really resonated within her and helped

shape the person that she was going to be. “I wanted to learn more and pursue a career where I could also inspire others to learn about science and help others less fortunate,” she says. For Dr. Bader, the “social aspect… inside and outside of the classroom,” as well as the ability to influence others’ lives (as her own teacher influenced hers) was especially appealing to her. One of Dr. Bader’s claims to fame is that she is a recipient of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Grant, a grant that provides funding to determine the stages of various pediatric tumors (also known as

Wilms tumors). Dr. Bader’s research is vital in helping sick children get more effective treatments, and it also helps her to “appreciate every healthy child.” Dr. Bader has set high standards for herself. She juggles a teaching job, a research career, and two children at home. She has followed her dreams and continues to do so. She is inspiring because of how she lives her life: trying to help people, both through medicine and through education. So whether you are interested in science or not, Dr. Bader is a wonderful role model--and a great teacher too.

A larger selection of new staff profiles can be accessed online at


The Buzz, June 2012

Advice Column Op-Ed

Didn’t Get a Copy? You Can Find it Online new technology advancements at sar

By Maya Pretsfelder While SAR students were introduced to Haiku and a Google-centric workspace late last year, these ideas did not become a reality until September. For years, SAR has been using the application Moodle. This year, SAR upgraded to Haiku, a different online course site linked through Google. For some, Haiku was a refreshing change from the countless mishaps that occurred through Moodle. “I think that Haiku is a lot more advanced...with Moodle there were times when it just shut down, and we weren’t able to get our work,” states Avi Chefitz (‘14). Though it took a while to grow accustomed to the new website, many students have concluded that Haiku is more user-friendly than Moodle. “As I started to use [Haiku] more and more, I saw that it was more organized, and was so much easier to use,” explains Yona Feit (‘15). There are also many students who are not excited about Haiku. “It’s annoying that all my homework is on there, and I don’t have a hard copy unless I print it,” notes Alana Woloshin (‘16). She continues, “I’m just not a fan.” Previously, only a few teachers would post their entire course load online; many other teachers’ Moodle pages would remain

Creating an ImPACT Continued from page 1

is a brilliant idea.” She elaborates that “it uniquely combines a creative new approach to parsha learning with a push by the school to engage the community, in addition to just students.” Heicklen is in support of SAR reaching out to families: “It’s crucial that SAR fosters the same type of environment outside of school as within, and including parents in the mission and values of the school is a great step in that direction.” Not every student is happy with the new method for studying parsha. Sarah Gross (‘13) thinks that the new policy is an example of the school wrongfully imposing itself on students’ weekends. She says “it would be interesting if we were in lower school because then they would be trying to instill in us some values that they would want us to take into later life. But I think we are past the point of instilling values.” The trajectory of SAR’s stance towards parsha may give a clue as to where the school will go with PACT. The same way the school grew more interventionist as it realized the ineffectiveness of parsha quizzes, it might decide that PACT is too much of a laissez faire approach. Yet the administration is emphatic in their conception of an approach to substance abuse. For Dr. Hoffman, the SAR school psychologist, that conception is rooted in

dormant year round. Students observe that teachers use Haiku more often than they previously used Moodle. “Haiku is easier for teachers to use,” notes Malka Hirsch (‘13). “My teachers just used Moodle for grading small homework assignments, but now it seems that some are starting to use Haiku to grade larger assignments, like essays.”

“‘As I started to use [Haiku] more and more, I saw that it was more organized, and was so much easier to use’” With Haiku comes additional technological changes: new email addresses and a technology system based around Google. Because of the excessive buildup of SAR’s daily emails and the new student-teacher media interaction policy, now every student has an SAR gmail account. This creates a filter for school emails, and all school related his belief that teenagers “are not fully independent adults yet, but they are not children anymore, so they require this very delicate balancing of guidance, instruction, and oversight with also hands-off, make your own decision, make your own mistake approach.” Other yeshivas have chosen very different approaches to the issue of substance abuse. One student from The Frisch School, David Kornmehl (‘13), explains what one alternative strategy is. He says that “they are very frank about it. [Frisch] has random drug testing and if you fail the drug test, then they send out a warning to your parents. You have to have a mandatory meeting with a drug counselor, and you sign something that says the school is allowed to drug test you whenever they want.” He asserts that Frisch’s policy has removed most of the people who were abusing drugs and provided a strong deterrent for his peers. Another anonymous Frisch student has a different view. She says that her close friends who have undergone drug testing were shocked at their treatment in the hands of the school’s staff and were unable to maintain a relationship with some of their administrators and teachers. SAR maintains its policy of not drug testing its students or actively seeking out students who break those rules. The toughest stances the school ever takes are to promise expulsion of any student who takes

emails must be sent to and from this account. Some students find having this separate school account inconvenient. “I have to get used to always checking a different email [account], which is really annoying,” notes Feit. “Obviously, if you forget to check it, you can miss a homework assignment, and that’s really bad,” she concludes. Other students, like Hirsch, appreciate the school email addresses because they enable a “click-of-a-button” communication throughout the school. The account contains contact information for everyone in the school, allowing for smooth and easy communication between teachers and students. Adding to this year’s technological innovations, all desktops previously synced with the SmartBoards were removed from the classrooms. Teachers were each given a laptop to plug into the SmartBoards instead. “It is more weight for us to carry around, but at the same time, it makes it a lot more convenient to just come in and hook up your laptop to the smart board,” explains Rabbi Schwab. “I find myself using the SmartBoard a lot more than I did last year because of this convenience,” he adds. This new policy allows teachers to significantly cut down on the class time previously spent logging in to slow desktops. “You’re ready to

go, there’s no log-in process, and you don’t have to find your file.. it is very convenient,” raves Ms. Germano. Though computers are no longer present in individual classrooms, plenty of desktops are spread throughout grade floors. Every night, all data is erased from the school desktops, to ensure that the network will not crash or slow down due to unnecessary clutter. This may create problems for students who complete assignments on school desktops; if a student does not save his or her file on a google doc or on another external hard drive, he or she may lose valuable work. Others feel that the new system can be beneficial. Woloshin explains that the lack of student-generated garbage cluttering the desktops will make the computers faster and easier to use. However, she admits that the new desktop system doesn’t affect her: “I bring my laptop to school everyday and I feel like the majority of students that use a computer in school use their own as well.” SAR’s technological revolution has shifted the way in which computers and social networking are utilized. “Everything is online now.. we’ve become advanced,” exclaims Feit. And so we have.

illegal substances on a school trip and to get involved if a student’s drug abuse comes to their attention. Dr. Hoffman maintains that whenever the school gets involved to that degree, it is not a punishment, but purely for the benefit of the student and their peers.

you’d pay a heavy price in terms of how the school functions.” There are a few students who feel that even PACT is too much of an intrusion onto their private choices. Judah Goldman (‘13) believes that “there isn’t really a problem. The school is just looking for a problem and they really need to butt out because it’s just messing kids up.” Goldman further elaborates, saying that “there is a difference between abuse and use... Like at most schools, there are a group of kids who use drugs recreationally... it is not significant as far as I know.” Dr. Hoffman has a different view. He says “the research is very clear that the longer teenagers wait to try drugs, sex, alcohol, the less risk they are at for problems related to their activity... that’s at the heart of our policy.” At the end of the day, the school has the power to shape our outside lives however they want. They can make us learn parsha and avoid shady parties just as easily as they can force us to study for a math test. What limits them is a conception of their proper role, which is intimately tied to how the school is being affected by students’ other activities. Goldman and anyone who agrees with him should note that Rabbi Harcsztark feels “that the argument that there is outside of school and inside of school is just wrong. It’s not true. When kids do something on a Saturday night, it’s here. It’s in the building”.

“Rabbi Harcsztark feels ‘that the argument that there is outside of school and inside of school is just wrong. It’s not true. When kids do something on a Saturday night, it’s here. It’s in the building.’” The administration feels that the trade off involved in drug testing is not worth it. Rabbi Harcsztark says that “I’m not supportive of [drug testing] because the statistics don’t show that it works, and I am certain that

The Buzz, June 2012


Advice Column Buzz Book Review

The Steinsalz Koren Talmud Bavli the new gemara test handbook By Shalhevet Schwartz Koren Publishers have done it again— they’ve put out another set of books that is thorough, comprehensive, well researched, professional, and will never take the place of its ArtScroll predecessor. This set of books is the new Koren Talmud Bavli, with an English translation and a commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the author of the Steinsaltz Talmud Bavli (a translation of the Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew). As of now, Koren has only published two volumes—Massekhet Berachot and part I of Massekhet Shabbat. The idea of translating the Talmud into English is not a novel one. As any SAR student knows, that niche has already been successfully filled by ArtScroll’s Schottenstein Talmud, the go-to reference book for anyone with a Gemara test the next day. The new Koren Talmud, while it is in some ways another iteration of the same idea, differs from the ArtScroll in a myriad of ways, with unique benefits as well as its own weaknesses. Koren and ArtScroll have two distinct perspectives on how Talmud is to be studied. Artscroll approaches the Talmud as the document at the core of nearly two thousand years’ discourse about the halakhic tradition and how we practice Judaism. For Koren, though, the Talmud is a document that lives and breathes on its own, to be studied independently from its practical ramifications. This latter approach will then pay more attention to historical context or to the thematic questions in the minds of those who wrote it. This difference manifests itself in several ways, first and foremost in these two editions’ commentaries. At the bottom of every page of translation, the Artscroll edition contains extensive notes, many of which mention discussions in various later halakhic texts. Koren’s notes, on the other hand, spend more time on context and background, occasionally giving biographies of relevant characters in the Talmud, at times offering diagrams of the Talmud’s various scenarios, sometimes giving more extensive explanations of the text. It isn’t that Koren ignores the halakha; on the contrary, halakha is a main component of the Koren Talmud. But the halakha is given its own section on the side of every page and is treated as its own

entity, separate from the actual explanation of the Gemara. For Koren, rishonim aren’t the only tool for understanding the discourse of the Talmud. They are important, but they are removed, because Koren looks at the Talmud as a text that can be studied as an independent unit. The introductions to each chapter of Talmud in the respective translations dem-

self, there is very little difference in content between ArtScroll and Koren. Both translations give an explanation that stays true to the plain sense of the text, and they are both relatively intelligible (to the extent that one can make the Talmud intelligible, of course). The Koren text tends to be more concise, trying to minimize the long and involved explanations and using fewer words than

The New Koren Talmud Bavli

onstrate this same contrast. ArtScroll introduces the fourth perek of Berachot (which, of course, it calls “Tractate Berachos”) by trying to give the reader a sense of prayer in the Jewish tradition— how it developed, what its function is, what its structure is, etc. Koren, on the other hand, tries to give the reader a sense of what he or she will encounter in the coming chapter of text. It first informs the reader of the specific questions that the Talmud will raise: questions about individual versus communal prayer and the time boundaries given to prayer. And in the next paragraph, Koren does something revolutionary: it tries to explain what is going on the Sages’ heads. It reads, “This dispute… constitutes a manifestation of another aspect of the fundamental question: What is the obligation of prayer?” Koren just came out and said it—the Talmud isn’t just about law; it’s about grappling with big ideas, trying to find answers to big questions. When it comes to the translation it-

ArtScroll. Where the two translations differ most is in style. The writing of the Schottenstien Talmud stays true to the yeshivish flavor of a typical Gemara classroom, often transliterating common Hebrew and Aramaic words and using Ashkenazic pronunciations when it does. Koren more often chooses translation over transliteration, and when it does transliterate, it uses Sephardic pronunciations. ArtScroll sticks to standard translations of common Talmudic words and phrases, whereas Koren will often deviate from those translations that we’ve all learned in school. Instead, Koren will translate those familiar phrases in its own way, taking other factors into account, such as grammar and context. For example, the phrase ‘‫’איבעיא להו‬ is translated in ArtScroll as “they inquired,” whereas Koren translates it as “a dilemma was raised before them.” ArtScroll is trying to give a more typical, standard definition of the phrase (albeit an incorrect one—the verb

is passive); it’s trying to tell you what the phrase means, while Koren is trying to tell you what is going on. But chances are, if you are reading this article, your main concern is not the hashkafah, ideology, or even pedagogy of your publisher. It’s more likely that you care about usability. And in that department, Koren is in many ways inferior to ArtScroll, or at least less helpful for the type of study that is typical of high school students. Koren translates paragraph by paragraph, lacking the phrase-by-phrase translation of the Schottenstein, which makes it difficult to figure out which words mean what. Koren also fails to adequately mark Tannaitic sources within the Gemara, choosing not to follow ArtScroll’s lead of putting quotes from the Mishna or Beraitot in all capital letters. Another disadvantage of the Koren Talmud is that it does not have the standard format of the Vilna Shas side by side with its translation, making it much harder to orient oneself within a typical page of Talmud. But in a few other, lesser ways, Koren has bested the Schottenstein, even from a usability standpoint. Koren packs much more text into each volume, fitting all of Tractate Berakhot into one book when ArtScroll needed to separate it into two. And Koren has one feature that ArtScroll lacks completely, one that will be great for any student who needs to learn to read the text of the Talmud with fluency: at the back of the Koren Talmud Bavli, there is a copy of the entire Aramaic text in standard Vilna Shas format, but complete with vowels and punctuation for both the gemara and Rashi’s commentary. Although it isn’t a translation, it can go a long way in helping the reader understand the text, and it is an incredibly useful reference tool for anyone studying for an oral test. Needless to say, Koren is definitely not about to replace the copies of the Schottenstein Talmud that are already on everyone’s shelves; it probably won’t even replace the Schottenstein Talmud in the SAR beit midrash. But that does not mean that it is redundant. It is meant for a different audience, attracting readers who want a more academic, secular, and big picture experience of learning Gemara. And for those readers, it is a breath of fresh air.

Special thanks to Andy Wolff and the Riverdale Review for printing this issue of The Buzz.


The Buzz, June 2012

Advice Advertisement Column

The Buzz, in partnership with Dollar a Month, will contribute ten percent of all revenue from advertisements to tzedakah.

The Buzz, June 2012


Advice School Column Life Teacher-Student Communication Continued from page 1

students from Facebook.” Ms. Pepper, on the other hand, thinks this policy shouldn’t make much of an impact. “I don’t think this policy actually changes the relationships between students and teachers. If it does create any change, it’s positive change, meaning that it sets boundaries that should exist between students and teachers. It makes sure relationships remain in an appropriate area.” An anonymous student on Ms. Pepper’s Model UN Team was devastated to hear that she supports the rule: “I will not be able to survive the year without texting Ms. Pepper,” the student shared. “Some rules are meant to be broken.” Unlike this adamant student, most students are notably unaffected by the new policy. Rebecca Packer (’15) said, “This rule doesn’t affect me because I don’t text my teachers.” Ben Perla (’15) and Danielle Lebowitz (’15) agreed. Lebowitz explained, “It doesn’t really matter to me because we don’t need to text teachers anyways.” “It’s not a big issue for me,” affirmed Perla. Josh Weiss (’15) added, “I would never friend my teachers on Facebook. It’s just weird.” The components of the new policy Letter in the Scroll Continued from page 4

cause they disagreed with his opinions and found his writing repetitive. Shalhevet Schwartz (‘15) comments, “A lot of what [Rabbi Sacks] was saying was basically that Judaism is only the best because it’s the oldest religion...[His] opinions seemed very simplistic”. She adds that, from what she read, she definitely got a sense that Rabbi Sacks’ writing seemed repetitive. Schwartz explains that although the works of Rabbi Sacks usually appeal to her, The Letter in the Scroll didn’t seem have any significant impact. This might be due to the fact that “conversations influence [her] view of Judaism more [than reading does]”. However, Nelkin, who says that literature often impacts his beliefs, didn’t find this book “at all convincing on any front”. The poll gathered that only a mere 25% of those who read some or all parts of Strength in Numbers? Continued from page 7

huge. I think people perceived it as a bad thing,” says Jake Wax (‘14). Wax continues, “but honestly, it’s been two years, and I like the size of our grade. I don’t think there are too many kids. Having more [students] means there are a lot more opportunities and

that seem to affect students most are those relating to social networking sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, and the prohibition of interactive online games. Many students are friends with their teachers on Facebook, and play online games, such as Draw Something and Words with Friends, with them. Ms. Pepper admitted having played Words with Friends with some of her students, and many students are friends with some fellows on Facebook. SAR works hard to foster good relationships between the students and teachers. But, sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between teachers and friends. Since SAR High School is centered in a community, for many students, teachers are not confined to the school setting. Many see their teachers on a daily basis outside of school. Whether it’s in the supermarket, shul, or even on vacation, SAR students have become accustomed to familiarity with their teachers. Many are family friends with their teachers, even sharing Shabbat meals and family simchas. Some even call their teachers by their first names outside of school. Relationships can also become more complicated when school life conflicts with camp. Yoram Roschwalb, who works in student activities, was also the head of Achva

West this past summer. Relatively close in age to the students and also known for having a very close relationship with them, this new development complicated things further. Yoram deals with this issue by creating his own boundaries. “My policy is as follows; I can call/text them only if it’s an Achva related thing, only because I have to do my job. Achva does not have this [technology guidelines] policy. In terms of Facebook, I haven’t defriended them yet, and I think I need to remain friends with them for Achva purposes.” SAR High School enacted these new guidelines to protect both the students and the teachers. Avigail Hirschfield (‘14) explained, “I understand why they put it in place because relationships can be taken to an inappropriate place without even realizing it. And it’s kind of impossible to get rid of the inappropriate conversations without getting rid of all of them, so I understand why they did it.” Yoram elaborated, “We are a very loose school, and it creates some dangerous situations where teachers and faculty can get into a relationships that they shouldn’t be in. In today’s generation where teachers are rapidly being exposed and indicted for crime, we need to really protect our teachers and students.” Ms. Pep-

per agreed, “There’s danger out there in the world, and we want to make sure there’s a certain amount of protection for both teachers and students.” This rule not only applies to teachers but also to coaches. This serves as a slightly greater inconvenience to the students because many more of them communicate with their coaches through text. Perla explained that the wrestling coaches sometimes communicate with the team through text, and Ms. Pepper used to communicate with the Model UN Team the same way. These new guidelines will be somewhat more of an inconvenience, but it is important to have a uniform policy throughout. Before technology, much clearer lines existed between the roles of teachers and students. But informal communications, especially through forums such as Twitter and Facebook, have blurred many of these lines. Between video chat, social networking sites, and online games, it’s difficult to tell what’s appropriate. It is easier to say things online than it is in person, but when it comes to interacting with teachers, that’s not necessarily a good thing. It is important to remember that although many of us “like” our teachers, for now, it is better to click “unfriend.”

the book actually enjoyed it. Danielle Harris (‘15) explains that she enjoyed the reading because “it explained a lot of things about Judaism that [she] didn’t originally understand”. She specifies that Rabbi Sacks clarified how Jews could be free within their own laws, a subject matter she previously didn’t understand. Matt Landes (‘13) especially enjoyed the reading, “[because] it really spoke to me on a very fundamental level”. Landes’ belief system is generally influenced by reading, and The Letter in the Scroll was no exception. Aryeh Zapinsky (‘14), who was also influenced by the reading, recalls that the book introduced him to a different insight of the world around him. He adds, “It is important to realize the value of being a Jew and to see your identity as being part of a community.” The intended message of A Letter in the Scroll was “to have kids exposed to Rabbi Sacks’ writing, and to think of Judaism not just as a bunch of details, but as a

big picture of what is important in life,” says Rabbi Kroll. He explains that since Rabbi Sacks discusses the importance of a “proud, active, connected member of the Jewish community” and believing that God is at the center of our lives, it was assumed that the assignment would appropriately and effectively introduce this year’s theme. Although the purpose of A Letter in the Scroll is to introduce Dveykut, the book still reflects a sense of Arvut, last year’s theme. In fact, Rabbi Kroll opines, “I think the book is more Arvut-ish than Dveykut-ish, but I kind of like that [because] it makes the two themes very interrelated.” Landes agrees that the reading connected with Dveykut, but felt that this connection wasn’t the “direct goal [in assigning] the book.” He shares that the importance didn’t lie in having a summer assignment that connects to the theme of the year, rather in adding to the sense of unity in being able to “grab any random kid in the school and

just talk to him or her about the book.” Binyamin Kaplan (‘15) disagrees, saying that there is not much significance in “starting a conversation about the book in the halls.” He also disagrees with the book’s connection to the theme of Dveykut: “It did not mainly connect to Dveykut because it was about the plight of the Jewish middle class and how so few Jews are connected to Hashem, not how we should connect to Hashem.” Whether you liked A Letter in the Scroll or not, it undoubtedly stresses the message that Jewish identity is an honor as well as a duty. Mr. Fleischer asserts that this significant message urges readers to be “spiritually ambitious” in the pursuit of that Jewish identity. He inspirationally concludes, “You have to practice anything you want to get good at and take seriously, and religion and your relationship with God should be the same...It’s not something that you can wait for to happen, it’s more about what you are willing to invest.”

choices. I think it’s a great thing.” Whether or not these changes can be seen as positive or negative, the changes made for the Class of 2016 were definitely felt amongst the student body. Many new faculty were hired to teach this new class, and the physical makeup of the school has been shifted, with lockers added to the sec-

ond floor for freshmen. With all the changes being made to accommodate the current freshmen, many are wondering how the school could conceivably support a continuously growing student body. So is there a strength in numbers? Wax concludes, “It’s not about how many students there are, it’s about what those stu-

dents are like. Their numbers don’t define them just like they don’t define [the class of 2014]. Quality over quantity, you know?”

Readers are invited to submit letters or responses to articles and editorials in The Buzz. Letters may be sent to: (Submissions may be edited for length or content). Readers can read and respond to articles on The Buzz’s website,


The Buzz, June 2012

Advice Column In an attempt by College Guidance to improve more seniors’ college applications, The Buzz was forced to double its advice column staff this year. The Buzz hopes that this will allow its advice columnists to respond to the plethora of questions it has already received from confused freshmen. We are proud to introduce Knoam Spira and J. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney as this year’s advice columnists. Dear Future Facebook Friend, Due to the new Teacher-Student Relationship policy I find it very difficult to contact my teachers when necessary. When moodle is down, it becomes very difficult to find out what work I have to do. Now they’re telling me to look at some haiku thing? I really just don’t like reading poetry in my free time. My teacher tells me to ask a friend but I do not have any because I smell of axe and hair gel. Sincerely, Friendless on the Fourth Floor Dear Friendless Friend, Hasn’t this new policy affected us all? I recently received a message from every one of my friends saying that they no longer had time to be my friend because they were so preoccupied with protecting their moodle accounts from mass self-destruction. For this reason I can no longer have nightly conversa-

tions about A Letter in the Scroll with Mr. Fleischer over gchat, or play Game of Thrones for that matter. To escape this issue, there are a few things we suggest you do. You can make a fake account, with any stereotypical Jewish name, perhaps Jonathan Shinar or something of the sort. Your interests should include giving out RPT because it’s fun (which it is*), yelling at students for being late to davening, having children on a yearly basis, and assigning homework as if you’re the only teacher in the school (because after all you are). This ploy should work for most of the History, English, and TSBP** departments. Additionally, if you are a sophomore through senior you can friend Rorab Yaschwalm (he changed his name for fear that he will be associated with other SAR faculty) on Facebook, but unfortunately the freshman, who are required to refer to him as Mr. Yaschwalm, do not even know his first name and therefore

do not have the ability to friend him. All this begs the question of whether facebook friends are really friends. For that answer just go debate with any teacher in the building, in person or via email, but only over your SAR approved email (if not, the teacher won’t be able to “read” the email). Now that you know how to friend all the staff in the building we leave you with one final request. Friend Us. Sincerely, Knoam and J. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney *When I don’t get RPT I have to buy my lunch and eat outside watching. Unfortunately, it is not a spectator sport. **TSBP for those of you who were thrilled like me that gemara wasn’t on their schedule in freshman year, and only just realized that TSBP and Gemara are the same thing. On my first day I mistook TSBP for TCBY and later had

my bubble bursted after walking into 305 with an empty fro yo cup and hearing a “Mr. Spira this isn’t sixteen handles.”

Knoam Spira and J. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney, our new advice specialists

To submit a question to The Buzz, email If you want a serious answer, please make it clear so we don’t embarrass you. Rabbi Hain

Jake the Fellow

Noam Lubofsky (‘13)

Lia Hartman (‘14)

Joe Kanner (‘15)

Tamar David (‘16)

1. What did you do during state of the school address?

Emergency root canal at Wasserman Dentistry, though I called Rabbi Harczstark and got a summary of the speech

I think I went home

All I remember is continuously asking Ms. Rieser to stop talking to me

Doodling a picture of Phineas and Ferb in my student planner

Brick Breaker


2.One thing you would dread more than having a locker on the second floor:

Having a son with a locker on the second floor

Having advisory with.. hmm this is a good one... Who’s scary?

Sharing a locker with Ms. Rieser on the second floor

Nothing! That’s social suicide

Having a locker on the first floor

Having a locker on the first floor

3. If you made a wind up SAR student doll, what would it say when you wound it up?

Is this gonna be on the test?

Can we talk about shomer negiah?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

We have no wallsWAADDUPP!

Love the building

“Love the building.”

4. The gate in front of parking lot is important because.....

Keeps out the riff raff

Now there’s an eruv in the parking lot

It keeps knowledge in, and ignorance out

It makes our school look official-and they put a Christmas tree in the front. Do I hear diversity or what?

Because they don’t trust us

It keeps out the angry Dunkin Donuts manager.

5 Rob should teach a class on:

Parking protocols

Parking lot traffic direction

Business Ethics

How he gets his hair so nice in the morning


Who’s Rob? Sorry I’m a freshman…

6 If you had to have a staff member’s hair for a year, whose would you want ?

Tehilla Reiser

Ms. Taubes

Head hair: David Steere, Facial hair: Ron Zamir

Ms. Reiser

Mr. Gotel

Mr Lannik’s (facial) hair…

POP Culture

By Chanan Heisler and Max Altholz

The SAR Buzz, October 2012  

Volume 8, Issue 1