Jewish Journal

Class Notes: Book burning inspires book fair; Shalhevet scribes score; Rocket scientists among us

by Julie G Fax

Posted on Jun. 7, 2007 at 8:00 pm

From Book Fire to Book Fair

The students at Milken Community High School's Middle School threw a massive book fair for 250 kids from Sylvan Park Elementary School, whom they've been tutoring through the KOREH L.A. reading preparedness program. The seventh- and eighth-graders created carnival games, art projects, participatory performances and snacks, all related to books they had been reading with the kindergarten through second-graders for an hour every Friday this school year.

While the day was fun and meaningful for the visitors, it was even more meaningful for the middle schoolers. Rabbi Leah Kroll, rabbinic director of the middle school, and principal Sarah Shulkind, scheduled the day to fall on May 10, the day in 1933 when the German Students Association attacked "Jewish intellectualism" and burned more than 25,000 books, not only those by Jewish authors, but any that inspired free thinking.

"A lot of the books they burned were books we read in school and books on our summer reading list -- 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' 'Lord of the Rings,' 'Catcher in the Rye,' 'Of Mice and Men' -- so it really impacted all of us," said Rachel Duboff, a Milken eighth-grader. "We learned how the students, even kids our age, burned some of the books, and that compelled us to want to read more."

Before the younger kids arrived, the middle-schoolers met for a commemorative assembly, where they saw a video with archival footage from 1933. The students chanted a portion from a Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust, and the school band and choir performed. They heard from author Sonia Levitin, a child survivor who recently wrote a children's book about the crisis in Sudan, as well as from Kerry Madden, who is writing a teen-aimed biography of Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"It was great to hear the authors talk about reading on a day when reading was supposed to be banned," said eighth-grader Ariel Stern.

After the assembly, the middle schoolers welcomed their visitors to 16 stations they had prepared, all relating to books the Milken and Sylvan students had been reading together all year.

With the band playing, the students played red-light-green-light, based on "Make Way for Ducklings"; they made leaf rubbings and laurels for "The Giving Tree"; they reenacted "Stone Soup"; and they made butterfly headbands, did a play and played butterfly tag for "La Mariposa." They skipped through an obstacle course to drive home the message of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" and all of the kids got their faces painted.

The middle schoolers were touched by how thrilled and grateful the Sylvan Park kids were for the attention showered on them.

"It was so nice to see how our school could turn a day that was once a sad day when Nazis burned books into a day when all these kids could have so much fun celebrating books that we were reading to them," said Max Offsay, an eighth-grader.

And the middle schoolers took home other lessons as well.

"It doesn't take so much work to make a difference and to help these little kids," said eighth-grader Shaida Haikali. "You might think that kids our age can't do so much, but this showed that we could, and we can do even more."

Newspaper Honors For Shalhevet

Shalhevet high school's Boiling Point won two awards in the national Quill & Scroll competition for high school newspapers. In the news category, junior Louis Keene picked up an award for his story on rabbinic and communal response to teen alcohol abuse, which also ran on The Jewish Journal's Tribe page in March 2007. Seniors Alex Melamed, editor of the Boiling Point, and Ortal Shlomo won in the in-depth team coverage category for their reporting on Shalhevet students in Israel during last summer's Lebanon war. The Boiling Point publishes eight issues a year, with stories on school, local and world news, sports, fashion, Torah and features and opinions on a variety of topics.

For more information, visit http://www.shalhevet.org.

The Envelope Please

The Bureau of Jewish Education recognized 174 graduating middle and high school students from 99 religious and day schools for excellence in Jewish leadership, learning and values at a ceremony May 20. Awards were presented in the categories of Ahavat Torah (Love of Jewish Learning), Arakhim (Exemplification of Jewish Values) and Manhigut (Jewish Leader of Tomorrow). Nine students were chosen to speak during the awards ceremony: Lily Armstrong from Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School; Ezra Laemmle from Temple Isaiah Religious School; Yael Mellon from Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy; Michael Rosenzweig-Bock from Milken Community Middle School of Stephen Wise Temple; Mitzi Steiner from Shalhevet School; Jacob Bash from Temple Ami Shalom Religious School; Sara Frend from YULA High School; Gillian Schoenfeld from Temple Akiba Religious School; and Ari Platt from YULA High School.

For more information visit http://www.bjela.org.

Maybe They Are Rocket Scientists ...

Two Kadima Academy students and a Kadima alumna won honorable mention at the California State Science Fair in May, and Kadima and Pressman students also won awards at the L.A. County Science Fair a few weeks before. Kadima alumna Miriam Glicksberg, now a junior at El Camino Real High School, won honorable mention in the behaviorial and social sciences division at the state fair and third place in her division at the county fair for work that looked for distinct ability categories in math. Glicksberg, who also won a spot at a Hebrew University science program this summer, has placed at the county science fair every year since sixth grade and in the state fair since seventh grade, mostly for research having to do with music, singing and pitch.

Glicksberg served as a judge at Kadima's science fair this year, a formal event where professionals from different fields help judge. Kadima usually sends a delegation of students to the county fair and has arranged with organizers to make provisions when the fair landed on Passover. Work on the science fair at Kadima begins over the summer, when students are asked to think about a topic that interests them. With the help of science teacher Mark Yutan, the kids formulate a question and narrow the topic down, then come up with a hypothesis that they then test. They often will follow a single topic from year to year, expanding on their own research.

This year, Kadima eighth-grader Laura Levy won honorable mention in cognitive science at the state fair and took first prize in the junior division of the county science fair's behavioral sciences category for her work looking for a neurological connection between reading and the ability to spell. Her work also earned the Naval Science Award from the Office of Naval Research, and she was a finalist for the Sweepstakes award.

Kadima eighth-grader Jenna King won honorable mention at the state fair and placed third at the county fair in the plant biology category for her project that found that larger pumpkins produce more seeds per cubic centimeter than smaller pumpkins. Other Kadima projects that entered the County Science Fair included Ilan Elkabetz's research on the effect of Mentos candies on the spew height of soda; Nathaniel Band's research on the survival rate of earthworms unprotected under sunlight; Yarden Harvey's research on the possibility of creating a visual signal by an audible siren; and Sivan Moshe's research on the dissolution of limestone in carbonated water.

Pressman Academy seventh-grader Adam Lipton took third place in the L.A. County Science Fair in applied chemistry for his experiment in "Factors in Flammability: Fire Safety in the Home."

For more information, visit http://www.kadimaacademy.org, http://www.pressmanacademy.org or www.lacoe.edu/science, or call (562) 401-5486.

Prayers Answered

More then 600 students, representing 78 day schools, religious schools and public schools in five states, participated in a writing contest sponsored by Jews for Judaism, on the theme of "My Prayer for Israel."

Rabbi Zalman Kravitz, Jews for Judaism's education director, presented certificates to the winners at a May 20 award ceremony at The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, where the essays, poems and songs were displayed.

Among the winners were Shai Kohavi, a fifth-grader at Kadima Hebrew Academy; Sarah Mandelbaum, an eighth-grader at Yavneh Hebrew Academy; Noa Miriam Gilbert-McNabb, an eighth-grader at Bais Rebbe Junior High; Noah Ickowitz, a 10th-grader at Milken Community High School; Rachel Chaya Feld, a ninth-grader at Bais Chana High School; and Rivkah Schefres, a ninth-grader at YULA girls high school.

To see the winning entries or for more information, visit http://www.jewsforjudaism.org.

Relay Raisers

Twenty-two sixth-graders from Heschel West Day School in Agoura participated in the annual Relay for Life in Agoura Hills on April 28 and 29, raising $4,500 for the American Cancer Society. The students walked for a total of more than 40 hours and performed more than 25 hours of community service during the event.

For more information, visit http://www.heschelwest.com.

Jerusalem Is Gold for Students

Four day-school students were honored by the Religious Zionists of Los Angeles (RZLA) for work they submitted to the organization's contest in honor of Yom Yerushalayim, commemorating the day in 1967 when Jerusalem was brought entirely under Jewish control.

RZLA president Dr. Ernie Agatstein and chairman Steve Berger presented $500 Israel bonds to Shireet Ganchrow, a seventh-grader at Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu, and to Jennifer Newman, an eighth-grader at Shalhevet Middle School, for their essays on Jerusalem. Emek Hebrew Academy eighth-grader Dalia Frend and Shalhevet 10th-grader Sophie Porter-Zasada also won bonds for their artwork on Jerusalem.

The winners presented their work at RZLA's annual Yom Yerushalayim dinner May 15, attended by more than 500 people -- another 100 of whom had to be turned away at the door.

RZLA, a branch of the World Mizrachi Movement, presented its Boneh Tzion Award to Perla and Ben Mark, Holocaust survivors who met and married in Israel before they moved to Los Angeles in 1955. The Boneh Yerushalayim Memorial Tribute was presented posthumously to Rabbi Simon and Shirley Dolgin, pioneers of the Los Angeles Orthodox community.

For more information on RZLA, call (310) 274-6657.

New Jew Headmaster Gets Top Honor

Bruce Powell, headmaster and founder of New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, was awarded the prestigious Covenant Award, a top honor for Jewish educators in North America. The award from the Covenant Foundation, which was given to three educators, carries a $25,000 purse for the individual and $5,000 for the institution. The foundation recognized Powell as a visionary agent of change who operates with kindness and a strong values base.

Powell founded New Community Jewish High School five years ago with 40 students. Today, the school has 328 students and is widely respected in the Jewish community both for its academic program and for its emphasis on ethics and values.

Before founding New Jew, Powell was the first headmaster at Milken Community High School, and he is credited with transforming the school from a small operation to the major institution it is today. Prior to that, Powell was a founding principal at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles High School, a college-prep yeshiva. He has consulted with or helped to open 16 other community schools across the country, and trains educators to become heads of school through the Day School Leadership Training Institute.

Also granted a Covenant Award was Rabbi Philip Warmflash, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Partnership in Philadelphia, which creates programs that help synagogues welcome previously unaffiliated families. Prior to relocating to Philadelphia, Warmflash was the executive director of the Youth Department at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and principal of Los Angeles Hebrew High School.

For more information visit http://www.covenantfn.org. or http://www.ncjhs.org.

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