“At JCHS we want to empower our students to understand both the complexity and nuance of life in the Middle East,” said Rabbi Howard Ruben, head of school. “Learning more about Arabic culture and language is an important part of that understanding.”
After a busy and thought-provoking week traveling, Juniors on the Israel Journey returned to Tel Aviv to enjoy the gorgeous beach and begin a restful Shabbat. Freshman, sophomore and senior grade journeys begin this week. Follow them on our blog!
Junior Sam A. reflects on the first few days in Israel: "After this long day, we as a collective definitely came away with a broader and more nuanced understanding of the conflict (or lack thereof) between Jews and Israel’s minority groups. I am confident I speak for everyone when I say such education certainly enhanced our experience and knowledge."
Ms. Rozenblum updates us from Israel: "We spent our last day in the North exploring some of Israel's minority groups. In the Arab Israeli town of Shfar'am we visited a mosque, an Episcopal church, and an old synagogue -- all within a short walk from each other."
The Israel Trail runs the entire length of Israel, from Mt. Hermon in the North to Eilath in the South. One activity during this 70th anniversary year is that different mechinah programs commit to hiking different sections of the Israel Trail so that the entire trail is covered by all the different mechinot.
"After a long day of travel, we’ve finally landed at a youth hostel in Tel Aviv to spend the night. Our journey here was a long one, complete with a fourteen-hour plane ride, bus transportation, and so, so, so much security."
Junior Sam A, editor of the school newspaper, The Oberserver, sends us a report from Tel Aviv.
As the Scotland company gets ready for this summer's performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Tessa Zitter '17 talks about the challenges of creating a theatrical piece of this complexity from scratch.
There is a certain energy, a buzz, around JCHS during this time of year. This point of transition from school to summer–and for the seniors, from high school to graduation–creates an excited rush to get to the next step, the next phase.
Merav Rozenblum is not only a beloved member of our World Languages faculty, she is also a contract interpreter for the US State Dept. and recently translated speeches given by the President in Riyadh and Jerusalem.
Mazel tov to Tamar Rabinowitz, our Dean of Jewish Studies and Hebrew, who recently graduated from the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI), a two-year course of study in professional leadership development.
On Shabbat in Tel Aviv, juniors on the Israel Journey met with the Palestinian founder of a Jewish-Arab dialogue project, sparking conversations about paths to peace. After havdalah, they welcomed Purim with a megillah reading.
"We cheered each other on and encouraged each other to keep going, to climb higher. ...fear was transformed into fearlessness as bodies disappeared up the side of the wall, so high they were almost out of view..."
Usually, when you’re on a cliff, the scariest moment is when you look down. But today, the most frightening moment was when we looked UP, seeing the gargantuan walls we were expected to scale. Granted, we were not forced to climb, but most of us wanted to say ‘yes’ to the experience!
We began our day with a great breakfast at our guest house at Kibbutz Gonen. Because of jet lag everyone was up early. We began our day with different tefillot options and then broke up into small groups, to reflect on some of our experiences over the last 36 hours and give our students a chance to look at much they have done is such a short amount of time.
One of my favorite moments of the day came when Wolk gave us the opportunity to listen to music for the last stretch of our descent. As I blasted “Take Me to Church” through Ms. Rubin’s headphones, I thought about the sacred temple of nature in which we found ourselves, a place so fittingly named Zion.
Most of us got a nice Israeli wake up at 3am courtesy of our Kibbutz Peacocks. Others woke up at 6am with the blowing of the Shofar to wake up the rest of Kibbutz Gonen. After a yummy Israeli breakfast from 8:30 to 9:00, we boarded the bus and headed to a beautiful outlook in the Golan heights.
We spent the morning wandering Lafayette Cemetery, the Garden District, and Magazine Street, and the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy our lunch and early afternoon in Audubon Park, seeing a lot of birds especially the black-bellied whistling ducks (identified for us by an intrepid student ornithologist).
The first day of our journeying was framed by otherworldly beauty of two very different types: we began our day in the “hyperreal,” disorienting surroundings of the Las Vegas strip and ended it with a truly magical night hike in Zion National Park.
We awaken from our slumber to the rapping noise of our teachers banging on our doors. We were wishing we could sleep for just another hour, but alas, it’s time for breakfast! After some yummy food, yoga with Mr. G, and lots and lots of layering of clothes, we boarded the bus to go to one of the many canyons in Zion for a hiking trip!
BEEP BEEP BEEP goes my alarm, lurching me out of my slumber. I reluctantly get out of bed and throw my suitcase in the car, and begin the long drive to the airport. I can’t believe the sun hasn’t even risen yet! Fast forward 45 minutes, and I’m at the airport- with the 5 other members of my class who got there on time.
After another late start, which we needed in order to rest our bodies, we began the morning routine of breakfast burekas (pastries), packing our pastrami or egg salad sandwiches, and then morning tefillah. We were all getting used to setting up well for our adventures, but at the same time noticing this was going to be our last wilderness experience on this trip.
After spending time in the morning preparing for oral history interviews, Seniors visited the Ashe Cultural Center in the heart of Central City, New Orleans. They enjoyed meeting some of the talented locals and took part in a drum circle and conducted oral history interviews with "culture-bearers."
Rabbi Dean Kertesz, Jewish Studies Teacher and co-Dean of Students
We spent today exploring Jerusalem, beginning at the excavations of Ir David, or King David's City, just south of the Old City. This is the site of an ancient Jebusite city that David captured and made the capital of his united kingdom. We learned the history of Jerusalem from David's conquest of the city about 3,000 years ago to the present day.
Rabbi Dean Kertesz, Jewish Studies Teacher and co-Dean of Students
Our group climbed Masada from the west side up the Roman ramp. At the top, we toured much of the site and learned the story of the Zealots who captured the city and held out for months against the Roman siege before committing mass suicide rather than surrendering. We ended our time on Masada with a discussion of how the early Zionists used the story of Masada to instill patriotism and a fighting spirit into the hearts of the Zionist youth.
After a much needed late start (9 am wake up) we grabbed some breakfast before heading to our morning tefillah. After our prayers or mindfulness activity for the day, we hopped on the buses and rolled out to Zion Mountain School at 11 am.
On Monday, the group toured the Lower 9th Ward to learn more about the region's rebuilding efforts ten years after Hurricane Katrina. Students weren't just there as tourists though. With a focus on engagement through service, the seniors undertook a special project.
Rabbi Dean Kertesz, Jewish Studies Teacher and co-Dean of Students
Often Israel assumes mythic proportion, a dream come true, and we don't see Israel for what it is: a real country with real problems. What makes Israel special is that in Israel these problems are Jewish problems, questions of Jewish values and Jewish morality. Today we explored these problems in Tel Aviv.
Rabbi Dean Kertesz, Jewish Studies Teacher and co-Dean of Students
This morning we left Tel Aviv and headed south to the Negev desert. The Negev makes up almost one half of Israel's territory and much of it is empty. We came to the desert today to learn about this beautiful and rugged part of Israel. To walk the land some more and to learn about the people who live here.
It's 6 am and all is still quiet at the airport. By 6:20 a.m. we have taken over the Southwest ticket area with our bags, hugs, and excitement for the journey. We passed out the tickets, made it through security, boarded the plane, landed in Vegas, and made it to the Paris hotel by 11 am local time with no problems!
It's 5:30 am; The sun isn't even up yet. I put my suitcase in the car and head off to the airport. Greeted by the Class of 2018, emotions immediately change from tired and nervous to excited and, well, still tired.
This year’s shabbaton gave our school the chance to come together for the first time this year. This year’s freshmen journey gave the freshman class a time to get to know each other, bond, and create a community that would last for the next four years and beyond.
Hearts like fists was a wonderful experience for me. This wasn't the first time I've been behind the scenes of a JCHS production, but it was the first time that I've gotten to take a mentoring position with the youngest members of the theatre department as assistant director.
They say, before you die, the memories most important to you flash before your eyes. This may not have been death, but it most definitely felt like an end. I stood left of the stage waiting for what would be my fourth and final coffeehouse performance.
The semester is ending and everyone is getting ready for the six-day, post-finals break. As a freshman, my first semester at JCHS was great! It started on the freshman retreat, where I met my classmates and bonded not only with the freshmen but also with some seniors who came as our "senior buddies."
This year, the JCHS Varsity volleyball team made history. The Wolves finished the regular season undefeated, ready and eager to take the playoffs by storm. In the first round of playoffs, we beat Summit Prep in three sets, which not only put us in the championships, but also guaranteed us a spot in the Central Coast Section (CCS) playoffs the following week.
On my first day of high school, I sat in the Kol Shofar synagogue, up in Tiburon, with 22 other high school freshman, being welcomed as the inaugural class to JCHS. At the time the entire school was housed in three rooms, and a few offices. I was fourteen, nervous, and uncertain about whether I had made the right choice in schools.
This past Sunday JCHS had its first open house of the year and from my point of view it went great! The day started with our fabulous student ambassadors welcoming families and an outstanding preview of the Fall Musical Pippin.
During Community Block last week, neuroscientist and magician Louigi Anzivino spoke to us about how magic fools your brain. As a magician myself, it was really interesting not only to learn more about the science that makes the magic work, but also to see the engagement of the rest of the community in his presentation.
Spirit Week is one of the most admired, energetic and looked forward to weeks of the JCHS year. Students are encouraged to dress up in crazy costumes on spirit days, support their grades during Color Games and support their school at the pep rally.
The Shabbaton is a 3-day escape from busy schedules, stressful weeks, and obligations. Students, faculty and staff get together and embrace the magic of JCHS. Being a senior, nostalgia seems to be the theme of my year. And, as I stepped onto Walker Creek Ranch for my fourth and last time, I understood that JCHS is like no other place.
An interview with Ayelet Schrek '13, Student Director of our touring production of The Comedy of Errors
How did you develop, not only as an actor, but also as a playwright? I have been acting in camps and after school since I was seven, when I did my first Shakespeare camp. I’ve been going ever since. I was a camper first and I am an intern now. But really, I have been acting as long as I’ve been walking and talking! When I was young, I had a friend who came over and we would “write plays” that we would perform for our families. It was my family culture.
It’s been an exciting and focused start to the second trimester and Girls Varsity basketball. Girls basketball has always been a very special and exciting sport that I play. I have been playing basketball since 6th grade, where I began at Oakland Hebrew Day School. I have loved basketball ever since and when I came to JCHS I began playing my freshman year. Being on the varsity team as a freshman was both exciting and difficult; I had to work extremely hard. I play the low post position (or power forward) which means that I am the player in charge of rebounding, taking lay ups, assisting, and passing. My freshman year, the Girls Varsity team made it to the playoffs of the Private School Athletic League (PSAL) and I got to start in that game. I was very anxious yet super excited to be a part of this high-pressure game. I felt extremely supported by my team, which helped me succeed in my role.
It’s been an exciting fall semester for the performing arts department at JCHS. This year’s musical, Into the Woods, opened to rave reviews. All four performances were sold out- such an incredible testament to our student’s talents!
The fall musical provides the opportunity for the entire performing and visual arts department to come together. Art, vocal, drama, and music students work together to put on an amazing show with the support of our teachers and professional community. It is a group effort that is a pleasure to see. As David Möschler, Vocal Music Director at JCHS said, “it really is the watershed moment of the year for our department.” With so much excitement around the musical, JCHS checked in with drummer Josh B., who played in the orchestra.
Imagine a warm, breezy weekend in Sonoma County filled with your favorite classmates, faculty members, and student leaders. It is also Shabbat, and there is no homework allowed. You eat together and sing at meals, doing everything from swimming in the lake, tie-dying shirts, making liquid nitrogen ice cream, to improv games. It’s the Shabbaton. It’s JCHS highpoint for good reason.
I have always enjoyed playing soccer. I think it’s a good way to let off steam, exercise, get competitive, focus, and build friendships between opponents, teammates, and coaches. I’ve played on and off since I was young, around five to be exact. But I only began to invest serious time into soccer once I enrolled into the class of 2012 at JCHS.
Sally: This year, the Shabbaton was a great experience! I had so much fun getting to know people, and just spending time with friends. It was a truly relaxing weekend where we didn’t have to worry about homework, school, or anything else going on in our lives. It was a great environment and a great community of people to be with. There was a good energy and I noticed that everyone was getting along and really just wanted to have a good time. The highlight for me, was going down to the lake, and cannoning with two of my friends. The weather was absolutely beautiful, and everyone was having a great time. Most people ended up not wanting to leave the lake when it was time to go. It was a great day and it really started the Shabbaton with a positive outlook. Going back to school, I felt that there were new friendships made, and the school as a whole became much closer.
The trip started out as I expected. Sleepy teenagers in the early morning at the airport, the time consumption of going through security, the long line our class made at Starbucks, and so on. When we got on our bus in Las Vegas, the city teased me, making me wish I could stay, instead of heading to the national parks of Utah. Instead, after a long bus drive, I found I was slightly infatuated with the little town of Springdale, UT, a tiny place with a population of less than 800. It had art galleries, grocery stores, and shops with colorful rocks for tourists like me. My room at the Quality Inn was comfortable, despite the smell of burned cookies wafting down the hallway. The striking thing about Springdale was that if you went outside, you looked up, and there was a vast mountain range balanced above the desert terrain, made of beautiful red and orange rock.
When I woke up on Monday morning, I realized that the day that I had been waiting for all year had finally arrived; the day that I get to experience my first JCHS Journey with the Class of 2014. While waiting for the bus to pick us up from JCHS, I noticed that people were still in their same usual groups that I see them in every day. I thought to myself, "Why don't we mix this up a bit?" I walked over to where our bags were and started playing my guitar. Immediately my classmates began to flock over, and soon enough, all these groups who had previously been mingling on their own were coming together and singing along with me. It was a very powerful moment seeing that we all had this in common, and the trip had hardly begun!
Everyone at JCHS is really looking forward to our winter comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. We have an incredible director, an outstanding cast, and the play itself is the pinnacle of the English language. The characters speak with a certain quality of wit and sophistication. Unlike some of our previous comedies, The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of errors. While the characters may seem rigid and set in their ways, much of the Victorian humor is drawn from a juxtaposition of restrictive social expectations and the subversive actions these characters take to undermine these restrictions. Subtle actions, such as the way a character may cross their legs or use a fan, when taken to the logical extreme are actually very funny.
Without a doubt, being a part of the JCHS hip-hop dance team has been one of the highlights of my time in high school. I really enjoy having the opportunity to dance with my fellow students and help establish a strong dance program here at JCHS. I have been dancing since the first grade, but I only began doing hip-hop dance four years ago when I joined a competitive hip-hop dance squad called “Divine” that competed against other local dance teams. Dance (especially hip-hop dance) is not easy, and you really have to be born with a certain feel for it. You have to be able to understand the choreography and make it look good at the same time. One thing that I really love about the JCHS dance team is that we can add our own style and flair to what we do!
As an eighth grader at Marin Brandeis last year, I had a great opportunity to come to San Francisco one weekend and attend a basketball clinic with my teammates and members of the JCHS Basketball team. I didn’t have a lot of experience playing basketball prior to this, or really an interest in sports- I had joined the team on a whim after making a 3-pointer!
This year at school, my sophomore year, I am taking a number of really great classes. I am in Talmud I Advanced, Tanach II Advanced, Introduction to Studio Art, Chemistry Advanced, Hebrew Literature and Culture, English 10, and Algebra II Advanced. In addition to these classes though, I am also a member of the varsity volleyball team.
The JCHS drama department is one of the many amazing opportunities our school has to offer. As a freshman, I came into JCHS as a shy, quiet girl without a place. I decided I wanted to take an elective, and since I can barely draw stick figures, I went with Theater Lab—Ms. Russell’s “intro to acting” class. I walked in on the first day, horrified—I was the only freshman AND the only girl in a group of seven other sophomore, junior, and senior guys. At first, I didn’t know how to react, but I crept into class, and I ended up loving it. In my class, I learned various acting methods and techniques, but I also discovered new ways to express myself and something I’m now really passionate about.
Color War, the final day of Spirit Week, is a day I look forward to the entire year. After countless hours of hard work and preparation, finally all of our grade’s excitement and dedication pays off when we all gather together in the commons and perform in front of the whole JCHS community. Each class is given about 10 minutes to entertain the school with a song or dance, or combination of the two, which shows off their grade’s spirit.
JCHS: Hi Boris! It looks like sophomore year is off to a great start! What have you been up to so far?
Boris: I have been really excited about Chemistry this year–all the formulas and hands-on labs intrigue me. At the Club Fair where students can join a number of different student-run clubs, I signed up for both Yearbook and Social Club. They are both a big part of my agenda.
Q: As a senior at JCHS, and someone who is very involved with the community in many different ways, has it been a challenge to adjust to the academic rigors of being a senior?
A: Yes, it has been a bit of a challenge, but it has also been fun and rewarding. This year I am taking exciting classes like AP Art History and Jewish Thought that give me the opportunity to explore subjects I love that are fascinating and enlightening. For example, I really enjoy learning about the concepts of ‘sin’ and ‘evil’ with Dr. Sandel. I have the opportunity to choose classes I am interested in, and I love that I can learn for the sake of learning and have fun with the classes I am taking.
JCHS is grateful for generous operational, programmatic, and financial support from:
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.