• Israel’s Response to “Lone Wolves” a Blueprint for Countries Facing Attacks

    October 31 saw New York City’s deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11. Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, inspired by the Islamic State, drove a rented pickup truck into a bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing eight and injuring 11. The attack is a new entry in the continuing lone wolf terror attack crisis. More often, especially in Europe, terrorists acting individually, known as “lone wolves,” are radicalized by ISIS and commit heinous acts acts of violence and murder... Read More>>

  • Give a Little, Gain a Little

    Nine months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the one clear policy of the administration is its willingness to rule with a heavy hand and its apparent desire to follow through on promises. However, in handling Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, Trump’s obstinence may prove catastrophic.... Read More>>

  • The Importance of Relationships in High School

    During the most confusing four years of a teenagers life, it is crucial to form quality relationships with others, whether it be a best friend, a significant other, or strengthening existing bonds with parents and siblings. The people that teens surround themselves with influence them the most, so it’s important.... Read More>>

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  • Starting High School in a Foreign Country

    Israel is one of the pillars of Judaism. It is the Jewish homeland, where the forefathers started their lives and the Temple once stood. It is fitting then, that GOA freshmen start their high school experience in Israel on the Na’ale program. Na’ale allowed the freshmen to speak Hebrew, hike up mountains, strengthen connections with old friends and make connections with new ones.... Read More>>

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  • Schechter: Then and Now

    Frizzy hair and acid-washed jeans cover the concrete blue and white hallways. Students in scrunched socks and oversized sweatshirts line their lockers awaiting their friends’ arrival. Conversations and laughter can be heard from down the hall and a feeling of familiarity fills the air. Suddenly, a bell sounds and students flood the halls, rushing to their first period class. This was your reality as a GOA – then still Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union – in the 1980s... Read More>>

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January 7, 2018

Fighting Terrorism in a Democracy

Theo Deitz-Green ‘19, Nina Robins ‘19 and Jacob Bier ‘19

Perhaps one of the greatest civic debates of the past few centuries has been over how a government can both preserve individual liberties and ensure the security of its citizens. In an era of expanding terrorism around the world, finding the balance between these two competing needs is both crucially important and deeply challenging.
In large part because of the rise of ISIS, the world has seen a major increase in terrorist attacks and in particular, of “lone wolf” attacks. Lone wolf attacks, or attacks involving one person acting alone with no support of a larger terrorist organization, present a uniquely difficult task: security forces must detect a potential threat based only on the actions of a single actor.
Therefore, in order to identify and prevent all possible lone wolf terrorist attacks, law enforcement agencies must monitor every person who poses any level of security threat, a task that is nearly impossible given the sheer number of people who fit into this category. Even if this could somehow be accomplished, there would still be the possibility that some people who have given law enforcement agencies no signs that they pose a threat might slip through the cracks.
Unsurprisingly, under such difficult circumstances, there have been failures in lone wolf attack prevention, seen in shootings and bombings across the world in devastatingly deadly and effective attacks.
In the eyes of many high-level law enforcement and security specialists around the world, the biggest obstacle in the path to effectively protecting the public from these horrific attacks is the notion that democratic ideals cannot be compromised for the sake of safety.
This idea was seen in the battle to end the NSA wiretapping program, which provided the NSA with an effective means of monitoring the activity of suspected terrorists and stopping attacks before they could occur, but also seemed to strip people of the rights to privacy on phones. It is also seen in the debate over torture practices in the United States and around the world, which have the potential to acquire information crucial to the security of the public but are also deeply unethical and against the democratic ideal that there should be no “cruel and unusual punishment.”
To some, including Major-General Avshalom Peled, Commander of Israeli National Police Academy and Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, the issue is deeper than just a basic divide between the ideals liberty and security; it is the question of whether or not a country fighting terrorism must hold itself to democratic principles while fighting terrorists that it holds itself to in running its own country. They believe that the difficult answer is no.
Kemp explained that there are currently believed to be 30,000 people suspected of being involved in Jihad living in the United Kingdom, including 3,000 who are thought to pose an imminent threat. This number, Kemp argues, is so large that as the situation stands right now, it is not possible for the U.K. to prevent an attack indefinitely.   
Therefore, Kemp, based on the assumption that lone wolves have in common a connection to Islamic extremism fostered in the middle east, proposes that the U.K. stop allowing people coming from specific Middle Eastern areas into the country, deport non-citizens, and apprehend people in the U.K. suspected of being terrorists, even if there is no evidence to support any case against them.   
Putting aside the valid and crucially important questions about the accuracy of Kemp’s assumption about the fundamental connection between lone wolf terrorism and Islamic extremism, these proposals would clearly violate the ideals of due process and equal protection of law inherent to a democracy, not to mention that they would pose significant ethical questions. Kemp acknowledges as much.
In fact, he agrees that it is difficult to propose turning away refugees from the middle east in dire conditions and severe danger just for the protection of the people already living in the United Kingdom.
Kemp said it is “hard to say that you [should] stop people who are in desperation [from entering the country].” However, he believes that “the government's priority should be the security of its own people.”
Peled agrees with Kemp’s general assessment of the need to carry out certain undemocratic actions. He cites as an example of this an Israeli policy under which Israeli security officials are able to arrest and hold arabs/muslims who are considered to be lone wolf threats for up to six months in prison without providing any evidence at all.
This, an actual policy that has been enacted as opposed to Kemp’s theoretical ideas, serves as an actual example of a democracy stripping away due process and targeting specific groups of people based on generalizations about the group to which they belong.
However, Peled, who also believes that Arabs and Muslims pose a more significant threat than people of other ethnicities and religions, at least right now in Israel, believes that the benefit this provides outweighs what the program sacrifices.
In fact, he believes that more such programs are needed.
“Democracy fights terrorism with one arm tied behind [its] back.”
If democracies hope to protect their citizens, they must level the playing field with extreme, but what Peled believes are necessary, measures like this one in order to be able to effectively fight terrorism.

Whether or not one agrees with these ideas, or even the beliefs that guide them, the ideas of Kemp, Peled, and other similar minded people will be extremely important in the continuation of the fight against terrorism and in the evolution of democracy. How these two seemingly irreconcilable ideals are balanced will determine much of the way life and liberty is viewed in the decades and centuries to come.

Give a Little, Gain a Little

Nina Robins ‘19

Nine months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the one clear policy of the administration is its willingness to rule with a heavy hand and its apparent desire to follow through on promises. However, in handling Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, Trump’s obstinence may prove catastrophic.
On November 16, the Trump administration announced that it would remove the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from Washington, D.C. According to Trump and his staff, this decision is in retaliation against the Palestinian Authority, which broke a U.S. law preventing it from pressing charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Before the PLO office is shut down, the U.S. has a 90 day period to determine if the Palestinians are making a satisfactory effort towards peace with Israel.
In response, the PA and PLO announced that they would freeze all diplomatic ties with the United States. Palestinian officials, including Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, believe that “by closing the office they are freezing all meetings and we are making that official.”
However, American officials believe that this move is not a total diplomatic halt. “In our view, communications are not frozen,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a recent briefing.
“We are not giving up on the plan for peace. We are not doing that,” Nauert noted. “You know how important that is to this administration.”
This obvious lack of communication between the U.S. and Palestinian leadership demonstrates Trump’s lack of understanding of foreign affairs and the PA and PLO’s unwillingness to negotiate for peace at the present time.
By choosing to close the PLO office in D.C., Trump assumes that Palestinian leaders have far more patience for the American government and a stronger desire to achieve peace with the Israelis than they actually do. The Palestinians’ rejection of multiple peace plans over the past two decades, most recently in 2014, shows that the current leaders have little interest in working with Israelis or Americans to achieve any diplomatic goals.
If Trump wants any hope of reconciliation with the Palestinians, or if he wants to be the ultimate negotiator of an Israeli-Palestinian peace, he must accept the fact that the PA and PLO do not completely accept his authority.

As damaging as it may be to the U.S.-Israel relationship and despite all of the flaws of Palestinian government and society, it is in Trump’s best interest to be lenient with the Palestinians and not to cut off any diplomatic ties. Maintaining positive relations with Palestinian leadership will ultimately allow Trump to help both sides achieve a peaceful two-state solution and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

What is Governor-Elect Phil Murphy’s Plan for N.J.?

David Wingens ‘19

On November 7, 2017, in a nearly 14-point landslide, Democrat Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey. Murphy’s large margin of victory seems to suggest a ringing endorsement of the sweeping, progressive platform on which he campaigned. However, Murphy’s large victory cannot be allowed to shield his policy proposals from scrutiny.
One of his major proposals is to establish a publicly owned state bank. Currently, New Jersey invests money collected from taxes and fees in private banks such as the Wall Street banks Murphy used to work for. The idea of a public bank would be to invest that money back into New Jersey instead.
While this may be a good idea in theory, as it has the potential to stimulate the New Jersey economy while still generating money for the state to use, there is no guarantee that this proposal would work as well as imagined because it is largely untested.
It is nearly impossible to use other states as a guide as the only other state with such a bank is North Dakota. North Dakota is America’s fourth least densely populated state, with a population of around 750,000, and about 90 percent of its land being used for agriculture.
New Jersey, on the other hand, is America’s most densely populated state, with roughly nine million people, and about 17 percent of its land is farmland. Therefore, New Jersey and North Dakota cannot be compared in any meaningful way. Despite the fact that North Dakota’s bank has been a modest success, it is entirely possible that in New Jersey, it would not work successfully.
Additionally, New Jersey has a history of political corruption, so putting politicians in charge of a bank that has free reign over large sums of money is a recipe for disaster and even more rampant political corruption.
This idea has been a cornerstone of Murphy’s economic policy, which is strange because there was no previous desire for a public bank and it is not an idea that is necessarily easy for voters to grasp and support. Murphy, however, swears by this plan and claims that it will reduce Wall Street’s influence on the average New Jerseyan.
So, while this plan does seem a little far-fetched for a state like New Jersey, if Murphy can manage to execute it in the proper manner, it seems like it has the potential to be a success of which other states could build.
Aside from the public bank, Murphy has backed many traditional left-wing policies such as increased regulations on gun sales and a higher minimum wage. Murphy and democrats in New Jersey’s state assembly recently vowed to increase the minimum wage to $15 while raising taxes on the rich.
Murphy has also taken a strong stance on immigration. He promised that if necessary, he would make New Jersey into a “sanctuary state.” Sanctuary cities are cities that do not fully cooperate with federal law authorities to enforce immigration laws and they have been a huge point of contention between Democrats and Republicans for the last few years. It would be a monumental political maneuver to make New Jersey into a sanctuary state and it would certainly anger President Donald Trump and Republicans around the country. But Murphy is not really worried about making Republicans mad, as he has clearly tried to position himself as the polar opposite of Trump and the nativism he engenders.
Perhaps the position for which Murphy has become most well-known is his belief that we should legalize marijuana. Marijuana has already been legalized in eight states and Washington, D.C., but it is too early to see the long term effects of legalization in those states and territory.
What is clear, is that the war on drugs, including marijuana, has been a factor in the mass incarceration of black and hispanic people in America. Statistics show that black and hispanic people are incarcerated at much higher rates than white people for drug related crimes despite the fact that white people are just as likely to sell or consume drugs. Legalizing marijuana would certainly be a win for social justice in New Jersey.
Of course, there would be dangers to marijuana legalization, but marijuana is not inherently more dangerous than alcohol, which has been legal since America’s founding, save 13 years in the early 20th century.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, as well as across America, there is a terrible epidemic of opioid addiction. This is not helped by mass incarceration of minorities for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. Our resources would be much better spent dealing with opioids than marijuana.

Murphy’s election was largely a rebuke of President Trump and outgoing Governor Chris Christie, but that does not mean that Murphy does not have ideas of his own. Murphy plans to level the economic playing field in New Jersey, make New Jersey a safer place for immigrants and to try to begin to wind down the war on drugs, so that a more useful approach can be taken to the real issue of New Jersey’s opioid epidemic. Only time can tell how these policies will turn out, but Phil Murphy is bringing a progressive agenda back to New Jersey.

Schechter: Then and Now

Maddie Herman ‘19

Frizzy hair and acid-washed jeans cover the concrete blue and white hallways. Students in scrunched socks and oversized sweatshirts line their lockers awaiting their friends’ arrival. Conversations and laughter can be heard from down the hall and a feeling of familiarity fills the air. Suddenly, a bell sounds and students flood the halls, rushing to their first period class.
This was your reality as a GOA – then still Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union – in the 1980s.
SSDSEU/GOA has evolved in many ways over the last 30 years. While the school size has decreased, it has grown academically through an increased variety in its programming, especially regarding its experiential programming like shabbatons and trips, and its activities and clubs.
Many important and progressive changes were made when current Lower School Principal Carrie Siegel, herself a graduate of the class of 1992, was a student at SSDSEU.
“Extracurriculars are vastly different now in comparison to when I was a student,” she said.
She explained that during her time in high school, there was a particularly large transition in sports within the school. This occurred when SSDSEU left the Yeshiva League allowing Daphna Gold, a friend of Siegel’s, to play on the boy’s basketball team.
“[That was] a pretty big deal,” she noted.  
GOA students have certainly taken advantage of the school’s diverse programming in recent years. They participate in a wide range of activities, along with taking student leadership roles in a variety of clubs. Junior Stefanie Siegel expressed that a large reason she loves GOA is because of these opportunities.
“All of the clubs and opportunities offered have helped me find what I'm passionate about,” she said.
Although changes have occurred throughout the evolution of the school, many milestones remain as students’ favorite memories of high school, one monumental high school experience being the senior trip to Israel. Until 1992, SSDEU students participated in a joint five-month trip with the Charles. E Smith School. Students had many opportunities, from touring Israel’s landmarks to experiencing life on a kibbutz. This allowed them to go beyond their daily lives and truly immerse themselves in Israeli culture.
For many alumni, one of the most memorable parts of this experience was being given the opportunity to travel with their friends and teenagers their own age.  Mrs. Siegel remarked that traveling with another school was one of the best and most memorable parts of the trip.
“I think that was a real highlight for us,” she said, “meeting a whole new group of students who were just like us and living together in Israel.”
For Wendy Herman, class of ‘89, the Israel trip was also one of the most memorable experiences of high school.   
“The trip was an experience of a lifetime,” Herman said. “Besides the opportunity to become friends with students from Charles E Smith, I was able to form stronger bonds with the students in my own class.”
Siegel also noted how, even though the building, individual students and school name may have changed, the sense of family has remained intact.
“The best way to describe the atmosphere of SSDSEU/GOA when I was in high school is to call it family,” she said. “Everyone felt like family. My grade, the grades above and below me, the teachers. We were just one big family.”
Herman echoed this sentiment during her description of her high school experience.
“I made friendships for a lifetime and some of my dearest friends still today,” she added.
Many teachers who taught during the days of Schechter Cranford hold a sentimental feeling for GOA in their hearts. Sandy Pyonin, basketball coach and P.E. teacher has always had a love for the Schechter community.
“Everybody is family,”  he said. “We all care about the kids and all the kids care about the faculty.”
Even current students can’t help but acknowledge the familial quality.

“This school is special,” junior Alana Wernick said. “It offers a community beyond the hours of 8:30 to 4:00. These are the people who are there for you and will continue to be for your entire life.”

Friends From All Over: Mexico Exchange Trip

Sarah Cehelyk ‘18

On November 2, 2017, sophomore Spanish students embarked on an exciting journey to Mexico City, Mexico. Accompanied by chaperones Ms. Kay and Señor Meneses, the group boarded the plane at 7 a.m. and awaited their meeting with their exchange program partners. For the past three years, Golda Och Academy has offered this optional exchange program to Spanish students in order to gain a greater understanding of the culture.
While in Mexico, students had the opportunity to fully immerse themselves into the local lifestyle. Whether it be through the cuisine, rituals and traditions, or tourist sites, each student was able to connect to the country on their own level.
     For sophomore Ally Landau, the food was a very important part of the trip.
“I’ve never had such amazing tacos,” she commented.
For others, including sophomore Zece Brown, the group's visit to the Pyramids was an unforgettable experience.
“The view from the top was absolutely incredible and took my breath away,” he said.
For many students, the relationship formed with their Mexican partners was the most impactful aspect of the trip. Sophomore Amy Gaffen comments that she loved “meeting everyone in the program and sharing our cultures with one another.”
    In Mexico, students were able to immerse themselves in a diverse culture different from their own. Mia Harel expresses that “the trip helped me realize that even though we may live in different countries, we are actually very similar.”
Students who participated in the exchange program in years past also have extremely fond memories from the trip. Senior Lizzie Irwin says that the trip made her realize “that the world isn’t as big as it feels, especially when I have a group of friends that are so similar to mine at home.”
She remains in close contact with the friends that she was introduced to in 2015, especially her buddy Nicole Ellstein from CIM-ORT, the counterpart school in Mexico.
“Each and every one of the students who were involved in the exchange will always hold GOA close to our hearts,” Ellstein said. “Even after two years, most of us have kept in touch, making us closer than any of us thought to be possible.”
Mrs. Shapiro, the orchestrator of the exchange program, has enjoyed watching the positive effects that the trip has on students.
“It has enabled high school students and their families to be a part of a larger global experience and conversation,” she said, “and demonstrates to them that distance and geography is not an obstacle for relationship building.”

The students look forward to giving their buddies the same eye opening American experience this coming February.

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