February 5, 2017

Intelligence Agencies ‘Trumped’

David Wingens ‘19

Since America’s founding, presidents – republican, democrat or otherwise – have relied on the intelligence community to supply them with the information necessary to make informed decisions that have worldwide ramifications. President Donald Trump, who took office January 20, has already begun to butt heads with much of that intelligence community.
There have been several points of contention for Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies, the first of which being Trump’s refuting of their claims that Russia attempted to affect the outcome of the election. The C.I.A. claims that Russia hacked into both the Democratic National Committee’s and the Republican National Committee’s emails and only released those of the Democrats, thus leading them to conclude that the Russians were trying to help Trump win the election.
Trump has vehemently denied this report saying that it is “ridiculous” and “No, I don’t believe that at all.”
Trump may actually have some basis for that argument, as neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – the agency that oversees U.S. intelligence – nor the F.B.I. have either endorsed or denied the C.I.A. report because of a lack of conclusive evidence.
The idea that Russia meddled in the election, in some way, however, is less controversial and is generally agreed upon by the intelligence community.
Despite that, Trump repeatedly refuted the idea that Russia might be trying to interfere with America’s election saying things like, “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Trump’s actions and words have been deeply troubling to some and encouraging to others.
“I think it is just Hillary Clinton and Obama reversing their promise to respect the results of the election,” sophomore Eitan Szteinbaum said.
This shows the deep distrust that many have in the current political establishment and how they would prefer an outsider, even if it means disagreeing with the intelligence agencies. Szteinbaum added that Trump is simply trying to “give the American people what they want, a great America.”
Others, like sophomore Josh Kalet, said that it is “very dangerous for Trump to disagree with his own intelligence agencies.”
Another issue is that Trump has only been receiving one intelligence briefing per week, as opposed to the traditional daily briefings received by past president-elects and sitting. Trump said that he is “a smart person” and therefore, he does not need daily briefings and he will know when he actually needs the information.
Many people were troubled by this statement, including former President Barack Obama.
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are,” Obama said, “you have to have the best information possible to make the best decisions possible.”
GOA students had mixed responses to these actions with some defending Trump and some criticizing his naivete.
“Mr. Trump has a very busy schedule, and it’s still Obama’s responsibility to be fully immersed in foreign policy.” Szteinbaum said, defending Trump on the grounds that he is only president-elect and not yet president.
Kalet, however, said that it “shows how unprepared he will be.”
Junior Aaron Pearlstein sided with Kalet, noting that Trump’s comments and refusal of weekly intelligence briefings is “just plain stupid.”
Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the intelligence community may be an inauspicious start to a troubled presidency, a promising start to a new America, or somewhere in between, but it is certainly a sign of things to come.

Dakota Access Pipeline Proves a Crude Reality

Nina Robins ‘19

Protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline have been underway since this past July. As demonstrations approach their five month mark, the pipeline’s opponents are as persistent as ever.
The pipeline spans 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois and connects two major oil refinery areas. The North Dakota Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which inhabits this stretch, protests construction because it disrupts community structure and destroys sacred ritual and burial sites.
Even if the pipeline can provide economic benefits for America, it is not worth it if this progress is at the expense of Native American lands,” sophomore Sophie Goldman said. “These lands are not only crucial for the welfare of these tribes, but also important in their cultural history.”
Liberal media outlets, environmental groups, human rights activists, military veteran groups and various celebrities have voiced solidarity with the Standing Rock tribe, both on social media and in person at demonstrations. Most famously, actress Shailene Woodley demonstrated at several rallies and was arrested, only to return to subsequent protests. These groups have validated the Standing Rock tribe’s desire to keep its native land uninfringed upon by corporate authorities.
“The numerous protests surrounding the pipeline's creation are valid and cannot be ignored,” Goldman said. “The Native American tribes living in areas where pipeline development is planned deserve to have a say in what occurs on their lands, without the need for this protest.”
One of the most controversial factors of the pipeline’s construction is its location directly underneath the Standing Rock tribe’s main source of drinking water. If the pipe were to leak, thousands of gallons of oil would pollute this reservoir, creating a deadly problem to those who rely on it for water.
The Standing Rock tribe and its allies believe that this problem is significant and relevant. On December 5, the Belle Fourche Pipeline leaked almost 200,000 gallons of crude oil into a river tributary only 150 miles north of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The oil leak damaged the surrounding ecosystem and caused property damage. Fortunately, it was halted before polluting any drinking water sources.
For all their environmental drawbacks, all oil pipelines offer many benefits. A sound, supported pipe is a safer, cheaper and more direct alternative than a truck route.
“A pipeline could provide a safe and efficient way to transport oil or gas,” sophomore Amanda Feldman said. “Efficient transportation will reduce costs to consumers.”
In addition, using American resources keeps money in the American economy, and constructing a pipeline creates thousands of intensive jobs for American workers.
Despite orders from the governor of North Dakota preventing protests at the main pipeline construction site, opposition to the pipeline continues to occur beside construction and throughout society. Some question the benefit of investing in oil transport at all.
“I feel that we should not focus on how to ease our access to oil, and should, instead, channel our efforts into the development of renewable energy sources,” junior Matan Kogen said. “We should develop our ability to utilize them to their full potential, while reducing our carbon footprint.”
Still others support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to honor their devotion and to engage in social justice work.
“I’m always in favor of protesting, I hate to say it,” guidance counselor Ms. Jaffe said. “Maintain the land, preserve the land, preserve the reservation.”

Peaceful Protests on College Campuses Follow Trump’s Election

Sarah Cehelyk ‘18

Results from the November 2016 election left many with feelings of hopelessness and others feeling victorious. Although reactions were divided, many individuals and groups took the results as an opportunity for unity. Young voters especially took this hopefulness to a new extreme through initiating peace rallies on their college campuses.
The University of Pennsylvania located in Philadelphia, P.A., and the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., are two colleges that have united through rallies and peace protests following the election.
Immediately following the election, students and faculty united through positive encouragement. Daniela Shapiro, GOA class of 2016 and current freshman at the University of Rochester raved of her new school’s support post-election.
“My school offered group therapy at the interfaith chapel with meditation and discussion and so did the therapy center on campus,” Shapiro said. “My professors were really understanding and wanted to hear everyone's concerns and hopes for the future.”
Similarly, the University of Pennsylvania’s faculty and student body is striving for peace throughout the campus.
UPenn senior Sophie Beren spoke about a petition that has been going around campus in hopes of making Penn a safe sanctuary for all people. Beren also noted that campus clubs, such as TableTalk, which she started, are taking an active role in ensuring the comfort of all students.
“TableTalk… hopes to bring people of different backgrounds together,” she said, “and has been holding events to create safe spaces for all.”
Following the election, both Shapiro and Beren were added to post-election Facebook groups initiated by students and faculty of their respective campuses. The discussions within these Facebook groups focused on hope and positivity for the future rather than hateful speech.
At the University of Rochester peace rally, a powerful slogan was repeatedly chanted: “Love trumps hate.” The rally gave everyone, both Trump and Clinton supporters, to come together and unite under a common desire – love, respect and peace for all.
Beren was not able to attend the rally due to her busy class schedule, but the majority of her friends attended.
“The hopeful chants could be heard across campus,” Beren said.
At a time when many felt distraught and hopeless, these rallies gave individuals the strength to continue fighting for what it right.
Shapiro said she believes that “the rallies were not meant to be negative messages to Trump, but rather, a hopeful message for all who were scared. I know I was.”
Beren believes that the peace rallies on her campus gave individuals who would normally be silenced the opportunity to share their opinion.
“They’re being activists rather than sharing their opinions on social media,” she said. “It’s nice for people to have the opportunity to come together.“
Despite political differences, the desire to instill strength and hope within these college communities seems to be contagious. Many other universities and cities are holding similar rallies in order to instill peace within those who may be feeling otherwise.  

One could argue that these individuals are young and don’t have a powerful voice within society; however, some might argue the messages spread in these rallies are signs of ultimate strength. Concern for others, mutual respect and loving-kindness are all traits that these college students seek to embody. They hope to use their powerful voices to demonstrate that hope will always conquer hate.


The Restoration of Leadership

Steven Kurson ‘20

On November 9, 2016, Donald Trump shocked the world and was elected president on the promise that he would restore American greatness and help the struggling middle class. He said that one of the most consequential ways of doing this would be by surrounding himself with the brightest and most capable people.
Appointing members to his cabinet are some of the most critical choices he will make as president, but Trump sent a strong message to the American people that he intends to fulfill his promise and better the American people’s lives.
Typically, incoming presidents select Washington insiders and career politicians who have spent their lives trying to ascend up the ranks of power. However, Trump does not feel bound by the usual rules of politics and chose people who will actually be able to effectively carry out their jobs.
For example, one of Trump’s most significant nominations, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, has never held a government position and was therefore considered a shocking choice to many. However, he is in many ways the best possible choice to lead this country's foreign policy.
As the CEO of ExxonMobil, he has traveled the world, met with the most powerful world leaders and negotiated at the highest stakes. Tillerson even has a working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin because they have had business ties in the past.
Now, of course, Tillerson shouldn’t give Putin whatever he wants and there is no reason to think he will, but he will be in a prime position to do what no U.S. leader has done in decades: form a good relationship with Russia and ease the tensions that have been throwing the world into constant threat of nuclear war.
Another one of Trump’s picks with no prior political office was Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Carson grew up very poor in Detroit, Michigan and therefore knows first hand what it is like to live in tough living conditions.
He understands better than any politician what needs to be done to help people get better housing and to grow the cities so that they work better for the people living there. His appointment gives the people living hard lives a person who can empathize with them.
His soon-to-be Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, is also someone who has never been in politics before. He has clear knowledge of what is needed to be done to maintain economic stability as he held a job as a 17-year partner at Goldman Sachs and even started his own bank, OneWest. His fiscal responsibility will serve our country well.
However, Trump was, when necessary, willing to bring in people with vast government experience.
He selected South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She has experience in this type of position, having served as the Ambassador for South Carolina before being elected as governor.
Now this isn’t to say that I like all of Trump’s picks. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has been put in charge of the Department of Energy, even though he said in the presidential campaign that he would dismantle the Department of Energy as president. Scott Pruitt has been chosen to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, even though in earlier years he has sued the EPA. It is not in America’s best interest to appoint someone to lead a department they had previously sought to eliminate.
No cabinet can be perfect. But overall, Trump’s picks have led to the formation of a government that will be able to effectively better the lives of the people of this country because they really know how to run the agencies they are charged with running.
They lead to great confidence that his presidency will live up to his campaign slogan and “Make America Great Again.”

An Alarming Start to an Alarming Trump Administration

Eva Hale ‘20

President Trump’s victory shook the nation to its core and left many people across the country wondering where the country is headed and whether there is still a place for them in it. Trump’s cabinet picks have seemed to confirm their worst suspicions.
His picks have been shocking for their sheer lack of experience, extreme policy stances and countless conflicts of interest.
They can be divided into three groups: bigots and racists, rich business people and people who want to dismantle the very agencies they are supposed to run.
Leading the bigots and racists wing is Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Council. As CEO of Breitbart News, Bannon’s site ran headlines like “Renegade Jew” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” Bannon stood by while a senior editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, viciously harassed a transgender student.
Even if Bannon does not share these views, he has given bigots a platform that legitimizes racism and misogyny. There is a difference between giving people the ability to spread their opinions and giving them the ability to spread toxic and divisive articles.
The other leader of Trump’s bigot wing is soon-to-be Attorney General Jeff Sessions. According to the Washington Post, Sessions was once denied a federal judgeship after accusations of racist comments by his former colleagues emerged. They testified that he jokingly used racial slurs and that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
The next class of Trump picks are the one percent.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having a lot of money and some of Trump’s rich cabinet picks have done admirable things with their money. However, others have used their money to do enrich their own lives while hurting those with less money.
Steven Mnuchin, his pick for Secretary of the Treasury and a Goldman Sachs partner, owned the predatory lending firm OneWest, which foreclosed on 36,000 people, including a 90-year-old woman who owed it 27 cents.
In addition, owning a vast business network can create deeply concerning conflicts of interest for cabinet nominees.
Rex Tillerson, the nominee for Secretary of State, is former CEO of ExxonMobil. He was involved in a $500 billion business deal with Rosneft, the oil company created by the Russian government after Vladimir Putin jailed the CEOs of other Russian oil companies and took over their businesses. The deal was only stopped because of sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia after it invaded Crimea. But as Secretary of State, Tillerson, who was given the Order of Friendship, the highest Russian honor available to a non-citizen, would have the power to roll back those sanctions, directly benefiting his former company.
The last group are people picked to gut their agency to the point where it must be dismantled.
Former Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for Energy Secretary, promised during his 2012 presidential campaign he would get rid of the Department of Energy if elected president. That he will lead it should be alarming to everyone in this country because it is the department that oversees the safety and maintenance of the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal.
Scott Pruitt, the pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” and an avid climate change denier. He has sued the EPA over just about everything. This means that the protection of the planet’s future for future generations is in the hands of someone who doesn’t believe there is any need for protecting the environment.
Not all of his picks are terrible or even at all bad. His picks for Secretary of Defense and United Nations Ambassador, Gen. James Mattis and Gov. Nikki Haley, respectively are generally well-respected and well-liked by both parties.
Yet, the fact that so much of his cabinet is filled with inexperienced or extreme individuals is deeply troubling. Donald Trump is a wild card. We have no idea what he is really going to do. And these cabinet picks are emblematic of this.
Perhaps what is even more surprising than anything else is that Trump has picked so many Wall Street big-shots with a history of sticking it to the very same middle class people who voted Trump into office.

Then again, maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a man whose opinions and beliefs seems as long-lasting as a Snapchat post appoint people to cabinet posts that are brilliant, crazy, unconventional and wrong all at the same time.


GOA's 11th Annual New Orleans Service Trip

Etai Barash ‘18

Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005 and its effects are still felt to this day. Empty plots of land, where houses formerly stood, are abundant throughout the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.
Eleven years later, the aid for the area is declining, but Golda Och Academy is trying to help rebuild this community back to its once vibrant nature and beyond.
When GOA’s group of students and teachers arrived in New Orleans, the first thing they did was take in the devastation. A tour of the Lower Ninth Ward by guide Robert Green exposed how physically destroyed the community was; there were multiple empty lots and abandoned houses on nearly every block.
However, the theme of the tour was not depressing. While the community has been deprived of many material possessions following the storm, there is no lack of spirit. Every person the students came into contact with was friendly and inviting.
None were as welcoming as Jeffrey, a local not much different in age than the Golda Och Academy students. The students met Jeffrey at the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum, a museum designed to raise awareness for the community and Hurricane Katrina’s impact.
Jeffrey was extremely exuberant with the students, belting out songs like the theme song for “Victorious” and braiding the girls’ hair. He always had a smile on his face.  
Jeffrey’s excitement truly symbolized the feeling the students got from the community. Although they had been broken for so long, there was something that no storm could take from them – their vibrant society and behavior. Such a proud community could not be broken by a hurricane.
Meeting Jeffrey on the first day set the tone for the trip. The students genuinely wanted to help the community rebuild because they deserved it.
“Jeffrey’s positivity, smile and hopefulness strengthened my desire to help the people and the city of New Orleans,” junior Sarah Cehelyk said.
Absorbing the culture only furthered students’ interest in rebuilding the area. By exploring the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, the local Jewish community, Preservation Hall and much more, GOA’s service group began to feel one with the community.
This special feeling led to a strong desire to help. The students capitalized on this feeling by volunteering at a local elementary school and with Habitat for Humanity.
“At the school, I was pleasantly surprised that all the students were so welcoming,” junior Lizzie Irwin said. “I got to see that although these kids were facing tons of challenges at home and in their community, school was their place to truly be themselves and not have to worry at all.”
The following two days were spent volunteering with Habitat for Humanity on two separate houses. From hammering, to cementing, to painting, the students on the trip assisted in the building of homes for future residents. Although tiring at times, the work was done happily and with immense effort.

Although the city of New Orleans has endured an unbearable amount of tragedy, the city and its people carry with it a sense of hope that cannot be found anywhere else.


Chuggim: A Method of Organization or Unnecessary?

Sarah Cehelyk ‘18

Two weeks into the 2016-2017 academic year, all high school students were called into the Beit Knesset for an announcement: the addition of chuggim to Golda Och Academy. Two questions filled students’ minds: what is a “chug” and how will this change the club system?
Simply, “chug” is a group of people coming together to enjoy an activity. An example of a new chug that was created is the Sign Language chug. The leaders of the chug teach American Sign Language to anyone interested in learning with no strict time commitment.
While a club requires a teacher adviser, president, vice president and at least two events throughout the year, a chug meets for the sake of enjoying an activity together.
Students at GOA have a history of listing every club imaginable on their college application, even those they were not involved in. Some write-in leadership positions, as Dr. Kanrich most appropriately said in the Class of 2013 senior video, “There cannot be seven presidents of the Community Clothing Club!”
Some students simply want to enjoy a hobby or interest with little to no time commitment while others want to organize events, provide information about a specific cause, or raise money for an organization.
The hope is that giving clubs and chugs separate guidelines will create a clear distinction in order to improve accountability for student leadership positions.
Students hold a wide variety of opinions regarding the addition of chuggim to the community, both positive and negative.
Junior Alex Beigelman said he believes chuggim are a great method of organizing the club system at school but “may have gotten a bit extreme with all the levels and classifications and requirements.”
Beigelman’s opinions were echoed by fellow junior Ariel Gohar, in regard to the extremity of some of the changes.
“The concept still confuses me at this point,” he said, “but it’s nice to see efforts of organization.”
Perhaps the creation of chuggim is an entirely positive change.
Senior Mattan Poller said the concept of chuggim is long overdue and provides students with the courage to create their own student run organizations.
“We are more driven to start groups,” he said, “because we’re not bound to the strict guidelines of a club; chuggim can meet more casually and lead with more freedom.”
Junior Alissa Lampert holds a very similar view. She said since GOA is a small community, it is important for all students to have the opportunity to pursue their passions.
“I think the ability to have chuggim and other low-pressure lunch activities is a great way of getting students involved in the school and discover new interests,” she said.
While some students think the addition of chuggim was a positive change and others slightly unnecessary, the majority agrees that the reorganization of clubs and activities was long overdue.
Hopefully, chuggim will open doors for students to explore and experience new passions and interests within an easy-going atmosphere.

Controversy Minyan Visited by West Orange Chief of Police

Jordan Mayor ‘18

With the new Tefilah minyans finally starting to get going, the Controversy minyan run by juniors Sam Russo and Carly Mast decided to offer its students an outside perspective on the death penalty.
On Tuesday, December 13, the minyan’s leaders invited West Orange Chief of Police James P. Abbott to come in and speak to students.
The Controversy minyan, a minyan that learns about a topic and then debates it, had finished its discussion of Israeli settlements the week prior and was beginning the next subject, the death penalty.
“The idea was that to begin our next segment we would bring in someone who had
experience with the matter,” Russo said. “This would hopefully increase engagement and also provide a strong knowledge base for the conversations we would have going forward.”
Abbott was brought in to start the conversation on the death penalty because he has had significant experience with and exposure to the issue. Through his involvement as an executive in the police force, he was recruited to serve on panels devoted to the discussion of the death penalty.
Abbott discussed his many admirable achievements, such as being invited to attend the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland, but his greatest one was serving on the committee in the New Jersey Legislature that ended the penalty’s use in the state.
After speaking to students about his experiences, he made it clear his priority was to field and answer questions.
“Whenever I come to speak to a group, the most important thing to me is to take questions,” he said. “That way I am able to specifically cover the aspects you are interested in.”
Students asked him a range of questions varying from, “How many people served on the committee with you?” to “What were some of the testimonies from victims’ relatives like?”
Abbott admitted to it being a long time ago and said he did not remember specific numbers. Though he was unable to remember small details, he did express that, in his experiences, the death row process is “grueling and divisive for victims’ families.
“Many people ask why the process can not be expedited to decrease the level of pain it causes for families,” he added, “but the way the appeals process and our constitution work does not allow for that to happen.”
One of the aspects students felt was most interesting about Abbott’s visit was that his personal sentiment toward the death penalty had changed over time. At first, Abbott was in support of the death penalty, but after being a part of the committee and hearing testimonies, his opinion shifted.
Sophomore Aaron Lavitsky was especially intrigued by this and asked him why he initially supported the penalty, to which Abbott replied that he has always believed in retribution for crimes and felt at the time that the death penalty in certain circumstances could be an appropriate punishment. He included that he still feels this way, but now recognizes that the divisiveness and pain the process can cause for victims’ families is enough of a reason to ban it.
The meeting was one that almost all of the students involved seem to enjoy and opened up the conversation to a much broader and enlightened perspective. Considering the success it was, the Controversy minyan hopes to bring in more people going forward to accomplish a similar goal.

Bagwell, Raines, and Pudge Headline 2017 MLB Hall of Fame Class

Matt Nadel ‘17

January might be the middle of the offseason for Major League Baseball, but for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, January is a very important month. It is at the beginning of each year when this group of journalists vote on who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July.
Headlining the class of 2017 will be first baseman Jeff Bagwell, the greatest power hitter the Houston Astros organization has ever seen and a former National League MVP in 1994. Tim Raines, a superb leadoff hitter while with the Montreal Expos in the 1980s was also elected to Cooperstown, with this being his 10th and final time on the ballot. Conversely, former superstar catcher Ivan Rodriguez was elected in his first year of eligibility. One of the best hitting catchers of the modern era, “Pudge,” as he was playfully nicknamed, is tied for ninth all time among catchers in batting average (.296) and is seventh on the all-time home runs list among catchers (311). He made the All Star Game 14 times and was even a 13-time Gold Glove Award winner behind the plate.
Recent articles have been published by sports news sources that more BBWAA voters are caring less about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Many of these voters think this because the commissioner of baseball during the so-called “Steroids Era” of baseball, Bud Selig, was recently voted into the Hall of Fame, so it would be almost hypocritical to not elect the biggest steroid users into the Hall.
The two most popular steroid-users in terms of Hall of Fame votes were pitcher Roger Clemens and slugger Barry Bonds. Clemens is considered the best pitcher of the 1990s and 2000s and Bonds holds the record for most career home runs with 762. Although these two legends technically did cheat, their accomplishments did not go unnoticed on the voting ballots. For the first time in their five years of eligibility, the two superstars were included on a majority of ballots, with Clemens earning 54.1 percent of votes and Bonds with 53.8.
Closer Trevor Hoffman failed to reach the Hall this time, his second on the ballot, earning 74 percent of the vote. Hoffman is second on the all-time saves list with 601, trailing only former Yankee Mariano Rivera.
First-timer, Vladimir Guerrero, also narrowly missed the cut at 71.7 percent. Guerrero was a nine-time All Star throughout his 16 years in the league, batted .318 for his career, smacked 449 career homers out of the park and also drove in 1,496 RBIs.
Edgar Martinez, who had a .312 batting average for his career and had an award named after him – the best designated hitter is rewarded with the Edgar Martinez Award – made gains this cycle as the former Seattle Mariner earned 58.6 percent of votes.
Either way, the 2017 MLB Hall of Fame class will be packed with talent as will future classes, although some of that talent may really have been illegitimate. This year may even serve as a case study on how steroid users will fare during voting for future Hall of Fame classes.

Jewish Day Schools and Their Sports

Gideon Fox ‘19

During the Whiteout Game, where Golda Och Academy faced Kushner Academy, the differences between the Yeshiva League and the NJSIAA – the governing body of high school sports in New Jersey – became quite obvious. The biggest distinction being the kippah rule.
There was a lot of confusion before the game started about whether or not the players on both sides should wear kippot. After the confusion was resolved, most of the players removed their kippot.
Since the game was not an official Yeshiva League game, Kushner Academy accepted the ruling. If the game had been an official Yeshiva League game, however, both teams would have been required to wear kippot.
According to the Metropolitan Jewish Day School Basketball League rulebook, “All male coaches and team personnel of the Jewish faith must wear head coverings in the facilities where any and all games are played.”
The NJSIAA’s rulebook, of course, cannot require religious objects, but does allow them as long as they doesn’t interfere with the game.
Another rule in the MJDSBL rulebook is that “all girls competing in MJDSBL games must wear (minimally) T-shirt uniform tops WITH SLEEVES and ANKLE LENGTH sweatpants or a skirt. Failure to follow this procedure will constitute an intentional forfeit of a game.”
Unlike the NJSIAA, there is a degree of ambiguity to the Yeshiva League. For instance the “M” in MJDSBL, which stands for Metropolitian, means that the games can be anywhere in New Jersey or New York. That requires that teams from this area such as Kushner or any of the ones in Teaneck, routinely have to take the trip to Brooklyn or Manhattan to play.
That results in the traveling team to get home around nine or ten o’clock on a night when they have a lot of homework and have to be up early for school the next day. In the NJSIAA, other than a few exceptions, schools always play other schools in the state and the two schools are located reasonably close to each other. This cuts down on travel time.
Another advantage the NJSIAA offers is the diverse list of sports that students can compete in. The NJSIAA has 21 sports while the Yeshiva League only has six. This allows new teams to be created, like the newly-formed girls lacrosse team.
Although it may not seem like it, there are some benefits of the Yeshiva League. You never have to miss a game or tournament because it falls out on shabbat or a holiday. Since everyone in the league is Jewish, all the games and tournaments are scheduled around the holidays.
Another benefit of the Yeshiva League is that there is less of a need to make up work since all of the schools dismiss around the same time.
Different institution belong in each conference. It is logical that orthodox Jewish schools such as Kushner Academy are in the MJDSBL, providing an environment in line with their religious values while keeping the games competitive. Golda Och Academy’s placement makes sense, as being a conservative Jewish day school allows them to compete against other secular private schools and public schools.

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