February 16, 2019

GOA Should Require More Community Service Hours

Hannah Stoch '22

Tikkun Olam, or healing the world, is one of Golda Och Academy’s main pillars and philosophies. By mandating community service hours, the school could further promote this value, as well as aid students in college and National Honors Society applications.
GOA currently has no required community service. One day a year is set apart for Community Service Day, started by alumni Jason Steinberg, but the volunteering is not mandated otherwise, and missing Community Service Day has no negative consequences.
The school occasionally has other service opportunities throughout the year, advertised for in places like the Student Life Update, but many students do not pay attention to them or don’t make time to participate.
If more service was mandatory, students would be more inclined to help.
Community service doesn’t just help the community but also helps the students involved. Volunteering teaches universal life lessons like responsibility and the importance of community. It also helps students learn to work in different environments and group dynamics.
Having hours of community service looks dazzling on applications for many programs including college and NHS. Although not the main goal of community service, the chance to get into a better college or summer program is a great motivator to get students involved. If the school’s goal is to mold powerful, community conscious young adults to send to college, then required hours would be a major help.
Some worry that if the service took place during school hours, too many classes would be missed. The easiest solution to this is to not volunteer during school hours except for Community Service Day, but rather have required hours as many public schools do.
Others worry students may not have time to volunteer out of school. However, the required amount of hours doesn’t need to be large. Even five hours a year from each student is an improvement from what GOA currently mandates, and this time can be slipped into even the busiest schedule.
The school can also help students find places to volunteer that interest them. Students that love animals can work at a shelter or students that love to plant flowers can work in a community garden. Volunteer work ranges across all forms of interest, and the school could easily help any student find their perfect fit.
Volunteering might spark an unanticipated interest. The more students volunteer, the less it will feel like an obligation and more like a way to help our community prosper.

By mandating service hours, the students will be introduced to the benefits of giving back and can even get something in return.

GOA Sports Teams Should Move to the Yeshiva League

Eli Berman '22

When a quality sports team at Golda Och Academy comes along, playing large public schools with better teams can greatly diminish their spirit.
For several years, Golda Och’s high school sports teams have played in the Super Essex County league, known shorthand as the SEC. We are in this league because of our location in Essex County, and we primarily play teams within an hour’s commute.
Although the SEC is geographically best for us, Golda Och sports teams would be a much better candidate for the Yeshiva League.
One important advantage the Yeshiva League holds over the SEC for GOA is that many of the students attending different Jewish day schools schools know each other. They may be friends from camp, attend the same synagogue, or have other connections through “Jewish Geography.”
Yeshiva League games, therefore, become not only a chance to watch your school play, but also a social event, greatly boosting attendance and spirit. For instance, should a GOA student know friends from SAR Academy in the Bronx, they would be more inclined to travel to watch their team and cheer them on. In the Yeshiva League, every game would be more exciting due to the rivalry-like ambience.
This attendance is another reason GOA should be in the Yeshiva League. Although GOA does not earn money from ticket sales, it is still important to have a respectable amount of people at the games. We participate in a yearly Tri-Schechter tournament with Schechter Westchester and Schechter Long Island and brings out busloads of people every year.
In the SEC, we barely know of many schools that we play and often have not met one person who attends there. This removes the spirit from games because we have no connection to the opposing school.
Despite the lack of familiarity with opposing schools, current Athletic Director, Mr. Kozar, believes GOA’s placement in the SEC is the right call because the competition level is higher. Although this is true, we are not a school primarily focused on athletics.
Dennis Kozar, Athletic Director at GOA
As a Jewish school whose focus is developing a strong community, it should not be our goal to play the hardest competition we can find. In a high school of a couple hundred students and no tryouts for sports teams, the best athletic ability will most likely not be found.
Although we would definitely be one of the upper-echelon teams in the Yeshiva League, we would certainly not be absolutely dominant, as some schools in the Yeshiva League are much larger and take sports very seriously.

While travel time may become an issue with teams having to travel longer distances, the overall effect that the Yeshiva League could have on school spirit would be completely worth it.

Why the NFL Should Crackdown on Domestic Abuse, if Only Fans Cared

Eva Hale '20

There have been 122 cases of domestic violence among players in the National Football League since 2000. The most recent stars to join this group were running back Kareem Hunt and linebacker Reuben Foster. Both were convicted of domestic violence and have been put on the commissioner Roger Goodell’s exempt list, meaning they cannot practice or play until the NFL’s investigations have been completed.
The NFL has a serious domestic violence problem. It has always had one.
Foster was claimed off waivers by the Washington Redskins less than two days after he was arrested. This is the third time in the last year Foster has been arrested and the third time in the last four months he has been accused of domestic violence. He has a criminal history, aside from the aforementioned domestic violence incidents, dating back to high school. Yet, it took less than 48 hours for him to find another job in the NFL.
The Redskins said they will let the legal process play out and that Foster will not play for them until it does. However, their decision to have him on the team is immoral in of itself. Washington views Foster as a former first round pick who, once he serves his suspension, can help them win games, not a hero that fans should look up to.
The league’s executives and coaches know their fans can get past almost anything, as long as a player is good enough. Unfortunately, they are not wrong.
Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who has been arrested 10 times since he has been in the NFL, was an active player for nearly half of 2018 season and the Cincinnati Bengals have not suffered any bad publicity for it. His crimes include assault, drug crimes and coercion with a firearm.
Adam "Pacman" Jones
While sports media and fans look past strong legal issues in players, there is one thing owners believe their fans – more specifically, their sponsors – cannot look past: kneeling during the national anthem. Somehow, there are active football players with multiple credible domestic violence accusations, assault arrests and DUIs, yet, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick still does not have a job.
It does not make a difference if you believe what Kaepernick’s kneeling did was right. It says something about the NFL that they would rather hire people who beat their wives and girlfriends than someone who kneeled for the national anthem as a form of protesting police brutality against African Americans.
For NFL owners, this is a business decision. If Foster helps the Redskins win, the fans will move past his questionable character. Fans got past it with Ezekiel Elliot, despite his domestic abuse allegations, and Brandon Marshall, despite his eight separate domestic violence allegations. The fans of whichever team signs Hunt will get past it.
Just the same, no team decided to sign Kaepernick as a business decision. Many of their personal and business interests, sponsors, fans and networks have been vocally opposed to Kaepernick, despite his ability and legal soundness.
The NFL has said they are trying to change by creating a domestic violence committee. However, Deborah Epstein and Susan Else, the only two people on that committee qualified when it comes to domestic violence, have walked out on the committee, saying it has done nothing.
Part of this is our fault as fans. If I were a Cowboys fan, I would still root for Ezekiel Elliott, because he is one of the best running back in the NFL. Unfortunately, the owners are not wrong in thinking fans can excuse any type of bad behavior if a player can help them win games.
The one time it seemed there might be a cultural shift in the NFL was when Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back, was caught beating his fiancee on video. With Rice, we saw what happened with our own eyes, showing millions exactly what happened. Without direct evidence like that, however, fans will continue to look past any wrongdoing.
It is important to recognize that the Rice video is what domestic violence looks like. Just because we do not see it with our own eyes does not mean that Foster and Hunt are not just as guilty as Rice.

The NFL will not change unless this affects what the goal of any organization is–sales. Unless fans make the effort by no longer purchasing jerseys or tickets and boycotting goods from NFL sponsors, criminals will continue to play professional football as admired stars.

Wildfires Devastate California, Leave State in Shambles

Hannah Stoch ‘22

When you hear “California,” you probably imagine sunny beaches, Hollywood lights and glamorous cities.  Now, after the destruction caused by two of the state’s largest wildfires, some of these sights are unrecognizable.
The Woolsey Fire erupted on November 8 and spread almost 100,000 acres across Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Three people were killed and around 250,000 people had to evacuate their homes. Over 1,500 structures were destroyed, including homes, schools, restaurants – entire communities left devastated. At the fire’s peak, many described the air in the area as “the dirtiest air in the world.”
Thankfully, the fire was fully contained by November 21 and the land is already starting to recover. The majority of people who evacuated have returned home and crews worked around the clock to get utilities such as power and telephone lines up and running again.
The Woolsey wildfire, while horrible and destructive, caused nowhere near the amount of destruction that The Camp Fire, located in northern California, caused. The Camp Fire has been marked as the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.
The Camp Fire also erupted on November 8, burning over 150,000 acres in Butte County and destroying 19,000 structures. Eighty four people are confirmed dead, but there are still more than 500 people missing. The area was blessed with four to seven inches of rain on November 21, which helped quell the fire. However, the rain mixed with ashes made thick paste, resulting in difficulty finding bodies.
The local Butte County community, specifically those from the city of Paradise, California – which was hit worst by the fire – have started healing from the damage. Hashtags such as #paradisestrong and #buttecountystrong have started circulating and people are trying to join together and raise awareness.
“It is overwhelming, I don't have any word to describe it,” Butte County Sheriff and Coroner Kory Honea said. “This is unprecedented. No one has had to deal with this magnitude that caused so much destruction and regrettably so much death.”
While California is known for its devastating wildfires, the amount of wildfires as well as their deadliness has increased in recent years due to California’s disastrous drought and global warming across the world. In a new climate report published by the Trump Administration, scientists predict that by 2050, the average temperature in the continental United States could rise by 2.3 degrees – potentially diminishing coral reefs in the Pacific Ocean as well as causing deadlier hurricanes and wildfires.
The President attacked the report, saying “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers,” commenting on the fact that he does not believe in global warming.

“As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it,” Trump added to his disapproval of the report.

GOA Students Work for Incredible Change in Puerto Rico

Noah Kamens '20

For 13 years, GOA has offered a service trip to New Orleans, Louisiana for both Juniors and Seniors to attend. These delegations of students volunteered around New Orleans to help its people recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. This year, however, GOA decided to change the destination to Puerto Rico, an island just beginning its recovery from the fairly recent – and devastating – Hurricane Maria.

In the first week of December, twenty upperclassmen accompanied by three teachers set flight to San Juan as the first group to represent the Jewish Federation of MetroWest in Puerto Rico since Maria first struck. Within four days, the group was able to experience the beautiful scenery of San Juan, immerse themselves into its culture, and feel their impactful presence in Puerto Rico.
Although it's been over a year since hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, because the storm hit the islands main power source, poorer communities are still left without power and clean water. It took months after the hurricane for major cities to recover but many smaller communities are still in shambles.
On the first day of the trip, after touching down and eating lunch, the group explored historic San Juan. They were given the opportunity to see the ocean, purchase authentic Puerto Rican goods, and learn about the local attractions. Afterwards, they met other Jewish teens who belonged to the local JCC synagogue to light Hanukkah candles for the first night and bond.

Junior Noa Russo happened to know some of these teens from Camp Tel Yehudah and remembers being asked in a group chat to donate money to help rebuild the synagogue after its roof had blown off during the hurricane.
“I immediately donated, but I had never thought that a year later I would be sitting in that very synagogue in San Juan with my camp friend.”
“It was an incredible experience for me to see the progress that was made from when the synagogue was destroyed until now when it is almost completely rebuilt,” Russo said. “I feel so lucky to have been able to be with 19 of my school friends and 3 of my camp friends helping to rebuild this community.”
On the second day of the trip, the group was given their first hands-on opportunity to volunteer inside the homes.  They were split up into three groups, each going to a different house nearby to help make it more livable. The groups were then given different tasks based on the needs of each home, which consisted of deep cleaning, scraping paint off of  walls and ceilings, and repainting.
Though the end results were not perfect, the conditions in the homes that were visited were so poor that any amount help was greatly appreciated. Senior Maddie Herman was part of the group who went to a barely liveable home covered in trash and dirt that had large insects crawling out from behind every corner.
Though the work was incredibly difficult, Maddie Herman said that “it was a really fulfilling experience.”
After finishing at the houses, the group went to a local church that had converted a large, unused space into a Holocaust memorial that helped revealed Puerto Rico’s part in the Holocaust.
The group ended the day by returning to the JCC for dinner and having a meaningful Hanukkah gift exchange.
On the third day of the trip, the group partnered with the Nechama organization, a Jewish service that provides comfort and hope to communities drastically affected by disasters, to help them fix a disaster ridden home.
The house owner, Mary Lou, said, “Just [the group] showing up means that we haven’t been forgotten.”
She told the group that she was starting to lose hope because she hadn’t been offered help at all in the 14 months since the hurricane. The roofless home was left in shambles, completely damaged and covered in dirt with few salvageable items remaining. When the group arrived, they were split into smaller groups and immediately took to cleaning out the debris and wreckage.
“It felt as though we were all in a trance,” Junior Danielle Hodes said. “ The minute we arrived at the home we all worked without stop, determined to make some dent in what was a seemingly impossible task. And we did not stop until the entire top floor of the house was entirely cleared out. Five hours had passed but it felt like five minutes.”
Soon after beginning to work, Rekem found a small toy slingshot and showed it to Mary Lou and her husband.
“Her husband laughed as if he remembered using it when he was younger or with his kids. I just thought it was sad,” Rekem said. “The whole idea of one day losing all you have is so scary to think about.”
Together the group was able to clear out much of the upper level of the house, including removing rotting couches and rusty pieces of tin roofing so that the house could be  in a better position and could continue to be fixed.
Junior Ethan Landau said that “Volunteering with Nechama was a great experience. It allowed us to see both the destruction that was endured during the storm and the effect of people to help [them] recover from it.”
In total, although the group only volunteered for 5 hours, the 23 people from GOA along with the 4 from Nechama accumulated 135 work hours that otherwise may not have been available to Mary Lou and her husband. After volunteering, the group took to the beach to have some well-deserved fun and relax from the hard work they’d done over the course of the trip.
On the fourth and final day of the trip, the group took one last chance to see the beauty that Puerto Rico had to offer. They took a boat tour of an estuary where they learned about bird-watching and checking for clean water.
After the tour, the group headed back home after an incredible experience.
“We all knew we would have an incredible time,” junior Zece Brown said. “But we never would have been able to fully prepare for everything that was in store, both the beauty and the suffering.”

February 12, 2019

The NFL is Too Concerned About Player Safety

Matt Saperstein '21

It is no secret that football is one of the most dangerous sports to play. The National Football League is attempting to make football a safer sport, but in recent years, the league has become too concerned about the safety of its players.
The NFL has added numerous rules over the past few years in an attempt to decrease the number of injuries, most of which have been focused on limiting defensive players from harming offensive players.
Before the 2018 season, the NFL added an additional rule stating that initiating contact with another player by lowering one’s helmet is a foul. This new rule was built off the previous rule, which stated a player cannot initiate contact with the crown of their helmet. The NFL changed this rule so there would be fewer strong hits by a defensive player using their helmet to hit another player.
One well-known play that could have been a cause of this rule change was Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins’ brutal hit on Brandin Cooks in Super Bowl LII. After catching a 20-yard pass from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Cooks turned up the field looking to gain yardage. On Cooks’ fourth step up the field, Jenkins lowered his helmet to strike Cooks at the bottom of his helmet. This hit caused Cooks to miss the rest of the game. According to the new rule change, that hit would have been illegal.
This significantly changes the game, as for many years, defensive players have made numerous impactful tackles using their helmets to tackle offensive players to end plays. Now, defensive players who have been playing in the NFL for many years are being forced to learn a new way to tackle.
This way of tackling has the impacts received by offensive players significantly weaker. Now, defenses are at a considerable disadvantage, as the tackling rules are much stricter and defensive players must be cautious to tackle correctly.
If this specific tackling rule is not followed, a 15-yard penalty will be called against the defense and a player could possibly get ejected from the game. Especially in the fourth quarter, one of these fouls can completely change the course of a game, as it pushes the offense up the field and leads to an automatic first down.
Throughout the 2018 regular season, few of these penalties were been called. However, many teams in addition to NFL executives believe that in the coming years, as reaction and focus on the new restriction dies down, more will be called.
Even more restrictive rules were added prior to the 2018 season.The NFL expanded on the roughing the passer rule to help protect quarterbacks. The addition goes into detail about the specifications of an illegal hit on the quarterback: “When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.”
This change has made sacking the quarterback much more difficult, as now pass rushers will be penalized whenever they initiate a quick, strong hit on a quarterback that, just with the momentum used against offensive lines, most of the defender’s weight is on the quarterback.
The rule change forces defensive players to hit a quarterback slower and with less force. Many fans are angered by this decision as big hits against quarterbacks in games are not only entertaining, but can completely change the amount of momentum an offense can have.
In addition to fans, this rule change has upset many defensive players in the NFL as this season, many roughing the passer penalties have been called.
“Roughing the passer calls are absolutely out of control,” five-time Pro Bowl defensive end JJ Watt said.
Watt, who has played for the Houston Texans for eight seasons, thinks this rule is much too strict.
“We can’t touch the quarterback,” inside linebacker Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks said. Like many others, Wagner feels the NFL is too concerned about the safety of the quarterback rather than the integrity of the game, resulting in sacking, a major part of defensive strategy, is partially eliminated from football.
It is true that hundreds of injuries occur in the NFL each season and these new rule changes will help decrease this brutal number. However, the NFL has used the previous rules for many years, entertaining many fans with spectacular defenses such as the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 1985 Chicago Bears. Theses defenses were able to succeed because of their players’ outstanding ability to tackle offensive players and sack the quarterback.
Due to these rule changes, fans may never see defenses as good as these top defenses from years ago and as a result, games will be more focused on offense rather than defense. Although this may be more entertaining to fans, it will begin to hide one of the main components of many great football teams: a skillful defense.

If protective rule changes continue to be made, football will become a one-sided competition.

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