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entries tagged with: Arthur Poleyeff

 

No mumps here

More than 300 people in two New York Orthodox communities have contracted mumps from an outbreak that has been traced back to a Catskills summer camp. The illness has spread to parts of the Garden State but area school officials are calm, noting the outbreak has not made its way to North Jersey.

“Thankfully, we’ve had nothing,” said Joel Kirschner, administrator of Yavneh Academy in Paramus.

The school receives a state grant for nursing services that requires compliance with state immunization regulations, which mandate the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Schools must also complete an audit containing students’ medical histories, including vaccination records.

Arthur Poleyeff, principal of general studies at Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, said students who have not been vaccinated are not permitted to attend school.

Yavneh is also in contact with the Paramus Board of Health, which issues alerts when necessary. “We’ve not had an issue,” Kirschner said. “I would suspect the communities that have are less on top of this issue and may not get the kind of services we get.”

The Paramus Board of Health first got in touch with Ben Porat Yosef’s nurse, Dara Silverstein, in the fall. Silverstein said she is following policies set by the board, but no cases have surfaced at this point.

According to those instructions, all students’ immunization records must be up to date and all students must have the proper immunizations. Absences are also closely monitored and the board of health is to be notified if mumps are reported. Calls to the Paramus board were not returned by press time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Jewish summer camp in the Catskills, with 400 campers, was the source this summer of the largest U.S. outbreak of the mumps in several years. More than 200 people in Monsey and New Square in Rockland County have been diagnosed with the disease, while many more in Kiryas Joel in Orange County and in Brooklyn have also fallen ill.

On June 17, an 11-year-old boy came to camp from Great Britain, which has reported some 4,000 cases in an ongoing mumps outbreak. According to the CDC, the boy began to show symptoms at the camp on June 28 and 25 cases were reported among campers and staff.

Most of the campers were from Borough Park, where mumps began to spread after the campers returned home.

On Sept. 26, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services learned of eight suspected mumps cases in two Ocean County boys’ day schools. By the end of October, 40 cases had been reported. The outbreak continued to spread to Rockland and Orange counties in New York and in Quebec.

According to the 2008 National Immunization Survey, more than 90 percent of children between 19 and 35 months old in New York City, New York state, and New Jersey had received one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, while about 90 percent of teens 13 to 17 years old had received two doses.

Mumps is spread by coughing and sneezing. Common symptoms include fever, headache, and swollen salivary glands, but it can sometimes lead to more serious problems.

According to some reports, students in the affected communities had been vaccinated. One dose of mumps vaccine prevents about 80 percent of mumps, while two doses prevents about 90 percent, according to the CDC’s Website. In an outbreak, according to the Website, if most of the population is vaccinated, then some people who contract mumps are likely to have been vaccinated as well. Without vaccination, though, the outbreak would affect the entire population.

For up-to-date information on mumps, outbreaks, and vaccinations, visit www.cdc.gov.

 
 

Day schools laud Ridgewood principal for Facebook stand

It seems like everybody these days is on Facebook — well, almost everybody.

Anthony Orsini, the principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, made worldwide headlines last week after he sent an e-mail to parents urging them to take their children off the social networking site. Speaking to The Jewish Standard earlier this week, Orsini said the general reaction from the local community has been one of gratitude. Some parents have heeded his advice while others have ignored it, he said, but his e-mail succeeded in getting people to talk more about Internet safety with their children.

“I was simply imploring them to look out for the safety of their kids,” Orsini said. “I also made very, very clear that obviously it’s a family choice and I respect any choice a family makes.”

The Standard turned to area day-school leaders to see if they agreed with the principal’s actions.

At Gerrard Berman Day School, Solomon Schechter of North Jersey in Oakland, Facebook is blocked on all of the school’s computers. Social networking, said Robert Smolen, general studies coordinator and middle school director, is meant to be face to face.

“We know that the Ridgewood principal is correct,” he said. “The use of the Internet for communication that can be very negative and bullying and provocative is something we are not in favor of. We have gotten feedback from time to time about children using it inappropriately and taken them to task for that.”

Smolen acknowledged that Facebook can be used positively. But children, he said, don’t always keep things in perspective, and the site can have a negative impact and lead to cliques.

A recent “South Park” episode lampooned those who get so caught up with the site that their non-virtual relationships are defined by their popularity status on Facebook. In the episode, the main character Kyle befriends a third-grader named Kip Drodry who has no other Facebook friends. Kip is ecstatic, but Kyle watches as his own friends count drops because of his association with this perceived outcast.

At Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford, the sixth- and seventh-graders receive formal education in Internet use, said Larry Mash, principal of SSDS’s middle school.

“Our position is we encourage smart use by our students and we encourage careful oversight by parents,” he said. “The parents need to be aware of where their kids are on the Internet and how much they’re using the Internet.”

The Moriah School in Englewood holds a program every year, with local police, on the dangers of Facebook. The school has in the past urged parents not to let their children use the site, but realizing that’s not always realistic, the school asks parents to monitor their children on the Internet, said principal Elliot Prager.

“What a child does in his or her free time, if it involves another child in the school [negatively], Moriah will take all necessary steps, including expulsion from school if necessary,” he said.

Last year Moriah instituted a new cyberbullying policy, considering cyberbullying an offense whether it takes place in or outside of school. After letters about the policy were sent home the school issued a handful of suspensions for violations, but has not had to respond as harshly this year.

“From what we can see and what we know, the policy has had a very positive impact on the behavior of the kids,” Prager said.

Arthur Poleyeff, general studies principal at high school Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck, not only agreed that middle school students should stay off Facebook, but added that high school students should not use the site either.

“There is very little benefit for students being on Facebook in middle school or high school,” he said. “Parents should take control over what their kids are doing online and not allow them to have computers in their bedroom where they’re locked away all day and night.”

Gerrard Berman’s Smolen urges parents to closely follow what their children do on the Internet. Facebook, he said, is just one of many opportunities children have to interact online and if it’s taken away, they can easily find another vehicle.

“Parents have given their children a tool, and the children need to have an accountability for that tool,” Smolen said. “IPhones, iPods, and iTouches all have Internet capability. It’s like giving them the keys to the car and letting them go wherever they want.”

Orsini said he has heard from more than 100 parents about his e-mail. Some have disagreed with him but most have been respectful. He is amazed, he said, that news of his request has grabbed international headlines.

“It hit a nerve,” he said.

 
 

Is team spirit limited to sports?

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Irene Stein, Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck’s math league advisor, left, with Shlomo Klapper, Yakir Forman, Natanel Friedenberg, and Gavi Dov Hochsztein, American Mathematics Competition winners who qualified for the American Invitational Mathematics examination.

When it comes to brain vs. brawn, who gets the accolades?

At Jewish high schools in the area, it depends on whom you ask. The educators agree that students cheer their academic teams as much as the sports teams. The students say, “Well, yes, but it’s a close call.”

The question arises following some stellar performances in the academic world: Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck brought home multiple awards in math competition. Three students from Ma’ayanot Yeshiva for Girls in Teaneck just were honored in Washington for winning a prestigious science competition. A student at the Frisch Academy in Paramus came out on top over 400 other students in a Talmud competition.

The schools field a full range of athletic teams, among them baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track, and volleyball. But they also compete in such areas as chess, debate, mock trial, Torah Bowl, New Jersey Challenge, Science Olympiad, and math.

“We at TABC emphasize participation in all extra-curricular activities, be that athletics or academics,” said Arthur Poleyeff, principal for general studies at the Teaneck school.

The academic competitors “are applauded by their peers; they are held in high esteem,” said Irene Stein, the TABC math teacher who guided the math competitors. “They enjoy the competition,” she continued. “Success breeds success.”

The students experience intrinsic rewards, said Rookie Billet, principal at Ma’ayanot. “When the team brings a trophy, all the kids cheer,” and the praise of their teachers counts for a lot, she said.

At The Frisch School in Paramus, Principal Kalman Stein said academics share the space on the podium with athletics. “Sports are important, but they are not that important,” Stein said.

“The ‘big man’ or ‘big woman on campus’ is more often than not not an athlete,” he said.

By the numbers, TABC has had a winning year in math competition. Yakir Forman, a junior, won the first prize of $1,000 in the inaugural Jacob Goldfinger Memorial Mathematics competition sponsored by Touro College’s Lander College for men.

Senior Netanel Friedenberg won the third prize of $100, and junior Moshe Kollmar took honorable mention. Tzipporah Greenberg, a sophomore at Bais Yackovin Passaic also took honorable mention. There were 96 participants from around the country.

In the New Jersey Math League competition, TABC placed fifth-highest in the state and first in Bergen County.

The Mathematics Association of America uses a series of competitions to choose a six-person team to represent the United States in the math Olympiad. Although he didn’t make the final team, Yakir, a junior, finished in the top 80 out of 100,000.

Shlomo Klapper, this year’s TABC valedictorian, shared insights about these kinds of competition. He speaks from the experience of his roles as captain of the Science Olympiad, Torah Bowl, and College Bowl teams.

He explained that the math competitions are in test format and take place within the student’s school. This kind of competition is not a spectator sport.

“You can go to a hockey game, but you can’t go to a math competition,” he said. “It is a solo experience, you’re flying alone,” he said.

Other competition are out in the open, though — the College Bowl championships, for example. The Torah Bowl is in more of a quiz show format, with competitors pressing a button to buzz when they have an answer.

Picking a question at random, Shlomo demonstrated an answer involving logarithms, a concept that has mystified this reporter for decades. After Shlomo’s explanation, the concept is still mysterious, but less so.

In some cases, like the Science Olympiad, contestants have to practice, he said. In other cases, though, you can’t really study because the subject matter is so broad. Asked what was one of his out-of-the-blue questions, he recalled a U.S. history question: Who was the British prime minister during the American Revolution?

He just happened to have the answer filed in his brain — Lord North.

He said he was in school from about 7:40 a.m. to 5:25 p.m. Asked how many hours, caught without a calculator, he had to think a bit. Nine hours and about 45 minutes, he figured. “A calculator is such a terrible crutch,” he said.

If there is a divide between brains and brawn, Shlomo speaks from both sides. Athletics have their place, said Shlomo, who was on the tennis and softball teams and runs now and then.

“You can’t pickup and play college bowl, but you can with sports,” he said. While TABC is “very supportive” of academic teams, the satisfaction of winning is more within the team itself, he said.

“After all, in the general sense, mainstream sports have been, and probably will be, cooler than the College Bowl,” he said.

Shlomo will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. His major? He doesn’t know yet.

At Ma’ayanot, sisters Ariella and Eliana Applebaum, and Elana Forman, all of Teaneck, were national winners in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVisionAwards Program.

The trio was cited for sifting through scientific literature and then forecasting 20 years into future for what the state of knowledge about human ability to regenerate limbs will be.

The girls were in Washington, D.C., to receive their awards last week. The contest is in its 18th year, and this is the first year Ma’ayanot has participated. Each winner gets a $5,000 savings bond.

Earlier in the spring, Ma’ayanot students Daniella Greenbaum of New York and Tzippy Steingart of Teaneck won first and third place in the annual Holocaust Memorial essay contest run by EMUNAH, a social service agency.

Daniella’s essay was named “Masha Greenbaum,” for her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. Tzippy’s was “A Nightmare to Remember, A Nightmare Never to Forget.”

At Frisch, the principal was speaking at the crest of a victory for senior Darren Sultan, who bested 400 students nationwide in the Yeshiva University Bronka Weintraub Bekiut Program. The contest is aimed at getting students to study Talmud outside the classroom.

Darren won first place in the United States portion of the International Bible Contest two years ago, and last year was first among the non-Israeli competitors in the international contest.

Jessica Oppenheimer, a Frisch senior on her way to Yale and captain of the debate team, said academic teams are appreciated, but athletic teams grab more of the spotlight.

“There is more of a sense of inclusion with sports teams because you can go and cheer,” she said. “You can’t do that with athletic teams.”

Soccer player Jared Hoch, also a senior, agreed that academic teams are appreciated, but sports teams get the edge. One reason he said is that academic teams often compete in a tournament setting, while the soccer team competes a game at a time. “When you win, everybody knows,” while academic victories are not as publicized, he said.

Rachel Cohen, a member of the girls soccer team at Frisch, agreed that sports teams get more attention, but she said part of that is logistics. Debates, for example, are held during school hours, while sports games are after school, so student spectators can attend.

But there is recognition for the academic teams, she said. “Everybody wants to show respect for their friends and show that they appreciate what they’re doing,” she said.

It was a winning season for the Frisch girls team — they won the league championship. Rachel said their sports activity dovetails with their Judaic studies.

“We all worked so hard together this year and it showed,” she said. “We did better when we were close.”

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Last week, Rep. Steve Rothman welcomed Eliana Applebaum, Ariella Applebaum, and Elana Forman to Washington, D.C. The three students, from Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, are winners of the 2010 Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards.
 
 

Local schools strut their stuff on cable TV

MSG Varsity spotlights student activities

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The academic team from Bat Torah-The Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School will face the team from Bergenfield High School in the first round competition of MSG Varsity’s The Challenge, airing Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m. on MSG Varsity on Cablevision’s iO Channel 14. From left are Ora Kornbluth (academic adviser), Leora Zomick, Atara Sherman, host Jared Cotter, Nicki Kornbluth (team captain), Chevie Pahmer, and Tzippi Berman. Courtney Egglinger

Video broadcasting is nothing new for the Torah Academy of Bergen County, which has sponsored a web-based student publication, TABCTV, for the past five years.

But now, the TABC video squad is stepping up its game, using more sophisticated equipment to stream and record its sports events while reaching a wider audience.

In partnership with MSG Varsity, Cablevision’s television network dedicated to high school activities, TABCTV will display footage of its sports not only on its own site, www.TABCTV.org, but also on iO interactive channel 614.

MSG Varsity is looking to create “a groundbreaking interactive service, all dedicated to high school sports, academics, and activities happening throughout the tri-state area,” according to its website. While some content is professionally produced, other features — like the TABC games — are provided by the schools themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Teaneck resident Tzvi Silver has been editor in chief of TABCTV since the beginning of his junior year.

“We get about 40 to 50 viewers per game,” said the senior. “But for big games, it’s about 200.”

Silver — who credits principal Arthur Poleyeff and faculty advisers Bobby Kaplan and Shneur Garb with supporting the video squad and helping to create the MSG connection — said the publication is now using state-of-the-art equipment to record and stream school games. Some is new, purchased with a grant from MSG; some the school already owned; and some belongs to the media outlet.

“We got a grant to upgrade equipment and buy a new camera, microphone, and computer,” said Silver. Students involved in the project are also going through MSG-led training sessions, both camera-related and editorial.

“It’s new to some of them,” he said. “It’s good for them to learn the skills.” And in a school where many students participate in sports, “It’s a good opportunity for students not involved in sports to participate as well,” he added.

Silver pointed out that TABCTV was created as a student initiative and is run by students. While the group gets help from many students, he said, senior Matthew Silverman and junior Ari Hagler have been particularly active. In addition, “TABCTV doesn’t do just sports,” he said. “We also cover shiurim and speakers. MSG Varsity will put anything we record online.”

The partnership with MSG is “good for the school since it allows us to expand our range of viewers to people who watch the MSG channel,” said Silver. “It’s also great for us to learn new skills and get better at the ones we already have.”

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Torah Academy of Bergen County students Tzvi Silver and Chanan Schnaidman broadcast a school basketball game. Courtesy TABC

Another benefit, said principal Poleyeff, is that televising activities helps keep alumni connected to the school. He pointed out that “graduates in Israel or in universities across America, and faculty who can’t make it to the games are already tuning in” to TABCTV. Now the events will be even more widely available.

“It’s been great for the student body,” he said. “Although this is not something brand-new, it’s very exciting.”

Poleyeff said he hopes the venture is successful and will expand in the future.

“It won’t just be for sports but will cover other activities like the debating team, chess team, and mock trial,” he said. Cablevision’s goal is “to broadcast to everyone.”

Miriam Bak, principal of Bat Torah Academy-The Alisa M. Flatow Yeshiva High School in Paramus, is also bullish on the project.

The school recently participated in MSG Varsity’s quiz show “The Challenge,” taking on Bergenfield High School.

“We were the little mouse that roared,” said Bak. “It was like David and Goliath.” The episode will air on Dec. 7.

“The Challenge is a popular high school bowl,” said Bak, noting that several local yeshivas, including the Frisch School and Ma’ayanot, have also participated.

Following her school’s appearance on the show, Bak met with the network’s high school outreach staff to discuss the possibility of training students in the technology needed to be correspondents.

“The students will be filming various events and speakers,” said Bak, adding that MSG Varsity representatives were particularly excited to learn that Bat Torah’s February Shabbaton will be in Jerusalem and that student correspondents plan to send back clips and a daily blog.

“They’re training about a half-dozen seniors,” she said. One of these students is already developing her writing skills in an Israel advocacy course at Columbia University, “but this is a whole new dimension.”

“We’re very excited about this,” said Bak, pointing to students’ passion for technology and the media. “It’s a wonderful field for young women, and it ties in with all kinds of interesting things. I’m so pleased that they can start learning now.”

A statement from MSG Varsity’s general manager, Theresa Chillianis, noted that the network “is taking coverage of high school activities to the next level.” Said Chillianis, “We recognize the passion our audience has and we are proud to provide unprecedented … coverage of the games, events, and behind-the-scenes stories that matter most to our schools and communities.”

 
 

Scholarships v. camp or Israel trip?

Schools alert parents that aid may be endangered

Scholarship committees of two modern Orthodox day schools in Teaneck wrote to parents earlier this month that if their children attend on scholarship and the family can afford to send them to a summer program — including an Israel program — their scholarships may be in jeopardy.

This move has set off a controversy among professionals in the world of Jewish day schools, Jewish summer camps, and Israel programs.

Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC), a boys yeshiva in Teaneck, and Ma’ayanot, a girls yeshiva a block away, released a joint statement regarding the letters: “Ma’ayanot and TABC are proud to offer a quality yeshiva high school education on a need-blind basis while remaining fiscally responsible towards our parent body and donor community. Our letter to parents represented a restatement of long-standing guidelines shared by many, if not all, area yeshivot and was intended merely to ensure transparency and predictability in the scholarship process. Of course, each unique situation is evaluated based on individual circumstances.”

The statement was attributed to Dr. Howard Friedman, president of Ma’ayanot, and Etiel Forman, president of TABC. Arthur Poleyeff, TABC principal, told The Jewish Standard on Tuesday that he was “unable to comment at this time,” and telephone calls to Ma’ayanot were not returned.

Jewish summer camp professionals expressed dismay at what they characterized as the letter’s threat to penalize parents seeking a Jewish summer camp experience for their children, stressing that Jewish summer camp plays a strong role in cementing communal identity.

“Families should not be penalized for wanting a full Jewish educational experience for their children,” said Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC). Fingerman, an Englewood resident, said Jewish summer camp is a “proven building block” for creating a strong sense of community, and that “summers at Jewish camp are a valuable component of a child’s Jewish education and the creation of [his or her] Jewish identity.”

Lee Weiss, vice chairman of the board of the FJC, said that his organization does not view this as a widespread trend, but stressed its disappointment in what he characterized as an either/or mindset on the part of the schools’ decision-makers.

“We have not seen this in any way shape or form as a model across the country,” Weiss said. “Obviously, we believe Jewish education expands beyond the classroom, and informal Jewish education is incredibly important. We are disappointed it is being looked at as a zero-sum game.”

He added, “It’s disturbing the value camp can bring to a high-school or grade-school child isn’t being recognized the way we’d like it to be.”

Israel programming professionals voiced the concern that, should paying to send their children on an Israel program mean that a family could risk losing financial aid for day school, hard-won gains in Jewish-identity formation provided by Israel programs could be lost.

In particular, some stressed the potential threat to Jewish leadership.

“It would be a bad development for Jewish education if this policy became widespread,” said Omer Givati, Young Judaea shaliach for the Northeast.

Givati, whose work includes recruiting Jewish teens for participation in Young Judaea’s Israel programs, stressed the value of a three-tiered educational template — Jewish day schools, Jewish youth groups, and Israel trips — for cultivating future Jewish leaders.

“Future Jewish leaders will be those who start in Jewish day school, go through summer camps and Jewish youth movements, and spend significant time in Israel,” Givati said. “Those are the people who will be pluralist enough to see all aspects of the Jewish community and lead the Jewish community in the future.”

While Birthright Israel, which sponsors Israel trips for Jewish teens and twenty-somethings, has eased the cost burden for some, more Reform and Conservative families send their children to Israel via Birthright than Orthodox ones, according to Stuart Levy, community shaliach for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, whose work includes advising families about Israel trips for teenagers. While cautioning that he does not have a “crystal ball” and can’t know whether pitting day-school scholarships against Israel trips will become widespread, Levy said that should such policies result in fewer Jewish teens being sent to Israel, it would be unfortunate.

“I would not want to be in the position of having to choose between a Jewish day-school experience and Israel experience,” said Levy. “Both have very important value in shaping Jewish education for all ages.”

The FJC plans to announce the findings next week of a study it commissioned on the influence of attending Jewish camp on Jewish community affiliation among adults.

 
 
 
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