From court to classroom, school tallies success

From court to classroom, school tallies success

JEC leaves its mark in basketball, science, and Torah contests

As the academic year winds to an end, students at the Jewish Educational Center schools in Elizabeth are tallying their victories from the past few months, from sports to science to Torah learning.

The winning season began with a triumph on the basketball court for the team from Bruriah High School for Girls. In March, for the first time in 20 years, the school’s varsity basketball team won their division of the Metropolitan Yeshiva High School Athletic League. A new banner in the school auditorium marks their 52-49 overtime win against Yeshiva of Flatbush.

Coach Susan Rifkin played on the last Bruriah team to have won a championship.

“I finally realized they play the way I did for Bruriah. It must be coming out in something I’m doing with them,” she said. “What started as a casual challenge to aim for a championship banner turned into the driving force behind the team’s laser-like focus on the court.”

On the academic side as well, JEC students have had a series of triumphs.

Yael Eisenberg, a 10th-grader from Passaic, took second place in the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Chidon HaTanach, or National Bible Contest. The annual competition was held May 6 at Yeshiva University in New York. Michal Hirschorn of Elizabeth, an 11th-grader, placed third.

“I really enjoyed meeting Jewish teenagers from all over America and from all different cultures and levels of religion,” Yael said. “But they were all Jewish and all loved Tanach as much as I do, and that brought us together.”

At the recent New Jersey Russian Language Olympiada, all the Bruriah entrants, 13 in all, received a gold medal. Yehudith Dashevsky of Bergenfield, a native Russian speaker, placed first in the state in her division — which includes all native speakers — as the highest-scoring Russian Heritage Speaker.

The school will send three girls to Israel to compete on June 6 in the finals of the Math Ulpaniada sponsored by Michlala-Jerusalem College: junior Ahuva Motechin of Bergenfield and seniors Elisheva Elbaz of Highland Park and Esti Hoffman of Bergenfield. The contest, held in Israel every other year, includes participants from Israel and the Diaspora.

Being a mensch counted too. Paige Brodsky of Elizabeth was one of the six students from across the country awarded an Alisa Flatow Memorial Scholarship for a year’s study in Israel. The scholarship, created in memory of the 20-year-old West Orange student killed in a terrorist attack in 1995, is given to students who show a passion for Judaism and a commitment to helping others.

Bruriah’s brother school, the Rav Teitz Mesivta High School, is also displaying its laurels. For the third consecutive year, a team from the school has been selected to compete in the Gildor Family Projects and Inventions competition in Israel, to be held in Jerusalem at the end of June. The contest, organized by the Israel Center for Excellence through Education, asks ninth- and 10th-graders to design and build an original invention to solve a problem faced by society.

The RTMA team beat out seven other teams from across North America with their design for an automatic bird detection and deterrence device that could be used at airports or in agricultural fields.

The team was headed by Rafi Taub (Staten Island) and included Eitan Adler (Springfield), Tani Ben-Haim (Highland Park), Brian Goldman (East Brunswick), Azriel Kimmel (West Orange), Micah Lebowitz (Highland Park), Noam Shachak (Staten Island), Uri Shalmon (Highland Park), and Jake Stern (Edison). Ken Dietz served as faculty adviser for the fourth year.

Team leader Rafi Taub said, “We worked really well together, and I’m confident that we’ll surpass last year’s presentation when we go to Israel.”

Three RTMA seniors, Eli Shulman and Ari Lopatin, both from East Brunswick, and David Berko, from Englishtown, won the second-place prize in the Lander College for Men’s Entrepreneurial Contest earlier this month.

The students, members of Jeff Frank’s Introduction to Marketing class, sent in a 500-word description of the product they dreamed up, which they dubbed the MedWatch. It is a medicine dosage tracking system involving an LED timer on the cap of a medicine bottle. After receiving initial feedback from the organizers, the team wrote a formal business plan. Five groups chosen as semi-finalists made oral presentations May 6 before a panel of three judges drawn from the business world.

The RTMA team’s second-place prize included a cash award, a trophy for the school, and advice from the contest organizers on how to patent the MedWatch. JEC associate dean Rabbi Eliyahu Teitz said, “We congratulate our young entrepreneurs and the teacher who inspired them.”

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