JSPA honors 25 stories in 2019 Jewish Scholastic Journalism Awards
Judges comment individually on each winner; Clara Sandler wins Grand Prize in Jewish Scholastic Journalism
October 16, 2019
Winners of JSPA’s sixth annual awards for high school journalists were announced Jan. 31 at a first-ever JSPA Awards Dinner held at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles.
A total of 25 winners in first place, second place and honorable mention were chosen from among 67 entries in nine categories from nine different schools, and the Grand Prize was chosen from among the category winners. Clara Sandler, co-editor-in-chief of the Boiling Point at Shalhevet High School, won the Grand Prize for her winning entry in the news category, titled “The Torah by heart: Students lain professionally in local shuls.”
The contest was judged by JSPA Board Secretary Kathleen Neumeyer, national award-winning journalism teacher who advised the Chronicle at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles for 24 years; and Susan Freudenheim, Executive Director of Jewish World Watch and former Executive Editor of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.
Category 1: News and feature reporting on Jewish communities, religion and education
First Place Three-way tie
“The Torah by heart: Students lain professionally in local shuls” – Clara Sandler, Boiling Point, Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: Four seniors are laining at other synagogues, sometimes for pay and sometimes as volunteers. Lots of quotes and details in a well-written, well-organized feature story.
First Place Three-way tie
“Her training completed, Yoezet Segal finds new ways to teach and relate” – Tobey Lee and Lucy Fried, Boiling Point, Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: Interview with teacher who trained in Israel to be a yoetzet halacha—an adviser in Jewish law—about how she will use this in her teaching. Good quotes from her, from the rabbi, and from some other experts. Several students were also quoted. Good job of writing a story based mostly on an interview of the subject, but also including substantiating quotes from others.
First Place Three-way tie
“Can it be for God when it’s for a grade?” – Lucy Fried, Boiling Point, Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: This is a nice example of good reporting in what might be called a round-up story, comparing what is happening at Shalhevet to other Orthodox schools across the country. The reporter has interviewed students at quite a few other schools, as well as some faculty members and administrators. The writing is straight-forward and professional.
“Jewish Awareness and inclusion month educates on disabilities” – Oren Minsk, Lions Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
Judge’s comments: February is 10th annual Jewish Disabilities Awareness month. Story outlines what is being done in second and third grade classess to educate about deafness, while fourth and fifth graders learn about autism and high school student have discussions on disability awareness, and hear from speakers with disabilities. Material is well-organized and well-written with good sources.
“Yom Hashoah at KJ: Speaking for those who can’t” -Rebecca Massel, The Rampage: The Newspaper of the Ramaz Upper School
Judge’s comments: Account of a program held at the school to remember Holocaust survivors. Factual information attributed, quotes. Good example of news reporting and writing on a bread-and-butter kind of event that happens at every school.
Judge’s comments: A good news story about Night Seder, an innovation this school year held most Wednesdays right after school, even though it is not yet night. There are many quotes about why this was instituted, what kids think about it, how many have attended, who is leading the discussions. The only opinions are in quotation marks from people interviewed, not from the writer himself.
Category 2 News and reporting on current events involving Israel
“Was IDF Gaza Action Justified?” – Nicholas Fields, Boiling Point, Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: Lead is about a poll conducted by the newspaper about reactions in school community to use of force by Israeli military against Gaza protesters. Story correctly focuses on the local reaction, not on the event itself. It summarizes news reports and attributes the information for background. Uses quotes from students and faculty expressing their opinions, both for and against the use of force. Well-reported, well-written story.
“AIPAC Conference : Netanyahu was ‘like a friend’” – Kate Orlanski, Boiling Point, Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: Well-written story including the factual details (how many students and adults attended from Shalhevet, how many overall at the conference, where and when it was held are in second and third grafs) the lede focusing on what the highlight was for Shalhevet students. Includes numerous quotes from students and faculty who attended and description of what Netanyahu said as well and reporting on all of the other activities the delegation took part in while in Washington, D.C.
Category 3 News or feature reporting on interreligious or intercultural events
“So you thought the 13th Amendment freed the slaves?” – Medad Lytton, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy
Judge’s comments: This is a well-written interview with Rabbi Travis, who is teaching a new class on African-American history at the school. The headline is the name of the course. It has good quotes from the rabbi, who says he was interested in teaching the class because he believes that students at an Orthodox day school tend to live in an all-white bubble, mostly never interacting with persons of other races or religions. It would have been a good idea to get a few other quotes—from students in the class, or from the department chair, or head of school about why the course was added.
“Faiths and viewpoints come together at Westwood vigil for victims in Pittsburgh shooting” -Sam Rubanowitz, Boiling Point, Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: A well-written news feature about the mass shooting of Jews in at Pittsburgh temple and a vigil in Los Angeles that brought together mourners here. There is a scene-setting lede describing the vigil and the first few paragraphs provide facts, including an estimate of the crowd provided by the LAPD, which is usually an impartial source on crowd sizes. It explains briefly what happened in Pittsburgh, and has multiple quotes from attendees from the school, including faculty and students. It quotes from the speakers, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and references remarks he had made to the Boiling Point in an interview earlier in the day.
“Students turn teachers” – Amelia Davidson, Lions Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
Judge’s comments: This is a well-written story about two students who are taking part in a summer program where Jewish students teach Judaism in the public schools. The story has a good lead, and then a good nutgraf giving the background of the program. There are quotes from one of the students involved and his mother. There are no other human sources.
Category 4: Ongoing reporting on Jewish, Israel-related or interreligious/intercultural issues. Ongoing reporting means at least two stories on two different days, covering a story that is evolving with additional facts or occurrences.
Judge’s comments: Both of these entries are examples of excellent journalism on a near-professional level, using multiple sources, good attribution, quotations from students and faculty at the school. All of the stories do a good job of localizing a story to the school community, shooting how a tragedy on the other side of the country or miles away from the school could still have an impact on the students.
Localized coverage of aftermath of the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh – Boiling Point, Shalhevet
- “Live with courage, not fear, mayor says in interview with Boiling Point” – Shani Shaham and Eva Brous-Light with additional reporting by Sam Rubanowitz
- “Faith and viewpoints come together at Westwood vigil for Pittsburgh shooting victims” – Sam Rubanowitz
- “Psalms and slow singing soften day of broken hearts after Pittsburgh shooting” – Jacob Joseph Lefkowitz Brooks
Localized coverage of Woolsey Fires – Boiling Point, Shalhevet
- “Ilan Ramon Jewish Day School burns in Woolsey Fire” – Jacob Joseph Lefkowitz Brooks and Molly Litvak
- “Jewish school, summer camps damaged and destroyed in Woolsey Fire” – Clara Sandler, Jacob Joseph Lefkowitz Brooks and Molly Litvak
- “Deadly Woolsey Fire Hits Jewish camps, schools, homes” – Clara Sandler
Category 5: Opinion: Non-first-person opinion on any Jewish or Israel-related story. This category would encompass unsigned editorials.
“We were strangers in the land of Egypt” – Boiling Point Editorial Board, Shalhevet
Judge’s Comments: This is a top-notch editorial, exploring a topic of cultural dissonance on several levels at once. It criticizes the proprietor of a kosher restaurant in a neighborhood mostly inhabited by immigrants, where the restaurateur expresses anti-immigrant sentiments on social media. The student authors make sense of their own desire to visit the restaurant because of its locale, but are critical of the statements made by the owner, so say they will steer clear. The students clearly express their reasoning, the Jewish thought behind their conclusions and state what a positive outcome would be. Excellent work.
“Malady of hate: remembrance and rebuilding in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Massacre” – Alexandra Orbuch, The Roar, Milken High School
Judge’s Comments: An adept combination of opinion, exposition with the cadence of spoken word. Good writing and insights.
“Two Viewpoints on the Use of the Beit Midrash” – Zach Mainzer and Medad Lytton, The Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy
Judge’s comments: Two students write about the use of their prayer space for secular public activities, one saying this is disrespectful, the other disagrees. The topic engages both, and they make their arguments with strong points of view.
Category 6 Opinion: First-person experience regarding Judaism or Israel
“Uncomfortable as a Jewish Atheist at a Pluralistic School” – Nate Miller, Lions Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
Judge’s comments: Miller writes with conviction about his feelings of displacement and yearning for a way to fit into the structure of his school. Why such dissonance is common among high school students, Nate’s discomfort with prayer in a curriculum where that is part of the day is well-stated and brave, as he notes that others who share his feelings are afraid to speak up.
“Defiance and Convictions: What the Chanukah Story Can Tell Us about Women Learning Gemara” – Eliana Goldin, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy
Judge’s comments: A smart exploration of the laws and prohibitions of Torah, bringing the arguments into the desire of the writer and young women today to participate in Torah study, exploring whether this is defiance or respect for study.
“Natalie Portman and the Art of Opposition” – Sarah Nachimson (YULA Girls High School), LA Times High School Insider
Judge’s comments: A smart argument dissecting what it is to support Israel without any room for criticism, and the actress’s position on current Israeli politics.
“Would you like to carry the Torah?” – Josephine Schizer, The Rampage: The Newspaper of the Ramaz Upper School
Judge’s comments: A second piece exploring girls engagement with Torah study and the place of women in religious life. This one explores girls’ reluctance to participate, as compares to boys, with compassion and insight.
Category 7 Photojournalism: Photograph attached to any Jewish or Israel-related story
First Place – Two-way tie
“Hug at the vigil” – Maia Lefferman, Boiling Point,Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: Photo captures an emotional embrace, wonderful use of closeup to show intimacy of the moment
First Place – Two-way tie
“Chanukah Menorah” – Alexandra Orbuch, The Roar, Milken High School
Judge’s comments: Simple photo of menorah and holiday prayers shows lovely sense of color and design
Category 8: Layout, design or infographic attached to any Jewish or Israel-related story, one page or multiple pages
Jesse Lehman, Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
Judge’s comments: Layout of multiple pages shows clear design sense, innovative use of graphics, and distinctive integration of photos and variety of fonts.
“Poll shows most students believe in God, search for meaning” – Ariella Sassover, Boiling Point, Shalhevet
Judge’s comments: Layout integrates a lively, informative illustration with bold graphic of poll data.
Tali Feen, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy.
Judge’s comments: Professional style of multiple items on a fashion page.
Category 9: Video reporting of any Jewish or Israel-related story
No winner this year.