Announcing the Winners of the 2021 Jewish Scholastic Journalism Awards

In the first-ever tie for JSPA’s top prize for high school journalists, staffers of The Lion’s Tale at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School and The Boiling Point at Shalhevet High School both won the 2021 Grand Prize for Jewish Scholastic Journalism, the Jewish Scholastic Press Association announced Sunday.

“Is Shalom Hello or Goodbye?”  by Daphne Kaplan and Rochelle Berman of The Lion’s Tale,  and  212° Magazine:  “How we got here,”  by the staff of The Boiling Point,  were jointly awarded the prize, which includes a recommendation from the American Jewish Press Association for a summer internship at a professional Jewish news source.

First-place winners in this year’s contest were invited to send videos describing their work. Staffers from The Lion’s Tale’s described their “QuaranTEENed” podcast series, one of two first-place winners for ongoing reporting.

The awards were announced at an online presentation that featured videos by first-place winners, who described the goals, challenges and results of their winning work.  Awards for first, second and third place, along with a few honorable mentions, were announced by JSPA board officer Susan Freudenheim and JSPA National Program Assistant Matt Hurwitz.  Freudenheim and fellow JSPA board officer Kathleen Neumeyer were co-judged of the competition, which was for work done in the calendar year 2020.

Students from 11 schools and publications submitted 106 entries in all.  Shalhevet in Los Angeles won 10 awards; Charles E. Smith, of Rockville, Md., won nine; Atlanta Jewish Academy won six; and Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy of Overland Park, Kans., won three.  Other awards were won by students at YULA Boys High School of Los Angeles, de Toledo High School of West Hills, Calif., The Heschel School of New York City, and Fresh Ink for Teens, high school platform of the New York Jewish Week.

This year’s contest had 11 categories, ranging from news and feature writing to opinion, photojournalism, video and page design. This year a special category was added for coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Grand Prizes were chosen from the first-place winners in each category.

“Is Shalom Hello or Goodbye?” the winning entry from the Lion’s Tale, explored how the school’s alumni navigate obstacles to practicing Judaism on university campuses and  beyond. It also won First Place for Feature Writing, and Second Place for page design. It featured interviews with both current CESJDS students and alumni, and ends with an editor’s note: “The Lion’s Tale was unable to find individuals who stopped observing Judaism after graduating from JDS. If you know of anyone who would fall into this category, please reach out” to the paper’s e-mail address for a followup story.

The centerspread of Grand Prize co-winner ‘212 Degrees: How We Got Here’ is a recap of a senior seminar discussion about the meaning of quarantine. (Only one page of spread is shown.)

“212° Magazine: “How we got here,” a newsmagazine by the staff of the Boiling Point, compiled excerpts from paper’s online coverage of the first four weeks of the pandemic, including the first school closure at SAR High School in Riverdale, N.Y., the cancellation of the Sarachek basketball tournament, and the arrival of some of the first Covid cases in Los Angeles in people who’d attended the AIPAC convention in Washington, D.C., along with Shalhevet’s switch to online school and a feature story on Covid-related Jewish memes and TikToks.

It was led by Jacob Lefkowitz Brooks, Sarah Feuer and Ellie Orlanski, with contributors Sam Rubanowitz, Alex Rubel, Benjamin Gamson, Eli Weiss, Keira Beller, Liad Machmali, Kate Orlanski, Zoe Miller and Tehilla Fishman.  It was one of two first-prize winners in the Ongoing Reporting category.

The awards are for 2020 work on Jewish- and Israel-related topics, published by high school students in any publication. A list of winners appears below.

Neumeyer is a national award-winning journalism teacher who advised the Chronicle at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles for 24 years, and Freudenheim, former Executive Director of Jewish World Watch, was Executive Editor of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles for 11 years and Arts Editor of the Los Angeles Times for seven.

Writing about the tie for Grand Prize, they said both would be articles people would read in the future.

“These two pieces both exemplify the best of Jewish student journalism, exploring challenges in student life and without overt explication, helping students to navigate their own, Jewish worlds,” the judges wrote.

“’Shalom’ is a piece of excellent reporting on how life changes as students leave home and begin to shape their own identities. ‘How We Got Here’ is an extremely impressive compilation of student work chronicling unprecedented times during a pandemic.

“The multiple authors involved in these works, as well as the designers who put the packages together so professionally should all be extremely proud of what they have produced. These two works will endure for years to come, for future readers. Congratulations.”

The winners were chosen from a total of 106 entries. There were 33 winners in addition to the Grand Prize winners, published in school news media and in Fresh Ink for Teens.

Joelle Keene, JSPA’s executive director and founder, said the awards demonstrated the energy of today’s high school journalists and the potential for applying it at a professional level to Jewish subjects.

“The current moment has proven that news coverage is something people need,” Keene said.   “These stories show that high school students are stepping up to the challenge, providing real news to real people via all media platforms, and approaching Jewish subjects with professionalism and rigor.”


Here are the winners, along with links to all stories and  judges’ comments on why they were chosen. To view the video of the award presentation, including videos by students who won first place in individual categories, click here.


Category 1: News Reporting on Jewish communities, religion, education, institutions, activism, culture, leaders or personalities

Liad Machmali and Sam Rubanowitz of Shalhevet’s ‘The Boiling Point’ won First Place in news reporting for this report on how Iranian-American students and teachers reacted to Iranian nationals being detained at the border between the U.S. and Canada in early 2020.

First Place

“Iranian-Americans at school split on issue of border detentions of travelers,” by Sam Rubanowitz and Liad Machmali, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: Well-written, localization of an international story, showing how the issue relates to the school community. Sums up why the story is timely, including sources from Internet, interpreted by faculty members, with responses from Iranian-American students. Multiple voices with diverse opinions within the community.  Strong entry.

Second Place

“Former GHA Head of School makes run for Senate,” by Matthew Minsk, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy

Judges’ comments: This article offers insights that go beyond the immediate school community, including addressing why this candidate is of interest to this school. Good use of quotes and reporting. It focuses on the candidate’s Jewish faith as an impetus for running for office. Good use of quotes to carry the narrative.

Third Place

“Award winning author, speaker and producer Marra Gad joins JDS assembly,” by Lielle Coomber, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ comments: Strong, unbiased news coverage of events that occur at every school–an outside speaker at assembly. The story summarizes what the speaker talked about, including some direct quotes, explains what the main points were, and quotes several students’ reactions to the speech. It does not critique the speech itself. A school newspaper is a record of the history of the school year and covering the speakers who come is part of that record. Offers ongoing insight into racial sensitivity to students who may not have been as thoughtful about the talk. Informative and well done.

Category 1A: News, feature, audio (podcast) or video reporting on COVID-19 in Jewish communities, religion, education, institutions, activism, culture, leaders or personalities

First Place

“Same breath that carries the music now quiets the choir,” by Keira Beller, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: This is an excellent example of a news feature. It is about something topical—the response to the pandemic—but it could have been printed this week or next week, as it does not have an urgent timeliness. It has a professional tone, using quotes from experts about the public health issues. It has quotes from the faculty adviser as well as from the choir members. Very nice writing and reporting. And who hasn’t enjoyed the Zoom serenades online from Broadway singers as well as junior high school choirs? It is definitely part of the Pandemic soundtrack of 2020.  Excellent account of a covid-specific situation, with strong reporting, including multiple voices.

Second Place

“3D printing masks to save lives,” by Matthew Minsk, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy

Judges’ comments: Jewish content is limited but there…Good story about being resourceful in finding way to help.

Third Place

“Exciting, live, and ‘weird,’ in-person school reopens outside in tents,” by Molly Litvak, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: News story about the reopening of school in tents on the roof, with a very inviting lead quickly followed with a good explanatory quote, and strong, un-opinionated reporting and storytelling.

Honorable Mention

“Tasteful tefillah,” by Sivan Livnat, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy

Judges’ comments: Good writing on an interesting topic, includes good research and even a survey.

Honorable Mention

“From backyard minyans to distanced dinners, Covid Rosh Hashanah will look and feel different” by Olivia Fishman and Tehilla Fishman, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: News story about the reopening of school in tents on the roof, with a very inviting lead quickly followed with a good explanatory quote, and strong, un-opinionated reporting and storytelling.


Category 2: Feature reporting on Jewish communities, religion, education, institutions, activism, culture, leaders or personalities

First Place

This story from ‘The Lion’s Tale’ at CESJDS took Second Place in page design as well as First Place in feature writing and one of two Grand Prizes this year.


“Is shalom hello or goodbye? Almuni make own choices about practicing Judaism” by Daphne Kaplan and Rochelle Berman, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ Comments: This article is well-written, thoughtfully reported and very relevant to the high-school student reader at a Jewish Day School. Through alumni interviews, the writers explore how new college students might find new choices for practicing Judaism once they leave home, including depending upon where they choose to go to school. Excellent work all around.

Second Place

“Year of the yard sign,” by Keira Beller, The Boiling Point,  Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: A smart, timely exploration of election-era conflict specific to the Jewish community, where lawn signs are being stolen and destroyed in advance of a heated election. The story includes some specifically Jewish signage and localizes the issue, but also acknowledges the national trend. Also included is how the election talk is being treated at school. Very strong and engaging piece.

Third Place

Alumni Spotlight: The History of Meat Club,” by Matthew Minsk, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy

Judges’ comments: The author explores the history of an unusual club at school and takes the reader back nearly two decades to the club’s origins (before the school’s current students were born), and includes interviewing the founder, following the on-again, off-again nature of the club. A fun read, creative choice of topic, and very relatable to the AJA student body. The story includes an important Jewish angle by addressing some of the issues of Kashrut that developed around the club, as well.

Category 3: News and reporting on current events involving Israel

First Place

“UAE and Bahrain treaties could signal new era, Israel Consul-General says,” by Molly Litvak, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: Story localizing the new treaties with the UAE and Bahrain, with quotes from Israel’s consul general in Los Angeles, who explains the issue in an interview with the Boiling Point, and with comments from three Shalhevet alumni who live in Israel. There is further background explanation from a local expert from the South Coast Interfaith Council, who was interviewed.  Strong reporting, no personal opinion included. 

Category 4: News and reporting on interreligious or intercultural events

Molly Litvak of ‘The Boiling Point’ won First Place for intercultural reporting for her report on last spring’s George Floyd protests in Los Angeles, which reached into neighborhoods near the school.

First place

“George Floyd protests, both peaceful and violent, reach Shalhevet neighborhoods”  by Molly Litvak, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: A well-reported account of the demonstrations in the neighborhood around the school, and in Los Angeles, after the killing of a Black man in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests. Specific information on neighborhood locations vandalized and student reactions. Account of a school-wide Zoom discussion led by a school administrator. Good unbiased reporting on an important intercultural event localized specifically to the school and the neighborhood. Good Jewish focus. Very strong writing and reporting.

Second Place

“The Legacy of RBG: A look into an icon’s impact on the feminist movement,” By Sally Rogal and Jared Schreiber, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ comments: Using quotes from students and faculty, the writers reviewed the impact of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s lifelong dedication to fighting for gender equality. 


Category 5: Ongoing Reporting on any subject in categories 1, 2, 3 or 4

Ongoing means at least two stories on two different days, covering a story that is evolving with additional facts or occurrences.

CESJDS started a podcast called ‘QuaranTEENed’ during the pandemic. It won one of two first prizes in Ongoing Reporting.

First Place – TIE

QuaranTEENed,” by Addie Bassin and Jonathan Morris, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges comments: A five-part podcast by student journalists provided ongoing coverage of the pandemic experience for students in school and learning remotely during a highly unusual school year. Strong reporting and story-telling and good use of the time-based podcast medium.

First Place – TIE

212° magazine: “How we got here: Over four weeks in March, the world went from ‘normal times to Covid times,”by Jacob Lefkowitz Brooks, Sarah Feuer, Ellie Orlanski, Sam Rubanowitz, Alex Rubel, Benjamin Gamson, Eli Weiss, Kate Orlanski, Liad Machmali, and Keira Beller, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges comments: The Boiling Point provided extensive coverage of every aspect of the Covid year on campus and collected it all in a booklet. Comprehensive reporting on every aspect that will serve not only as a year-book of sorts for the students who experience these unusual times, but also as a time-capsule document for future readers.

Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy’s ‘RampageWired’ won two prizes for its story about how Covid affected school life — Third Place in Ongoing Reporting and an Honorable Mention for this photo by Aaron Kohl.

Third Place:

“HBHA students begin their second week of distance learning after Kansas closes K-12 schools,” by Benji Kohl, “While the pandemic had seemingly begun just a few weeks ago, seventeen year-old Avi Schiffman began tracking the coronavirus before everyone knew about it,” by Dennis Krolevich, and “HBHA adapts to Covid with dynamic learning models,” by Abbie Davis, RampageWired, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

Judges’ comments: The on-going coverage RampageWired provided  throughout the pandemic included covering what the school was doing about pedagogy and also features on related subjects. Good reporting and writing.


Category 6: Editorials – Non-first-person opinion on any Jewish- or Israel-related story

Yonah Berenson and the Editorial Board of the ‘YULA Panther’ won First Place in Editorial Writing  for this article about fighting anti-semitism.

First place:

“Keep politics out of fighting Anti-Semitism,” by Yonah Berenson and the YULA Editorial Board, The Panther Post, YULA Boys High School

Judges’ comments: A well-reasoned piece about how anti-Semitism has been ignored or put aside in favor of politics in the United States, and a plea for sanity in calling out the domestic reality of anti-Semitism today. Excellent editorial writing.

Second place:

“Black History is American History,”  by Tyler Johnson, RampageWired, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

Judges’ comments: Written mostly in the objective voice, the piece explores the importance of Black History Month, and makes the argument that the history ought to be taught as history for all Americans; the piece, while not written in the first person for the most part, also reveals that the author is both Black and Jewish.

Third place – TIE

“Anne Frank is not your coronavirus punchline,” by Rebecca Massel, Fresh Ink for Teens

Judges’ comments: A well-reasoned piece warning about not conflating the required precautions of pandemic quarantine with what Holocaust survivors experienced.

Third place – TIE

“Peace deals endanger Israel’s security,” by Matan Silverberg, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ comments: An exploration of how a seemingly peace-enhancing deal for Israel, including official recognition of the Jewish State by three Muslim countries, could be more dangerous than thought, because of a requirement to sell arms to the United Arab Emirates within the agreement, as well as due to destabilization within Sudan’s current transitional government. Informed and thoughtful opinion writing.

Honorable Mention

“How the Orthodox community has responded to COVID-19,” by Noah Lyakhovetsky, Heschel Helios, The Heschel School

Judges’ comments: A look at dangers facing the ultra-Orthodox community in New York because of resistance to masks and other precautions during COVID, including discussion of dangerous behaviors. This includes reference to health officials and other important context.


Category 7 – First-person opinion or experience regarding Judaism or Israel

First place

Griffen Carabet of de Toledo ‘The Prowler’ won first place in first-person opinion writing for this article about privilege.

“The privileges Judaism brings” by Griffin Carabet, The Prowler, de Toledo High School

Judges’ comments: A thoughtful personal piece about what it means to be privileged and how the author is grateful to be a Jewish person and a student at his Jewish school.

Second place

“Let’s talk about tznius – many students at JDS are uninformed about the rules of modesty in Judaism,” by Taylor Polonsky, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ comments: A brave piece in which the author describes her experience of observing laws of modesty in a pluralistic Jewish school where this Jewish observance is not only not universal, but often not accepted or understood. The author explores the halacha of tznius, and explains her family’s practice, with a critical eye to how her school could be more supportive of observant Jews.

Third Place

“JQY presentation shows students that administration cares,” by Dalya Silverman, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy

Judges’ comments: One in a series responding to an assembly on introducing students to what LGBTQ means and creating support for such students. The author argues that the school could do more on this topic, and not just leave it to an assembly. While supporting the discussion and the presentation, she also questions the Jewish basis for acceptance made by the speakers, saying they could have made a stronger case in presenting to students who are not accepting. A thoughtful piece on a challenging topic.


Category 8: Photojournalism: Photograph attached to any Jewish- or Israel-related story

Benjamin Gamson of ‘The Boiling Point’ won First Place in photojournalism for this picture of an outdoor minyan in the early days of the pandemic last March.

First place


“An outdoor minyan observed strict social distancing March 18 in Hancock Park,” photo by Benjamin Gamson, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: Shows men standing in a yard with garbage cans out in the street, for a minyan.



Honorable Mention

Photo in “HBHA students begin their second week of distance learning after Kansas closes K-12 schools,” by Aaron Kohl, RampageWired, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy

Judges’ comments: Other photos in the package were provided by parents or faculty, but Aaron Kohl took the opening shot, a nice professional-looking portrait.


Category 9: Layout, design or infographic attached to any Jewish- or Israel-related story, one page or multiple pages

First place

“Baking Brothers: Malkus twins run challah business,” graphic by Jonathan Morris, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ comments: This two-page spread about a bakery business run by students is just gorgeous.  The design made excellent use of professional photos that were provided to them and credited them to the sites where they got them. There is a big photo of fresh bread on a cutting board and a photo of bread wrapped in plastic where the bag gleams. There is a QR code for accessing other stories about student-run businesses. It is a beautiful, clean, simple design.

Jonathan Morris won First Prize for his design and layout for “Baking Brothers.”

Second place

“Is shalom hello or goodbye? Almuni make own choices about practicing Judaism” by Daphne Kaplan, The Lion’s Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ comments: This is a very strong story that is presented well in a two-page spread plus a lead-in on the cover. The full-page photo on the cover is a staged photo of the backs of two girls’ heads in commencement caps, and one has a Star of David and the other a question mark. The headline on the story across two pages inside has the words Hello and Goodbye in black and the other words in blue. There is a large bar graph along one side and the only photos are across the bottom, round mugs of students next to a quote from them answering the same question. A very nice, sophisticated, simple design.

Third place

“The Jaguars have entered the win column,”  page design by Gavriella Jutan and Tali Feen, Palette, Atlanta Jewish Academy.

A four-page spread about the school’s basketball team won Third Place in page design for ‘Palette,’ the newsmagazine of Atlanta Jewish Academy. (Only one page is shown.)

Judges’ comments: This sports feature story has a great layout. The photos come from the tournament website, not from the school paper, but they are correctly credited to the source, as are the stats cited. There is a nice use of a photo, blown up to take up more than a full page, with a good full-view face of the player with the ball in his hand, ready to shoot. There is another cutout of two players running side-by-side with good facial expressions. And another cutout of a ball just about to drop through the net and the players below with outstretched hands. Nice design, shows what can be down with photos obtained from outside sources.


Category 10: Video Reporting of any Jewish or Israel-related story

First place

“Kosher conundrum: off-campus eating,” by Addie Bassin, The Lions Tale, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

Judges’ comments: Students did a great job of telling all the sides of the story of a favorite food truck which parks and serves near the campus. Some students said they were patronizing the non-kosher truck as many as three or four times a week. Administrators say they are not going to tell students allowed to go off-campus where to eat, that they are old enough to make their own choices, and the cafeteria manager even says that it is good for students sometimes to stretch their legs. The administrators said it was an issue if students bring the non-kosher food onto the campus, but even so, sometimes they do that with food from home. This was good unbiased coverage of an issue that may be controversial on campus.

Addie Bassin’s “Kosher conundrum” video took home First Place.

Second place

“Local businesses board up for Election Day,” by Molly Litvak, The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School

Judges’ comments: This is a well-crafted, professional-looking video, with great use of text across the screen, about the lengths to which merchants and services in the area near the school were going to protect property against possible looting and protests during the Presidential election.

Honorable Mention

“The Odyssey of Jonah and Aidan,” by Jonah Weisner, The Prowler, de Toledo High School

Judges’ comments: This entries relies on clips from cell phone video as two students recount leave at 5 a.m. to walk nine miles to school and get there on time. It is a fun post.

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