Journal 18- Helping with the Aleph Institute

We are collaborating with the Aleph Institute to help Jewish prisoners. For this week’s journal, we were asked why would we want to help the murderers and stealers who are in prison. My answer is that we’re not. We will not help the bad people in the world, even if they are Jewish. We want to help those Jews who were innocent but blamed guilty, or just did the wrong thing at the wrong time. Those Jews, or people, aren’t bad. They just were convicted wrong or really messed up one time.

Local groups of teens fight it out, greasers victorious

We just finished Chapter 9 of The Outsiders, with the big rumble. We were asked to write a news article describing the rumble from a journalist’s view, in a news article. The following is mine.

The two groups of kids in our town, the rich Socs and the poor greasers, had a huge fight called a “rumble” last night. A rumble is when two gangs fight each other. An anonymous member of the fight said that there was 22 Socs and 21 greasers at the fight.

One of the greaser fighters was Dallas Winston, the notorious young criminal. He escaped from the hospital using a black handled switchblade. We tried to interview him, but he was too busy rushing to go to the hospital. We did, however, interview Timothy Shepard, leader of one of the greaser groups, about the whole scene:

My gang was the first to show. Not too long after, the Brumly boys appeared. Few minutes after them, the Curtis’ and their bunch showed up. We were missing a few, my kid brother Curly, and two of Curtis’ were still in the hospital. Me, the leader of the Brumly boys, and Darry Curtis had a short short meeting until the Socs came. We decided Darry would start the rumble. Some blond Soc came up and challenged him, and then Ol’ Dally Winston showed up, from the hospital. The rumble began, and it was tough. Punching, kicking, pinching, pulling hair, it was a total mess. I took on two [Socs], Darry took on two, and I stepped on his kid brother [Ponyboy]. My nose got broken for the third time. But in the end, we won and beat those awful Socs.”

The charming and heroic Ponyboy,track star, great student, was at the scene, fighting along with Dallas. He later became very sick. People have been rethinking their opinion about him because of his participation in the rumble.

We would like to remember Jonathan Cade, who died because of injuries in his act of heroism, and Dallas Winston, who was killed by officers, because he held up an unloaded gun. He robbed a grocery store and ran. A close friend of his said that he wanted to die out of grief because “Johnny was the only thing Dallas Winston loved.”

Journal 17- Jewish Responsa to Smoking

For our Journal this week, we were asked to write a response to smoking based on Jewish texts and our own opinion. I used the responsa of many different Torah sources, quoted by people such as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. Now, I shall begin my responsa, based on Jewish sources and my own opinion.

Dear Wannabe a Smoker,

The Mishnah says (Bava Kamma 8:6) that one is not allowed to harm him/herself. Recent studies (and in fact, studies since 1964) have shown that smoking is harmful for you. So then, why do some observant Jews still smoke? They say that G-d will protect them from the dangers of smoking, but the Talmud says (Megilah 7b,  Pesahim 50b,  Kiddushin 39b, Shabbat 32a,Ta’anit 20b) that one cannot rely on miracles to save him. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 116:5) also says this.

In the Mishneh Torah (De’ot, Chapter 4), many activities to be avoided for medical reasons are listed. The introduction of the chapter says: Seeing that keeping the body healthy and whole is the way of God, for it is impossible to understand or know anything about the Creator if one is sick, therefore a person must distance himself from things which destroy the body and accustom himself to things which heal the body. It’s basically saying that we can’t study Torah and do the mitzvah’s if we’re sick. We should try to stay healthy and in prime condition. Smoking weakens you.

     Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:9,15 says that one should “Take utmost care and watch yourself scrupulously”. Smoking does exacly the opposite. You are purposely harming yourself. Pekuach Nefesh is the highest mitzvah you can do, saving a life. You should save your life by not smoking! Rabbi Moshe Feinstein said that marajuana causes unnecessary craving simliar to food, it is harmful to the body, and that it destroys the body. However, he said that smoking shouldn’t be prohibited, but he was wrong. He wrote it in the 1980’s, and probably wasn’t aware of the dangers of smoking. He believed that since earlier Rabbis and Sages smoked, it was acceptable. They did not know the dangers of smoking.

Jews are made in G-d’s Image. By smoking, we are given bad traits such as a bad smell, bad breath, yellow teeth, and weakness. You are also prone to get sickness easier and die much earlier. Do we want to give off a bad image of Jews to the world by smoking? Do we want to hurt ourselves, become sicker, and die earlier then we were supposed to? I have given you many Torah sources, opinions of Rabbi’s, and my own opinion. Now, make your decision, and I hope it is the right one.


Smoking Researcher

Credits to: G-d, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides), Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Talmud, Mishnah, Shluchan Aruch,


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Journal 15- The Sulzbacher Center

Last Friday, we went as our mitzvah trip to the Sulzbacher Center, a homeless center in Downtown Jacksonville. It is different than most homeless shelters, though. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Most shelters only serve one or two meals a day. Our job there was to take down all of the Christmas decorations on the bulletin boards and put up new decorations on the boards. I worked with Benjamin C on a board, and we wrote 6-7 quotes on the board, one of which was written by me and another by Benjamin.

At the shelter, the verse Jeremiah 29:11 was painted on the wall “I know the plans I have for you”, Declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Our job for this post was to write why would this quote be at a homeless shelter. I think that it would be there for many reasons. One, to show the homeless people that they were put there for a reason. There is a bigger plan, and they being in their time of distress is one part of the plan. Something better will happen to them that requires them to have some suffering now.

The second reason is because the workers wish to give the homeless people hope. They are telling them that although you need some help now, a little help back on your feet, things are going to get better. You’re not going to stay this way forever. You just need a little guidance during this time of peril, and God has a plan for you. He’s going to help you and make you happy once again.

Help the homeless!

Help the homeless!

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In the Desert

I am an Israelite, from the tribe of Naftali. I, when in Egypt, was assigned as a foreman over the other slaves. When Moses came, I believed him from the beginning. I always felt that our savior would come from G-d. He was always watching over us, even at the worst times. My wife and friends thought I was just silly and a little too optimistic.

They were convinced a little when they heard about Aaron’s staff swallowing Pharaoh’s magicians’ staffs. They all were completely sure when the Nile was turned into blood. In the ten months of the plagues, we were glad that the Egyptians were punished. We felt no gratitude for them, after brutally forcing us to do the cruelest jobs just for their entertainment. We were especially happy after the plague of lice was over, because then we stopped working for the Egyptians. We were even happier after the plague of boils, because then our actual servitude in Egypt was over. We rejoiced along with all of our brethern as we left Egypt.

We happily witnessed the splitting of the Reed Sea, and sang songs of praise to God. At Marah, however, everybody rebelled. I strongly advised against it, telling them that we could find water elsewhere, but they rebelled. They would not trust God! I sadly watched as my brothers openly rebelled against God who took us out of Egypt. A few weeks later, when the food ran out, even I complained a bit.

 How would we survive? I wondered. We could find other water springs in the desert, but food was impossible to find. We didn’t see any animals in the desert, and nothing grew. I was wrong, though. God rained down mann, the greatest food ever to behold us. Holy food, sent straight down from heaven. Dew fell, and then the mann, and then more dew covered it. It was like it was in a package from heaven. It tasted like whatever we wished it to. It could be cold, hot, dairy, meat, fruits, vegetables… We were always sure that God would provide for us. I guess you want me to tell you what my mann tasted like, huh? Well, I shall. My mann tasted like fish. Fish with lemon juice on it for extra flavoring.

Journal 14- Respect before Torah?

דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה – Derech Eretz Precedes Torah. What could this phrase mean? The Talmud and Midrash say that derech eretz (literal translation: way of the land) has over 200 interpratations, some of them being respectful, decent, polite, thoughtful, and using civilized behavior. Why is doing this more important than Torah? Well, a great Sage once said that “Love your fellow as yourself” is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary. Derech Eretz is about respecting yourself and others.

This means to me that we should always go out of our way to respect others and be good people. We, as Jews, are role models for the Jewish people. If we do something wrong, a person might think, “All Jews are like that.” Then, the world will hate us. It’s possible that’s why the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust all happened. A Jew might’ve offended Pharaoh, so he decided to throw all of the Jewish boys into the Nile. A Jew could’ve insulted Hadrian and that’s why he slaughtered us. A Jew possibly said Pope Urban II had a funny hat and a Muslim said he should wear a green robe, so he instigated the Crusades.

I believe that we should all follow this verse by putting other people before ourselves. For example, if you are reading a book you might eat around it, but if you’re borrowing it then you don’t eat around it. You should be respectful to others and be a role model. I do this by doing little things like offering to let people talk first, or giving them things. I also volunteer to do little errands. I could do better by not being disrespectful and rude to others, and being quiet. As a school, we could continue with the Community of Kindness program and actually educate us on what is right and wrong, actually teaching us what that means. We should be doing that at least once a week, for an hour or so. I am sure that we would have positive results from that experience.

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A Short Video, A Simple (but important) Concept

This week, in Hebrew class, we watched a news video from Israel about Muslims who work in a grocery store in London, England. The problem was that Muslims are prohibited from drinking, owning, or, for the very observant, even touching alcohol. When a British person once tried to check out alcohol, the Muslim cashier politely asked the customer to go to another register. The customer got very upset and started yelling at the cashier. Eventually, it was settled and the supermarket apologized to both cashier and customer.

In school, we have been learning about a concept called Think Win-Win. A Win-Win is where both people win in an arguement or conflict. For example, a person recieves a candy bar and then another person wants it. If the first person gives the candy bar to the other person, it is a Lose-Win. If the first person keeps the candy bar, it is a Win-Lose. If they fight over it and the candy bar gets destroyed, it is a Lose-Lose. If they split the candy bar, it is a Win-Win. We were asked to define this cashier-customer conflict. I believe that it was a Win-Lose because the angry customer eventually got their drink and emotions repaired, while all the cashier got was an apology with no consideration for religion. I hope that this arguement will not happen again in the future.


Science- Page 14, Question 6

Combine your understanding of how Earth became spherical and observations of the Moon. Then form a hypothesis about the formation of the Moon.

Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago, like the rest of our solar system. It was formed by a nebula, a cloud of gas, ice, and dust. The nebula shrank and flattened into a disk, and it began to move in a circle. The center formed into the Sun. Then, with the remaining materials, Earth and the other planets formed. Earth became spherically shaped by gravity, powered by the heat being produced by the interior, pulling in the lumps or Earth’s surface. People used to observe Earth’s shadow on the Moon to find Earth’s true shape. I believe that the Moon was formed when some leftover particles from Earth’s early years and the nebula tried to became part of Earth, but were shot back by something. Then, they formed together to become the Moon.

Press Release

Students at local Jewish day school work together with gaming company Jewish Interactive, make game about holiday

     Jacksonville, FL-Students at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, FL have taken their learning to a new level; they have been having two classes a week to develop an app to teach others about the Jewish holiday of Purim. The game, being made with the help of Jewish Interactive, involves easy games such as puzzles to help the clueless learn about Purim, a Jewish holiday.

Purim is a holiday that celebrates Queen Esther of Persia and her cousin Mordecai (both the Jewish prophets of their time) saving the Jews from the evil Haman.

The 7th grade’s subject has been about the custom of masquerading. Masquerading is associated with Purim because Queen Esther hid her Jewish identity from her husband, King Ahasuerus of Persia.

First, the students divided into two groups, and then each group made a mini-game. The first group’s game, with the Project Manager being Rachel L, 12, has made a puzzle game called Mask Mayhem. In it, you have to put together the masks of Purim characters.

The second group, leaded by Project Manager Casey B, 13, has made a game titled Whack-a-Haman. In it, the player has to hit the Haman figures, but avoid hitting the other objects . Haman is the main antagonist of the Purim story.

Those two groups are competing against each other, because Jewish Interactive, the company they’re collaborating with, can only animate one game.

At first, the game was supposed to be a Hanukkah game, but was changed to Purim due to a short time frame.

The game is scheduled to be released in January-February 2014. For more information, contact Shana Gutterman at She has also made a blog about the game, Look at that project to see interviews from some of the students and checklists that they had to follow.

6961659235_764c46946d_sHamantaschen, a common Purim treat.

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November Chai Reading- The Cross by Day, the Mezuzzah by Night

For this month’s Chai Reading, our whole class read the book The Cross by Day, the Mezuzzah by Night, by Deborah Spector Siegel. We had five choices for a Chai Reading project. I chose number 3, Character Traits. In that, we are supposed to take a main character from the book and compare him/her to us, using a Venn Diagram. I chose the character Papa, Isabel’s (the main character) father.




Now, to start out with Papa. Papa is Isabel’s father. He is the father of three, and the Royal Tax Collector of Seville. He is the leader of the family, and the one with all of the great ideas. He is a Maranno, and keeps his Judaism a secret. However, this does not deter him from practicing it in the cellar. He is also very smart and wise. He comes from Seville, Spain. He mostly teaches others, although he can occasionally learn. He shows much concern for people, especially for his fellow Marannos. He helps them sneak out of Spain.

Next, for me. I am a son, and a brother of three. I come from Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America. I am a student of Duval County. I am also smart, but not wise. I am a free Jew, and can practice my Judaism openly. I am lucky enough to have freedom. I mostly learn from others. I can also be stubborn and not listen.

Finally, our similarities. We both care about Judaism. We’re both smart and leaders. We aren’t afraid of our enemies. We both have a strong belief in God. We both help others, and are willing to sacrifice all for our family and friends.

The book was average, in my opinion. The plot was very slow, and the ending was left open, like the author didn’t have enough time to finish writing. The plot itself, I would give four stars. The ending would recieve two, and the book in general three stars. I would reccommend it for ages 9 and up. However, you might need to look in the glossary at time for there is many Spanish words in the book.