Local schools strut their stuff on cable TV

Local schools strut their stuff on cable TV

MSG Varsity spotlights student activities

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.”

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.”

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