|In the front row, from left, are Gavi Dov Hochsztein, Danny Shlian, Benjy Koslow, Aryeh Krischer, Ari Innes, Shua Katz, and Leaad Staller. In the back row, from left, are Ann Shinnar, associate professor of chemistry at LCM; Moshe Sokol, dean of LCM; Judy Oppenheim, associate director, day schools and yeshivot, JEP; Rabbi Martin Schloss, director of the JEP’s Division of Day School Education and a visiting professor at Touro College; J.J. Rosenberg; Aaron Haber; Adam Weisel; Yakir Forman; Joel M. Berman (with trophy), chair of the science department, TABC; Hillel Hochsztein; Isaac Shulman; instructor Judy Hochsztein; and Dan Friedman. Triple S Studios|
Students from Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck won first place in last month’s Yeshiva Science Olympiad, part of a national science competition designed to test students’ abilities in science, technology, and engineering. This is the second year in a row that TABC came in first in its division.
Because it measures not just classroom aptitude but applied knowledge, the day-long competition includes tasks like building model electronic cars and towers as well as traditional paper and pencil tests.
“If you like to compete it’s good for you, because you can use your academic smarts and whatever you are best at, and you can find your place to shine,” said TABC senior and winning team co-captain Gavi Dov Hochsztein, 18.
Co-captain Yakir Forman, 17 and a TABC senior, added, “It was a lot of fun – pretty informative. It’s a good team-building exercise too.”
Eleven teams competed in this division, which was created for yeshiva high school students in 2003 because the National Science Olympiad, the nationwide competition of which this contest is a part, typically schedules its events on Saturdays. Observant Jewish students could not participate.
Then Linda Padwa, a former high school science teacher, teamed up with Judy Oppenheim of the Jewish Education Project and approached the national organization to start a yeshiva division to meet on Sundays. (Because her grandchildren are Orthodox, Padwa wanted to make sure they would be eligible to compete.)
With the JEP’s sponsorship, the yeshiva division has been operating for nearly a decade.
Any Jewish day school can enter a team of 15 students in grades nine through 12, with a maximum of seven 12th-graders, the rest underclassmen. Teams come with two coaches, usually their science teachers. Teams spend weeks preparing for the competition, which took place this year on March 6.
For the first time this year, Touro College’s Lander College for Men hosted and co-sponsored the project with the JEP.
Students are told in advance what the competition will consist of and they have several weeks to prepare, according to Joel Berman, a physics and chemistry teacher at TABC and the winning team’s coach.
Berman stressed his team’s independent work ethic.
“I leave them alone in the lab and say, ‘You conquer these problems on your own…. If you have problems I am always available,'” said Berman. He added, “These guys like to develop the muscles between their ears.”