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2005 blog


Students who want more homework?  What gives?

                                                            San Diego Jewish Times, September 8, 2005

By Donald H. Harrison

A Jewish organization is recruiting busy high school students to take more classes, spend weekends doing more homework, and not only pay a $150 fee to enter this program, but join with their parents in signing a contract that they will complete all the work and be diligent about it.   Think anyone is interested?

You bet they are. Tina Malka, associate director of the regional office of the Anti-Defamation League. says more than 80 students have requested applications for approximately 50 spots in ADL’s manhigim (or “leaders”) program, and others may still request them via her email ( through Friday, Sept. 9

Morris Casuto, ADL’s regional director, said given the need to serve as many Jewish students as possible, tightening the time frame of the program is under consideration so that there can be two classes per year.

For the present, however, the program beginning Sept. 15 will stretch to the end of the school term in May or June, depending on the high school.  Justine Goldberg, a high school senior who went through the program two years ago and now is the student president at Torrey Pines High School, will serve as one of 13 mentors to the incoming manhigim class.  Her twin brother, Jarrod, is another mentor, and yet another is Sarah Kaplan, who is a UCSD senior this year and an alumna of the program. Guily Hanono, a graduate of the ADL’s Steinberg-Glass Leadership Program, heads the parents’ steering committee.

Goldberg recalled that when she participated in the program, she was matched with three other students who—in addition to attending once monthly lectures at the Lawrence Family Jewish community Center—met every weekend during the school term to develop a project on the constitutional issue of “Separation of Church and State.”  Other groups of four chose different topics affecting the Jewish community such as anti-Semitism, hate on the internet, Israel and the Arabs, and so forth.

Besides researching different aspects of the Separation of Church and State issue, the students developed a power point presentation and filmed a video about citizen’s understanding of the First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of a religion.  People who enjoy watching The Tonight Show with Jay Leno immediately will think of the “Jay Walking” segment in which citizens try to answer Leno’s questions and end up demonstrating how little they really know about current events.

Goldberg said she and her fellow students went to shopping centers, where they obtained permission from their subjects to film unrehearsed interviews.  They asked their subjects to recite “The Pledge of Allegiance”—which, she revealed, only one in ten could say correctly.  Next, the subjects were asked to explain what the Separation of Church and State was.  She recalled that many people thought the issue centered on internal church issues.

With their power point presentation and video, Goldberg and her three team members—Natan Fisher of Rancho Bernardo High School, and Kevin Goldberg (no relation) and Greg Gaylis (a cousin) of Patrick Henry High School—went to such venues as a Hillel meeting at UCSD and classes at Torrey Pines, Rancho Bernardo and Hebrew high schools to explain the constitutional issue. 

They also led some role-playing exercises in which the college and high school students imagined themselves in various church-state scenarios. For example, one group was told to imagine that there was one Jewish player on a football team whose coach was requiring them to pray in a circle before each game. What should they do about it?  Goldberg said her own answer to that question is that the players should tell the coach that the law considers it coercive for any faculty member to participate in student prayer. Unless the prayer is completely student-led and initiated, it is an unconstitutional practice.

Casuto said it is not only because a “certificate of completion” of the manhigim program looks good on a college application that the Jewish students are competing for the spots.  Another attraction of the program is that rather than trying to simply stuff more information into the students’ heads, mentors and ADL staff work with them on techniques for researching questions, presenting arguments, defending those arguments and appearing before groups.

According to the Casuto, these skills will be helpful for students seeking to build their careers as well as for those who want to counter anti-Semitism and Christian proselytizing, both of which reportedly run rampant on some college campuses. Casuto credited former ADL Regional Chairman Rick Barton for suggesting that ADL develop a program to prepare high school students for the transition to the some-times hostile college campus.  Malka wrote the program, which is now in its sixth year.