Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway High School students exhibited their school spirit as they cheered on the HAFTR boys’ varsity basketball team at the Scott Satran Memorial Tournament on Jan. 5. While the new year brings the first academic semester to a close with students preparing for midterm exams, students look forward to the end of the month of January when they will enjoy a well-deserved winter break.
On the weekend of Dec. 28 to 30, HAFTR High girls took part in a schoolwide shabbaton. On Friday, the girls went ice skating at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Conn. The students stayed at the Hilton Hotel in Stamford, where they had a Friday night Shabbat dinner as their fellow students delivered thoughtful words of Torah. The girls also had the privilege of hearing Jackie Bitton, an incredible speaker, who gave a very inspirational speech about the power of being happy. The theme of the shabbaton was Hakarat Hatov (gratitude), and the girls spent a beautiful Shabbat day together, enjoying meals and special sessions with faculty.
On Saturday night, students were treated to food and snacks, as well as to a live DJ. The highlight was the opportunity to socialize and make new friends. Shelly Koppel, a HAFTR junior, said, “My favorite part about the shabbaton was hanging out with all the girls from all grades, laughing and telling stories all night. I definitely feel much closer with everyone in the school because of it.” It was a huge hit and a lot of fun for the students.
HAFTR hosted its annual Scott Satran Memorial Tournament, Jan. 3 to 6. The basketball competition honors the memory of Satran, a former HAFTR student and athlete. Diagnosed with cancer when in high school, he died in 1987 at 20.
Ten of the top Yeshiva League basketball teams from the tri-state area traveled to HAFTR to play in the high-level basketball tournament, while also taking part in a weekend that included Shabbat meals and socializing that helped allowed the student-athletes to bond and connect with peers from other schools.
After going 3-0 in the preliminary games, the HAFTR Hawks found themselves as the No. 3 seed out of six playoff teams. HAFTR dominated the Heschel Heat in a quarterfinal matchup. That set up a semifinal game with rivals, the Magen David Warriors, the league’s defending champions. HAFTR’s other obstacle was the loss of two key players.
The Hawks were not discouraged. The teams battled it out in front of a packed house at the Hawks Nest. It was a tight equally contested game, but HAFTR fell a bit short and lost 53-50. Magen David captured the tournament title defeating the Rambam Ravens. HAFTR athletes Dovi Baratz, Ben Kornblum and Gabe Shamama were recognized for their excellent play. The tournament was a great success. All the teams expressed their gratitude for the hospitality shown to them from HAFTR’s community, as the tournament’s competitive spirit and the theme of “friendship and camaraderie” was felt by all.
After the fun of the shabbaton and the hoops tournament ended, students refocused on academics as they prepare for the midterm exams in various Advanced Placement, Regents and Judaic studies classes. HAFTR helps students in meeting the challenge of a full schedule of midterm exams by arranging for study days and offering review sessions to help students prepare.
After the last exam is administered, students will be rewarded with a much needed and well deserved winter vacation. As this break marks the halfway point of the school year, HAFTR students can reflect on the first semester and make any necessary adjustments in the second semester. Upon returning from break, students are sure to hit the ground running as they are keenly aware that it will be only a few months until they find themselves faced with finals, Regents, and AP exams.