Thursday, June 01, 2023

It might seem unusual, but I don’t really remember my first full day of high school. Actually, let me refine that statement—I remember it, but not as anything unique; nothing really stood out. But before I recount what I remember about my first full day, let me backtrack to the beginning of my TABC experience, to when I was still in eighth grade.

Like most of my RYNJ classmates, I went to the TABC open house on a Sunday morning in early November, and was impressed. The speaker, Zvi Kaminetsky (`15), spoke very well, the sessions were informative and the students seemed friendly enough, but I was still far from making a decision regarding where to attend school for the next four years of my life. So, not taking the decision lightly, my parents and I did our research; we sat in on classes, and talked to current students and their parents. On my own, I went to Late Night Learning, an exciting hockey game or two, and some other events that were open to prospective 8th graders. So, citing their dynamic rebbeim and interactive classroom environment as my main reasons, I chose TABC.

My journey continued on August 28, 2013, my first half-day of high school. See, due to delays in the completion of the new TABC building, my first high school experience took place in Congregation Rinat Yisrael, where, along with the other freshmen and sophomores, we davened and learned Judaic studies until about 12:30, when we all went home.

This went on for a few days until finally the building was ready and I experienced my first full day of high school—which for some reason didn’t stand out to me. There was nothing special about that day. Sure, there were a dozen rebbeim greeting all the students, returning and new, in their classes and not, with huge smiles, firm handshakes and many a “How was your summer?” Of course I remember the opening day donuts and the tangible excitement that filled the newly renovated building, but it didn’t stand out. It wasn’t unique or special—it was normal.

My first full day wasn’t a pull-all-the-stops stunt; rather, it was a microcosm of my TABC experience. I felt the excitement and camaraderie in some way or another on a daily basis. I’ll give an example.

It was the first hockey playoff game of freshman year, and the old gym was packed far past the legal capacity. I, while not on the hockey team, had learned as early as the year before that being a fan at a TABC hockey game (even away games) was probably even more fun than playing anyway. Being completely honest, I don’t think I’ve been in a louder, more charged environment in my entire life than at a TABC home playoff hockey game. I vividly remember that at that particular game, I couldn’t see the action all too well because I was standing behind at least three rows of students across all four grades. Anyway, after one particularly nice goal, as customary, the entire student section went nuts—people jumping with no regard for the feet of those behind them, a goal-bell that some student brought in ringing; it was a beautiful moment of utter mayhem. And in that moment, I, being a somewhat shy kid at the time, spontaneously gave a huge high-five to a senior I barely knew followed by a loud “LET’S GO!” from the two of us. It was at that moment that I fully understood what it meant to be a student at TABC.

Flash forward three years and it’s moments like those, moments outside of the classroom, that I’ll remember most. My grade’s Philadelphia trip at the end of sophomore year, on which I had the most memorable scavenger hunt of my life. A pre-Pesach “Late Night Learning” with a special appearance from the legendary Eitan Katz (twice). Writing theme songs and winning color war this year after coming in dead last as juniors. Annual Shavuos all-night studying marathons with my chavrusa for impending Gemara finals.

And sure, not all of my experiences were positive. I had a rough transition from middle to high school academically, as I was posed with the daunting task of having to study for more than 10 minutes for any given test. I was on the basketball team for four years but only rarely saw the court. Not all my teachers and classes were as engaging or memorable as I had hoped. And of course, I’ll take these experiences and grow from them and try to learn from whatever lessons they are trying to teach me, but in 10 years the first thing that comes to mind when I recall my TABC experience won’t be the hardships, but instead the far superior positive moments.

Something that I didn’t understand coming in is that there’s so much more to a high school experience than sheer academics, and I am eternally grateful to TABC for providing me the opportunity to spend four years in a memorable environment where school goes beyond the classroom, into gyms with 150 student fans, to rebbeim’s houses for shabbos lunch and to a packed beit midrash on leil Shavuot.

So, when I think back and try to remember my first full day, I don’t recall how special it was because it wasn’t. I’ve been blessed to endure a high school career full of moments proving that special is the new norm, and when I toss my cap into the air on June 12, I’ll be thinking about how awesomely normal the past four years were.

By Meir Jacobs

 Meir Jacobs, a Teaneck resident, is a senior at TABC and a business intern at The Jewish Link. He will iy”h be attending Yeshivat HaKotel next year, followed by Yeshiva University.


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