Color War 2014: Blue wins close contest; confusion makes breakout a surprise after all

TOSS: Pairs from the Red Team and the Blue Team line up to toss balloons at Rancho Park. Though it was a close victory, the Red Team brought back the points.

By Jonah Kaye, 9th Grade

The Blue Team won Color War last Thursday 7119 to 6957, even though Red Team won some of the major categories in the annual all-day contest held partly on campus and partly at Rancho Park.

Led by captains Kaili Finn and Yarden Harel, Blue won most of the sporting events, the skit, the dance competition and the first-ever Bracha Bee, while Red won the Bannercompetitions, both presented to the whole school at the closing ceremonies.

Red also won the academic Trivia Contest, along with the competition for best song and the boys soccer game.  Red captains were Josh Einalhori and Becca Elyasi.

Planned as always by the Student Activities Committee (SAC) and its coach, Mrs. Raizie Weissman, the annual festivities broke out by surprise on Wednesday afternoon and ended at the close of school the next day.  Students were divided into two teams and competed in a wide gamut of contests and challenges.

“It wasn’t such an overwhelming victory on either side, but I felt like we were very cohesive and efficient,” said junior Adam Kaufler, one of the Blue Team’s 11th grade “generals,” or assistant captains.  “If we were in a meeting and the captains said something, everyone was on it right away.

“We were all working together,” he added. “There was a lot of cooperation so I think that really helped us.  Also I think everyone really enjoyed it. It gets competitive when you’re in the games, but we’re all friends outside of it so I think everyone had a lot of fun.”

Color War breakout is supposed to be a surprise, but after two years of controversy this year’s was mostly confusing.  Rumors had circulated that it was imminent, fueled partly by the faculty’s new grade-level Test Calendar, designed to prevent too many tests in one week and displayed on a whiteboard in the teacher’s break room. The room is open during the day, and the calendar showed Thursday and Friday crossed out, without explanation.

That made SAC’s job Wednesday, Feb. 12, harder than usual – and complicated by the fact that SAC had put forth many ideas for breakout that were not allowed by the administration.

In past years, breakouts have been controversial.  Two years ago SAC announced fake drug testing and last year they brought in a supposed anti-Israel speaker – actually an Israeli — who got into a loud and public argument with a senior at an all-school assembly.

This year, the problem was just confusion.

“Our breakout definitely didn’t go as planned,” said Tamar Willis, one of SAC’s co-chairs.  “We had a bunch of ideas but we half-executed all of them and they didn’t come together.  Also, Rabbi Segal kind of veered off the script of what he was supposed to say in order to break it out.”

During afternoon classes on Wednesday, the fire alarm went off. Most students thought this was a fake fire drill and that breakout was imminent.  However, Tamar said that SAC had no previous knowledge of the fire drill, that it was not part of Color War, and was rather just an oddly timed occurrence.

Planned or not, it added to students’ sense that the annual day-long contest was about to start.

Then, immediately after Mincha, senior Liat Menna announced that seniors would be selling “un-Valentine’s Day” donuts in order to fundraise for their Poland-Israel trip.

“Rabbi Segal and Liat Menna were supposed to argue and get really heated about whether we can sell things that have to do with Valentine’s Day at school,” said SAC’s other co-chair, senior Jennie Drazin.  “Instead Rabbi Segal cut it short and no one really knew what to do.”

After Liat’s announcement, students walked out of Mincha into the foyer where senior Liat Bainvoll, who was not informed it was breakout, began giving out the red and blue donuts, which had been ordered to give to the teams once Color War had broken out. Though the donuts were already being distributed, no one knew it was Color War until Raizie, Tamar, and Jennie ran into the crowd, cheering and announcing Color War had begun.

“The whole year, students have been anticipating Color War and no breakout would have really surprised them, which is why it was so difficult to plan and execute one well,” said Tamar Willis.  “It actually worked out really nicely in the end because the one time it really was Color War, students didn’t know whether to believe us or not.”

Rabbi Segal himself acknowledged his role in a Schoology message sent after school on Wednesday.

“Happy Color War!” Rabbi Segal wrote.  “Sorry for the somewhat awkward break-out.”

Once it started though, Color War proceeded as usual with the whole student body divided into teams, which SAC had pre-determined.  Then students signed up for the various activities planned for Thursday.

For those who preferred the more intellectual side of Color War, there was trivia and the Bracha Bee. In trivia, math and science teacher Mr. Christopher Buckley and music and journalism teacher Mrs. Joelle Keene asked questions about science, history, politics, geography, math, Torah, music, sports and popular culture. Questions were first asked to individual students and later to the two teams as groups. In the end, the Red Team prevailed, with a score of 15 to 11.5.

The Bracha Bee, a new addition to Color War, involved students being asked which brachot (blessings) should be said on different foods. Finals were held in front of the whole school in the Beit Midrash at the beginning of closing ceremonies.

Freshmen Nicole Soussana and Ephraim Drucker of the Blue Team faced off against sophomore Daniel Soroudi and freshman Jacob Sobel of the Red Team. Both competitors for the Red Team were eliminated and Blue came out on top in this event.

Also in the Beit Midrash during Closing Ceremonies, the much-anticipated skit competition left students and teachers spasmed with laughter. Both teams highlighted aspects of Shalhevet that have been points of recent controversy and-or mocking, such as the ever-delayed construction, women and tefillin controversy, and Princeton Model Congress fight club.

Students on both teams impersonated various members of the Shalhevet community in their skits. The Blue Team, who won the skit, highlighted among other things, an exaggerated version of Rabbi Segal’s excited nature that left students jolting with laughter.

Impersonating Rabbi Segal, senior Paul Merritt exclaimed, “Shalhevet is the best!  Awesomest!  Fantasticalest!” and later froze with confusion when a prospective student, played by freshman Bennett Schneier, told him that the tefillin he was carrying belonged to his sister.

At Rancho Park, sports activities mirrored the intensity of real Firehawk games. In boys basketball, following a last-second shot by sophomore Elon Glouberman of the Red Team, the game was sent to overtime at 47 – 47. Red emerged with an overtime victory, with a final score of 57 – 52. Then the girls took the court, and Blue took the win.

In girls’ soccer, Blue won, though the final score is unclear. Definitely securing one goal, the Blue Team’s second goal was controversial. In boys’ soccer, the Red Team shut out the Blue Team in a thrashing 6 – 0 win.

Despite losing, Red Team co-captain Becca Elyasi still thinks everyone had a great time.

“It was really fun being captain and leading a group of people, but I felt like I kind of let them down because we lost,” Becca said.  “We all had fun and really enjoyed it.  It was still a good experience.”

Here is a list of which team won which categories in the 2014 Color War.

Flag Football: Blue 28 – 21

Fear Factor: Blue won all 5

Banner: Red

Song: Red

Trivia: Red

Bracha Bee: Blue

Dance: Blue

Girls Basketball: Blue

Boys basketball: Red

Girls soccer: Blue

Boys soccer: Red

Related: VIDEO: Color War 2014

This story won 2014 Multimedia News Story of the Year, Honorable Mention, given by the National Scholastic Press Association.