Hand-delivered, ‘Nitzotzei’ offers a weekly look at the parsha produced by students

SPARKS:  Sophomore Micah Gill, founder and editor of Nitzotzei Torah, hands out copies to juniors Jillian Einalhori and Shana Chriki Feb. 21.

Ezra Fax

SPARKS: Sophomore Micah Gill, founder and editor of Nitzotzei Torah, hands out copies to juniors Jillian Einalhori and Shana Chriki Feb. 21.

By Sigal Spitzer, Opinion Editor

Every Friday during breakfast, students hustle to the front door of the school and surround sophomore Micah Gill, who is handing out cream-colored sheets of paper.  It’s the weekly installment of Nitzotzei Torah — ‘Sparks of Torah,” Shalhevet’s new student-led dvar Torah publication, which provides weekly messages about the parshat hashavuah, or portion of the week. 

First released on Dec. 20. 2013, Nitotzei is organized, designed and produced entirely by sophomores Micah Gill and Gabe Silverstein, under the supervision of Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg.

Micah said he was always surprised that Shalhevet never had any sort of Torah publication, though seniors produced a journal called Zehut, a compilation of essays from Torah classes, was started by last years seniors toward the end of the school year.  A second edition is planned for this June.

But Micah wanted something that was distributed more often.  After extensive conversations with the Judaic studies faculty, he decided to start one himself.

“I think it is more or less a necessity for a yeshiva high school to have a consistent Torah publication,” claims Micah.  “There is never a better time to start than in the present.”

Each week, Rabbi Schwarzberg edits four articles to be published in Nitzotzei. Two students and one faculty member write a message on the parsha, either by quoting a commentary or coming up with an original idea. The fourth article is called “Spark of the Week,” a column written by either a student or faculty member on a current event or a Jewish holiday.

Sophomore Elon Glouberman wrote for the Feb. 1 publication, and explained some of the intricacies of the Mishkan (tabernacle) as found in Parshat Terumah. Elon said it was hard to find a meaningful message with the so much detail in the text, so he offered his own approach instead.

“Whether it’s doing a simple act of kibud av vaem [honoring one’s parents] or helping a friend with his homework, one should strive to achieve sincere altruism,” wrote Elon in his article, titled ”Within and Without,” in which he compared inner goodness to the gold inside the Mishkan’s Holy of Holies.  “We cannot perform a gracious act for the honor and merit, but must contain this ‘gold,’ as well, in our hearts.”

Rabbi David Stein, another Judaic Faculty member, wrote an article for the publication of Parshat Bo on Jan. 3. He explained the intense language and ambiguities the text used describing the final plague in Egypt.

“Growth, development, redemption and change do not happen on their own,” wrote Rabbi Stein. “They require input. They require sacrifice. They require bold acts of self identification and determination.”

Rabbi Schwarzberg believes Nitzotzei Torah reflects a greater passion within the students.

“I think that the student interest in Nitzotzei Torah reflects a relatively newfound love and genuine interest in Torah at Shalhevet,” Rabbi Schwarzberg said.

Rabbi Schwarzberg facilitated the project and helped Micah pursue other students. Micah recruited sophomore Gabriel Silverstein to oversee the technological wing of the paper, including weekly formatting and printing, and has found a lineup of writers who contribute to the paper each week.

The publication is distributed each week to area synagogues Bnai David-Judea, Young Israel of Century City, Temple Beth Am and Kehilat Yavneh.  It is also promoted t on Instagram and Facebook.

“It is a great way for the community to get a glimpse of what the Shalhevet Judaic Studies curriculum and torah education is all about,” said sophomore Jacob Dauer.

In December, the family of Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal donated a printer to help kick start the initiative.  Since then, however, a range of sponsors have been found.

Each week, a community family, teacher or student sponsors Nitzotzei Torah for $50.  Risa and Simcha Dauer, parents of sophomore Jacob Dauer, Rabbi Zvi Schindel, a teacher at Maimonides Academy, and the Shalhevet Judaic Studies faculty have all sponsored the publication.

“I think that publishing Nitzotzei Torah reflects really well on the school,” said senior Liat Bainvoll. “It truly demonstrates how dedicated shalhevet students are to their learning, be it in or out of the classroom.”

In an e-mail to the Shalhevet community, Rabbi Segal said the publication reflects students’ sense of mission.

“Our school prides itself on fostering and supporting a love of Torah within its students,” said Head of School Rabbi Segal, in an email to the community. “It is out of this belief and sense of mission that our students have decided to create a dvar Torah newsletter that will serve as an outlet for spreading Torah to the Los Angeles community. I am so proud of Micah Gill and Gabriel Silverstein for their vision and passion in bringing this initiative forward.”