Wednesday, April 01, 2020

“Alexander was on his way out of the room when he heard the distinctive tick-tock of the clock. He scurried to the other side of the den, passing the fading, dark leather love seats and burgundy armchair. He inspected the remaining gears; they were dented and still.” Seela Langer, eighth grader at Yavneh Academy, pauses and looks at her audience, a group of forty middle school students from Yavneh Academy. The group was gathered at the Teaneck General Store for an open mike celebration of their recent publication of “Imagine: The Yavneh Academy Book of Short Stories.”

The team of student writers and artists met weekly to work intensively on writing, illustrating, editing and laying out a 200-page collection containing 21 short stories, ranging in genres from historical fiction to fantasy, to action and adventure. Their work represents the creative expression of the student body.

And the diversity of the stories reflects the range of thoughts and emotions of its teen writers. The topics of the readings varied, from a scientist who organized the building of a major fort in order to save the human race, to a girl whose Jewish identity put her at risk as she and her friends and family endured World War III, to a mother who struggled during the Great Depression to maintain her family’s health.

“The most inspiring part of this process is the opportunity to take a break from school to find new ways to express yourself artistically and grow as a creative person,” said eighth grader Benny Edelman.

Participants in the program met weekly to present their writing in a workshop model. These discussions provided the writers with constructive criticism which they incorporated into their revisions. Once a final draft was complete, the piece was handed to an editor for careful review.

“I like being able to see through other people’s eyes when I’m reading their pieces,” remarked eighth grade editor Eliana Suldan.

Each writer was paired with an artist, and the two collaborated on brainstorming and creating art to represent the story.

Eighth grade artist Keren Farajun remarked, “I think of creative ways to use colors. I tend to like fantasy and incorporate that into my art.”

The students dedicated the book to Rav Aharon Lichtenstein. At the Teaneck General Store, the editors spoke about Rav Lichtenstein’s doctorate in English literature and the value of religious study combined with secular knowledge. “This book gives us a voice, the students of the Yavneh Academy middle school, so we may showcase our understanding of and connection to the world around us,” explained eighth grader Allison Gellerstein, as she and her fellow editors, Moshe Golubtchik and Eliana Suldan presented a copy of the book to Yavneh leaders Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, Head of School, Mrs. Barbara Rubin, Associate Principal of the Middle School and Ms. Pam Scheininger, President of Yavneh Academy.

“There is so much running through the mind of a seventh or eighth grader. Creative writing and art are opportunities for self expression,” said Nomi Schneck, faculty member and advisor of literary publications.

“Imagine” is available at the Teaneck General store and will be circulated at the Paramus Public Library and the Teaneck Public Library. To purchase a copy online, search for Yavneh Academy on Lulu.com.