HAFTR Highlights

Getting ready for ‘The Challenge’


Some of my schoolmates and I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Cablevision television show called “The Challenge,” hosted by Jared Cotter, a former contestant on “American Idol.” This show pits more than 100 schools from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut against each other in a Jeopardy-style competition. The winner of each game moves on to the next round of competition until a final winner is declared.

The opportunity came about at the end of the last school year. My co-captains and I were informed last spring that Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) High School had a chance of being selected, but we weren’t going to know until June. In the middle of finals/Regents week, the co-captains were called down to the College Guidance office, and our coach, Karen Wolf, gave us the good news: HAFTR was chosen to be on the show for the first time in two years! We were all excited about this announcement — who wouldn’t want to have the chance to be on television? It made the end of the year even better for me, and I started to look forward to the upcoming school year.

After signing contracts, submitting profiles, having our initial date of filming changed due to Hurricane Sandy along with the school we were playing against being changed, we finally went to tape our episode against Calhoun High School on Nov. 19. Playing for the HAFTR team were: captain Avery Feit, Matthew Goldstein, Jake Kaufman, alternates Ben Dubow, Austin Feit and me. Along with the rest of the College Bowl team (jayvee and varsity), family members, fans, Susan. Szaluta, Shani Dayan, and our personal mascot —the HAFTR Hawk — (Jaimee Schwartz), we traveled to the Manhattan studio in which the Challenge is taped.

Although the venue appeared large when I watched the show on television, it was amazing to me to see that the set was actually quite small. There was a panel with all of the students’ names and microphones to which we were hooked up. One of the more hilarious moments for me was the issue of my height. I usually stand at 5-foot-3, and according to television standards (or at least MSG Varsity’s standards), that is too short. So I had to stand on a four-inch box to give the appearance that I am taller than I really am, which amused everyone. It made for an interesting moment.

Our team was asked a variety of questions on topics including math, science, history, pop culture, and literature. HAFTR team spirit was high and the excitement of being on a television show was exhilarating.

Next column: Details about HAFTR’s performance.