Politicon at the Barrack Hebrew Academy

barrackThe eighth quadrennial Politicon afforded Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy students a unique opportunity to shape and challenge their views on key issues impacting the 2016 U.S. Presidential Primaries. Politicon is a bipartisan political conference involving not just students and teachers, but also members of the local political establishment. The day included workshops, a keynote address and a mock election.

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Representing the Republican Party candidates are (from left); Tali Glickman, senior as Carly Fiorina; sophomore Mati Zeff as Ben Carson; Aaron Bernstein, senior, as Donald Trump; Ben Rothstein, sophomore, as Ted Cruz; Michael Montague, senior, as Jeb Bush and Elliot Bernstein, senior, as Marco Rubio.

Mock election have been held since 1988 at Barrack (then known as the Akiba Hebrew Academy), when history teacher Sharon Levin brought the tradition she had begun with her from a previous school. As has been the case with the elections, including 2008 and 2012, the school always represents the party out of Presidential power.

This year the school held a mock Republican Primary. Students playing Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush campaigned, held a debate a week prior to the event, and then gave their stump speeches at the end of Politicon.

The entire student body then voted. The results of the mock election were as follows:

  • Marco Rubio, 196 votes (Winner), played by JBHA senior, Elliot Bernstein,
  • Jeb Bush, 90 votes, played by JBHA senior, Michael Montague,
  • Donald Trump, 40 votes, played by JBHA senior, Aaron Bernstein,
  • Ben Carson, 15 votes, played by JBHA sophomore Mati Zeff,
  • Ted Cruz, 10 votes, played by JBHA sophomore Ben Rothstein,
  • Carly Fiorina, 1 vote by JBHA senior Tali Glickman, and
  • 7 write-in votes for other candidates

“The whole idea is to make students aware and active citizens, which at a school like Barrack is part of its mission statement,” explains Mrs. Levin. She sees this type of “experimental learning” as the perfect vehicle to involve the student body and, for some, to act as an initiation into futures of political activism.

Via workshops, students developed and challenged their views on: the death penalty; gun control legislation; discrimination in the workplace; immigration; the upcoming U.S. presidential election; and the media’s role in politics.

The keynote address was given by Republican Congressman Patrick Meehan (PA-7) who represents the school’s district in Congress.

Politicon Group Photo
From left to right:
Front row: Marcel Groen, Chairman, PA Democratic Party and Judge Risa Vetri Ferman, former Montgomery County District Attorney.
Middle row: Robert J. DeSousa, State Director for Senator Pat Toomey and his assistant, District Attorney Mark Bookman; Rena Shapiro, representing BuzzFeed; Sharon P. Levin, JBHA Head of School; Andrea Johnson; Dveera Segal, Professor of Law & Director of the Civil Justice Clinic, Villanova University; Ron Eisenberg, Deputy District Attorney of Philadelphia; Michele S. Levin, President, JBHA Board of Directors; and Jennifer Groen, Director of Admission & Strategic Engagement of JBHA.
Back row: Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro; Chester County Republican Party Commissioner Val DiGiorgio; Gary Kaplan, a market researcher; Bradley Bridge, Assistant Defender, Defender Association of Philadelphia; and United States Congressman Patrick Meehan.

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