War of the words: The CJN Daily goes inside Toronto’s Jewish day school debate tournament

Chaya Felig, (left) and Daniel Rotenberg, won the 2023 Jewish Day Schools debating championship held in Toronto on March 21, 2023. They attend Associated Hebrew Day Schools. (Zac Kauffman photo)

It may be a tired joke that Jews make great lawyers, but there is some truth to it. And that truth begins at events like the annual Jewish Day School Debate Tournament, which drew dozens of middle school debaters on March 21, 2023.

Grades 6-8 students from Heschel, Netivot, Bialik South, Bialik North and Associated competed in a long-overdue war of words—the ninth time the competition was held, but the first since their pandemic-induced hiatus. The lead organizer, Netivot teacher Eli Savage, feels that the focus on in-person communication is critical for young minds in a post-pandemic world, where basic skills like eye contact, active listening and logic can easily get lost in Zoom calls and text messages.

The CJN Daily‘s producer, Zac Kauffman, visited the tournament held at the Heschel campus to hear the students’ side of the story. Now with the school year coming to an end, we bring you his special mini-documentary report about how old school debating may be the remedy to three years of lockdowns, remote learning and social distancing.

Related reading

  • How Jewish day schools are handling the Pride issue, by Phoebe Maltz Bovy in The CJN
  • When Jewish day schools shut down in March 2020, in The CJN
  • Did Jewish day school help or hurt Ilana Zackon, in The CJN


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. Support the show by subscribing to this podcast or donating to The CJN.