In the Media

Meet Today’s Maccabees - Hebrew Day Grads

Before you imagine your favorite Super Hero or most woke Hollywood personality, let’s consider the original cast – the 2nd Century B.C.E. Maccabees.  How are they described?

Maccabees Version 1.0 are described as (1) weak, (2) few, (3) pure, (4) righteous, and (5) diligent in Torah study (see Chanukah prayer).  This compares them to the vanquished Greeks, who were strong, many, impure, tyrannical, and arrogant.

Hebrew Day – San Diego’s original Jewish day school founded in 1963, takes great pride in graduating 21st Century Maccabees, deeply proud Jewish leaders. For example, 2013 graduate, Tova Winick, was singled out in October by Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who tweeted out a photo of Tova saying “today, I was proud as she (Tova) stood by me as commander of the Iron Dome” defensive missile system, as Tova and General Gantz made a joint presentation to then U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. “You are a great example of Zionism,” Minister Gantz concluded.

Tova is a 21st Century Maccabee. She commands the Iron Dome, which protects Israelis who are vulnerable to the overwhelming enemies and their missiles, which are massed just beyond every border. The safety and security of her fellow citizens that is her cause, and her attachment to Israel and the Jewish people was formed during her years of study and growth at Hebrew Day School. 

At the time of her graduation, Tova said publicly that Hebrew Day taught her to “create my own path within the context of those who came before us.”

photo of Tova Winick

Another Maccabee is Ethan Gipsman, married with one child, attending the Technion’s American Medical School in Haifa.   Ethan graduated Hebrew Day in 2007. It was on his 8th grade Israel trip that a spark was ignited.  “We visited Gush Etzion, and I was very moved by the presentation of the fighters who blocked the advance of the Jordanians in defense of Jerusalem.”  Just two days prior to Israel’s Independence, on May 12, 1948 the settlement block fell before the overwhelming odds arrayed against them, and more than 30 fighters died when their bunker was blown up after surrendering.  

“Their heroism struck me, and I decided to serve in the Israel Defense Forces as a Lone Soldier.  My experience as a soldier showed me how meaningful it is to wake up each morning as a protector of the Jewish people.  When I chose medicine, I chose Aliyah because I wanted to train as a physician, in Israel, and find continuous meaning as a physician protecting the wellbeing of my fellow Jews.”

Ethan went still further.  In applying to Technion’s American Accredited Medical program, he seized the opportunity to add an innovative program in Jewish Medical Ethics and Halacha.  The first program of its kind, he applied and, following one additional year of training, will graduate as Rabbi Doctor. “The extra study enables me to be a healer for Israel steeped in Jewish Law.  I want my practice of medicine to be comprehensive.” 

When Ethan completes his training in 2023 he will receive SMICHA / Rabbinic Ordination together with him M.D.

photo of Ethan Gipsman

Yet another Hebrew Day grad changing Israeli society is Stuart Katz, (Hebrew Day Class of 1979).  Decades after moving to Israel and running an international travel company, Stuart now is devoted to addressing unmet mental health needs in Israel.  He founded Mental Health First Aid Israel, and works tirelessly to remove the stigma which prevents so many Israelis from seeking the care and treatment they need to live full lives.  He is also working with a Knesset Committee to create an effective national suicide prevention programs to address a so far unacknowledged health crisis.
photo of Stuart Katz

Chanukah begins on December 10th, and as the blessing states, we are mindful of the miracles then, and miracles taking place today.  “Teachers hope to inspire children to make the world better,” noted Hebrew Day’s Head of School, Rabbi Simcha Weiser.  “For two generations of children, Hebrew Day counts many heroes to celebrate.”

For enrollment information, or to arrange a virtual visit, write to or                        call 858-279-3300

When Giving is a Virtue
, San Diego Jewish World, by Donald H. Harrison

Yom Kippur a Chance for New Beginnings, Union Tribune, by Tatiana Sanchez

The Shepherd of Soille
- L'Chaim San Diego Magazine, by Eva Trieger

Creating Community Leaders One Service Hour at a Time, SD Jewish Journal, by Jackie Cohen