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The Adventures of an English teacher in the Colegio Colombo Hebreo of Bogota!
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How is Debbie?

Then there was Jenny Nessim, also from the Class of ’87, who wasn’t very interested in studying, but she DID think that I needed to have a girlfriend.  So I invented one:  Debbie.  Every time Jenny saw me she would ask me, “How’s Debbie?”  “Just fine,” I would answer.  So what was the surprise when on the final exam for her class, I put the question: “What color are Debbie’s eyes?”   Everybody started asking: “Who’s Debbie?  Who’s Debbie?”   Jenny was the only one who knew.  And she wasn’t telling!


The students developed remarkable methods for copying answers on the multiple-choice exams. More than once I heard the expression, “Ave Maria, dame punteria!” Of course, the lazier students sat behind the smart ones, the nerds… and paid close attention to the number of fingers on the ears, the tapping of pencils etc.  The challenge was to catch the students, which I did occasionally.  Some of the girls wrote the answers on their legs just under their skirts, skirts that were not that long to start with.  Marlene Volowitz, (en paz descanse), however, decided to prepare a “soplete”, which she hid inside her desk opening. It was very neat, with tiny print.   I caught her!  And I took the soplete, which I still have unto this present day. (Just have to find it).

Cheating. Excuse me.  I mean “copying”. Sometimes we have to be politically correct.  Copying became so well-tuned, that final exams had to be given in the Multi-Purpose Room with ample space between desks.   Sometimes they were even given in the new gymnasium!  Now THAT was a sight to behold.  A dozen teachers watching a hundred students who all had talents in secret communication!

Games.  It was sometimes necessary to find games to play in class to keep the interest at a maximum level.  But the kids already knew what to play:  CABEZA Y COLA!  Heads and Tail.

Among the stars were Salo Sasson, Sandra Leventhal, Eduardo Ratner, Victor Leff.

How do you say Niña in English?

David Freyle: “Girdle”!  David!! Cola! Go to the Tail!

The best games though, were during Semana Cultural.

We had a very specific English competition with Boggle, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.  The competition was fierce, especially because the students were divided into colors.


Semana Cultural in the 80’s was the best.  There was quality, excellence, real competition, along with Israeli dances, modern dances, theater, entrances in the big Plaza.  Red was a winner.  Yellow.  Blue.  Green.  What was your color?

Good competition!   Shushu Camila Simjon worked with the musicals… and they were spectacular!  Camila would always ask me about my wife and kids, how they were doing. "Just fine," I smiled. Maybe she had heard about Debbie.

There were also science fairs.  High quality.  Ivan Fisher was one the geniuses who came up with a brilliant experiment.  I don’t remember the details, but I am sure he was Yellow.  Ivan’s competition was Marcel Scholem, but I don’t remember Marcel’s color.  No bullying right?

Jewish Engineering

Some of the students started their own little businesses selling pizza.  So when I asked them what they were going to study in the university, they would say, “Jewish Engineering”!  Jewish engineering? I exclaimed!  What’s that? “Business!”they told me.  Some how my students managed to learn English even if they didn’t study.  But they never succeeded in teaching their English teacher, me, business.  You can’t force a square into a round hole.