The stories behind the team nicknames and mascots of Jewish high schools


Every high school with an athletics department has a nickname and a mascot for its teams. You see them represented on team jerseys, painted on courts and gym walls, and roaming the sidelines with a student inside a mascot costume, pumping up the crowd.

But how well do you know the mascots of local Jewish high schools? Shalhevet, Harkham-GAON Academy, YULA (boys and girls), Valley Torah (boys and girls), de Toledo and Milken Community Schools all have different mascots with different meanings. Here they are, along with some background about them provided by school officials. See if you can match the mascots to the schools (answers at bottom left):

Jaguars: The Jaguar was voted on by the school’s pioneering class. The decision was a teaching moment as it went against the vote of the head of school. His respect of the democratic process is evident as the Jaguar still stands as the mascot after all these years.

Panthers: The Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series in 1979, and everyone liked their colors, black and yellow. The school baseball team used the Pirates’ caps, and the “P” on the hats was designated as the Panthers. The Panther’s fierceness and intensity serves as an example of how the school approaches athletics, learning and students’ growth as Jews.

Firehawks: The school name means “flame” in Hebrew. The Firehawk’s flames represent intensity and passion, and heat and friction, which is related to the school’s educational model — grappling with issues and approaching learning passionately.

Lions: With the strength, dignity and heart of a Lion, we go forth, B”H!

Wildcats: The Wildcat stands for strength, power and wisdom.

Wolfpack: The school’s website quotes Rudyard Kipling on its athletics home page: “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”


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