Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School
Rockville, MD
The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Dagonys on the move

Within the walls of CESJDS classrooms, high school Hebrew teacher Yaffa Dagony spends her days as any other educator would. However, by night, Yaffa’s passion extends far beyond slideshows and lesson plans. Alongside her husband and co-author Ron Dagony, Yaffa spent years in the 1990’s writing and editing her own set of travel books intended to transport Hebrew-speaking readers into the wonders of American life.

Both Yaffa and Ron have always had a passion for travel and found guidebooks particularly useful in their journeys across the U.S. According to Ron, each time they traveled, they would use up to three different guides, but few ever met their high expectations.

“Our favorite activity before each trip was, and still is, a visit to a Barnes & Noble store… to select suitable guides,” Ron said. “We have always been finicky travel book buyers. We know what we want, and oftentimes we find the books on the shelf lacking.”

After years of using what were, in their opinion, “average travel books,” Ron and Yaffa began a journey to create their own set of guidebooks, but with a twist. In order to target an audience closer to home, they tailored their guides toward Israeli readers.

“We thought small in terms of potential markets,” Ron said. “We knew we had no chance against established global travel brands like Fodor’s or Frommer. We felt our best bet would be to target the Israeli niche. It’s a small but not negligible market. After all, Israelis love to travel, and it’s an integral part of their psyche.”

After discovering their love of travel, Ron and Yaffa began the writing process by traveling across the U.S. to decide on the main attractions for their books. Yaffa said they went across the country about four to five times before settling on New York and Florida as their focal points.

Once they decided on these locations and wrote the original draft of the book, Yaffa and Ron began the intense editing process. They both said that they struggled to keep the information up-to-date throughout the time consuming editing proccess.

“The editing at the end was very difficult because we didn’t have the internet possibility that we have now,” Yaffa said. “So we had to go over and make sure everything was correct. Since then, prices have changed, restaurants have closed, and we had to rewrite it to make sure it’s all updated.”

After first publishing in 1997, Ron and Yaffa were astonished by the positive feedback that both ”קרוי‭ ‬וינ” (“New York”) and “הדירולפ” (“Florida”) received. According to Yaffa, their books became bestsellers in Israel, and she even engaged in press interviews. She said it was incredibly rewarding to see readers walking around various travel destinations carrying her books in their back pockets.

Although Ron and Yaffa stopped publishing after the internet began to gain popularity, Yaffa wants students to remember that teaching is only one part of her life story and that all educators have other sides to their lives, passions and identities.

“If you want to see how your teacher had a different life than just being in school, go and see that she had three loves: her family, her students and traveling,” Yaffa said. “This is a great way to see how those three loves are coming into effect.”

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About the Contributor
Aliza Bellas
Aliza Bellas, Managing Editor, Copy
Aliza is ecstatic to continue her work on The Lion’s Tale as Managing Editor, Copy in the upcoming year. In her past year as Opinion Editor, Aliza found passion in writing timely articles, editing interesting stories, and designing spreads. Outside of the Pub Hub, Aliza dedicates her time to her role as Junior Class President, the Regional Vice President of Membership in BBYO’s D.C. Council, and her role as Editor-in-Chief of The Melting Pot. Aliza is eager to get started on developing the paper’s writing and ensuring that every web and print article is as polished as can be.  

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