Meet Jacob Smeke & Marilyn Chehebar – The Founders of “Quaranteen Magazine”

Pictured above the cover of the debut issue of “Quaranteen” Magazine" produced by 12 year old Jacob Smeke and his cousin Marilyn Chehebar
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These two super bright young people produce a peer related magazine designed to ease the stress of coronavirus and to keep their friends engaged

By: Fern Sidman

In this surreal age of “corona,” domestic strife and an assortment of geo-political anomalies, we are all dealing with a plethora of personal and collective challenges. It is often difficult to digest the torrent of horrific news that is incessantly streamed into our heads through our television screens and computer monitors.

As we handle the emotional fallout of being quarantined for several months, it is safe to say that there most definitely is a proverbial light at the end of this often dark and dismal tunnel. And this beacon of light and hope is embodied by a 12- year old boy and his cousin who have brought sheer joy to so very many through their remarkable creativity, insightful innovation and their determination to provide relief from the stresses of life for their  peers.

Jacob Smeke is a young man who belies his age of 12. A Brooklyn resident, he is entering the 8th grade at the Magen David yeshiva in the Gravesend section of the borough.  Exceptionally bright, technologically savvy and mature way beyond his years, Jacob and his equally bright and savvy cousin Marilyn Chehebar decided to set out on a unique project at the inception of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic and the resultant quarantine that we all endured. After putting their heads together, these two young people initiated “Quaranteen Magazine” – an online publication that appears on Instagram and is geared for the interests of their contemporaries.

Since the production of their seminal issue on May 21st, their magazine has soared in popularity and has morphed into the  “go to” publication for games, riddles, recipes, arts and crafts projects, coloring pages, trivia, brain teasers, Divrei Torah, the news and much more.

“My cousin and I started this magazine in the midst of the quarantine period because frankly we were bored. After all, school was no longer in session and we and our friends agreed that there was only so many Zoom sessions that one could do without going stir crazy,” recalled Jacob. He added that “we wanted our friends to be busy and engaged as that is most certainly healthy in a time like this.”

Spending the summer in the resort town of Deal, New Jersey with their families, Jacob and Marilyn are not strictly consumed with leisurely pursuits but rather they have been spending their time cranking out the weekly issues of Quaranteen Magazine as their peers have made it the “talk of the town.”

In the introduction to their debut  issue, Jacob and Marilyn extended well deserved plaudits to all the first responders, healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, restaurant workers, Uber drivers, MTA employees, supermarket workers, and especially their esteemed teachers and rabbis  who, each in their own way, have dedicated their lives to help countless people navigate the vicissitudes of these tumultuous times.

Jacob and Marilyn  said, “We thank you all and appreciate all that you do for us. We hope you all stay safe and healthy!”

Their first fun filled issue included the most remarkable selection of jokes, riddles, fill-in games and of course, the recipe of the week, “CakeTEENies.”

Moreover, the magazine is replete with spontaneous pictures of the founders of this cutting edge publication, and the vast array of professional graphics add to its colorful tone.

In addition to spotlighting small businesses in the community and their exclusive promotional offers, Jacob and Marilyn also called upon their peers to participate in helping to create future issues of this vibrant magazine.

“We want to hear from you! We would love to hear your thoughts, and we welcome your feedback! Please send us funny quarantine stories (something funny or ridiculous that happened to you), a picture of an art project you made during quarantine and even Dvar Torahs for us to include in our next issue,” wrote Jacob and Marilyn.

Their first issue was sponsored in honor of Albert Ani and Moses Smeke as well as the entire graduating class of 2020 by Miriam and Manny Haber.

The pages of their subsequent issues resemble a “Who’s Who” of the Sephardic community as many pages were sponsored by a panoply of members,  beloved relatives, friends and neighbors.

Their Shavuot issue included timely divrei Torah from Rabbi Mizrahi and a special message about the meaning of Megilat Ruth by Mrs. Vivien Hidary.

In their fourth issue, aptly named the “Jungle Edition” because of its focus on exotic breeds of wildlife from the four corners of earth,  Jacob and Marilyn offer their readers hope for better times ahead with sanguine words.   “With all that’s going on, first corona, then riots, then looters, we thought we’d ease the stress with some fun activities in our new edition that is also Jungle themed. It’s easy to give up especially during these times of uncertainty, but we see first hand that actually through, and not giving up, is exactly what we need to build our character and stay strong!” The Jungle edition is decorated in rich green tones and mirrors the feel of a real jungle.

With a veritable plethora of quizzes and games that focus on esoteric facts about jungles and nuances of wildlife spanning the globe, not only do readers absorb copious amounts of knowledge but have a heck of a lot of fun doing so. From unscrambling words, to filling in Tik Tok Lyrics, to coloring a cheetah in a tree, to connecting the dots on a giraffe, animal lovers or those seekers of zoological knowledge experienced a true to life field day.

For astronomy aficionados and those who have a curiosity about everything  relating to the cosmos, the galaxy edition felt like a rocket ship ride to the moon and back. Jacob and Marilyn write: “This week we are focusing on the GALAXY – which I’m sure most of us wish we can blast off to these days, to get away from all the craziness going on here on Planet Earth. We hope you enjoy the theme, you’ll be learning some fun facts about outer space!!”

And speaking of some cool facts did you know that the footprints on the moon will be there for 100 million years? Or that there is planet called “55 Cancri e” that is 40 light years away and made out of diamond? I know that I didn’t.

“I could never have gotten this project off the ground without my hard working partner, better known as my cousin Marilyn. She really was the driving force behind this and I gained so much inspiration from her. She is a tireless worker and someone who possesses extraordinary ingenuity, I can’t say enough about her and her stellar contributions to this magazine, ” said Jacob.

Jacob told this reporter from the Jewish Voice that he is exceptionally proud that “Quaranteen Magazine” will now be available in a print edition and will be widely distributed throughout Deal and other venues for kids of all ages.

Come one, come all and take a break from the grind with “Quaranteen Magazine” – coming to a location near you!!

Jacob Smeke is only 12 but this child prodigy and his cousin Marilyn Chehebar put their heads together to create a remarkably creative publication to keep their peers busy and engaged during the COVID quarantine



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