After a shaky start fighting over a girl they both liked, Joseph Katona, 19, a Jewish Angeleno, and Omar Dreidi, his 19-year-old Palestinian Arab bunkmate, formed a bond that would extend past the two summers they shared at a Seeds of Peace retreat in Otisville, Maine.
Seeds of Peace is an organization dedicated to bringing together and empowering teens from regions of conflict, and in its program high school seniors often discussed what the future would hold for them after graduation. Katona soon realized his friend would embark down a path very different from his own, heading back to a lower-class lifestyle in Ramallah. While Katona lived a comfortable life, growing up in Brentwood, attending high school at Harvard Westlake, not having to worry about how he would afford college, Dreidi had dreams of attending school in the United States, but didn't know where or how it could happen.
Katona, a sophomore at the University of Virginia, thought it only fair that Dreidi have the same opportunities as him. After helping Dreidi put together his applications and soccer videos for colleges, Dreidi received an acceptance letter and merit scholarship from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. Although the scholarship was generous, Katona knew it would only cover half of Dreidi's four-year tuition. Katona then put together the Omar Dreidi scholarship fund with the goal of raising $18,000 to $20,000 per year for Dreidi to continue his studies at Earlham.
The experience has been fulfilling for Katona, but it has also been a difficult.
"Not every person wants to donate money to support a Palestinian," he said. Despite monetary setbacks, Katona has managed to raise $38,000 for Dreidi to stay in school, however, he is short more than half the amount needed for the next two years. He has received donations from $11 to $4,500, and every dollar counts, he said.
Staying in close contact with Dreidi, Katona is happy he is having a great time in Richmond, studying, making great friends and playing soccer on the school's team.
"I have a moral obligation to do this," he said. "It's not a huge sacrifice for people to donate, but would make a world of difference for Omar. Without these contributions, he would not be able to have the full college experience."
Donations go to Earlham College Omar Dreidi Scholarship Fund c/o Joseph Katona, 216 14th St. NW, Apt. 204., Charlottesville, Va. 22903. Checks should be made out to "Earlham College. For more information, e-mail email@example.com or call (310) 613-6268.
Student Advocacy in Sacramento
For the first time in 20 years, Panim, the Institute for Jewish leadership and values, ventured outside of Washington, D.C., and into the state's capital bringing 40 11th-grade Milken Community High School students to a three-day seminar exploring hunger, poverty and the environment. Panim teaches thousands of students about social and civic responsibility through Jewish Civics Initiative seminars, called Panim el Panim (face-to-face), and worked with Milken to organize the Jan. 27-29 seminar. Students spent hours volunteering at local organizations, such as the Sacramento Food Bank, and met with advocates from the Sacramento Environmental Council and Western Center on Law and Poverty.
"The trip was a great success," said Wendy Ordower, community service coordinator at Milken. Among the tasks the group undertook was handing out toiletries to the homeless with members of Building Bridges, an organization dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV.
"These students are fortunate on so many levels," she said. "I want them to learn the needs of society and how to become the voice of the people."
For more information visit, www.panim.org.
Teen Tikkun Olam Awards Promote Global Healing
Last year, five teens, including two from Los Angeles, received Diller Tikkun Olam Awards through the new National Diller Teen Initiative. Angeleno winners were Erich Sorger, 18, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Shira Shane, 20, a student at Stanford University.
In its second year, the organization named for San Francisco philanthropist Helen Diller, will select another five Jewish teens from California to each receive $36,000 for commendable participation in community service and social action. Teachers, rabbis and community leaders are encouraged to nominate teens between the ages of 13 and 19 who have completed exceptional community service projects. The awards are to be used for college or causes that will further their work in repairing the world.
Sorger, a student in the Jerome Fisher Management and Technology Dual Degree Program, donated a portion of his award to the DELCO Early Learning Center and organized a carnival for impoverished Philadelphia children with a team of University of Pennsylvania management students.
"The carnival was a great success with pretzels, cotton candy, moon-bounces and more," he said.
Sorger is coordinating with the university's Hillel to promote "Dollars for Dwaynes" in Philadelphia, and is continuing the mission of "Dollars for Dwaynes" during his winter break in Los Angeles, donating an additional $650 in resellable goods.
"I am keeping the balance to put forth toward other philanthropic ventures or my tuition for next year," Sorger said.
Shane plans to donate a portion of her prize money to refugees in Darfur as well as to return to Africa, where she has previously exercised her musical talents in Tanzania. She is meeting with Janice Kamenir-Reznik, the president of Jewish World Watch, who will help her achieve these goals. Deadline for 2008 award nominations is March 11.
Cash Incentive for Summer Camp
The expense of summer camp should not be a deterring factor for Jewish youths, according to the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO). Partnered with the Foundation for Jewish Camping, BBYO is offering a $1,500 campership for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade middle school students who have never attended a three-week or longer Jewish overnight camp.
The Jim Joseph Foundation of San Francisco is pitching in to fund the JWest Campership Program in an effort to increase the number of preteens in the Western United States enrolling in overnight Jewish summer camps. With 150 camps nationwide, JWest is being introduced in 13 states including California.The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles is engaged in a similar partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camping and is independently offering camperships to first-time campers.
"We are confident that BBYO's year-round Teen Connection programming coupled with an invaluable summer experience will leave a lasting and positive imprint on the Western U.S.," said Jerry Silverman, president of the Foundation for Jewish Camping.
For more information visit www.jewishcamping.org/JWest, or call BBYO's JWest Project Manager Stefanie Szlamkowicz at (702)366-6591. For information on the Federation's camperships, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (323) 761-8333.
Donation Allows Library to Expand Its Shelves
The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, a department of the Bureau of Jewish Education, has much cause to celebrate. On the afternoon of March 2, the library will offer a birthday tribute to the late Ezra Jack Keats -- born Jacob Ezra Katz -- award winning author of "The Snowy Day" and "Peter's Chair." Guests are encouraged to bring a favorite Keats book.
Librarygoers can also look forward to a wider selection of books, music and film thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Goldie D. Ivener Charitable Trust. The library currently offers more than 30,000 books, movies, and music.
"We are grateful for this gift, which will have great impact, enabling the library to acquire more Jewish literature, Jewish music and film that every single member of the community is able to check out and use," said David Nimmer, Jewish Community Library chair.
Goldie D. Ivener, a former psychiatric social worker, artist, poet and philanthropist, created the trust to support a library in Israel and a program for women in the sciences and mathematics, said trustee Adele Zaslow.
For more information visit, http://www.jclla.org.
Young Judaea's Alternative Winter Break
For many students, winter break is a time for skiing, relaxing and hanging out with friends, but for a group of 40 Young Judaea participants, winter break was a time for community service and outreach. From Dec. 23-30, 2007, the Alternative Winter Break program, in conjunction with the Jewish Funds For Justice, thrust a group of teens into an intense community service environment where they spent five- to seven-hour days on various projects to reach their goal of 25 community service hours.
Students helped urban revitalization, environmental awareness and restoration working with three Los Angeles-based organizations -- L.A. Family Housing, L.A. Neighborhood Services and L.A. Eco-Village.
However, the Alternative Winter Break was not all work. The teens planned parties, interacted with other teens at L.A. Family Housing, reached out to neighborhood residents to teach them disaster preparedness through L.A. Neighborhood Services, as well as learned about the environment at the Shalom Institute's Israel Discovery Garden and L.A. Eco-Village. The trip culminated with a Shabbat dinner, reflection and relaxation session.
"Over the past few days at the L.A. Family Housing, I can solemnly say that I walked out the door leaving something behind. Whether it be the gifts given and received or perhaps just well-deserved attention directed toward the families and children," said Sean McDonald in his Alternative Winter Break reflections notes.
For more information visit, www.youngjudaea.org.
Diller Teen Fellows Connect With Israel
Sixteen 11th-grade students were chosen throughout Southern California to participate in the annual Diller Teen Fellows program. Founded in 1998, Diller Teen Fellows remain connected to Jewish communities worldwide through development of community service skills in the United States and Israel. During the year-long program, participants engage in weekend workshops, Shabbaton retreats, a three-week seminar in Israel, group and community service projects.
Among the high schools chosen were Milken Community High School, Agoura, Harvard-Westlake, YULA, Santa Monica, Marlborough, Arcadia, Windward, Chadwick, El Camino Real, Chaminade Prep and New Community Jewish High School.
The diverse teen leaders were chosen from a pool of more than 100 applicants throughout Los Angeles. For two months, from January to February, the fellows connected with teen leaders from Tel Aviv to explore and strengthen their leadership skills, Jewish identity and understanding of social justice.
For more information visit, http://www.jewishla.org/Diller_Teen_Program.cfm.
Bureau of Jewish Education Awards Deserving Educators
The Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles awarded 13 educators and administrators for excellence in Jewish education on Oct. 24, 2007. Schools are encouraged to nominate teachers and administrators who are then observed by Bureau staff and awarded various monetary prizes.
Four Los Angeles area teachers were given Jewish Educator Awards along with a $15,000 cash prize by the Milken Family Foundation. The Lainer award, which provides an unrestricted $2,500 prize went to three teachers: Rocki DeGroot of Temple Isaiah, Alisa Fisher of Pressman Academy and Jo Karnofsky of Temple Kol Tikvah.
Three Early Childhood winners, who have taught from two to four years received $500. Winners included Sari Abrams of Pressman Academy, Michelle Princenthal of Temple Adat Elohim and Randee Norwood of Stephen S. Wise Temple, while two Smotrich Family Foundation award winners, Katherine Mueller of Congregation Tikvat Jacob and Samantha Pearline of Temple Beth Hillel were awarded $1,000, and the schools of which they are a part received an additional $500.
For more award information visit http://bjela.org/page.html?ArticleID=82466.
Briefs compiled by Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer
Milken High Gets More Scientific
Four ninth- and 10th-grade Milken Community High School students were chosen as winners of the Excellence in Science Awards, presented by the American Technion Society, Dec. 17, 2007. The awards banquet, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, honored students who displayed exceptional perseverance and innovation in science research topics. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's professor Daniel Weihs was one presenter who spoke on the topic of "The Next Generation of Robotic Warriors-Micro and Nano Flying Vehicles."
Winning project topics included, "How Does Cigarette Smoke Affect the Growth and Development of Plants?" "Is Tooth Decay Increased by Soft Drinks?" "Does Side Dominance of Hands Match Fhat of Feet, Eyes and Ears?" "Is That Dominance Hereditary?" and "Wind Resistance Placed on Supertall Skyscrapers."
The American Technion Society, ranked among the world's leading science and technology universities, has teamed up with Milken to incorporate an added science component in the high school curriculum while promoting closer ties with Israel on campus.
For more information about the American Technion Society call, (323) 857-5575 or visit www.ats.org.