June 7, 2007
A not-so-random sampling of the Class of 2007
(Page 3 - Previous Page)He plays guitar and also plays trumpet with his school's jazz band, which has won numerous competitions and opened the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. He was on the gold-medal winning Los Angeles baseball team in the 2004 Maccabi USA Games and has played varsity baseball at North Hollywood High for four years.
And, when his day is done, David likes to sit down with some complicated origami. In fact, his favorite origami trick combines his love for art, Judaism, math and astronomy: He can make a Jewish star out of a dollar bill.
All for Israel
Rita Carla Bron
From: YULA Girls High School
To: Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim and Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women
When Rita Carla Bron entered YULA high school after skipping eighth grade, she was the youngest in her class. She didn't know any other girls, and she might have been one of the only students in the Orthodox girls high school to have entered from a Conservative elementary school.
Bron says it took her about a year to acclimate, but this month she graduates as the school's valedictorian, and not only has she found her circle of friends, but she is considered a role model among her peers.
Bron was a delegate to the Model U.N., she was co-editor of the school's newspaper, she acted in several of YULA's theater productions, and she founded the school's debate club.
Debating attracted her because it requires analytical thinking, something Bron enjoys, especially in the context of math and science. She will keep that as a focus at Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women, where she will be part of the school's prestigious honors program and will take classes for an engineering major at Columbia University. She will spend her first year of college studying Jewish texts at a Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim in Israel.
Israel advocacy is a passion of Bron's, and during her junior year she helped bring programming from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to YULA. She is the second high school senior in Los Angeles out of five nationwide to be named a Senator Joseph Lieberman Scholar.
Bron spends much of her time outside of school helping the disabled, both through the Etta Israel Center and through the Orthodox Union's Yachad program, where she volunteers every week. Also on her weekly schedule are the hours she spends as a volunteer mother's helper for a local family.
"These past four years have been truly amazing," says Bron, reflecting on her difficult transition into YULA. "I'm so happy and thankful to my school, my friends, my family and to God."
Bringing Judaism to the Masses
From: Harvard Westlake
To: Williams College
Emanuel Yekutiel's enthusiasm hits you like a train going full speed. Articulate and outgoing, Yekutiel is an Orthodox Jew who is by no means orthodox in his approach to life.
He started high school at the Orthodox YULA Boys High School, but transferred to the secular Harvard-Westlake in 10th grade because he wanted to meet and understand people with a different perspective.
What Yekutiel couldn't foresee was the growth he would inspire in others. His Jewish outreach programs, born out of a desire to share the faith that he is so passionate about, have sparked a rebirth of Jewish activity at Harvard-Westlake.
The winner of the Most Outstanding Sophomore award started a prayer club, built a sukkah on campus, passed out baskets of fruit and nuts on Tu B'Shevat, dressed up on Purim and answered countless questions about Judaism from curious students of all religions.
Yekutiel is most proud of the fact that he influenced two other observant Jewish students to wear their yarmulkes with pride. Before his arrival, they were embarrassed to openly identify themselves as Orthodox Jews.
"I wanted to show people that there is more to Jews than just the Middle East crisis," he said. "There are so many fun things about Judaism!"
Yekutiel likens Judaism to a buffet where you should choose only the items that you are hungry for. He thinks the wrong way to approach it is to try and sample everything and end up overeating and feeling overwhelmed.
Although missing the formal training and rigorous religious instruction of YULA, Yekutiel said he is more spiritual and observant than ever.
"You don't need to follow a formula in life. No one can make you spiritual. That comes from the inside," he said.
Yekutiel, a self-proclaimed nerd with good grades, plans to continue his activism at Williams College, where he will be "dipping his finger in everything," including art history.
-- Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer
A Personal Project
From: Milken Community High School
Jaye Kasper was only 4 years old when she lost her sister to AIDS, but the experience has left an indelible mark on her life. Kasper, now an only child, has been nationally recognized for her three-year science research project on AIDS.
Working with Debra Murphy from the Health Risk Reductions Projects at UCLA, Kasper conducted a study and wrote a research paper titled, "The Religiosity, Parenting Self-Efficacy, Depression and Anxiety of HIV Positive Mothers and Their Children." She is now working on getting her paper published in a medical journal and hopes to continue researching AIDS.
Kasper also started an AIDS awareness club at her school and organized a benefit concert at the Knitting Factory that raised $3,000 for ICARE, an AIDS research and education program started by her father after her sister's death.
In addition to being an ambitious activist, Kasper is also an outstanding scholar with a 4.2 GPA in a rigorous curriculum (she has taken nine AP classes).