Shalhevet High School
Going to: Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah; Yeshiva University
Yosef Nemanpour knows the difference between being a bystander in life and an “upstander,” Shalhevet High School’s widely used term to describe someone who constantly interacts with his world at large with the intention of making a difference.
Nemanpour, who thoughtfully organizes his ideas before speaking, said his transformation from a troubled preteen with a track record of bullying and class disturbances to student leader and lover of Judaism began the very first day he stepped through Shalhevet’s doors.
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“Walking into Shalhevet for the first time was like nothing else I had experienced,” he said. “There was this clear sense of community, and the kids I met did not ask me to convince them that I was cool. They accepted me as who I was.
“They constantly reinforce the idea of communal talks about the importance of being an ‘upstander’ instead of a ‘bystander’ — that we should all stand up for what we believe in, step up to help move forward the things we care about.”
Being constantly surrounded by such people not only reignited his passion for learning, it also deepened his commitment to Judaism. During his time at Shalhevet, especially during his senior year, Nemanpour became active in a number of organizations, including NCSY (formerly National Conference of Synagogue Youth), where his community leadership roles were honored recently.
He affiliated himself with the Zionist youth movement Bnei Akiva, which, with NCSY, he said helped prompt him to pursue an adult path in a leadership role in the Jewish community. And although Nemanpour’s college-prep work kept him busy during his senior year, he made it a point to devote time to Yachad, which promotes inclusion for people with disabilities within the Jewish community.
Ruthie Skaist, his Judaic studies teacher, observed the ways he emerged as a strong leader, both religiously and socially.
“I have no doubt that he will bring his positive attitude to every part of his life moving forward,” she said. “One of my favorite [things] about Yosef is that after each aliyah during the Monday and Thursday Torah portions of tefillah, he says ‘emes,’ or truth. He shows that he is proud of who he is and what he represents. He has no shame about what he believes in, like so many of us do. He doesn’t try to hide it and ends up inspiring a lot of people around him.”
Nemanpour said the support system in place with both students and teachers provided a solid foundation on which he will build his future career, although he’s not yet sure exactly what he wants to pursue when he attends Yeshiva University in New York. Prior to that, he’ll spend a semester in Israel at Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah.
“I hope my future career will directly influence the future of Judaism in America, or wherever in the world I am, and [that I will] be the best leader I can be in whatever I do in the Jewish community in my own way.”