June 5, 2008
Outstanding seniors, Class of 2008
(Page 4 - Previous Page)Thanks to his success, this year the school has 14 peer counselors.
Svidler has transferred his newfound leadership skills to other areas, as well. He is on the school's student council, where he is responsible for student achievement. He threw a successful brunch to reward students with high GPAs, and he runs encouragement programs for those who need more help. He also guides other students who are organizing events and programs.
Svidler, a member of the swim team, is active in the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization and in his school's Jewish Awareness Club, and he traveled with the club on a National Conference of Synagogue Youth trip to New York, where he stayed with a religious family, exposing him to a new facet of Judaism.
His desire to broaden his horizons also brought him to the Anti-Defamation League's Dream Dialogue, a program where teens of different ethnicities get together to explore issues of tolerance. That group has helped him become less judgmental, he said, and to understand that beneath a person's surface are many layers of complexity worth getting to know.
Svidler will enter Cal State Northridge in the fall, where he can live on campus but still stay close to a tight-knit extended family. He hasn't picked a major yet, but he is leaning toward some sort of counseling, where he can continue doing the thing that has most helped him -- helping others.
Anna Alysse Fuchs
Graduating from: Oakwood School
Heading to: Habonim program in Israel
-- Ayala Or-el, Contributing Writer
Ask anyone involved with the local arm of Habonim Dror, the progressive Zionist youth movement, where they would be if it weren't for Anna Alysse Fuchs, and they would probably tell you they might well be sitting at home watching TV. Fuchs stepped in as rosh ken, heading up the region, when she realized the group needed a leader.
Fuchs first became involved with Habonim Dror six years ago. Very quickly she realized that her involvement wouldn't be just another after-school activity, but a serious commitment.
"It's my life," she said. "I just love the movement and everything that it represents. I learned a lot through our activities -- about Israel, Judaism and life. In our meetings we discuss social justice issues, the situation in the Middle East, the war in Iraq and other political issues."
Fuchs organizes monthly sessions for discussions, activities like bowling, ice skating and just hanging out together.
"My family was always very supportive of my involvement with Habonim Dror. They gave me values and told me how important it is to get involved and give something back to the community," said the Oakwood School senior.
Fuchs spent one summer at Habonim's camp in Israel, and last summer she was at Camp Gilboa near Redlands training to be a counselor, a job she will take on this year. After that she is going to Israel for a Habonim program.
"I'm going to Israel for nine months, and I'm very excited about it. We'll spend half the time on a kibbutz and half of the time in a local community, where we'll get to do a service project in an Arab-Israeli school".
In addition to her activities at Habonim Dror, Fuchs still finds time to be an assistant Sunday school teacher and to teach Israeli dancing at Temple Israel of Hollywood. At Oakwood, she teaches dance to elementary school students and maintains a 3.8 grade point average. She hasn't yet decided which college she will attend after her year in Israel.
Graduating from: Shalhevet School
Heading to: Young Judea's Shalem Program in Israel and then Boston University
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Even though it was a little scary and new, Gaby Grossman was excited to go to high school. She was excited for the change, to be with more people.
"I came to Shalhevet, and I decided I wasn't going to be one of those kids to let high school pass them by," said the senior at the Modern Orthodox high school. "I wanted to do something in high school that I would remember for the rest of my life."
Grossman's extracurricular activities sound like a lot to remember: She immediately started writing for the school newspaper, participated in the student body agenda committee, became co-captain of the model congress team (like a debate team), volunteered as a tutor with Koreh L.A. and produced, wrote and directed one-act plays at the school's one-act festival.
Along the way, she's debated everything from stem-cell research to limiting filibusters, won an award from Princeton, written articles on hookah bars and the youngest superdelegate in the country, directed a play called "Much Ado About High School" -- and, most importantly, learned a lot.
"It's truly taught me a lot. It's made me smarter and more intellectual," she said. "I think I have gotten so much out of high school."
Grossman's favorite subjects are writing and politics, and she would like to double major in public relations and political science at Boston University in September 2009. But first, Grossman will study in Israel on Young Judea's Shalem program for a year.
"My spiritual growth matters to me a lot -- never in my life will I have a chance to focus for a year on it," she explained. "I think it will be a life-changing experience -- I have a gut feeling about it," she said. "College will wait."
Graduating from: North Hollywood High School and Los Angeles Hebrew High School
Heading to: Stanford University
-- Jay Firestone, Contributing Writer
Isaac Bleaman, who will graduate this spring from North Hollywood High School, has mastered the art of time management.
The 18-year-old is not only a violinist for the Junior Philharmonic Orchestra of California, he's also concertmaster of his school orchestra, a member of a klezmer band, proficient in Yiddish, president of the Jewish Student Union (local chapter and regional board) and for one semester was editor-in-chief of the school's literary magazine. He also attends Hebrew School regularly.
Not to mention, his grades are excellent.
But this is just another week in Bleaman's life.
"Having so many activities and interests is a nice way to spice up your day, and they're nice diversions from stresses at school and family ... it's a lot, but sometimes its just a nice break," said Bleaman, who admits that his days can sometimes be exhausting.
What is his secret to staying so focused?
"Everything seems to relate thematically, through reading or writing or music. I have to do a lot, but it's all rewarding," he said.
Spending a summer on the Vilnius Yiddish Institute's Summer Program in Lithuania and a winter at KlezKamp: The Yiddish Folk Arts Program, Bleaman developed a passion for Yiddish, which he has since translated to other aspects of his life.
"I listen to klezmer and Yiddish folk music whenever I'm driving in my car," said Bleaman, adding that it consumes other areas of his life such as literary studies and his band, Project Klezmerize, which is co-sponsored by Los Angeles Hebrew High School and Councilman Dennis P. Zine. The group performs regularly at social events held by the B'nai B'rith Tarzana Lodge and at the Jewish Home for the Aging.
Next year, Bleaman will have his chance with a clean slate at Stanford University, where he'll be able to perfect his time management skills on a much larger playing field. Bleaman said he plans to incorporate Yiddish into his studies and is hoping to "get involved with Hillel, student periodicals and musical ensembles on campus."
And because Stanford doesn't have a klezmer band, Bleaman said he's eager to "get some other kids who are interested."
Graduating from: Agoura High School
Heading to: Israel Defense Forces
-- Ayala Or-el, Contributing Writer
This summer, while her friends are splashing in the pool and baking in the sun, Maor Winshtein will learn how to fire an Uzi as she goes through exhausting training as a soldier in the Israeli army. And in September, while her fellow students from Agoura Hills High are entering college and studying for their degrees, Winshtein will be standing in front of a platoon of young soldiers and will do some teaching herself.
Winshtein was born in Los Angeles to Israeli immigrants who instilled in her a love for Israel from a young age. Thanks to them, she speaks fluent Hebrew without a shred of an American accent.
While not many American parents want to see their young daughter join the army instead of going to college, Winshtein's parents are only too pleased with their daughters' decision.
"College can wait, but the army cannot," Winshtein, 18, said as she was getting ready to leave for Israel with Garin Tzabar, a program initiated by the Tzofim and the Israel Defense Forces, which drafts young Americans to the Israeli army.
"Some of my friends don't really understand why I'm doing this, but I always felt a strong connection to Israel and always knew I want to live there."
Indeed, Winshtein plans to stay in Israel after her two years of service in the army. "I would love to study therapy with animals and work with children" she said.
Her love for Israel and Judaism also brought her to United Synagogue Youth (USY), the Conservative movement's youth arm, four years ago, and she quickly became president of her USY chapter at Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura. The group meets once a week and hosts different activities with a focus on Israel and Judaism.
Last summer, Winshtein traveled to Israel to be a counselor at Camp Kimama, an international overnight camp where half of the kids are Israeli and half from all over the world.
And two summers ago, Winshtein traveled to Israel to participate in the USY Poland Israel Pilgrimage trip, which visited concentration camps in Poland and then to Israel for four weeks.
That trip had a huge impact on Winshtein.
"It showed me what our people had to go through just to get to their own land and have their own country in Israel," she said. "It made me stronger. I knew then that this is where I belong, in Israel. That's where my home is."
Graduating from: Milken Community High School
Heading to: Northwestern University
-- Dikla Kadosh, Contributing Writer
When Marcy Blattner baked her English teacher a birthday cake, she didn't just dump the contents of a Duncan Hines box into a bowl and add water. The Milken Community High School valedictorian searched for a recipe that would reflect her and her teacher's shared enthusiasm for Victorian literature, so she presented the teacher with a lavish two-tiered cherry-filled Victorian Jubilee Cake, a dessert created for Queen Victoria in honor of her Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897.
Having spent much of her childhood traversing the subways and public spaces of Manhattan, the refreshingly independent teen keeps herself well-occupied with a variety of activities, all of which she approaches with the same gusto and thoughtfulness she brought to baking her teacher a cake.
Blattner is part of a governing system at Milken that involves students in the school policy-making process. She is president of the Principal's Advisory, a select group of students who identify important issues affecting the school -- such as the proliferation of cell phones on campus -- and write bills that suggest solutions. The bills are then passed down to the school's Community Senate, which consists of administration, faculty and students who must vote to pass the bill. Blattner is an active member of that, as well.
The avid cook, mahjong player, captain of the varsity tennis team and manager of the girls' basketball team has an affinity for taking charge and putting things in order -- like the school's master calendar, a task that began as a community project and ballooned into a major responsibility.
Raised by a single mother since the age of 2, when her father was killed in a plane crash, Blattner is nevertheless undaunted by the prospect of attending college far from home. She very wisely explains that she is sad to be leaving her mother alone -- her older sister is away at college in Michigan -- but that they both know it's important for her to go away to college and experience life on her own. Blattner has tentative plans to attend Northwestern University in the fall, where she will be an undeclared major.
"There's too many things I want to study - history, literature, Yiddish, Jewish studies, law ... I can't choose!"
Whatever Blattner ends up choosing, you can be sure she'll tackle it with the zest of a baker whipping up black cherry cream cheese filling.