Tis the graduation season, but unlike most 17-year-olds wrapping up their high school careers in recent days and weeks, Daniel Schwartz knows exactly what he wants to do with his life.
Rose Bern isn’t afraid to fight for her values. The 17-year-old, who recently graduated from Shalhevet High School and lives in Westwood, has strong convictions when it comes to feminism, justice and fairness.
As a Hillel director for the last seven years, I have come to love this time of year. Graduation is the moment to celebrate not just academic learning, but the personal growth and discovery students experience during their university years.
Every year, we shine a spotlight on a group of outstanding high school seniors, culled from many nominations submitted by local educators, clergy, community leaders and, of course, you, our readers.
The Academy for Jewish Religion, California (AJR-CA), graduated its 10th class of rabbinic and cantorial ordinees last month. The transdenominational seminary has graduated close to 90 rabbis, cantors and chaplains since 2003, and nearly all have found work in Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and non-denominational synagogues, as well as in schools, hospitals and other institutions.
I remember my kindergarten graduation. We wore crowns on our heads and had big smiles on our faces. We sang songs, cute songs about the changing seasons and growing up. And then we received our diplomas, had an ice cream party and were hugged and kissed by our loved ones.
In the June 8 Graduation section, I read about an 18-year-old young lady who helps rehabilitate abused horses and is moving into a nursing program with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon (“Healing Others, and Herself”). I am so proud of our community and its compassionate heritage.
Each year, we profile a group of outstanding high school seniors, culled from the many nominations sent in by you, our readers. And each year, we find it almost impossible to choose among the many extraordinary leaders, givers and enormously talented graduating teens.
Disguised as an elderly woman in czarist Russia, Sheridan Pierce took the stage at Brentwood School. As the bright lights touched her face and the character took over her body, Pierce poured her heart into her role, and she realized that she was meant to act. The play was "Fiddler on the Roof," and Pierce, a ninth-grader at the time, was playing Yente the matchmaker. The significance of the role, she said, was her connection with the character on a more personal level. "Deep in my soul, I'm already a little old Jewish lady," she joked.
Quinn Lohmann closes his eyes and tilts his head slightly. His fingers find their place between the frets of his guitar, and his voice rings out, soft and crystal clear. "We all got a life to live. We all got a gift to give. ..."
When his late grandmother was first diagnosed with terminal cancer three years ago, Jason Aftalion was moved by the volunteers who visited her at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "I was so touched by how they talked to her and spent time with her, so she wouldn't be lonely," said Aftalion, a Persian-American senior at Milken Community High School.
In her junior year, Oakwood senior Katherine Bernstein spent two weeks in Sierra Leone with the North Hollywood school's immersion program. Amid carrying buckets of cement for a new school and helping to paint a map of the world in its library, she was struck by a major difference between life in Southern California and the West African nation.
Corinne Kentor may be coming of age in the iPad and Kindle era, but she feels most at home surrounded by books. The more classic the volumes, the better. It's "Candide" and "Don Quixote" that thrill this New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) senior, who lights up when she discusses the works of Shakespeare or the Brontë sisters.
David Shalom wants to broker a final status peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. While this goal may seem lofty, the YULA student has already taken big steps in pursuit of this dream.
Almost every day, Marissa Meyer, an 18-year-old senior at Agoura High School, heads out to the stable where her riding teacher rehabilitates abused horses. There she works with her 15-year-old gelding, Lucky. Helping to heal him after his difficult life at a dude ranch has been one of her passions for the last seven years and has also helped spur her interest in physical therapy and sports medicine in humans.
Milken Community High School senior Leah Gluck is dedicated to raising awareness about genocide, even though it seems so distant and unsolvable.
Agoura High School senior Brian Hertz was shaken when a student at New Community Jewish High School died in a car accident in February 2010.
Shalhevet journalism teacher Joelle Keene says that Leila Miller, editor-in-chief of the school's newspaper, The Boiling Point, has set a high standard for journalism, integrity and optimism amid complex human relations.
“Yeah, those years of seventh to ninth grade were not the greatest years for Jacob Cohen,” Jacob Cohen says, trying to bring a little levity to a pretty grueling litany.
Eeman Khorramian could see himself entering the political world. The Palisades Charter High School senior has been highly active in school affairs and with the school's student government since ninth grade. His leadership skills even earned him the position of student body president.
Having recently attended the college graduation of our middle child, I could not stop thinking what I might have said if given the opportunity to offer the commencement address. Here are five thoughts:
Having recently attended the college graduation of our middle child, I could not stop thinking what I might have said if given the opportunity to offer the commencement address. Here are five thoughts.
Each year, we profile a group of “outstanding high school seniors” culled from the many nominations sent in by you, our readers. And each year, we find it almost impossible to decide between the many extraordinary leaders, givers and enormously talented graduating teens.
When Michael Turkell was 8, he embarked upon a mission to find his father’s old violin, which he discovered in a battered alligator-skin case on a top shelf in a bedroom closet. After a loud crash, his mother found him sitting in a heap of fallen items, triumphantly holding up the violin.
Rachel Sapire’s story begins in Africa: first in Egypt, where her maternal grandmother was forced to flee because of anti-Semitism and then, farther south, in Zimbabwe, where she forged a new life and gave birth to Sapire’s mother. Sapire's father was born and raised in South Africa, so Sapire spent her formative years traveling to that exotic land, where AIDS and animals and enormous inflation colored her youth.
At the end of Danny Hirsch’s first week at New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS), a fellow freshman tapped him on the shoulder as he sat eating lunch, alone. Showing genuine concern, the student wanted to know if Danny was mute, since he had yet to speak to another student. Having his voice heard is no longer a problem for Hirsch.
To become an Eagle Scout, a boy needs to earn at least 21 merit badges. Harel Rush, 18, is the first Eagle Scout to come out of the Beverly Hills-based, Orthodox-run Boy Scout Troop 360. He earned 24 badges — “the two hardest were ‘family life’ and ‘personal management,’ ” he said. But when Rush showed up for this interview, he was sporting a different piece of material: the standard-issue yellow-and-black kippah worn by many YULA boys.
On the Web site for The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School’s student newspaper, Jaclyn Kellner’s biography says she spends more time at school than most of the teachers do. That’s because Kellner, who will spend five months working with Eco-Israel, an agricultural program in Modi’in, next year before attending Brandeis University in fall 2012, is involved with more extracurricular activities than seems possible for any 18-year-old.
It took Judith Greenbaum 40 long minutes before she finally signed the form to decline acceptance at Harvard. “Yeah, that was a tough one,” Greenbaum, who is graduating from YULA Girls School, said as she laughed, “but it just wasn’t the right choice for my life’s big picture.” Her future hopes center around being an involved mother, leading an active Jewish life and pursuing a career in business. With New York’s Jewish community at her doorstep, Greenbaum believes Columbia University will offer better preparation for the life she envisions, after studying at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim.
The idea for Fashion With Compassion, a student-run fashion show where models don’t just show off stylish clothes but also offer help for Israel, came to Celine Yousefzadeh after she attended a charity fashion show at another school. She thought: Why not bring it to Milken?
When Barbara Schloss joined the robotics team at Milken Community High School as a sophomore, she knew she had found her passion. “It’s so fun,” said Schloss, whose father and grandfather, both of whom work in the aeronautics industry, encouraged her interest in math and science from a young age.
On a Friday last March, before Sophie Trauberman left home for her first class at 9:45 a.m., she got a call from a friend at Hamilton High School, where she’s a student in the music magnet. Twenty-two Hamilton teachers were being pink-slipped, the friend told her, and some positions — including those of much-loved advisers at Hamilton’s music and humanities magnets — were being eliminated altogether, because of proposed state budget cuts.
In the course of becoming valedictorian this year at the boys division of Valley Torah High School in Valley Village, Michael Farnoosh faced many difficult tests, but the toughest came outside the classroom. Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 4, he had to undergo chemotherapy and was hospitalized 15 times before being declared cancer-free in 2001.
"Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?" Robin Marantz Henig asked in The New York Times Magazine ("The Post-Adolescent, Pre-Adult, Not-Quite-Decided Life Stage," Aug. 22). Lori Gottlieb urged reluctant single women to “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough" in The Atlantic Monthly (March 2008), later a book. Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett advised revising priorities in "Creating a Life: What Every Woman Needs to Know About Having a Baby and a Career" (2002).
Parents and pundits, you may breathe a sigh of relief. The Class of 2006 -- or at least The Jewish Journal's not-so-random sampling of the class of 2006 -- will put to rest any notion that this plugged in but wireless, overscheduled but doted upon and supersavvy but still so naive iPod generation is resting on a sense of inflated entitlement.
New Jew opened in 2002 at the Milken campus of The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, with 40 students in the ninth grade and Dr. Bruce Powell, veteran founder of successful Jewish high schools, at the helm. This year, 47 students who took the chance and dove head first into a new venture are graduating. The school was a risk that paid off.
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Letters to the Editor.
Whether it was discussing the Terri Schiavo case or debating whether students should get PE credit for participating on sports team, Leor Hackel had one goal for the weekly town hall meetings he lead as head of Shalhevet's agenda committee: to keep the students engaged and interested, and to encourage them to take the initiative, just as he had been inspired.
Gifts for Grads That Will Make the Grade
A pilot academy that would give adult students in Orange County certificates of graduation for completing three years of Jewish study expects to accept its first students in September.
A few months ago, I wrote a story in these pages about my experiences as a Jewish Big Brother. As Paul Harvey says, here's "The Rest of the Story."
With graduation just days away, The Jewish Journal caught up with several outstanding students from high schools around Los Angeles. Clearly, Judaism plays a role for this crop of young adults as they prepare to enter the next level of their academic and personal lives.
Have you ever noticed yourself counting the time leading up to an important moment in your life -- the years before a bar mitzvah or golden celebration, the months before a new baby is born, the weeks before a wedding or graduation or even the days before a special birthday?
A chapter is about to close for the Reform movement. After 30 years, Rabbi Allen Freehling is retiring from University Synagogue. As of June 30, Freehling, 70, will turn over the Brentwood synagogue's spiritual leadership to incoming Rabbi Morley Feinstein from Temple Beth El in South Bend, Ind.
I can't remember a word spoken by Ira Goldstein, the Plainview (NY) High School valedictorian, Class of 1965, but I'm sure his graduation address was brilliant. Ira, who apparently was in the Philosophy Club with me for three now-forgotten years, was the most brilliant boy in a class of brilliant boys. Girls were "smart" or "sweet" in those days; boys were "brilliant."
"The difficult he does quickly; the impossible takes a little