“My mom grew up fairly religious, Conservative; my dad grew up more secular. Ever since I was little, I attended Hebrew school, starting with Jewish preschool. For my Bat Mitzvah gift, I went to Israel for the first time. My second trip there was the second leg of JFI; and the third time was a family trip this summer to visit my sister, who’s doing an internship on how terrorism affects the Israeli population. My involvement in youth group is through my synagogue, Temple Beth David. Growing up in Pittsford, there was only a small group of us who were Jewish. It was hard to be out of school observing the high holidays and return to a huge stack of work that I had missed. I’m sort of glad those days are behind me.”
“My sister went on JFI, which is the trip to Poland and Israel with high-schoolers from Modi’in. I heard about the experience from her and didn’t want to miss out. As soon as the applications came out, I jumped on the opportunity. My Israeli partner was exactly my age—with the most American name, Alexandra! In Poland we visited a camp called Majdanek. We walked up the staircase they had built, surrounded by boulders. At one point you look to your right, and there’s a gap in the boulders—and you get one last glimpse of civilization, of humanity, before it disappears completely and you see the barbed wires and barracks. You continue on; and in the distance, you see this massive green dome. You walk through gas chambers, get to the dome and realize it’s ashes, maybe seven tons of human ashes; you can even see pieces of bone. You’re used to seeing children holding onto each other; but when you turn around and see staff members and chaperones holding one another, it’s another thing entirely. It was difficult to see, and I will never forget it. After seeing the painful things we did in Poland, our group became a family in Israel -- incredibly close and connected. The first time I went to Israel I stayed in hotels; but this time I got to see teenage life there, the experience of living in a house and doing things with people my age. We met up in the evenings, went into Tel Aviv, went out on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. My favorite part of Israel was being there with people I had such a bond with – partying, celebrating and seeing Jewish life thrive. I realized maybe there will always be suffering; but we have a place to call home where we thrive and can be ourselves.”
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher because I love kids – watching the wheels turn in their brain as they absorb something, and their faces light up when they’ve learned something new. I think my Jewish values, for doing mitzvoth and for loving your neighbor, play into wanting to help kids learn, especially those with learning struggles. I have learning struggles myself; I need to sit in the front of a room so I don’t get distracted, and I have a laptop to record lectures, and play them back. Nazareth College is known for its early childhood education major, so I’m excited to begin this fall.”
4. Can you share something interesting about yourself?
“This past September, I was among the first teen co-chairs of Federation’s leadership retreat at Camp Seneca lake for eighth- through twelfth-graders. I planned programs, was in charge of ice breakers, and helped with the ropes course and carnival. We hit some bumps in the road, but we got there; and my co-chairs and I bonded over the experience.”