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Introducing our 2013 Brawerman Fellows

Jewish Federation Los Angeles proudly announces its 2013 Brawerman Fellows. Each of this year’s four Fellows, select graduating high school seniors residing in the Los Angeles area, will receive a $10,000 annual college scholarship. The Brawerman Fellows were chosen based upon demonstrating academic strength, financial need and a commitment to leadership, community service and Jewish engagement. During their college years, the Fellows will participate in The Geri & Richard Brawerman Leadership Institute, building leadership skills and deepening their connection to Jewish life.

Here’s a brief profile of each of our 2013 Brawerman Fellows:

Jason Block — Graduating from Hart High School in Santa Clarita and attending UC Berkeley in the fall, Jason has been involved with his high school’s Speech and Debate team, The Jewish Federation’s Weinberg Fellows, BBYO and Temple Beth Ami.

Chelsea Rapoport — Graduating from Flintridge Prep in La Cańada and attending the University of Chicago in the fall, Chelsea has been involved with her school’s newspaper, literary magazine, orchestra, water polo team and Music for the World club, as well as the Federation-supported Diller Teen Fellowship and Adat Ari El.

Samantha Page — Graduating from North Hollywood High School and attending Smith College in the fall, Samantha has been involved with her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, Quiz Bowl Team and the literary magazine, as well as with the Diller Teen Fellowship and Temple Kol Tikvah.

Alyssa Scott — Graduating from Oak Park High School and attending UC Santa Barbara in the fall, Alyssa has been involved with her school’s softball team, Idea to Impact Challenge, BBYO, the Federation-supported Sherut L’Olam, Camp JCA Shalom and Temple Etz Chaim.

The Geri & Richard Brawerman Leadership Institute was established through a multi-million dollar gift from community leader Geri Brawerman on behalf of herself and her late husband Richard, making it possible for Jewish Federation Los Angeles to develop and sustain a talent pool of engaged Jewish young leaders in perpetuity.

“We are grateful for Geri’s visionary gift, and proud to provide the leadership development and Jewish identity-building experiences for our Brawerman Fellows,” said Jay Sanderson, President & CEO, Jewish Federation Los Angeles. “This is just one of the ways we are making sure our community will be in good hands for our children and grandchildren.”

For more information on the Brawerman Fellows, contact Brawerman@JewishLA.org.

Below are updates from our initial cohort of Brawerman Fellows, selected in 2012, who just finished their year in college:

Josh Cahn

This past school year, I found open arms in the Jewish community at UC Berkeley. At the beginning of the year, I joined Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), the Jewish fraternity on campus, as well as participated in the First Year Students of Hillel program. Through these programs I connected to the Jewish community on campus and in the city of Berkeley. I began attending the Wednesday BBQ regularly, High Holy Day services at Hillel, as well as finding a program to get involved in, Challah for Hunger. At the end of my first semester I decided to apply for the year-long leadership opportunity of being a board member, serving as the Communications Manager. In this position, I interacted with numerous Jewish students on campus and other students who enjoyed coming to braiding sessions and engaging in Tikkun Olam. This position has been really rewarding and I am excited to continue this role in the Fall semester. After having such an incredible first year at Cal and a particularly enjoyable and welcoming experience with Berkeley Hillel, I decided to apply for the First Year Network (FYN) fellowship, where I will be programming next year for freshmen to encourage them to go to Hillel events and find their connection to the Jewish community. This program gave me so much, and I look forward to giving back to it, sharing what I learned through it and helping the incoming Jewish freshmen make smooth transitions into the welcoming Jewish community that Berkeley Hillel houses.

Leigh Evans

It’s been a big year for me and for Israel. We both began some significant transitions in the Fall (me heading off to college and Israel dealing with the ever-shifting political tides). Each of us was presented with both new obstacles and opportunities. Since my first week in school I found unwavering support in the Jewish community; specifically that of Santa Barbara’s Hillel, whose unity and fortitude had an incredible presence in the recent UC-wide divestment debate. The zealous turnout of Jewish community members was extremely impressive and I felt proud to be a part of such a driven group.

I’ve had so many unique and eye-opening experiences over the last 7 months. I’ve learned about diverse walks of life, worked two different jobs, overcome personal challenges, and made lifelong friends. Needless to say, I’ve grown quite a bit as an individual.  All of these experiences have been complemented by involvement with my school’s Jewish community. At my first job I serendipitously made friends with a co-worker who I soon found out was starting up a new Jewish fraternity. In my Intro to Cinema class I was able to watch the French Holocaust documentary, Night and Fog, with the background of having walked into the very gas chambers being shown on screen. In my freshman dorm, I energetically advocated against divestment and educated my floor-mates about conditions in the Middle East. In all that I’ve experienced, my passion for Judaism has accompanied and aided me and I am immeasurably grateful to the Brawerman Fellowship for continuing to nurture this deep connection.  Despite our challenges, I see a wonderfully bright future ahead; for myself, for the local Jewish community, and for Israel.

Mitchell Handler

It’s hard to believe that my freshman year at UC Berkeley is over and soon I’ll be spending time in Israel with my amazing Brawerman Fellowship friends. College so far has been a truly fantastic, eye-opening experience. For the first time, I have been surrounded by a diverse group of people from all places of the world who are pursuing new and unique passions. Throughout it, all I’ve had the support of many groups, including the Jewish community and Hillel.

For the first time, I was away from home for the High Holy days, but I felt welcomed at Hillel. I attended services with my Brawerman cohort member Josh and other Jewish friends. The strong Jewish group I have here made being away from home during the holidays easier. Plus, I have continued to stay involved with Hillel year-round. Every Wednesday, Hillel hosts a BBQ where the entire community is welcome, giving me a chance to break from a busy week and connect with others. Thursday nights are Challah for Hunger baking sessions, where I’ve helped baked challah to sell Friday mornings to raise money to stop the genocide in Darfur. I first learned about the program as a senior at Los Angeles Hebrew High School and I’ve enjoyed participating and feeling like I’m making a difference. I have also been able to continue with my passion for writing and reporting as a journalist for our campus newspaper.

Year one is done, but it’s just the beginning. College is exciting and I can’t wait to be back in the fall for round two.

Evan Lowell

My first year of college has been full of growth, excitement, and an abundance of new experiences. In my first semester, I worked at a Microsoft store, which was a great learning experience and tons of fun, but it constrained my involvement with campus life. However, I still managed to make it to High Holy Day services at the Hillel and even saw Elie Wiesel speak on three separate occasions. Listening to Elie Wiesel speak was one of my favorite moments this entire year. He was such a deep, sweet and intelligent man who just wanted to share his perspective with the world. His words were inspirational and moving.

During my second semester, I became involved with various clubs and organizations at Boston University. I used my moral compass that was fine-tuned through Judaism to ensure that I was involved with clubs that had a positive impact on the world. I joined Global App Initiative, which builds iPhone apps for local organizations and charities. I also became involved with the Rocket Propulsion Group and became an Engineering Dean’s Host.  However, I was also awarded the opportunity to begin research with a professor in Atomic Calligraphy and MEMS (Micro Electromechanical Systems) devices. Put simply, Atomic Calligraphy is 3D printing with individual atoms and the lab is building micro machines that are used to create nanostructures. This opportunity has taught me so much about engineering and nanotechnology. I was included an author on a paper that will be published by the group in the near future and will be giving a talk on my work over the summer. This last semester, the Hillel held an amazing Salvador Dali exhibit that was tied to Judaism and Israel. The beautiful prints rekindled my interest in Israel and my connection to Judaism.

Due to midterms, I was unable to attend a Passover seder and felt partially disconnected from Judaism. This next semester I hope to strengthen my role in the Jewish community by involving myself with Challah for Hunger, which I recently discovered exists at my school’s Hillel. Although my first year in college was not filled with as much Judaism as I would have liked, it had all the chutzpah, excitement, and learning that I could ask for. a

Harmony Richman

This past year, one of my most memorable experiences was hearing Elie Wiesel speak when he came to Barnard. Hearing him speak reinforced my immense pride in my Jewish heritage. Mr. Wiesel spoke about his life before, during, and after the Holocaust. After everything he had gone through, he had learned that “indifference is never an option.” Mr. Wiesel firmly believed that simply not caring is the worst thing a person can do – indifference only leads to dehumanization. The other thing he kept impressing upon us was the importance of remembering the Holocaust. One student asked him what he thought would happen after all the Holocaust survivors passed on, would the Holocaust still be as meaningful and relevant when no one was left to tell their stories? Mr. Wiesel responded, “I don’t know. But what you need to do now, to remember their stories, is to listen. While they are here, listen to them. And if they don’t speak, listen to their silence.”

I was also a part of Barnard’s Out Reach Program. Students would volunteer through various organizations. I volunteered with DOROT, a Jewish organization devoted to aiding elderly people living in the Upper West Side. I volunteered in their Rosh Hashanah Delivery & 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. I brought groceries and clothing to an elderly woman and spent the afternoon with her. This woman had lived a remarkable life. She had lived in a concentration camp during the Holocaust and lost her entire family there. She was over ninety-years-old, but she was still able to remember many of the details of her life at the concentration camp. It was such an honor to be able to talk to her and listen to her stories.

Overall, I had a wonderful first year in college. Thanks to the generous Brawerman scholarship, instead of having to balance a full-time job and school, I was able to get involved with various organizations on campus, become a participating member of Columbia’s Hillel, and explore all that New York City has to offer.

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