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Learning to Lead After Birthright Israel

After the High Holidays, a group of 14 LA Way Birthright Israel recent participants and madrichim (bus staff) gathered at the Jewish Federation, spending their Sunday sharing their Jewish identity journeys and forming the foundation for twelve months of Jewish leadership . This was the launch of the second cohorts of the Kahn and BRIdge Fellowships [see related post], which are designed to invest in returning Birthright Israel participants and staff as the Jewish leaders of the future. Implemented through the Federation’s Birthright Israel Experience (BRIE) initiative, these fellowships empower young, newly inspired Jews to serve as the vital link between the Israel trip and the local Jewish community. 

As Kahn Fellows, a select group of returning participants are given the tools, skills and resources to create meaningful Jewish experiences for their peers throughout the city and organize them to participate in the plethora of opportunities LA already provides. The Jewish Federation carefully selects a handful of returning madrichim (bus staff) to serve as BRIdge Fellows to provide the Kahn Fellows with individualized attention and mentorship. 

BRIdge and Kahn Fellowships build opportunities for Jews primarily in their 20s to not only participate in the local Jewish community, but create the community. This year’s 10 Kahn Fellows and 4 BRIdge Fellows come from five different 22-26 year old Birthright Israel buses. At the Fellows’ September retreat, in addition to hearing from the Birthright Israel Experience staff, fellows engaged in a leadership journey exercise with Gamal J. Palmer, the Federation’s Senior Director of Leadership Development. We also welcomed our colleague, partner, and friend Rabbi Aaron Lerner, the Simha & Sara Lainer Senior Jewish Educator at UCLA Hillel, who facilitated an activity about creating meaningful relationships through conversation, as well as lead a lunch-n- learn incorporating traditional and non-traditional texts. Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer Andrew Cushnir joined the fellows for “Feducation 101,” an overview of the Federation’s three strategic initiatives and our key Young Adult programs.

Throughout the day, the fellows had the opportunity to get to get to know each other and break into small groups to brainstorm activities for the upcoming year. They grappled with various topics and mediums for programs and explored what it means for an event or gathering to “be Jewish.”

Over the twelve months of their fellowship, Fellows will be Federation’s partners in continuing to discover how young Jews want to connect to the Jewish community and work together to create ongoing meaningful Jewish experiences long after their Birthright Israel trip has come to an end.

Meet Our Kahn Fellows

Adam Aseraf is a California native who grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He is a professional screenwriter who has worked with Funny or Die, Yahoo, and Montecito Picture Company. 

Adam Browner lives in Northridge CA. He is an elementary school Physical Education teacher. 

Alex Ovadia is an LA native who works in production at Warner Brothers. She enjoys snowboarding, watching baseball, and comedy.

Alyse Schneider is an LA native currently living in the Valley. She went to Israel in June and had an amazing time. She likes the outdoors, sports, music, and having fun with her friends. 

Daniel Solomon is a Los Angeles native, born and raised in Encino. He has a bold personality and loves to make people laugh. He’s excited to be a Kahn Fellow and can’t wait to infuse the activities with his own personal twist. 

David Packman, a Boulder boy born and raised who dreamed of telling stories, moved to Hollywood to work in the entertainment field. He now works in digital marketing and gets paid to Tweet.

Leor Metusal manages his family’s coffee shop. He loves listening to music, watching sports, and surfing.

Puppett works in the entertainment industry as a filmmaker, actor, and musician.

Shana Eva Pardes was born in Long Island, NY, but grew up in sunny Coral Springs, FL where she studied and honed her skills in the dramatic arts. Shana has since relocated to Los Angeles, CA, seeking further opportunities in an industry she feels so passionately about!

Will Hecht was born in Montreal, Quebec and grew up in Northern California, where he attended high school and received his Bachelor’s Degree for Business at CSU Chico. Birthright Israel invigorated his sense of Judaism and he is excited about the opportunity to become a leader in the Jewish community.

Meet Our BRIdge Fellows

Asher Gellis is the founder and executive director of JQ International, a Los Angeles-based organization focused on LGBT+Ally work in the Jewish community. He is an LA native and an alumnus of PresenTenseLA.

Ian Roven is a graduate of UCSB where he held various leadership positions in Alpha Epsilon Pi. He currently works in real estate in Malibu and has been an active volunteer in ATID at Sinai Temple. 

Jason Youdeem is the Orange County Assistant Area Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and serves on the board of 30 Years After. He is a graduate of UCLA and an alumnus of PresenTenseLA.

Sandy Elyassian graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in biology and aspires to pursue a career in nursing. She loves to travel, hike, bike ride, play music, and be outdoors.

Jewish Federation Los Angeles deeply appreciates the generosity of the Kahn Living Trust for its support of the Kahn Fellowship, and the Sabrina Merage Foundation and David and Laura Merage Foundation for their support of the BRIdge Fellowship.

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