College scholarships and aid money are out there, if you know where to look

College is expensive, whether you go to school five minutes from home or 500 miles away.

In-state resident undergraduates living at a University of California (UC) campus this year, for example, are estimated to be paying more than $34,000 (depending on the school), according to the UC website. 

The good news is that there’s plenty of financial help out there if you look hard enough for it. According to UC, more than two-thirds of its undergrads receive “some gift aid, with an average award of over $16,000.”

A number of Jewish organizations provide aid, and there are scholarships available specifically for local Jews seeking higher education. 

The following compilation is not an exhaustive list but merely a starting point. Other resources can be found at and the College Board ( for more opportunities. And always remember: Double-check eligibility requirements and deadlines when applying. 

Los Angeles scholarships

• The Brawerman Fellowship ( is offered by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and is open to high school seniors. Four fellows are selected annually, receiving $10,000 for each year of their four-year undergraduate career. Recipients must have strong academics, financial need and a commitment to Jewish engagement.

As part of the program, participants engage in community service, attend two annual retreats, go on a Birthright Israel trip and more. Applications for the 2017-2018 academic year will be available in December.

• Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) Los Angeles offers between $500 and $10,000 in scholarships to Jewish students (undergraduate and graduate) based on their financial need. The number of scholarships awarded varies from year to year based on available funding. This year, the JVS Scholarship Program ( helped 193 students by giving out a total of $614,000.

Since the program began in 1972, it has awarded nearly $8 million to more than 4,400 local students and, according to the organization’s website, “it remains the largest need-based scholarship program serving Jewish students within the Los Angeles community.” Students may begin applying for the 2017-2018 on Jan. 1, 2017.

• At UCLA, the Heather Kase Scholarship ( awards about $2,000 annually for registration fees and educational materials to undergraduate students, with preference given to
Jewish women. In addition to demonstrating financial need, applicants must submit
an essay.

• Incoming freshmen at USC can apply for the Jewish Leadership Scholarship (, which awards $12,500 annually for four years. Only two students can win the scholarship, which also requires an essay and letter of recommendation from an adviser or rabbi. Focus is on leadership inside and outside the Jewish community, and winners are expected to get involved in campus Jewish activities. The deadline is Dec. 1 for next year’s freshmen.

National scholarships

• The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards ( are given to 15 recipients — five to teens from California and 10 to students from around the country. The $36,000 award is given based on an applicant’s leadership record and service project.

The Helen Diller Foundation established this award to both “draw attention to teenagers doing important work” and to “inspire other teens to launch their outlandish idea” for projects aimed at bettering their communities, said Adam Weisberg, the director of Diller Teen Initiatives. Nominations for the 2017 awards must be received no later than Dec. 18. 

• Funded through The Jewish Federations of North America Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence (, the Federation Executive Recruitment & Education Program (FEREP) offers up to $40,000 in tuition money. The award is only applicable toward tuition for graduate degrees in public administration, non-clinical social work and business administration for non-profit management, and is intended for students interested in a career in Jewish Federations.

In addition to the areas of study, award recipients must also work for a Jewish Federation in North America for at least two years after graduating. Recipients must also fulfill a Jewish study requirement. 

• Established to help young people understand Jewish heritage and culture, the Morris J. and Betty Kaplun Foundation ( presents 12 awards annually. First prize in each of two categories is $1,800. Open to students in seventh grade or above, the prize is given to winning essays, the topics of which change every year. Topics will be posted at the end of September, and essays are due in early March 2017. 

Study in Israel 

• The American Jewish League for Israel ( provides merit-based scholarships toward a year of study at eligible Israeli universities. These include Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, University of Haifa, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. Information about new funding opportunities should be available in January, according to the organization’s website.

• Masa Israel ( provides grants or need-based scholarships for study abroad programs to Israel. Different amounts are available for participants from different countries. Study abroad participants from North America can receive up to $4,500, depending on the length and cost of their program, and need-based scholarships go up to $3,000. Gap year participants between the ages of 18 and 21 can receive $500.

• The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles ( provides up to $6,000 in scholarships to graduate students through the Marks Endowment Fellowship to study at Israeli universities; the money may also go toward dissertation research, language-immersion programs or Masa programs. Applicants must be Los Angeles residents. 

Applications are rolling, but they must be received at least one month prior to planned travel.

$10,000 scholarships awarded to four local grads

Four local Jewish high school graduates each have each won annual $10,000 college scholarships from the Geri and Richard Brawerman Leadership Institute.

The fellows are Jason Block of Hart High School in Santa Clarita, Chelsea Rapoport of Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada Flintridge, Samantha Page of North Hollywood High School and Alyssa Scott of Oak Park High School. Each is slated to begin college this fall, and the annual scholarships will last for four years of undergraduate education.

The first group of Brawerman fellows was selected in 2012, when five graduating seniors were chosen. The institute was founded last year through a multimillion-dollar gift to The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles by Geri Brawerman on behalf of herself and her late husband. The selection process and the scholarships are administered by Federation.

The fellowship was open to all Jewish graduating high school seniors who are enrolling in college this upcoming fall, need financial assistance, excelled academically and have demonstrated engagement in the Jewish community.

Orly Frank, Federation’s program director for the Brawerman Leadership Institute, said that the fellows will attend summer and winter retreats and participate as mentors to future fellows, all from the Los Angeles area.

“We will urge them to be involved on their campuses by participating in community service and living an active Jewish life,” Frank said.

Jason Block — whose friends know him as Jackson — plans to attend UC Berkeley in the fall. He was on his high school’s speech and debate team and also was involved with BBYO and Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita. He hopes to major in business.

“I feel extremely appreciative,” Block told the Journal. “The Jewish community has been a part of me ever since I joined BBYO, and I’m actually really glad I have this opportunity to continue my passion to stay involved in the Jewish community.”

Briefs: Winning essays, scholarships, tikkun olam, kosher winners, saving singers

A $5,000 Essay Contest

A citywide essay contest will offer students in first through 12th grade a chance to win prizes for themselves, their teachers and their schools, and see their winning work published in The Jewish Journal.

The contest is being held in conjunction with American Jewish University’s Celebration of Jewish Books Festival, which will take place Nov. 5-11, 2007.

Students must write brief essays of no more than 450 words on the theme, “Jews are the People of the Book. What does this mean to you today?”

A panel of judges, arranged by The Journal, will select four winning entries in each grade category. The winners will receive a $250 Borders bookstore gift card, a $250 Borders card for their teachers and a $750 Borders card for their school library.

The Journal will publish the winning essays in print and at All L.A.-area students are eligible. The deadline for entries is Oct. 17.

Visit for entry form and rules or call (310) 440-1246.

Scholarships Help Create New Lives

The Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) celebrated the accomplishments of the 2007-2008 JVS Scholarship Fund awardees in a ceremony at UCLA Hillel on July 12.

The recipients shared their personal stories to highlight the unique challenges the scholarships helped them overcome.

Alice Feldman was raised by a single mother with a lifelong struggle against severe depression. She moved in with her grandparents at the age of 16 and worked her way through Valley College and then UCLA, where she received her bachelor’s degree in 2004. Feldman is now a second-year doctoral student at Western University of Health Sciences-College of Pharmacy.

With the help of JVS scholarships, Jonathan Franks completed his undergraduate work at UCLA. His father is disabled by chronic back pain, and his mother was supporting a family of five as a preschool teacher. Also with the help of JVS, Franks is entering his second year at the UCLA School of Medicine, where he hopes to study surgery.

Jamie Zimmerman, a three-time recipient, is completing her final year at UCLA. Zimmerman grew up in an abusive single-parent home and even endured homelessness. At 15, she was the sole supporter of her family, while achieving As in school. She eventually became independent and in her years at UCLA, became a leader of the Jewish community there and worked in Peru and Zambia on humanitarian missions. She was accepted for early admission to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

In addition to financial aid, JVS offers job search assistance to the recipients’ parents, an internship program for students interested in Jewish community service and other career-focused and mentorship programs.

Jewish residents of Los Angeles who plan to attend full-time programs are eligible for the scholarships, which are entirely need based.

For information, visit

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Tikkun Olam Pays Off

Two Los Angeles teens are among the five recipients of the first annual Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. Erich Sorger, a 17-year-old Beverly Hills resident, and Shira Shane, a 19-year-old Encino native, each a won a $36,000 grant to use for college or to further implement their tikkun olam visions.

Beginning this year, up to five Jewish teens from California will be selected annually to receive a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation through the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Sorger, a student at Beverly Hills High School, founded a program called Dollars for Dwayne, named after a homeless man he befriended. He and a group of volunteers collected items that UCLA students left on the sidewalks of Westwood at the end of the semester, including furniture, clothes and appliances, and donated them to the National Council for Jewish Women’s thrift shop.

The store sells the items and donates the proceeds to charity. Sorger estimated that his items have raised about $16,700 so far.

While a student at New Community Jewish High School, Shane, who now attends Stanford University, formed Teens Against Genocide, a coalition of 25 high schools throughout Los Angeles. Led by Shane, Teens Against Genocide organized a rally and raised $10,000 that will be used to build wells and medical clinics in the Sudan.

For more information, visit or e-mail Robyn Carmel at

— Derek Schlom, Contributing Writer

Kosher Winners

Two sisters from Torrance, Abby and Sarah Sanfield, are among the winners of the first annual Orthodox Union Kosher Essay Contest.

Students in grades four through 12 nationwide were asked to write either a short fictional story featuring characters that face obstacles in their observance of kashrut or an essay about the importance of a kosher diet in their own lives.

Sarah, a fifth-grader, wrote “The Pot,” a story about a young girl named Anya who obeys her mother’s dying wish by taking a pot with her when she is forced to live in an orphanage, where she struggles to maintain a kosher lifestyle.

Abby, who is in the seventh grade, wrote “Kamp Kosher,” about a girl who decides to follow the laws of kashrut after attending a Jewish summer camp and subsequently convinces her father to transform his restaurant into a kosher eatery.

For more information visit

— DS

Singing to Save

A group of students at New Community Jewish High School raised $4,000 at a benefit concert, “Singing to Save,” on June 14 to support Jewish World Watch’s mission to end the genocide in Darfur. The members of two of the school’s clubs, United Students With a Cause and Club Kodesh, planned the event, which was held at the school’s campus in West Hills. The concert featured performances by Eleventh Hour Ash and Todd Herzog.

For more information, go to

— DS



Light ‘Em Up

It was easy to tell when Chanukah hit this year because of the preponderance of menorahs of all shapes and sizes spreading light throughout California. On Dec. 9 in Sacramento on the steps of the Capitol, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lit a menorah and danced the hora with none other than West Coast’s Chabad Lubavitch irrepressible Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin. Joining them was funnyman Adam Sandler, and Chabad’s long-time friend, Jon Voight.

Light ‘Em Up, Again

On the same night back in Los Angeles, Chabad of Mount Olympus (CMO) held a gala event at Hollywood and Highland. The Simcha Orchestra serenaded guests, while a professional ice carver chipped away at a block of ice until a menorah emerged, ready to be lit by CMO’s Rabbi Shlomo Rodal.

Light ‘Em Up Part III

Chabad of Ventura hosted its own Chanukah Festival on Dec. 12 at Ventura Harbor Village, with carnival rides, hot latkes and arts and crafts. A Torch of Unity and Peace was passed through the crowd as an act of solidarity with U.S. soldiers overseas. Capt. Paul Grossgold, the commanding officer of Ventura County Naval Base, then used the torch to light the menorah.

Chanukah Bush?

‘Tis the season to light the candles – at the White House that is. On Dec. 9, about 400 guests, including Stephen S. Wise’s Rabbi Eli Herscher, Dr. Joel and Roya Geiderman, Dennis Prager, Elliot and Robin Broidy, Nathan Hochman and Mark and Christina Siegel, celebrated Chanukah with President Bush. After davening maariv, guests sang and danced to the melodic strains of a cappella band Kol Zimrah, and posed for photographs with the president and the first lady.

Kadima Comes Home

It was a miraculously sunny morning on Dec. 12 in a string of rainy Sundays, as Kadima Hebrew Academy’s head of school, Barbara Gereboff, noted in her speech. The 35-year-old school’s long-awaited permanent home at the Evanhaim Family Campus was dedicated around the corner from its former campus in West Hills, in front of a community showing of more than 650 people.

The Kadima choir kicked off the event and sang throughout the ceremony. Donors and volunteers were honored at the ceremony, including building and grounds officer Shawn Evenhaim and his wife, Dorit. Evenhaim was honored for finding the new campus and making a significant donation to the new facility. For their efforts Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) presented the Evenhaims with a flag from the Capitol.

“It’s great day for the Jewish community of the Valley and Kadima,” Sherman said. “It matches the parable of the wandering Jew, but now we have a new facility.”

Members of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety were honored for their work in getting the school opened before September.

Ehud Danoch presented the school with a certificate. Councilmen Dennis P. Zine, Tony Cardenas and Greig Smith and Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick participated in the ceremony along with Jewish community leaders such as Rabbis Stewart Vogel, Abner Weiss and Richard Camras; L.A. Bureau of Jewish Education Director Gil Graff; and Carol Koransky, executive director of the Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance.

Tours of the new building were given before and after the ceremony by parent volunteers while older students helped direct traffic. Following the ceremony, a simultaneous mezuzah-hanging ceremony took place in the various classrooms of the building.

The new facility includes a computer lab with flat screen monitors, a science lab facility, a teaching kitchen, a playground, a swimming pool and a kosher cafeteria. The school currently has 185 students enrolled and caters to students from kindergarten to eighth grade. Kadima plans to add a preschool program next year. – Emily Pauker, Contributing Writer

Romania Remembers

The Romanian Consulate, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the American Jewish Committee came together to observe Romanian Holocaust Remembrance Day at the museum’s Wilshire Boulevard ORT Building locale on Oct. 28.

More than 50 people attended the event, which follows Romania’s first national memorial day to remember the victims of the Holocaust, an effort spearheaded by President Ion Iliescu and first observed in Romania this year on Oct. 12. (The Romanian government originally selected Oct. 9 – the day in 1941 when Jewish deportation orders were signed – but since the day conflicted with Shabbat last year the event was moved.)

Rachel Jagoda, executive director of the L.A. Museum of the Holocaust, said that Nazi policies sent more than 270,000 Romanian and Ukranian Jews to their deaths between 1933 and 1945, and sent 25,000 Romani to Transdniestria, where perhaps half died. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, Romania is proactively wrestling with its past.

“Romania is willing to embrace its history with honesty,” said Claudiu Lucaci, consul general of Romania in Los Angeles.

UCLA history professor David Myers praised the Romanian government’s historic move to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust. “I’m deeply heartened by Romania’s efforts to come to terms with its past,” he said.

Other speakers included Western Regional AJC Director Rabbi Gary Greenbaum and Dr. Nathan Shapira, a UCLA professor emeritus and Romanian Holocaust survivor who read from “The Child Looked Under a Leaf” by fellow survivor Lupu Gutman. – Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Scientific Excellence

American Technion Society-Western Region (ATS) hosted its Rel-Event at the Four Seasons Hotel on Nov. 8, drawing more than 125 people to its forum highlighting innovations coming out of the Israeli university that have relevance to our everyday lives.

Moris Eisen, Technion’s head of the Institute of Catalysis Science and Technology, discussed the practical application of plastics and polymers – from creating artificial disks for the spine in back surgery to developing a recyclable tire.

The event also marked the fourth year ATS recognized science students from Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple whose science projects took top honors. Winners of the Excellence in Science award this year include eight-graders Loren Berman, Karlie Braufman, Richard Dahan and Nathan Halimi; and ninth-graders Lisa Hurwitz and Rachel Kraus. – AW

Terrific Torath Emeth

The Orthodox Yeshiva Rav Isaacsohn Torath Emeth Academy held its annual scholarship dinner Jan. 16 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The dinner, which honored Torath Emeth parents Henry and Lisa Manoucheri, celebrated 52 years of Torath Emeth in Los Angeles.


On Nov. 18, Lara Goulson’s fifth-grade boy’s class at Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center in Sherman Oaks hosted an Intergenerational Day for the students’ parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. Each student completed an art project with his relatives, and then the boys wrote poems about their families and read them aloud.


Happy Campers

We are driving to pick up our son from camp. He’s been there three weeks, the longest stretch he’s been away from us since his birth.

In this age of e-mails and BlackBerrys and cell phones, the rule at Camp Alonim at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley is no e-mails, BlackBerrys or cell phones. He’s sent us a few postcards home, clearly written by an 11-year-old who has put away childish things, like parents.

“Dear Family: We prayed and prayed and had havdalah end of story. Love, Adi. P.S. I love you. P.P.S. Tomorrow’s our overnight and we’re creating our own fire and no letters on Sunday.”

We follow a dusty procession of cars making its way toward the bunks — the one time of year these SUVs will touch actual dirt. Our son and his friends pour out — and they are different. Taller. Browner. A bit of manly bunk-stench still clinging to their clothes. We ask them how it was and they laugh among themselves and break into secret jokes and chants and hints of midnight sneak-outs, leaving the details to our imaginations. For a decade their lives have been lived out solely on our turf. Now we are strangers on theirs.

On this warm August morning, the endless agonizing over Jewish continuity and how best to ensure a Jewish future seems especially vapid. You want to know what works? Camp.

A fraction of American Jewish children attend Jewish summer camps, despite a small but growing body of evidence that no other institution is as effective in passing Jewish values and community to the next generation.

“The 24/7 experience can’t be replicated,” said Jerry Silverman, the executive director of the Foundation for Jewish Camping ( “It’s living communally outdoors, integrating Jewish learning with fun.” A former executive with Levi Strauss and Stride Rite, Silverman’s change-of-life moment came when he picked one of his own children up from her first stay at Camp Ramah New England and found she had been transformed by the immeasurably positive experience. Jewish camping, he said, “evolved into a family passion.”

Silverman joined up with the foundation, which was founded in 1998 by Wexner Fellows Robert and Elisa Bildner to be a national advocate for the Jewish camp movement. There are 120 nonprofit Jewish camps in the United States and Canada, serving between 55,000-60,000 children. That’s just 8 percent of the total Jewish population. The Foundation’s goal is to double the number in five years.

The obstacles are as close as your checkbook. Sleepaway camps range from $475-650 per week, with the average close to $600. An Avi Chai Foundation study found that while 67 percent of Jewish professionals are summer camp alumni, the high tab puts off many families.

Those that aren’t deterred often confront a lack of camps themselves. There is no camp on the West Coast serving the Modern Orthodox. The high price of land and start-up costs in the millions mean few new camps come on line with any frequency. Film producer Doug Mankoff, the Foundation’s only Los Angeles-area board member, put it this way: “There are three fundamental ways to strengthen Jewish identity among young people: day schools, Israel and camping. But nobody seems to be doing much about the last one.”

But the Foundation hopes to chip away at these problems, and money and effort are starting to flow in the right direction. In Western Massachusetts, the Grinspoon Foundation gives every Jewish child a $1,000 scholarship to attend the first year at camp. The Avi Chai Foundation is funding improved Judaic and leadership training for counselors and Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation is funding specialized courses in the dramatic arts for camp leaders. And here in Southern California, home of sticker shock by the square foot, organizers in San Diego have just broken ground on a new, pluralistic camp in the San Bernardino Mountains — with a lake.

Mankoff said such camps offer something unique, “learning about Judaism in a cool way.”

I thought of my son’s postcard — how prayer and Havdalah fused with the thrill of an actual campfire.

“It’s that heartfelt excitement about Judaism kids can feel with their peers,” Mankoff said.

It was that excitement I read on my son’s face and heard in his stories.

That morning we picked Adi up, he and his friends decided to take us on a hike around Brandeis. We ended up climbing a hill claimed by the junior counselors-in-trainings. “This is the J-CIT hill, that one is the CITs,” said one of them, pointing across the landscape like Gen. Tommy Franks on reconnaissance.

They had their own language, had formed their own tribe with its own stories. We scrambled past a garden where the kids learned about the (old) kibbutz life, and up a steep path that a month earlier we couldn’t have begged these boys to climb.

On the way down we heard an ear-jolting thrum. Two feet in front of us, a large rattlesnake shot across our trail and slipped under a toyon bush. Its body was thick as a man’s wrist, but all I noticed were its pointy eyes facing us down, and its furious rattle.

These boys, raised in the wilds of Rancho Park, Carthay Circle, Hancock Park Adjacent and West Los Angeles, slipped sideways around the snake and continued their march down the hill. The we-came-this-close-to-a-rattlesnake story joined the other stories and jokes and experiences they would pass down about Alonim 2004, as their little tribe happily merges into the larger one, the one to which we all belong.

Scholarship Takes No Vacation

Two local synagogues are offering an opportunity for Jewish scholarship this summer, and a third is offering weekly Hebrew classes at all levels.

Through the Community Scholar Program, Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel will help host a six-day visit by a professor of Jewish history and archaeology from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

Professor Lee Levine, a 30-year resident of Israel, is the author of 11 books about ancient Judaism, synagogues and geography. He will hold six talks over six days, July 1-6. Most will be held at either B’nai Israel or an upper school classroom at Tarbut V’ Torah Community Day School in Irvine.

His topics will range from Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" to whether the Passover seder is a pagan invention.

Anaheim’s Temple Beth Emet promises an eight-week class that can turn Hebrew illiterates into Hebrew readers able to follow in a prayer book. Four levels of Hebrew are offered at Beth Emet in weekly classes that will meet beginning July 19 at 7:30 p.m. and run through the first week of September.

"The instruction is highly individualized and offers the freedom to move between classes to meet your personal needs," promised Margalit Moskowitz, Beth Emet’s education director.

Irvine’s Beth Jacob Congregation will host a parenting seminar July 29-Aug. 1 by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen, a teaching professor from Jerusalem who challenges popular child-raising theories.

A former Harvard and UCLA student, Kelemen began his career as a ski instructor and worked as a news director and anchorman for a California radio station. He then traveled to Jerusalem to pursue the rabbinate, simultaneously conducting a dozen years of intensive postgraduate field research and publishing several books.

Kelemen teaches at Neve Yerushalaim College of Jewish Studies for Women and is the author of "To Kindle a Soul" (Leviathan, 2001) an authoritative parenting handbook.

The Beth Jacob seminar is $36 per person; $48 per couple.

Further details on the programs are available by calling the shuls: Beth Jacob, (949) 786-5230; B’nai Israel, (714) 730-9693; Beth Emet, (714) 772-4720.

Community Briefs

Local Teacher’s Brother Survives Sbarro’sBlast

Last week was particularly bad for local Milken Community High School teacher Etel Guy, whose brother was injured in the Aug. 9 Sbarro suicide bombing that killed 15 Jews.

A day before he was set to begin service in the Golani unit of the Israeli Defense Force, Shmulik-Chai Guy, 19, was strolling in the center of Jerusalem when the impact of the blast sent him flying in the air. He broke four ribs and was hit by glass and metal shrapnel.

“He wanted to get up and help people and he fainted,” said Etel Guy, 29, who described to The Journal the ordeal her parents and three other siblings, all in Israel, have been going through. Shmulik-Chai Guy, who is currently at Hadassah Ein-Karem hospital, was relatively fortunate. He is conscious and recuperating, and his sister reported that doctors attribute his stabilizing condition to his upbeat personality.

“They asked him what he wanted for lunch,” she said, “and Shmuley joked, ‘Sbarro pizza.'” — Michael Aushenker

Forty Years of Hillel

More than 300 Harkham Hillel alumni enthusiastically greeted each other at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy’s 40th reunion, which took place on Aug. 19.

As dean Rabbi Menachem Gottesman took the podium at the school auditorium to address his former students, he learned that some things never change. “We’ll have plenty of time for talking later, and I don’t want to name names because I love you all — and I do remember names,” he quipped.

The chattering audience was comprised of alumni from 1961-2001, at the first official reunion organized by the school, now the largest Orthodox day school in Los Angeles.

“We thought it would be a nice way to bring everyone back together, especially in light of what’s going on in Israel,” said Lulu Fensten (class of 1970), reunion chair and active parent and alumnus.

“What Hillel stands for is what Israel needs, which is unity,” said Leiba Gottesman, whose idea it was to organize the reunion. “It’s special in that it caters to every child and welcomes all Jewish children.”

The challenge in organizing the event was tracking more than 2,000 alumni — many of whom have moved across the United States and abroad. The reunion paid tribute to the 40 years of leadership of Gottesman, who first took post at Harkham Hillel as educational director in 1961, and his wife, Leiba. The event also commemorated the recent passing of alumnus, Shoshana (Haymen) Greenbaum, a victim of the Aug. 9 Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem. — Orit Arfa

JVS Scholarship Helps Students

This year, Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) will distribute $275,000 in scholarships to 130 qualifying students. Seventy-nine of the grants, which range from $500 to $5,000, were awarded by the JVS Jewish Community Scholarship Fund, while 51 came via private donors, according to Jeanie Gaynor, who oversees the scholarship program.

Local recipients of the grants include Nadia Shpachenko, Joshua Fine and Omri and Edo Berger.

Shpachenko, who is pursuing her doctorate in music at USC, was raised by her single mother, an émigré from the Soviet Union who scrubbed floors in Israel to make ends meet. Bernard Axelrad, one of the Foundation’s four trustees, was so taken with Shpachenko that he will be assisting her financially until she completes her formal studies.

As of September, Fine, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Reserves, will be a first-year law student at Notre Dame University. His grant money will be used for his $31,500-per-year tuition.

For three years, JVS has been assisting Omri Berger with his undergraduate work. Berger, who starts UCLA Medical School in September, is the son of Israelis who operate a small-women’s accessories business in the San Fernando Valley. A grant will also help Omri Berger’s older brother, Edo, who is pursuing his doctorate in astrophysics at Cal Tech.

For more information on JVS Jewish Community Scholarship, call (323) 761-8888 ext. 8868. — Michael Aushenker