September 23, 2019

Blending Arts and Service

Clara Pitt, 17
High School: Milken Community Schools
Going To: Vassar College

She’s the salutatorian for the Milken Class of 2018, but academic achievement is just one aspect of Clara Pitt’s many accomplishments. Active in student government and service organizations, she has helped plan the school’s Service Learning Fair, is active in the education movement Girls Learn International, and is on the planning committee for Milken’s AIDS Walk team. A talented dancer, she’s team captain for the Los Angeles Israeli Dance Company, and she is a teacher’s aide for Temple Isaiah’s pre-K Sunday school class.

“Giving back has always been really important to me,” Pitt said in a phone interview. “It’s something my parents and grandparents are very enthusiastic about. I grew up watching them do community service, and was so inspired by their ability to give back that I wanted to do the same. I think it’s the greatest work we can do in our lives. My parents never pushed me in school, just encouraged me to do my best.”

An ardent traveler, Pitt attended Camp Svarvas, an international Jewish camp in Hungary, and has been to Israel three times, most recently in April for the March of the Living. She went twice in 2016, first with a Stephen S. Wise Temple three-way summer exchange program and stayed with families in Tel Aviv and Vilnius, Lithuania. She returned a few months later, on a Temple Isaiah group tour. “We had an Israeli tour guide and a Palestinian tour guide to learn about both sides of the conflict,” she said.

“I’m always amazed by how rich and vibrant the culture is,” Pitt said of Israel. “I don’t necessarily agree with everything the state of Israel does, but I feel blessed that the Jewish people have a state, and hope that one day in the future we’ll be able to live peacefully there.”

“I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface with my understanding of everything. I’ll take any opportunity to travel and learn about another culture.”

Pitt, who received her Jewish education at Temple Isaiah, where she had her bat mitzvah, and has attended Milken since middle school, said she “became a lot more in touch with my Jewish identity and Jewish heritage” after transferring there from a secular elementary school. “I was studying a lot more in-depth than before, and through exchange programs I’ve been able to meet Jewish people from around the world. That has motivated me to learn more about Judaism and stay connected with it. It’s really a large part of my life,” she said.  

“I see how much my ancestors struggled to be Jewish,” she said, noting that her grandmothers fled Eastern Europe before World War II. “One became a schoolteacher and the other a librarian. Their willingness and passion for giving back to the community really inspired me.”

Heading to Vassar College this fall, Pitt has “a long list of things I want to study: cognitive science, journalism, art history, anthropology, maybe chemistry,” she said. “My ideal job would be a photojournalist.” 

Her summer plans include doing fun things around L.A. and taking a trip with her brother Benjamin, a recent New York University graduate. “It’s one of my goals to help people wherever I go and learn and experience as much as I can. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface with my understanding of everything. I’ll take any opportunity to travel and learn about another culture.” n