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Alumni

בוגרי בית ספרנו

Hannah Senesh graduates are a varied group, and over the years they have brought their passions and sensibilities to many excellent high schools, colleges, and universities across the United States.  Hannah Senesh graduates meet the world with a sense of purpose; nurtured by our intimate, supportive environment and bolstered by the inspiring story of our namesake, they are prepared to meet any challenge.  Hannah Senesh graduates leave our school knowing they will always be a part of the community, and many of them keep in close touch with former classmates and teachers, coming back to school for visits and special events.  At Hannah Senesh we are a large extended family, and our graduates hold that fact dear, even years after graduation.

Hannah Senesh graduates have strong Jewish and American identities, developed over the years through study, experience, and introspection.  Our graduates are independent thinkers and involved learners, eager to “be the change” they wish to see in the world.  We are proud of our graduates and all they are accomplishing, and on the facing page we list the high schools, colleges, and universities to which they have been accepted.  But this is merely a list; it doesn’t show the years of hard work our students put in to earn acceptances to these schools, and it doesn’t show the tremendous support students show each other as they navigate the high school application process.  Yes, we are proud of our graduates for their academic achievements, but we are even prouder to see the remarkable, compassionate, and committed young adults they have become, interested contributors to the world around them.  Keep your eyes and ears opened… you can expect to see and hear great things from Hannah Senesh graduates!

-   LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PROFESSIONAL PURSUITS OF OUR ALUMNI

Rebecca Katz (Class of 2002)

Rebecca Katz’s career path took her to Chicago and Austin before she circled back to NYC, but the strong Jewish identity and commitment to social justice that she forged at Hannah Senesh have been constants in her life and career. Rebecca was one of the first 14 children enrolled in our school in 1995, and a member of Senesh’s first graduating class in 2002. After studying at Heschel High School (where she was again a member of the first graduating class), she headed to Vassar College, where she majored in American Studies. During her four years at Vassar, Rebecca says, she only went to Hillel once. “I was done. I wanted to try new things. Thanks to Senesh, I knew that my Judaism would still be there. I was in an ongoing relationship with it, and I could move back for a couple of years in college and still reconnect.” After college she headed to Chicago to find a job and a community. One thing she knew for sure: she did not want to be a Jewish communal professional. “As the child of two people who were working in Jewish communal service, I did not want to go in that direction—very adamantly,” she says. But she was searching for connections to other people and ways to get more involved in social justice work. And, of course, a job. She had worked with young people in the past, so a listing for the director of teen programs at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs was appealing. Rebecca says, “I see that as a turning point. When I took that job, I took all these threads and wove them into one.” Because of her experiences at Senesh, she was surprised to find at her new job that creating pluralistic, inclusive Jewish spaces was really hard. “I was brought up to welcome and celebrate a multiplicity of Jewish expression and practice, and work toward that myself.” At a difficult moment, when some of the teens she was working with felt that their observance wasn’t being honored, she called her father in tears. “He told me, ‘We’re all struggling to do it, and no one has the perfect answer,’” she says. “I became more committed than ever.”

After three years in Chicago, Rebecca moved to Austin, TX, where she spent about two years as director of social justice programs at the Texas Hillel Foundation. And then, just two years ago, she returned to Brooklyn and began a new position as director of education at the Jewish social justice organization Repair the World. “My experience at Senesh is the foundation of who I am in a multitude of ways,” she says. “Senesh gave me ownership of my Jewish identity and my expression of it, and I’m so grateful. The school taught me to have a personal relationship with my Judaism that was not restrictive, that could grow and change.” Rebecca talked about learning to put on tefillin during her bat mitzvah year. “We were all taught to wrap tefillin, no differentiation between boys and girls. It wasn’t framed as something we had to do, but that we had access to and had a right to. Once we learned how, we would have the option to do it or not. That foundationally feminist and pluralistic view of Judaism was really wonderful. “I’ve only worked for Jewish organizations that strive for pluralism. It’s such a powerful framework for me. The idea that any expression is welcome is something I connect with so deeply. Having spent time working professionally in three Jewish institutions and with many coalitions of Jewish nonprofits, I’ve learned that so many organizations are seeking to do that, and it’s what I was given through Senesh.” Rebecca adds, “Senesh gave me a deep intertwining of practicing Judaism and social justice—these were one and the same, and our texts and traditions could help inform how we create change today. That core value, that part of expressing one’s Judaism was working for a just world, never went away.”



Rose Eilenberg (Class of 2005)

Rose Eilenberg is typically multi-tasking. Between attending acrobatic festivals across the country and creating programming for the Pittsburgh Moishe House where she resides, Rose is a Mechanical Engineering PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). While discussing her journey since graduating from Senesh, Rose has code running in the background.

After graduating from Senesh in 2005, Rose attended LaGuardia High School as an art major and spent one high school semester in Israel with the Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim program. During her undergraduate career at Tufts University, Rose discovered her interest in the intersection between science and sustainability – double majoring in mechanical engineering and environmental studies.

After graduating from college, Rose found herself back in New York, working on energy audits for large buildings at Energy Spectrum. After some time, she quit, finding an internship that felt more aligned with her passions. At BioLite, she helped develop their next generation of sustainable cookstoves for use in the developing world. “The topic was so fascinating to me,” Rose recalled. It was by following this newfound interest that Rose was accepted into CMU; an advisor in the Mechanical Engineering department who was researching solid-fuel cookstoves knew Rose would be an asset. Their findings were published last month in the academic journal Atmospheric Environment.

Rose continues to find new and fascinating projects on which to focus her academic research; she is currently utilizing machine learning to forecast air quality. Rose is also preparing for life after graduation – she hopes to pursue a career in science communication, either for a podcast or publication. “I want to be able to talk to a broad audience about science,” she explained.

Outside of her lab, Rose is equally devoted. “I believe it’s really important to have a life and community outside of my schoolwork,” she explained; “there are certain staples to a happy life.” Her dedication is to two communities in particular: her acrobatics group and the Moishe House she lives in. Acrobatics has been a hobby for years, and Rose attends festivals and “acro” camps throughout the year. Her Moishe House is more than a hobby – it’s also her home. Rose lives with three other Jewish young professionals and graduate students and is charged with creating weekly programming for the millennial Jewish community in Pittsburgh. “I feel very lucky to have made friends with people just because they happen to wander into my house looking for something meaningful,” Rose reflected.

Thinking back to her time at Senesh, Rose noted that her Jewish education equipped her with an easier path to connection. “I do have people come into my home who want to be connected to Judaism but don’t have the knowledge, traditions, or content that I have.” Programming in the Moishe House is varied, from themed Shabbat dinners (such as Jewish Christmas in July, complete with Chinese food) to study sessions on queerness in the Torah to social events such as distillery tours.

For Rose, finding a Jewish community was never a concern. “I knew wherever I went there would be Jewish life; when I got to Pittsburgh, I wasn’t even looking for Judaism because I knew I would naturally find it. It’s just a part of my life.”

Editor’s Note: Rose, who lives in Pittsburgh, was interviewed for this profile just two days before the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. She lives in Squirrel Hill, blocks away from the scene of the shooting. While those tragic events are not the subject of this profile, Rose has since shared a bit about her experience on that day, which consisted of opening up her home to roughly 45 Jewish young adults who “talked, colored, ate soup, drank tea and wine, and generally showed each other love and support. It felt like a shiva house— the way we were all in mourning but coming together to celebrate what it means to be Jewish. It meant so much to be surrounded by people who were going through the exact same thing, but who also refused to be defeated by hate.” Thank you to Rose for sharing about her experience on that tragic day and also about her day to day life.


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Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (Class of 2007)

With no end in sight, it’s clear that Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has had one very busy—and one very successful—year! A 23-year-old who first discovered his love of opera as an undergraduate at Princeton University, Aryeh is making a name for himself as a professional countertenor. He’s won a slew of awards and recognitions for his craft. To reference but a few, Aryeh received first prize in the Houston Grand Opera Competition, was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and was awarded a grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. This summer, he joined a summer residency program at Wolf Trap Opera. In the fall, he’ll join the Houston Grand Opera Studio as the first countertenor in the renowned program’s history.

While Aryeh has a variety of other projects lined up, he can only speak publicly about next season’s endeavors— as is custom in the world of professional opera. Stay tuned.

Aryeh believes that Hannah Senesh prepared him well for his career. He relays that the dual curriculum taught him how to juggle: how to juggle languages, assignments, schedules, and more. And to Aryeh, juggling is an essential aspect of operatic singing. He notes that a strong performer must be able to balance the inherent complexities of music, movement, theater, and language. Finding the mental focus needed to flourish in all of these art forms simultaneously is key.

Aryeh looks back at his time at Hannah Senesh fondly. He remembers the environment as both supportive and familial. He notes Senesh’s communal atmosphere as being “fostered by outstanding teachers like Hope Levav,” and speaks affectionately about the connections he’s maintained with teachers and peers alike.

Aryeh’s first star turn on stage was playing Captain Hook in Hannah Senesh’s 2007 production of Peter Pan. It seems that role only quenched his thirst for drama. Best to get tickets to Aryeh’s performances now! To learn more, visit Aryeh’s website at www.aryehnussbaumcohen.com.



Alexander Amir (Class of 2012)

2017

Alexander Amir is one busy guy! He’s a Pre-Law student at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter studying Economics, Public Policy, and Music. On top of that, he volunteers as a Macaulay Student Ambassador—helping to recruit high school students and working open house events—and as a peer mentor. Over the summer, Alexander will intern in the criminal justice division of the New York County Supreme Court and begin pursuing his teaching certification for violin. Ultimately, he hopes to find a career in sports management.

Upon entering high school, Alexander felt further ahead academically than many of his peers. He believes that his time at Hannah Senesh helped set him up for success. He relays, “Senesh provided me with a very individualized approach which influenced my overall passion for learning” and adds that, had he been in a bigger atmosphere, he may not have developed the same appreciation for knowledge.

Alexander, keep us posted! We’re excited to see what you do next!

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