High School Acceptances College and Gap Year Program Acceptances
The Abraham Joshua Heschel School
Art and Design High School
Avenues: The World School
Bard High School Early College
BASIS Independent Brooklyn
Bay Ridge Preparatory School
The Beacon School
The Berkeley Carroll School
The Brearley School
Bronx High School of Science
Brooklyn Friends School
Brooklyn High School of the Arts
Brooklyn Latin School
Brooklyn Technical High School
The Calhoun School
Choate Rosemary Hall
The Churchill School and Center
Cresskill High School
The Dalton School
Edward R. Murrow High School
Fine and Visual Arts
Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI)
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts
Grace Church School
Harvest Collegiate High School
The Harley School
High School of American Studies at Lehman College
High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology
High School for Fashion Industries
Horace Mann School
Hunter College High School
James Madison High School
Landmark High School
The Lawrenceville School
Léman Manhattan Preparatory School
Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences
Magen David Yeshivah
Manhattan/Hunter Science High School
Midwood High School
Medical Science Institute
Millennium Brooklyn High School
Millennium High School
Northport High School
NYC Lab High School for Collaborative Studies
NYC Museum School
Pace University High School
The Packer Collegiate Institute
Phillips Exeter Academy
Poly Prep Country Day School
The Ramaz School
Rudolph Steiner School
Saint Ann’s School
Special Music School
Stuyvesant High School
Townsend Harris High School
Yeshivah of Flatbush
The Winchendon School
Bryn Mawr College
Carnegie Mellon University
City College of New York
Delaware State University
Florida State University
Florida Gulf Coast University
George Washington University
Habonim Dror Shnat (Gap Year Program)
Insper Institute of Education and Research
Johnson & Wales University
Kingsborough Community College
King’s College London
Loyola University New Orleans
The Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College
Midreshet Lindenbaum (Gap Year Program)
Mount Holyoke College
New England Conservatory
New York University
Sarah Lawrence College
Savannah College of Art and Design
Shalom Hartman Institute (Gap Year Program)
Stevens Institute of Technology
St. John’s University
University of Arizona
University of Chicago
University of Hartford
University of Maryland
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of Rochester
University of Vermont
Washington University in St. Louis
Young Judaea (Gap Year Program)
High School Acceptances
College and Gap Year Program Acceptances
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!
Nathan Cahn views his work for The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) as nothing short of “an immense privilege.” As a data analyst for the the Claims Conference, Nathan assists in negotiating compensation for victims of Nazi persecution around the world. “I had no idea I would ever get a chance to work with survivors in my professional life or that my path would lead me back to work in the Jewish community,” he shared.
While his Jewish education left Nathan confident in his knowledge of Jewish history, his current work has taught him new lessons about the global repercussions of the Holocaust. “Jews are a far more diverse people than I previously understood…I hear survivors of all nationalities speaking in languages from around the world. For them, history is not confined to the past.”
Nathan’s intersecting interests in social justice and data can be traced back to his time at Senesh. He has vivid memories of singing civil rights songs with this fourth grade history class, a unit he remembers having a deep impact on him. Eighth grade social studies was also an empowering course for Nathan; he recalls learning how to access unbiased news and information to stay informed and form opinions.
It was at Clark University and, after, in AmeriCorps that Nathan continued to explore these interest areas. Graduating from Clark in 2010 with a degree in Sociology and Concentration in Race and Ethnic Relations, Nathan moved to New Mexico to become a teaching fellow at Citizens Schools. For two years, Nathan acted as the liaison between the organization’s national headquarters and the New Mexico data leads, supervising data entry and assisting in data-to-action collaboration. It was in New Mexico that Nathan saw the power of data first-hand, where increased grades and scores were used to prove Citizen School’s tangible effect on student performance.
When it became clear to Nathan that analyzing data, rather than providing direct service, was his preferred method for giving back, he began his Masters of Science in Applied Social Research at Hunter College. After graduation, he worked as a data analyst for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, using data to prove the efficacy of progressive policies being enacted by the Office. Nathan is proud of his work to push “Raise the Age” legislation through New York State government to ensure fairer prosecution for New York youth, among other initiatives. His work there and at Claims Conference is congruous with the d’var torah Nathan gave at his Bar Mitzvah – a discussion of flawed humans searching for redemption and justice, which was based on his Senesh summer reading book, Manchild in the Promised Land. The book chronicles a young black man’s coming of age in Harlem during the Civil Rights era. “Those books, those lessons,” said Nathan, ”they shaped my mindset.”
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 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.
Sarah Rosen recalls the moment when her professional path began falling into place. It was during an undergraduate Introduction to Anthropology class; as Sarah puts it, “I was blown away. And from there, I just ran with it.”
After receiving her BA in Anthropology with a concentration in Biological Anthropology and Bioarchaeology from State University of New York at Geneseo in 2013, Sarah continued to immerse herself in her anthropological passion. After interning in two labs within the American Museum of Natural History, Sarah went on to receive her MSc in Palaeopathology with merit from Durham University in England in 2016. Now, she is six months shy of receiving her Doctorate in Forensic Anthropology.
For Sarah, forensic anthropology is imbued with hope. Using anthropological methods to crack previously unsolved crimes has the power to provide truth and closure, she explains. As part of her doctoral dissertation, Sarah spent five months in post-conflict Guatemala studying the uses of forensic anthropology in local processes of transitional justice. “After a country undergoes civil war, the survivors crave justice…and one way that this can occur is by gathering forensic evidence from victims’ remains to try and obtain answers for the living.” Her dissertation on the subject is entitled, “We Were Seeds: The Economies of Forensic Identification of Human Skeletal Remains.”
The intersection of forensic anthropology and politics is one of the many topics that Sarah spends time researching and contemplating. Who is given access to forensic services and what stories the anthropologists are allowed to tell is fraught with complication. Often times, Sarah notes, “governing bodies only enable superficial efforts [to identify the dead] and only allow forensic efforts that will situate the violence in the past.”
Discussing her PhD on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Sarah acknowledges that her work, and her inability to shy away from the injustices she studies, is bound up in her identity as a Jew. “Part of having a well-rounded Jewish education is learning about the Holocaust and how that kind of violence continues to dictate narratives today.” Sarah recalls speaking with Holocaust survivors during her time at Senesh, an experience she views as incredibly valuable. “I’m so thankful to have had that opportunity, which future generations will not have. I also recall the trauma that was passed down through their stories. It was very powerful.” This experience, among others, instilled in Sarah a desire to repair. “You get to decide what kind of person you want to be in the face of these lessons. And it became clear to me that, as one person, I could not stop catastrophic events from occurring. What I found was that I could take action by helping survivors find justice for themselves and their loved ones. This was really empowering for me, to realize I could help relieve trauma in some small way.”
Looking ahead, Sarah hopes to stay in the UK after completing her final degree. She has been approved for a postdoctoral fellowship through Durham University and is working to secure funding for her proposed research. Sarah hopes to study human capacity for empathy with skeletons, a topic that has far-reaching implications in forensic anthropology. Some of her old Senesh classmates have written to her regarding her research, sharing their own experiences as they relate to her work.
While Sarah has found a new home in England, her Brooklyn roots and her time at Senesh always resurface. Sarah is regularly featured on BBC One’s arts programming due to her talent as a swing dancer, among other styles. One dress she performs in has history – Sarah wore it during her time at Senesh. “Coming to Senesh in costume was something I loved and did often, although it was definitely not a trend that continued into high school or college. I thank many of my Senesh teachers for letting me explore my creativity during that time. They let me be who I needed to be, and I appreciate that.”
In 2012, while on track to graduate Princeton University with a degree in public policy, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen won a free ticket to The Metropolitan Opera. Aryeh recalls sitting in the audience of La Boheme as “a truly transformative experience.” The college freshman left the theatre extremely moved. Aryeh describes the aspiration that propelled him forward: “I felt that if there was any way I could do what those singers were doing, I wanted to give it a shot.”
Aryeh’s trajectory began shifting to align with his newfound passion. Winning Princeton’s Dale Sophomore Award, which finances 10 rising juniors’ study of a non-academic subject, enabled Aryeh to enhance his musical skill set. Aryeh spent the summer studying vocal performance and switched his major to history. “My thinking at the time was that if I never gave it a shot, I‘d always look back and wonder if I could have made a career in the arts,” he shared.
Aryeh’s first few months out of college tested his dedication. Rejections from vocal performance graduate programs and fellowships prompted Aryeh to pursue his own course of study. “I still felt that I had something to contribute artistically, and I still wanted to pursue this dream,” he explained. In March 2017, Aryeh entered the Metropolitan Opera competition on a whim and, at 23, was named Grand Finals Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. The subsequent New York Times review lauding his performance changed Aryeh’s life overnight.
In the past few years, Aryeh has achieved – if not exceeded – his initial dreams. The rising star has been awarded numerous grants, fellowships, and prizes, including first prize in the Houston Grand Opera Competition and the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition. Aryeh’s first foray into commercial recording has also proved successful; a recording of Kenneth Fuchs’ Poems of Life on which Aryeh sings won a 2019 GRAMMY® Award.
Aryeh’s performances are chosen with intention; certain characters whom he brings to life onstage carry special meaning to him. He notes, “The ‘Refugee’s Aria (Dawn, Still Darkness)’ from Dove’s Flight is my absolute favorite aria to sing. To tell the story of a refugee fleeing persecution and the tale of his brother’s death is more important now than ever…every time I sing that aria, it is an honor to tell his story.” Aryeh’s repertoire also includes oratorios based on Old Testament stories, including Handel’s Saul and Esther. Being able to celebrate and amplify the stories of biblical giants has a unique significance to Aryeh, who recalls studying their lives and legacies in his Senesh Judaic studies courses.
Prior to his days portraying King David, Aryeh was thrust onto Senesh’s smaller stage as Captain Hook in his 8th grade performance of Peter Pan. Aryeh notes, “I got my first experiences on the stage at Senesh, and I definitely caught the stage ‘bug’ early…I’ll always look back fondly on that experience.” Aryeh recalls Senesh as a place that provided a crucial educational foundation as well as a familial atmosphere. The school’s strong communal bonds are evinced in one of Aryeh’s early musical memories — it was at a Senesh classmates’ karaoke birthday party that a fellow parent noted Aryeh’s vocal talent to his mother, who subsequently enrolled him in a youth chorus. Indeed, from peers to teachers, Aryeh remembers being surrounded by a chorus of support at Senesh. He states, “I cherish my time spent at Hannah Senesh.”
Eva Stern-Rodriguez ’08 sees a clear connection between her work at Google and Senesh Chumash class. As a user experience researcher at Google during the summer of 2019, Eva designed and executed a slew of studies to better understand the functionality of Google products among a broad user type. Her goal: provide a qualitative and quantitative basis for product improvement. Eva’s passion for digital experiences is rooted in her interest in human-computer interaction. “User experience research is about having real conversations with people about their problems and how technology can improve their lives — it’s about empathizing with another’s lived experience, whether that is the challenge of being a new user or something greater, in order to design the best possible product.” For Eva, the act of creating connections and considering foreign perspectives hearkens back to Middle School Chumash class at Senesh. “Reading Biblical texts was about learning to make distant stories and unfamiliar struggles relatable…it was an early exercise in empathy that translates to my current work. In the present, I have to imagine the impact of a problem I have never personally dealt with or see a product through the eyes of a potential user’s unique set of needs.” Feminist design methodology is one of many design frameworks that Eva uses when examining user interaction. Keeping aspects of a user’s identity in mind — including gender — is central to building better technology, she explains. Eva first encountered design frameworks at Cornell Tech where she obtained a graduate degree in Information Systems in 2018. At Cornell Tech, Eva mastered new aspects of human computer interaction and machine learning algorithms and applied them to real-world problems, including combating unemployment among new immigrants in New York City and information dissemination disruption in the news. Eva’s foray into the world of user experience began with a high school painting class at the Williston Northampton School and a first year coding class at Wellesley College. It was an interest in the amalgamation of these disparate fields that influenced Eva to major in Media Arts and Sciences, an interdisciplinary major at Wellesley that aimed to blend the two disciplines. During college, Eva began working on design-based projects, including developing experimental interfaces and virtual reality experiences as an undergraduate research assistant in the MIT Media Lab. Eventually, Eva realized that it was human interaction with technology rather than technology design that interested her most. Her time at Google has let her explore the questions she is most captivated by: what draws people to interact with a specific technology and how to implement effective digital experiences that fit the needs of unique users. Eva has not only considered the impact of digital experiences on human lives — she has also done some reflection on the influences on her own. Eva sees her time at Senesh as invaluable, both in the skills she gained and the community by which she was surrounded. She appreciates the greater historical and textual understanding she can bring to her family’s Seder table and noted that many Jewish rituals would feel more distant and emptier without her Senesh education. “I feel Jewish all the time because my family and some of my oldest friendships from Senesh are mixed up in that identity. Being at Senesh was like being part of a family — it was the most carefree and comfortable that I have ever been in my entire life.”
Eva Stern-Rodriguez ’08 sees a clear connection between her work at Google and Senesh Chumash class. As a user experience researcher at Google during the summer of 2019, Eva designed and executed a slew of studies to better understand the functionality of Google products among a broad user type. Her goal: provide a qualitative and quantitative basis for product improvement.
Eva’s passion for digital experiences is rooted in her interest in human-computer interaction. “User experience research is about having real conversations with people about their problems and how technology can improve their lives — it’s about empathizing with another’s lived experience, whether that is the challenge of being a new user or something greater, in order to design the best possible product.”
For Eva, the act of creating connections and considering foreign perspectives hearkens back to Middle School Chumash class at Senesh. “Reading Biblical texts was about learning to make distant stories and unfamiliar struggles relatable…it was an early exercise in empathy that translates to my current work. In the present, I have to imagine the impact of a problem I have never personally dealt with or see a product through the eyes of a potential user’s unique set of needs.”
Feminist design methodology is one of many design frameworks that Eva uses when examining user interaction. Keeping aspects of a user’s identity in mind — including gender — is central to building better technology, she explains. Eva first encountered design frameworks at Cornell Tech where she obtained a graduate degree in Information Systems in 2018. At Cornell Tech, Eva mastered new aspects of human computer interaction and machine learning algorithms and applied them to real-world problems, including combating unemployment among new immigrants in New York City and information dissemination disruption in the news.
Eva’s foray into the world of user experience began with a high school painting class at the Williston Northampton School and a first year coding class at Wellesley College. It was an interest in the amalgamation of these disparate fields that influenced Eva to major in Media Arts and Sciences, an interdisciplinary major at Wellesley that aimed to blend the two disciplines. During college, Eva began working on design-based projects, including developing experimental interfaces and virtual reality experiences as an undergraduate research assistant in the MIT Media Lab. Eventually, Eva realized that it was human interaction with technology rather than technology design that interested her most. Her time at Google has let her explore the questions she is most captivated by: what draws people to interact with a specific technology and how to implement effective digital experiences that fit the needs of unique users.
Eva has not only considered the impact of digital experiences on human lives — she has also done some reflection on the influences on her own. Eva sees her time at Senesh as invaluable, both in the skills she gained and the community by which she was surrounded. She appreciates the greater historical and textual understanding she can bring to her family’s Seder table and noted that many Jewish rituals would feel more distant and emptier without her Senesh education. “I feel Jewish all the time because my family and some of my oldest friendships from Senesh are mixed up in that identity. Being at Senesh was like being part of a family — it was the most carefree and comfortable that I have ever been in my entire life.”
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!
During high school, Elijah recalls adhering to a strict Friday schedule. Dismissal was followed by his weekly IntegrateNYC leadership committee meeting and a hasty subway ride home for Shabbat dinner. His commitment to sitting at the Shabbat and leadership table alike stemmed from a sense of duty. “I was instilled with an obligation to contribute that I attribute to my upbringing – to the camp, the synagogue, my family, and of course to my years at Senesh.”
As a current sophomore at Cornell University, Elijah’s commitment to activism and connection to his value system has not wavered. A candidate for a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations, Elijah views his current justice-related work inside and outside the classroom as central to his professional aspirations: a career in public policy. “My studies are focused on recognizing some of the greatest social and political struggles that Americans are facing today,” he explained. “I believe labor is the issue of our time, in many ways.”
Elijah’s affinity for workers’ rights and politics was bolstered during his high school years, when, to accrue mandatory community service hours, he interned for Brooklyn City Councilmember Brad Lander. After completing his community service, Elijah stayed on for two years, shadowing the councilman as he spearheaded school diversity legislation, among other initiatives. It was during a roundtable discussion hosted by Mr. Lander that Elijah encountered student activists from IntegrateNYC who were advocating for more equitable classrooms and schools in their wider New York City community. “They invited me to join them, and that was it…it was exactly what I wanted to be doing,” said Elijah.
As the Co-chair of IntegrateNYC’s Board of Directors, Elijah can elucidate the mission of the organization with ease: “IntegrateNYC is a youth-led organization advocating for integration and equity in New York City public high schools.” The need for such an organization became clear to Elijah when he began public high school, where he cultivated an awareness of New York City’s public high school landscape and started voraciously reading on the topic. “Contemporary segregation looks very different from historical segregation because it’s far more insidious. Laws mandating integration exist but there are so many factors keeping the system segregated,” Elijah explained. Elijah is immensely proud of the traction of IntegrateNYC’s messaging; the organization’s “Five R’s of Real Integration” — a framework designed by the student activists themselves — has been adopted by top city officials, high-profile advocacy groups, and governmental advisory groups alike.
One of the youth organization’s latest undertakings has garnered particular attention: a public hackathon to tackle the placement algorithm currently used by public high schools to match applicants with their top ranked schools. The current algorithm, IntegrateNYC argues, is color-blind, not accounting for built-in biases. Elijah is optimistic about his organization’s work to create a more equitable alternative, noting how inspiring it was to welcome a group of education and data experts to join IntegrateNYC as thought partners in the recent hackathon.
This summer, Elijah is heading back to Councilman Lander’s office as an intern, where he will be closer to his family’s Shabbat table, his IntegrateNYC team, and his home community. Reflecting on the values impressed on him by his Jewish community, Elijah notes “my upbringing was grounded in the values of the Torah…Senesh instilled in me and my classmates an appreciation of our Jewish community, of our lifelong participation in that community, and of Tikkun Olam…That concept was at the center of so many classes and the rhetoric of our teachers and administration. This was such an important foundation because it could be taken in so many directions; [my classmates and I] can all adhere to the values of Tikkun Olam and impact the world in so many different ways.”