Meet the Recipients
The American Zionist Movement is pleased to announce the winners of the Spring 2014 Helyn B. Reich Memorial Scholarship Fund Award. All the winners are dedicated to Israel and are proud to spend time living and working there, strengthening their commitment to Zionism.
This fall, Amy Albertson will attend Israel Way – Tel Aviv Internship Experience, gaining valuable professional experience at her internship and exploring Israeli culture in the volunteer element of her program. While in college at the University of Portland, Amy was extremely vocal about her support of Israel. She spoke up against anti-Israel groups on campus, even when she was verbally attacked.
Amy started a pro-Israel group, Cultural and Historical Association for Israel (CHAI), which advocated for a more positive image of Israel and encouraged engagement with Israel education and programming. The group also worked with Hillel, StandWithUs, and the Jewish Student Union to plan pro-Israel events and rallies on campus. As Zionists, Amy says, we should not only carry on the legacy of great Zionist leaders but should also “remind the world that the Jewish people have the same right to self‐determination as all other people and spread the truth that the State of Israel remains a beacon of light among the nations.”
Keep up with Amy’s experiences in Israel on her blog, http://www.4monthsatsea.com/.
Growing up, Jacob Kahane visited Israel almost every summer to spend time with family, including his grandmother, who was a fifth-generation Jerusalemite, and his grandfather, who had moved to Palestine in the 1930s to escape persecution in Ukraine. Jacob wants to continue to focus on community, and hopes the experiences he has and the relationships he forges in Israel will help him define his Jewish identity.
Jacob will be attending Israel Career Experience, where he will work at a technology start up. Though his professional background is in art direction and graphic design, he is currently learning computer code, and believes that Tel Aviv, with its strong startup and technological markets, will be the ideal place to perfect his new skill.
“Zionism will always be about building, cultivating and protecting the state of Israel. But for me, over the last decade, the definition has expanded to included building, cultivating and protecting a Jewish community, wherever I go,” said Jacob.
Despite being raised in an increasingly Catholic home, over the past few years Elise Kowan has embraced her father’s Judaism. While on a Birthright trip, she immediately felt a connection with Israel and has learned more about Judaism and Hebrew ever since, looking forward to her return to the country.
Elise will be attending Career Israel in Tel Aviv, working with a fashion designer. “I believe that being Zionist today means that you feel Israel is the Holy Land and is your home as a Jew…it is [crucial] to preserve Israel so that future generations can feel the same [connection] that each Jew is destined to experience,” she said.
For Avishai Schlesinger, anything related to Israel ignites a spark in him. In high school, he visited Israel with a B’nei Akiva trip and later attended a yeshiva in Israel as well. This passion pushed him to participate in myriad Israel-related organizations at the University of Maryland, including a Jewish a capella group, religious services, and numerous advocacy-related events on campus.
Avishai’s professional goals are to work in production and digital media. He will be interning at a production company in Tel Aviv through Israel Experience, and hopes to grow professionally as well as better understand Israeli culture. Ultimately, Avishai would like to move to Israel, and believes this program will help him with professional, social, and religious opportunities.
“I believe that the State of Israel has been the foundation for the continued existence of the Jewish people for the past 65 years, and that promoting Zionism should be an essential goal of every Jewish community around the world,” he said.
Naomi Weisz’s parents raised her to be very active in the Jewish community and to appreciate the importance of the State of Israel. She knows that, growing up in the Former Soviet Union, both her parents did not have the opportunity to learn about Judaism; moving forward, Naomi wants to help those with similar ethnic backgrounds engage in Judaism and Israel.
Naomi will be attending Career Israel in Tel Aviv, and is excited to improve her Hebrew. “Zionism cannot be separated from both cultural and religious identity. Being a Zionist today does not merely mean to believe in a Jewish state, it means having the ability to protect the significance and legitimacy of a Jewish State,” she said.